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Nadworny: The Human Scale

08/28/12 5:55PM By Rich Nadworny
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(Host) Commentator Rich Nadworny is an expert on new media and digital marketing, who loves taking vacations - if only to realize that there really is no place like home.

(Nadworny) The in-laws from Sweden visited again this summer but this time, they decided they didn't want to stay in Vermont. Instead, they decided to fulfill a common desire of visitors to the US and see California.

Let's face it; California has a powerful pull for non-US citizens. They constantly see LA and Hollywood in movies and TV and they read about it in books - it's had the same kind of pull on US citizens since they found gold at Sutter's Mill more than 160 years ago.

So off we went, the Swedish and Vermont crew for an adventure down the coast, starting in San Francisco and ending in LA. Rather than exploring the amazing nature in that state, the Swedes wanted to see the cities. And the lasting impression we all came away with was: How can anyone live there with all of that traffic? Especially in and around LA the traffic jams were incredible even on normal days. In the worst stretch, it took us 30 minutes to travel the first mile and a half to the airport. We finally traveled the 6 miles in an hour. I could've run there faster, although pulling my bag behind me might have slowed me down somewhat.

We did things like tour Universal Studios Hollywood where we were among the 29,000 people who visited that day. I always get a kick out of telling my kids when you can fit almost all of Burlington into one place, like Fenway Park . At it's best Universal had some of the most fun rides I'd ever been on. At its worst we had to wait 65 minutes in line for one ride that lasted only 5 minutes.

When we got back to Vermont , we breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Swedes did the same when they got back to Stockholm. We both live in places that have a human scale: the size of our surroundings is a good fit for the number of people here. While we promote responsible growth here in Vermont, we like the fact that we have space, that there are not many crowds, and that the traffic jams in our most populated areas are a drop in the bucket compared to other places.

It shows that we, like the Swedes, place a premium on good, smart planning. And while we like to complain about needless regulation and environmental planning, both result in a much more livable, enjoyable and human space.

What struck most of us was the utter challenge for changing some of the dirtiest, most crowded, and poorest areas we saw. It seemed impossible at first glance, without razing the whole place. It's not hard to imagine the people living there being trapped in the hard grip of hopelessness.

Small is beautiful, as E.F. Schumacher once wrote. And while there are tradeoffs in living in a small place like Vermont, the humanness of scale is something worth far more than all the money in Hollywood.
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