In my earlier days of adulthood, I thought I could live in any conditions. I proved that in my days at the University of Kansas--my Gram and Granddad came to visit me in my fraternity house. My room was called "The Zoo." My Gram took a look around and said, "this building should be condemned." She wasn't exaggerating.
I won't wax poetic about how things change when children are in the equation. I don't want my children to live in a dangerous neighborhood. But I could talk about children can be joyful in dreary conditions--the children I saw all over Nicaragua displayed the widest of smiles in the most meager of conditions. What I consider dreary is a suburban nightmare where we spend all of our time in a car attending to the basics in life. Though I don't currently live in a suburban sprawl setting, my area is very car dependent--not bike friendly, a mediocre and haphazard set of sidewalks, and weak public transportation. I have hopes for something better someday. Walkscore is a fun tool for analyzing a neighborhood's walkability. I've been playing with it a lot lately. I think there's a better way to build neighborhoods that allows for all kinds of transport--bike, walk, public and auto. Walk Score is good for the public imagination and understanding.