Imagine the city leaders in Duluth, including the mayor and city council, holding a press conference and informing the public that they wanted to build a city that’s based upon your decisions and actions each day. That the city would have the look and feel of who you are and how you choose to live your life.

All the architects, engineers, local commissions and urban planners would watch and monitor your every move, and then construct a city that reflects your personality and behaviors.
Yes, I know this sounds far fetched and pure fiction. But after reading books by Victor Papanek and Sim Van Der Ryn, two prominent architects, I’m beginning to wonder how we may influence the design of a city simply by how each of us acts and behaves. 
In his book Ecological Design, Sim Van der Ryn wrote, “We are all designers. We constantly make decisions that shape our futures and those of others. We choose our everyday reality: where and how we live, how we use our time and energy, what we value and what we care about, how we earn and how we spend. All these decisions involve dimensions of design.”

As an American architect, Sim Van der Ryn has been incorporating ecological principles in his architectural designs and buildings for over forty years. He approached his work by embracing the integrity of ecological systems and quality of life for all. Van der Ryn’s “regenerative design solutions” helped create environments that are resilient to human needs, the ecology and to the climate.

Victor Papaneck, in the book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, talks about design being the foundation to all of our activities. “All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity. The planning and patterning of any act toward a desired, foreseeable end constitutes the design process, stated Papaneck.

Papaneck stresses the importance of a design “dedicating itself to nature’s principle of least effort.” In essence, doing the most with the least, which includes consuming less, using things longer and being frugal about recycling materials.
Papaneck argued that if design is to be “ecologically responsible and socially responsive,” then it must be “revolutionary and radical.” The design must involve or cause a complete or dramatic change.
If you and I are the designers of Duluth, then we have to start with one question. Does the look and feel of this city truly reflect not only how I choose to act and behave but just as importantly, does our city reveal what each of us values and brings the most meaning to our lives? 
All of us who live in Duluth should think of ourselves as designers. We should stop and think about how each decision and choice we make will impact our personal space as well as the surrounding environment of others.
With climate change being considered the most significant challenge that our city faces for the foreseeable future, then we must ask if the design of our individual lives and the design of a city reflects this climate reality. 
If you choose to walk or bike to the bank and pharmacy instead of driving a car, how could that affect the design of the transportation system between your home and those various locations as well as CO2 emissions in the atmosphere? 
If you decide to use a backpack or cloth bags instead of plastic bags when visiting the grocery store, how would that impact the amount of plastic that ends up on the ground or in the lake?
If you create a garden of native plants in your front yard instead of maintaining a manicured lawn, how may that impact the lives of birds, butterflies and bees in your neighborhood?
And if we continue to build wider roads, more parking lots, bigger buildings and sprawling suburbs, then what kind of city are we designing? 
So, tomorrow, when you wake up and get out of bed, ask yourself how you can design and build a more resilient and sustainable city for everyone. Remind yourself that one simple decision that you make or a small step that you take can contribute to the public health of all citizens and the health of our natural environment.

How you choose to respond to the climate reality today could determine what we will face and maybe have to endure tomorrow.