Posts tagged "Politics"
“The Washington Post: 
Amsterdam plans to relocate troublemakers to ‘scum villages’
Caitlin Dewey. Dec 4, 2012
In a move that sounds straight out of Orwell, Amsterdam allocated 1 million euros last week to a plan that would relocate trouble-making neighbors to camps on the outskirts of the city, the BBC reports.
The “scum villages,” as critics have called them, would lie in isolated areas and provide only basic services to their unwilling residents. According to details of the plan reported by Der Spiegel and the BBC, residents will live in “container homes,” under the watchful eye of social workers or police. The residents themselves might not make very good company. According to the BBC, they’ll include families that engage in repeated, small-scale harassment, like bullying gay neighbors or intimidating police witnesses.”
Photo: A plan set to begin early next year would move trouble-making residents from Amsterdam’s city center, pictured, to resettlements outside the city. (Margriet Faber/AP)

The Washington Post: 

Amsterdam plans to relocate troublemakers to ‘scum villages’

Caitlin Dewey. Dec 4, 2012

In a move that sounds straight out of Orwell, Amsterdam allocated 1 million euros last week to a plan that would relocate trouble-making neighbors to camps on the outskirts of the city, the BBC reports.

The “scum villages,” as critics have called them, would lie in isolated areas and provide only basic services to their unwilling residents. According to details of the plan reported by Der Spiegel and the BBC, residents will live in “container homes,” under the watchful eye of social workers or police. The residents themselves might not make very good company. According to the BBC, they’ll include families that engage in repeated, small-scale harassment, like bullying gay neighbors or intimidating police witnesses.”

Photo: A plan set to begin early next year would move trouble-making residents from Amsterdam’s city center, pictured, to resettlements outside the city. (Margriet Faber/AP)

The New York Times:
“Vetoing Business as Usual After the Storm
By Michael Kimmelman. Nov 19 2012
Not a month after Hurricane Sandy there’s a rough consensus about how to respond. America is already looking to places like London, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Tokyo, where sea walls, levees and wetlands, flood plains and floating city blocks have been conceived.
New York clearly ought to have taken certain steps a while back, no-brainers after the fact. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ought to have installed floodgates and louvers at vulnerable subway entrances and vents. Consolidated Edison should have gotten its transformers, and Verizon its switching stations, out of harm’s way, and Congress should have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of giant barriers to block parts of the city from the sea.
Scientists, architects, planners and others have, of course, been mulling over these issues for years. They’ve pressed for more parkland and bike lanes, green roofs and energy-efficient buildings, and warned about the need for backup generators, wetland edges along Lower Manhattan and barrier islands for the harbor to cushion the blow of rushing tides.
Hurricane Sandy was a toll paid for procrastination. The good news? We don’t need to send a bunch of Nobel laureates into the desert now, hoping they come up with some new gizmo to save the planet. Solutions are at hand. Money shouldn’t be a problem either, considering the hundreds of billions of dollars, and more lives, another Sandy or two will cost.
So the problem is not technological or, from a long-term cost-benefit perspective, financial.”
Photo: A flood barrier on the Thames, one of the ideas American experts are looking at in the wake of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Patrick Ward/Corbis

The New York Times:

Vetoing Business as Usual After the Storm

By Michael Kimmelman. Nov 19 2012

Not a month after Hurricane Sandy there’s a rough consensus about how to respond. America is already looking to places like London, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Tokyo, where sea walls, levees and wetlands, flood plains and floating city blocks have been conceived.

New York clearly ought to have taken certain steps a while back, no-brainers after the fact. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ought to have installed floodgates and louvers at vulnerable subway entrances and vents. Consolidated Edison should have gotten its transformers, and Verizon its switching stations, out of harm’s way, and Congress should have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of giant barriers to block parts of the city from the sea.

Scientists, architects, planners and others have, of course, been mulling over these issues for years. They’ve pressed for more parkland and bike lanes, green roofs and energy-efficient buildings, and warned about the need for backup generators, wetland edges along Lower Manhattan and barrier islands for the harbor to cushion the blow of rushing tides.

