New Urbanism Shares Little with Fascism
First of all, I would like to categorically reject a comparison between the ideas and deeds of Walt Disney and those of Adolph Hitler. Walt Disney may have made some single-minded decisions in his day, but I don't recall any effort by him or any of his employees to ethnically cleanse a continent while making an animated feature or building a theme park.
Celebration was not designed to be some sort of themed attraction or tropical resort. Nor was it designed specifically to exclude people based on their income or ethnic background. From the origin of EPCOT's concept through to the present day, a significant intent was simply to start with a clean slate and when that is part of the plan, it just makes sense to do a little research before breaking ground.
A planned community in California is based around the concept of an old commune. Residents share common grounds, common cooking and dining facilities shared chores, etc. Are people who choose to move there running away to a sheltered reality?
Many of us went to see the "Truman Show". It was filmed in a REAL planned community, namely, Seaside, Florida. The residents there have chosen to maintain their properties in such a manner that Hollywood producers saw fit to insert it into a feature film as the facade of the world's largest movie set? If that is the way that community wants their town to look, is that too neat and clean to be acceptable for the rest of us?
Numerous planned communities in Great Britain together with thoughtful planning and implementation of public transportation systems have curbed urban sprawl and preserved open space effectively for at least twenty years. Do you think we might have something to learn there?
In addition to the United States and England, towns designed applying the theories of New Urbanism have been developed in Canada, Brazil, Sweden, France, Spain, Egypt, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Israel, China, Japan, and yes, Russia too. All of a sudden when the Walt Disney Company decides to "push the envelope" a bit for urban development in America, should we throw up our hands and declare this the downfall of our society?
"Utopia" is derived from the Greek "ou topos" meaning "no place". As long as there are imperfect people inhabiting the cities they build, there will never be a place that can truly be referred to as utopia. Does that mean that we can't do better than we do today? Should we stop looking for better solutions to social problems?
I thoroughly agree that our society must not retreat from social challenges of urban environments. At the same time, I do not think so many need be so critical of the efforts of a single corporation that chose to throw its hat into the "planned community" ring. Efforts spent on furthering the cause of Celebration are not wasted. Let them learn what they will. Undoubtedly, the rest of us will have something to learn from it too. Ultimately, on a day quite some time from now, Celebration will be known for its successes and its shortcomings. It is far too early to pass judgement on that project today.
It is my belief that above all, the human population of our planet is the greatest and most precious resource we will ever know. How we plan, grow, and maintain both the built environment as well as residents' perceptions of a community is an integral part of realizing the potential of that resource. Celebration is not the first attempt to build a better community and it will not be the last. If the Walt Disney Company has an opportunity to make a difference, let them have their chance.