Back in my early years in London in the early 2000s, I used to row on the River Thames around Chiswick and Richmond on the tidal part of the river. The most dangerous time to be on the river was at the turn of the tide. This was when the flow of the current switched from incoming to outgoing or vice versa. Boats frequently rowed with the current down the middle where there was least resistent and against the flow on the sides nearest the banks. Although we had tide timetables, at the turn of the tide we often encountered boats in near collisions because they differed in opinion as to when exactly the tide turned.
And that’s where I feel like we are at the moment, with respect to the economy and patterns of living, consuming, working, and playing. There was a flow of the current for many years, even decades, of mass expansion, automation, industrialisation, the bigger the better. We saw the increase in retail outlets and car-dependent shopping centres and mass development of ever smaller homes and apartments. But there appears to be a movement growing – people wanting to be within walking or cycling distance of shops, their work, and places of leisure. People are seeking out community and neighbourhoods instead of subdivisions, business parks, retail parks, parks which are anything, but parks. But this movement seems a bit unclear. The mass developers insist – bigger is better and most cost efficient. The community builders persist – it’s about relationships, local, knowing your neighbours not hiding from them.
It’s like being at the turn of the tide – not sure which way the tide is going. It’s already turned at some part of the river. One of these boats is heading in the right direction.