Hurricane Sandy was a toll paid for procrastination. The good news? We don’t need to send a bunch of Nobel laureates into the desert now, hoping they come up with some new gizmo to save the planet. Solutions are at hand. Money shouldn’t be a problem either, considering the hundreds of billions of dollars, and more lives, another Sandy or two will cost.

So the problem is not technological or, from a long-term cost-benefit perspective, financial.”

Photo: A flood barrier on the Thames, one of the ideas American experts are looking at in the wake of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Patrick Ward/Corbis

Grist: 

World superpowers are about to get a brand new coast

by Phillip Bump

Someday the northern coast of Alaska could look like this.

This is a remarkable thing to consider:

“[T]he northern coast is about to become a real coast; maybe not today, maybe not this year, but in a short time. We need to start thinking about that.”

So says an authority no less than Major General Francis G. Mahon of the U.S. Northern Command. The comment came during a panel discussion this weekend in Washington, D.C.

“There are many, many others who have economic interests who would like to harvest [resources in the Arctic] and sell them on the economic market,” Mahon said.

Mahon said, as an example, that for Chinese exports to Europe, it is 40 percent shorter to move goods through the Bering Strait than to move those goods through Panama or around the southern tip of South America.

“From an economic standpoint, you know that will be exploited as quickly as possible,” Mahon said. “Ultimately, we will be operating up there more.”

We knew this, of course, and have written about it. But that frame, the creation of a new coast, is remarkable.”

Photo: danramarch

The New York Times: 
As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Even in the off season, the pastel beach houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good life.
They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal government.
The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.
Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.
Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.
Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.
“We’re Americans, damn it,” said Robert S. Young, a North Carolina geologist who has studied the way communities like Dauphin Island respond to storms. “Retreat is a dirty word.”
Photo: Jeff Haller for The New York Times

The New York Times: 

As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Even in the off season, the pastel beach houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good life.

They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal government.

The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.

Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.

Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.

“We’re Americans, damn it,” said Robert S. Young, a North Carolina geologist who has studied the way communities like Dauphin Island respond to storms. “Retreat is a dirty word.”

Photo: Jeff Haller for The New York Times

Struggling in the Suburbs

Editorial. July 2, 2012

Hardship has built a stronghold in the American suburbs. Whatever image they had as places of affluence and stability was badly shaken last year, when reports analyzing the 2010 census made it clear that the suburbs were getting poorer.

While the overall suburban population grew slightly during the previous decade, the number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs grew by 66 percent, compared with 47 percent in cities. The trend quickened when the Great Recession hit, as home foreclosures and unemployment surged. In 2010, 18.9 million suburban Americans were living below the poverty line, up from 11.3 million in 2000.

It is possible to see this struggle just beyond New York City in a quintessentially suburban place, Long Island. There have long been pockets of poverty there, created by race and income segregation. But it is not just in pockets anymore. These days the struggle has metastasized: foreclosed homes are just as empty in the better-off subdivisions, with the same weed-choked yards, plywood windows and mold-streaked clapboard siding.

Long Island’s two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, have the second- and third-highest foreclosure rates in New York State, behind Queens. Debt counselors across the island juggle a mix of clients: immigrant families undone by predatory lenders and middle-class professionals impoverished by illness, layoffs or credit-card bills. Families who once donated food now wait in line to receive it at pantries that empty out week after week. Homeless women with children move in with relatives or into motels, the government-paid shelters of last resort.

The deepening of suburban poverty is putting new strains on government agencies, parish outreach programs and other institutions in the suburbs’ gauzy safety net. At the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, which handles programs like food stamps, Medicaid, emergency housing and cash assistance, needs have increased across the board.

The number of food stamp cases reached 40,699 in April, compared with 26,193 two years ago. Almost 195,000 people in a county of 1.54 million are on Medicaid. More people are asking for help to cover emergency bills for rent or heat; more than 10,500 did so in the first quarter of 2012, an 8 percent increase over 2010. The county’s emergency-housing caseload hit a 10-year peak in January, with 488 families and 261 individuals living in shelters and motels.

