Life, love, legacy, and land use – “The Descendants”

I watched George Clooney’s latest motion picture entitled, The Descendants yesterday afternoon. It is an excellent movie – well written and acted with funny moments and painful moments. While I would not say it is my favorite movie of the year (that goes to 50/50), it is still a very worthy movie that I strongly recommend seeing. It  will likely get plenty of Oscar buzz.

As an urban planner and an amateur genealogist, the land use and legacy aspects of the movie were quite intriguing. Without giving away too much of the story, George’s family has owned 25,000 acres of gorgeous and unspoiled shoreline on the island of Kauai for many decades and he have been given the ultimate responsibility to decide what should be done with their land. Needless to say, nearly every single member of his extended family has an opinion – most for selling to developers and some totally against such a move.

This is an issue that certainly comes up all the time, as ancestral property is passed along from one generation to the next generation. It is very common for larger tracts to go on the market in the United States as farmers or ranchers pass away. It must be a difficult decision, with one’s family’s legacy tugging at your heart while the potential for easing financial worries or woes plays through your head. Add in advice coming from every direction on the compass and such a decision must be fraught with emotion and heavy-duty stress.

As urban planners, we often deal with proposed projects on once productive farmland, ranch land, orchards, or just a metes and bounds parcel with a modest home. While we may not be thrilled with the potential loss of these pre-existing uses, we should also remember that those who are selling a portion of their legacy have likely wrestled with that decision and are coming to it with mixed emotions. We should never assume that profit is the only motive for such an action.

George Clooney is excellent in The Descendants as he struggles with a litany of profound and difficult family decisions. His surrounding cast. is also great, but I especially thought  Shailene Woodley, who plays his eldest daughter, was superb in her role, particularly as she and George Clooney worked through some very tough family issues together.

This entry was posted in culture, density, economic development, environment, history, land use, nature, planning, sprawl, tourism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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