The Upper Limit

A summer vacation on the horizon.

Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash

In light of the historic heatwave that gripped North America over the past week, I started writing something about the importance of trees. Trees have a cooling effect in urban areas. They are great for the environment. They even help to spur local economic development and improve mental health.

I got about 500 words into a blog post about street trees, and then…just…stopped.

I absolutely believe that improving tree canopy in cities is low-hanging fruit that places can employ to derive benefits that far exceed the investment. I think anything we can do to suppress heat island effects and mitigate carbon emissions in even small ways is a terrific thing to do.

But I also, kinda, just didn’t care enough to write about it.

We’ve heard a lot about burnout these past few months. Between a global pandemic, a political system that is basically entirely divorced from reality, and the day-to-day wear and tear of trying to live a meaningful life under the boot of capitalism, people all over America have hit the limits of their mental and emotional bandwidth.

I think I have become one of those people.

The last half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 have involved a fairly unrelenting wave of pressing work projects, the stress of keeping myself and loved ones safe from an invisible killer, and anxiety about my shortcomings in pretty much every aspect of life.

TL;DR: everything has been a lot.

And I recognize my privilege. I was furloughed from work for four months in the middle of last year, received unemployment benefits, and then had a job to return to. I had a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and books to pass the time with. My loved ones survived the plague with really only one scare (though it was a BIG scare).

I have been lucky. Luckier than most.

But privilege and luck do not make one immune to the trauma of what we have all lived through the past year and a half. And perhaps some people have more advanced coping skills than I do, but I’ve simply hit the upper limit of my abilities to compartmentalize.

I need a break. A rest. A chance to process everything and recalibrate for life somewhat back to normal.

What I’m saying is that this newsletter and my blogging are going to take a backseat for a little while. I’m thinking of it as summer vacation, though I’m not physically going anywhere.

I have a couple of city planning-related projects that I want to work on more intently, things I think can have an impact both in my job and outside of it in the broader world. But I can’t give them the energy they deserve if I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.

So thank you for reading the past couple of months as I revived this newsletter. It’s been fun sharing things with you all, and hearing back from a few of you as well. I hope if you’re feeling similarly burned out, you’ll take time for yourself, give yourself space to breathe. To improve our towns and our communities, we need good people who are at their best.


Every Friday I send this newsletter out with:

  • Something I wrote, and;

  • A few things I read, watched, or learned that I found value in and think are worth sharing.

  • (as mentioned above, this is all changing for the time being)

I hope you find this email to be in some way informative, thought-provoking, and valuable. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

And if this is your first time reading Rust Belt Future, I hope you will consider subscribing by clicking the button below.


Something I wrote

In the past, the fact that I failed to meet a writing goal would have sent me into a tailspin of self-loathing. But not this time. Nope. Not gonna do it.

My energy is better spent on personal healing and the projects I plan to focus on than trying to belt out a quick, crappy blog post just to say I did.


Some Things Worth Checking Out

  • I’m new to the four things newsletter, but it came highly recommended by my buddy Chuck (who also writes a helluva newsletter). Brian’s thoughts this week were so damn good, all I can say is GO READ THEM.

  • Strong Towns had an excellent two-part look at how to transform decision-making about cities, and specifically how to make the process more localized. As someone who works at the county level, and previously at the municipal level, it’s difficult to accurately convey just how difficult it can be to get anything done of real, broad, lasting impact. It’s more often something like sticking a band-aid on a broken arm.

  • What I want to work on after my summer vacation is looking more closely at how to stack those band-aids one on top of the other until something approaching a flimsy cast is constructed. Local policy is so important, and often overlooked, and it’s going to be those places that figure their shit out sooner rather than later that are going to be more competitive. For instance: shifting traffic policy to improve pedestrian and active transportation, as this article on StreetsBlog suggests.

  • I can do everything using the bike path.


Thanks for reading!

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