But the Social Services Department has not been able to stay ahead of demand. It has been under a court order since 2009 to shorten egregious delays in processing applications for food stamps and Medicaid. The average wait for Medicaid applicants fell to 29 days last year from 83 days in 2007, but that is still bad. One of the groups that brought the lawsuit, the Empire Justice Center, is planning to go back to court to force the county to meet its obligations.

These services apply primarily to the poorest Long Islanders, many of whom earn less than the federal poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four) and qualify for government aid. Those above that income level often don’t qualify. About 468,000 people in Suffolk and Nassau, out of a total population of about 2.7 million, live in households earning up to 200 percent of the poverty line, or about $45,000 a year for a family of four. They are barely scraping by, but are often ineligible for programs like food stamps and subsidized housing and child care because their incomes are too high.

In May and June, a commission set up by the Suffolk Legislature held hearings on poverty. County and nonprofit officials warned of problems on multiple fronts — of hundreds of working parents losing subsidized child care, for example; of low-paid social-service employees buried under growing caseloads while heading toward the brink of poverty themselves.

This month, the county announced that because of reduced state aid, it was tightening day-care eligibility rules for the third time in six months. Up to 1,200 families may be losing child care in summer, the worst possible time.

The suburbs were not designed for the poor. And even now, local governments are not equipped to see, much less answer, a lot of their needs. Nassau is having its own fiscal paroxysms, battling with a state control board over budget deficits and overborrowing. An untested new county executive in Suffolk, Steve Bellone, is trying to recover from damage caused by a predecessor who left behind deep structural budget problems. While the island’s economy sputters, town and village governments are considering more layoffs.

Of course, there are things to be done — smarter use of social-service resources, more economic development, a stronger public commitment to mass transit, housing and job training. But those are long-term challenges atop an immediate crisis, which must be addressed by more spending and more staffing to fix the safety net. Solving these problems must begin with an admission that suburban officials and residents have been reluctant to make: Poverty is growing, and it is not going away.”

Via: The NYTimes

“When the 1 percent say no
Cities need public transit and affordable housing. But outdated laws make it easy for the wealthy to block progress
BY WILL DOIG. May 26, 2012
Continuing the grand tradition of privileged communities opposing transit projects, the good people of 90210 are fighting a plan to run asubway below Beverly Hills High School.
For years, Beverly Hills has been trying to derail the planned alignment of the West Side Subway Extension, saying it would be safer to run it beneath Santa Monica Boulevard (though their own study indicates otherwise). The threat of lawsuits and endless public hearings have delayed the project but not killed it; now opponents have released a video claiming that the subway could ignite pockets of methane gas and blow the school to bits. “Methane gas, toxic chemicals and teenagers don’t mix,” intones the grim voiceover, “but this dangerous combination is on the verge of exploding at Beverly High.” Smash-cut to Michael Bay-esque footage of teen-filled hallways consumed by raging fireballs.
You could make an equally scary video about the dangers of NIMBYism, which has essentially become an official part of the urban planning process in many cities. From bike lanes in Brooklyn to desperately needed housing in D.C., public micromanagement has become such a problem that several cities are now trying to rein in the Not-In-My-Backyard crowd. “The current process does not work for anyone,” one urban design expert told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We want the Planning Commission to focus on big planning issues, not micro-design issues.”
How tiny bands of refuseniks and wealthy obstructionists absorbed so much power provides instructive lessons for how they might be stopped. “The field [of urban planning] went through a major change in the last half-century,” says Rob Goodspeed, a PhD candidate at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. “There was a time in the ’50s when people thought it would be more of a science. We’d use expert analysis and computer models to tell us the answers.”
This approach, of course, was a disaster. Cities traumatized by the post-war urban renewal projects that arose from such thinking granted broad development-veto power to private citizens. San Francisco got its onerous “discretionary review” process in 1955 as its urban-renewal czar M. Justin Herman was brutally leveling large swaths of the city — a process that today is used by residents to oppose everything from broadband Internet infrastructure to a neighbor’s backyard deck because it could “lead to the use of a grill.”Boston created its “citizen advisory committees” in the ’60s, whose members, plucked from neighborhood groups, remain empowered to approve or deny development proposals to this day. And in 1970, the California Environmental Quality Act gave anyone in that state the power to stymie development by questioning its eco-friendliness, a right that’s routinely abused.
These rules, designed to check the power of city officials, now perversely consolidate immense power in the hands of a few outspoken “concerned citizens.” By dragging out the building process indefinitely, these people can make it so expensive that deep-pocketed luxury developers have a better chance of surviving it than anyone actually building affordable housing. Worst of all, these rules have created a new norm in which individual residents just assume that their personal opinions should carry great weight in routine planning decisions. According to a 2011 survey, one in five Americans have actively opposed a local development project, and 74 percent want no new development in their communities at all.
On the one hand, it’s nice that so many people think their neighborhood is perfect just the way it is. On the other, this feeling may be a quirk of psychology, not an accurate reflection of reality.”
Via: Salon
Photo: Ron Davey via Shutterstock/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock

