The sociologist Eric Klinenberg, in his 2018 book, Palaces for the People, defined social infrastructure as any place built by a community where community members can come together (with low to no cost) to satisfy human needs such as socialization, play, learning, etc.. Libraries, schools, playgrounds, recreation centers (like the Adult Center and the Aquaplex), parks, and churches are all examples. We build these places because we are a social species and in need of common places to exist and connect.
The COVID-19 epidemic has closed all of Flagstaff’s social infrastructure and the pervading complaint during this time is that this lack of social infrastructure has been deeply damaging to our social, mental, and spiritual health.
Some in Silicon Valley have argued that technology has replaced our need for social infrastructure by connecting us (social media, etc.) but many of us have found technology to be a nice luxury that falls far short of making up for the loss of these social spaces.
So what’s the lesson? Once this quarantine is over, we shouldn’t forget just how important these spaces are and we should vote in a way that shows our government just how much we value these spaces. Schools, libraries, and parks are all essential for our well-being and the lack of access to them is showing us just how important they truly are.
Please don’t forget just how valuable Flagstaff’s social infrastructure is once we can joyfully return to it.