Risk, media, parenting, and land use policy

Lenore Skenazy, a writer not previously known to me, has captured my head and my heart. She understands statistics and risk, psychology, perception, and kids. She has her feet on the ground and her eyes open. Money quote from an interview in Slate (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

we’ve started to think of our kids as the most vulnerable, the most endangered, the least competent, the most, uh, dumb generation in history that needs the most supervision the most hours of the day, literally, than anybody until now.

My mental clicker went into overdrive reading this, partly because I just had a conversation about land use and urban policy with my mostly California-suburban public policy students in our wrapup session: I asked them if their aspirations for the future included a house on a half-acre with a three-car garage and swimming pool in the back yard, and then I asked them if they also hoped to be enslaved as a chauffeur for twenty years. Pointing out that I didn’t choose to be raised in Manhattan, so it wasn’t boasting, I described growing up where I could go anywhere in the city at the age of nine, like all my friends, and the forty-odd businesses within a block of my house along Third Avenue, of which at least three-quarters of the proprietors knew me by sight if not by name; “How many people at the mall knew you?”.

Living green has advantages far beyond climate stabilization, and being sensible about risk has advantages far beyond mere physical safety (Skenazy points out how much more dangerous being driven around in a car is than the terrors people think it avoids).

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.