When the 1 percent say no

Cities need public transit and affordable housing. But outdated laws make it easy for the wealthy to block progress

BY WILL DOIG. May 26, 2012

Continuing the grand tradition of privileged communities opposing transit projects, the good people of 90210 are fighting a plan to run asubway below Beverly Hills High School.

For years, Beverly Hills has been trying to derail the planned alignment of the West Side Subway Extension, saying it would be safer to run it beneath Santa Monica Boulevard (though their own study indicates otherwise). The threat of lawsuits and endless public hearings have delayed the project but not killed it; now opponents have released a video claiming that the subway could ignite pockets of methane gas and blow the school to bits. “Methane gas, toxic chemicals and teenagers don’t mix,” intones the grim voiceover, “but this dangerous combination is on the verge of exploding at Beverly High.” Smash-cut to Michael Bay-esque footage of teen-filled hallways consumed by raging fireballs.

You could make an equally scary video about the dangers of NIMBYism, which has essentially become an official part of the urban planning process in many cities. From bike lanes in Brooklyn to desperately needed housing in D.C., public micromanagement has become such a problem that several cities are now trying to rein in the Not-In-My-Backyard crowd. “The current process does not work for anyone,” one urban design expert told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We want the Planning Commission to focus on big planning issues, not micro-design issues.”

How tiny bands of refuseniks and wealthy obstructionists absorbed so much power provides instructive lessons for how they might be stopped. “The field [of urban planning] went through a major change in the last half-century,” says Rob Goodspeed, a PhD candidate at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. “There was a time in the ’50s when people thought it would be more of a science. We’d use expert analysis and computer models to tell us the answers.”

This approach, of course, was a disaster. Cities traumatized by the post-war urban renewal projects that arose from such thinking granted broad development-veto power to private citizens. San Francisco got its onerous “discretionary review” process in 1955 as its urban-renewal czar M. Justin Herman was brutally leveling large swaths of the city — a process that today is used by residents to oppose everything from broadband Internet infrastructure to a neighbor’s backyard deck because it could “lead to the use of a grill.”Boston created its “citizen advisory committees” in the ’60s, whose members, plucked from neighborhood groups, remain empowered to approve or deny development proposals to this day. And in 1970, the California Environmental Quality Act gave anyone in that state the power to stymie development by questioning its eco-friendliness, a right that’s routinely abused.

These rules, designed to check the power of city officials, now perversely consolidate immense power in the hands of a few outspoken “concerned citizens.” By dragging out the building process indefinitely, these people can make it so expensive that deep-pocketed luxury developers have a better chance of surviving it than anyone actually building affordable housing. Worst of all, these rules have created a new norm in which individual residents just assume that their personal opinions should carry great weight in routine planning decisions. According to a 2011 survey, one in five Americans have actively opposed a local development project, and 74 percent want no new development in their communities at all.

On the one hand, it’s nice that so many people think their neighborhood is perfect just the way it is. On the other, this feeling may be a quirk of psychology, not an accurate reflection of reality.”

Via: Salon

Photo: Ron Davey via Shutterstock/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock

Infrastructure projects need public support, transportation experts say

"A coalition of leading transportation experts hope to marshal public pressure on Congressand the presidential contenders to address the nation’s infrastructure needs.

