Recently, I sat down to read Nicholas Mang‘s case study of Curitiba, Brazil, which is now available on the Regenesis Group website. As I read I was reminded of a powerful 1981 Wendell Berry essay, called Solving for Pattern.
In the essay, Berry describes three kinds of solutions to the “problems of our time.” The first, he writes, is the solution that causes “a ramifying series of new problems.” A modern example can be found in energy-efficient lightbulbs that attempt to solve the problem of carbon emissions, but leach mercury into landfills when disposed of.
The second type of solution is “that which immediately worsens the problem it is intended to solve.” Berry gives the example of attempting to fix compacted soil with a tractor whose weight further compacts the soil. Bringing in a bigger tractor only makes the situation worse.
The third type of solution, the type that Berry advocates, is what he calls “solving for pattern.” More