With long-term transportation funding measures languishing on Capitol Hill and infrastructure getting little notice in the presidential campaign, “the tradition of broad bipartisan support for investments in surface transportation has largely broken down,” the group said.

The plan to energize public support was outlined Monday in a report by transportation experts brought together by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. After a conference this past November, the group concluded that most Americans are aware of the infrastructure crisis and support spending to address it.

“Recent public-opinion surveys have found overwhelming support for the idea ofinfrastructure investment,” the report said. “After the ‘bridge to nowhere’ controversies of recent years, the public has become sensitized to issues of pork-barrel spending and understandably demands to see a clear connection between federal expenditures, actual transportation needs, and economic benefits.”

Despite apprehension about wasteful spending, the report said, more than two-thirds of voters surveyed by the Rockefeller Foundation said infrastructure improvement was important and 80 percent said spending on it would create millions of jobs.”

Via: The Washington Post

“Oil-Powered Thinking
John Thackara. 04.04.12
Last week the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (which has a new director, Martin Roth)staged a conference about Design & Risk. Its keynote speaker, the eminent sociologist Ulrich Beck, was on the committee of experts that, last year, persuaded Germany to abandon nuclear power and go for renewables by 2020. I was asked to respond with a talk about “design in transition”. The following text is a reflection on issues raised at the V&A event.Since Ulrich Beck published his book Risk Society in 1986 a powerful consulting industry has emerged to help global companies “manage” up to 500 different kinds of risk. How is it, then, that despite their efforts, the world is not, to put it mildly, a safer place?One reason is that risk management does not exist to manage the safety of the world as a whole. The industry exists to serve the interests of its clients, and the biosphere does not appear on its client roster.A curious phenomenon follows from this. Risk managers do not, by and large, advise their clients not to take risky actions. On the contrary: their job is to make it possible for their client to take those actions anyway – but to make sure someone else pays for any negative consequences.In the financial system, credit drivatives are a perfect recent example of this process at work. They are designed to transfer risk to…well, anywhere, so long as it’s somewhere else. In the financial crisis, that “somewhere else” has turned out to be located on the shoulders of us, the taxpayers.The same phenomenon is happening with energy. Rather than take a long-term perspective, “solutions” are being proposed that make sense for one country, but take no account of their impact on the biosphere as whole.Germany is a good example of this approach. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan it was indeed remarkable that Ulrich Beck, a sociologist, should be appointed to the expert commission asked by Chancellor Merkel’s to review Germany’s energy policy. One imagines that Beck must have influenced the startling recommendation of of the committee, accepted by Merkel, that Germany should abandon nuclear power and switch to alternative energy by 2021.For Beck, in a statement at the time, that decision was “proof of Germany’s faith in modernity”. He was right, and that is one reason Germany’s decision will prove to have been a tragic one.Germany’s change of course is another example of transferring risk, but not removing it. For the biosphere as a whole, the systemic risk comes from the in-built energy and resource-intensity of the industrial economy as a whole. The dangers associated with particular energy sources that keep it running are, in that context, details.The dark side of the switch to “renewables” – upon which Germany has bet its economic future – will be appalling environmental and social damage – but not in Germany.Solar energy “harvested” on a huge scale, in predominantly poor countries, is at the heart of Germany’s plans. Such plans make wind and sun energy sound clean, weightless – and, yes, “modern” – but their impact on the real world will be far less benign. Poor countries are expected to “share” their energy resources without complaint. Expensive and heavy energy arrays are to be dumped into wilderness areas – such as arid lands in Spain and France, or the deserts of North Africa – on the false assumption that these lands are “empty” or “useless”.Professor Beck, to his credit, has long been a prominent critic of nuclear power in general, and of the conceit that one can ‘manage‘ the risk of a nuclear power accident in particular. “The nineteenth-century concept of risk, when applied to nuclear power at the start of the twenty-first century, is a zombie concept” he said last year.But his alternative approach is one of degree, not of kind. He may have persuaded the German government that nuclear power was a bad idea, but he did not question the false logic of perpetual growth that has turned our economy into a doomsday machine.Why, I wondered yet again, do some of the world’s smartest people believe so strongly in an economic structure that is destroying their own life support system?
Via: Design Observer
Photo: The Victoria & Albert Museum in London. © Victoria and Albert Museum 

Oil-Powered Thinking

John Thackara. 04.04.12

Last week the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (which has a new director, Martin Roth)staged a conference about Design & Risk. Its keynote speaker, the eminent sociologist Ulrich Beck, was on the committee of experts that, last year, persuaded Germany to abandon nuclear power and go for renewables by 2020. I was asked to respond with a talk about “design in transition”. The following text is a reflection on issues raised at the V&A event.

Since Ulrich Beck published his book Risk Society in 1986 a powerful consulting industry has emerged to help global companies “manage” up to 500 different kinds of risk. How is it, then, that despite their efforts, the world is not, to put it mildly, a safer place?

One reason is that risk management does not exist to manage the safety of the world as a whole. The industry exists to serve the interests of its clients, and the biosphere does not appear on its client roster.

A curious phenomenon follows from this. Risk managers do not, by and large, advise their clients not to take risky actions. On the contrary: their job is to make it possible for their client to take those actions anyway – but to make sure someone else pays for any negative consequences.

In the financial system, credit drivatives are a perfect recent example of this process at work. They are designed to transfer risk to…well, anywhere, so long as it’s somewhere else. In the financial crisis, that “somewhere else” has turned out to be located on the shoulders of us, the taxpayers.

The same phenomenon is happening with energy. Rather than take a long-term perspective, “solutions” are being proposed that make sense for one country, but take no account of their impact on the biosphere as whole.

Germany is a good example of this approach. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan it was indeed remarkable that Ulrich Beck, a sociologist, should be appointed to the expert commission asked by Chancellor Merkel’s to review Germany’s energy policy. One imagines that Beck must have influenced the startling recommendation of of the committee, accepted by Merkel, that Germany should abandon nuclear power and switch to alternative energy by 2021.

For Beck, in a statement at the time, that decision was “proof of Germany’s faith in modernity”. He was right, and that is one reason Germany’s decision will prove to have been a tragic one.

Germany’s change of course is another example of transferring risk, but not removing it. For the biosphere as a whole, the systemic risk comes from the in-built energy and resource-intensity of the industrial economy as a whole. The dangers associated with particular energy sources that keep it running are, in that context, details.

The dark side of the switch to “renewables” – upon which Germany has bet its economic future – will be appalling environmental and social damage – but not in Germany.

Solar energy “harvested” on a huge scale, in predominantly poor countries, is at the heart of Germany’s plans. Such plans make wind and sun energy sound clean, weightless – and, yes, “modern” – but their impact on the real world will be far less benign. Poor countries are expected to “share” their energy resources without complaint. Expensive and heavy energy arrays are to be dumped into wilderness areas – such as arid lands in Spain and France, or the deserts of North Africa – on the false assumption that these lands are “empty” or “useless”.

Professor Beck, to his credit, has long been a prominent critic of nuclear power in general, and of the conceit that one can ‘manage‘ the risk of a nuclear power accident in particular. “The nineteenth-century concept of risk, when applied to nuclear power at the start of the twenty-first century, is a zombie concept” he said last year.

But his alternative approach is one of degree, not of kind. He may have persuaded the German government that nuclear power was a bad idea, but he did not question the false logic of perpetual growth that has turned our economy into a doomsday machine.

Why, I wondered yet again, do some of the world’s smartest people believe so strongly in an economic structure that is destroying their own life support system?

Via: Design Observer

Photo: The Victoria & Albert Museum in London. © Victoria and Albert Museum 

“Why the Federal Government Should Give More Power to Mayors
Sarah Goodyear. April 18. 2012
“We’re being strangled by the lack of action at the federal level. That’s why mayors are where the action is.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed uttered these words during a panel discussion titled “Cities 2012: Are Cities the New Global Building Blocks?” at the New York Ideas forum Tuesday, co-presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the New-York Historical Society.
Reed and his fellow panelists, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, talked a lot aboutthe new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, which shows that 259 of the largest cities in the United States are responsible for 10 percent of global GDP. That economic significance, they argued, means that American cities merit way more clout than they get in the current political environment.
The mayors talked about the multitude of challenges facing American cities today – unemployment, pension and health care costs, outdated infrastructure, education, social inequity. All three emphasized that municipal government is more accountable, more innovative, and more responsive than federal government.
“I hope for the good of the country, cities continue to lead on these issues,” said Reed, whose hard-nosed pension reform deal attracted national attention last year. “Because if we wait for the federal government to move on issues like immigration and real job creation, then I think we’re going to be waiting for some time.”
Reed pointed out that a huge proportion of the nation’s GDP is generated in cities, but that mayors still have a hard time getting the feds to pump money back into them. “If you look at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, less than 10 percent of those dollars went into cities, where 80 percent of GDP occurs,” he said. “We’re going to have to shift national politics, and we’re going to have to shift state politics. Governors have a better lobby than mayors do. That’s why they got 90 percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, when that money should have gone to cities. Because we deploy it faster, we’re more creative, and we’re more representative of the majority of the United States of America.”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Photo: Elena Olivo

Why the Federal Government Should Give More Power to Mayors

Sarah Goodyear. April 18. 2012

“We’re being strangled by the lack of action at the federal level. That’s why mayors are where the action is.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed uttered these words during a panel discussion titled “Cities 2012: Are Cities the New Global Building Blocks?” at the New York Ideas forum Tuesday, co-presented by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the New-York Historical Society.

Reed and his fellow panelists, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, talked a lot aboutthe new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, which shows that 259 of the largest cities in the United States are responsible for 10 percent of global GDP. That economic significance, they argued, means that American cities merit way more clout than they get in the current political environment.

The mayors talked about the multitude of challenges facing American cities today – unemployment, pension and health care costs, outdated infrastructure, education, social inequity. All three emphasized that municipal government is more accountable, more innovative, and more responsive than federal government.

“I hope for the good of the country, cities continue to lead on these issues,” said Reed, whose hard-nosed pension reform deal attracted national attention last year. “Because if we wait for the federal government to move on issues like immigration and real job creation, then I think we’re going to be waiting for some time.”

Reed pointed out that a huge proportion of the nation’s GDP is generated in cities, but that mayors still have a hard time getting the feds to pump money back into them. “If you look at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, less than 10 percent of those dollars went into cities, where 80 percent of GDP occurs,” he said. “We’re going to have to shift national politics, and we’re going to have to shift state politics. Governors have a better lobby than mayors do. That’s why they got 90 percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, when that money should have gone to cities. Because we deploy it faster, we’re more creative, and we’re more representative of the majority of the United States of America.”

Via: The Atlantic Cities

Photo: Elena Olivo


Mass Urban Statement on Occupy Wall Street Protests
After following the story of the OWS protests, we at Mass Urban are encouraged by these recent developments. It is our belief that these events present an opportunity to start a much needed national debate that addresses how Americans can meet the systemic economic, political, and environmental challenges that the country is now facing. Here, Mass Urban looks forward to seeing how the protests can generate long-term momentum towards re-imagining the American Dream, and in turn our cities and communities. 
Photo: Karen Bleier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mass Urban Statement on Occupy Wall Street Protests

After following the story of the OWS protests, we at Mass Urban are encouraged by these recent developments. It is our belief that these events present an opportunity to start a much needed national debate that addresses how Americans can meet the systemic economic, political, and environmental challenges that the country is now facing. Here, Mass Urban looks forward to seeing how the protests can generate long-term momentum towards re-imagining the American Dream, and in turn our cities and communities. 

Photo: Karen Bleier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Architectural + Urban Research

Mass Urban is a multidisciplinary design-research initiative concerned with contemporary cities and urbanism. Mass Urban was co-founded in April 2011 by David Lee and Cliff Lau.

Website: http://www.massurban.com/
FB: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mass-Urban/129166763835571

twitter.com/mass_urban

view archive



Ask me anything

Submit