Tag Archives: cities

The city-state redux

16 Sep

Jamie Bartlett, in Aeon:

Until the mid-19th century, most of the world was a sprawl of empires, unclaimed land, city-states and principalities, which travellers crossed without checks or passports. As industrialisation made societies more complex, large centralised bureaucracies grew up to manage them. Those governments best able to unify their regions, store records, and coordinate action (especially war) grew more powerful vis-à-vis their neighbours. Revolutions – especially in the United States (1776) and France (1789) – helped to create the idea of a commonly defined ‘national interest’, while improved communications unified language, culture and identity. Imperialistic expansion spread the nation-state model worldwide, and by the middle of the 20th century it was the only game in town. There are now 193 nation-states ruling the world.

But the nation-state with its borders, centralised governments, common people and sovereign authority is increasingly out of step with the world.

Maybe Trump was right”

On 17 September 2016, the then presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted: ‘A nation without borders is not a nation at all. We WILL Make America Safe Again!’ The outcry obscured the fact that Trump was right (in the first half, anyway). Borders determine who’s in and who’s out, who’s a citizen and who’s not, who puts in and who takes from the common pot. If a nation cannot defend its border, it ceases to exist in any meaningful way, both as a going concern and as the agreed-upon myth that it is.

Trump’s tweet was set against the German chancellor Angela Merkel’s offer, one year earlier, of asylum for Syrians. The subsequent movement of people across Europe – EU member states received 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015 – sparked a political and humanitarian crisis, the ramifications of which are still unfolding. It certainly contributed to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU. But 1.2 million people is a trickle compared to what’s coming. Exact numbers are hard to come by, and notoriously broad, but according to some estimates as many as 200 million people could be climate-change refugees by the middle of the century.

Tough, of course, The Donald doesn’t believe in climate change. Continue reading

Advertisements

Where’s the World Headed & the Rise of Cities, a Quickie

4 Oct

Scotland recently came close to pulling out of Great Britain. What’s that about? As the day of the vote drew near I’d see stories on the theme: If Scotland goes, what next? Catalonia? Quebec? Vermont? Is the world falling apart?

Maybe?

Is that good or bad?

Interesting question. Perhaps large nation states like the USA, China, India are too be to succeed and too big to fail. At the Federal Level America is approaching a stalemate. If the nation is ungovernable, what happens to national politics? Does is devolve to mere divide and plunder? Is the nation state obsolete? If so, what’s next?

I’ve been seeing books about cities, most prominently Benjamin Barber, If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. Has anyone read it? Here’s the blurb:

In the face of the most perilous challenges of our time—climate change, terrorism, poverty, and trafficking of drugs, guns, and people—the nations of the world seem paralyzed. The problems are too big, too interdependent, too divisive for the nation-state. Is the nation-state, once democracy’s best hope, today democratically dysfunctional? Obsolete? The answer, says Benjamin Barber in this highly provocative and original book, is yes. Cities and the mayors who run them can do and are doing a better job.

Barber cites the unique qualities cities worldwide share: pragmatism, civic trust, participation, indifference to borders and sovereignty, and a democratic penchant for networking, creativity, innovation, and cooperation. He demonstrates how city mayors, singly and jointly, are responding to transnational problems more effectively than nation-states mired in ideological infighting and sovereign rivalries. Featuring profiles of a dozen mayors around the world—courageous, eccentric, or both at once—If Mayors Ruled the World presents a compelling new vision of governance for the coming century. Barber makes a persuasive case that the city is democracy’s best hope in a globalizing world, and great mayors are already proving that this is so.

Sounds good, but is it valid?

Meanwhile I’ve been reading Christopher Goto-Jones, Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction (2009). Though I know a bit about manga and anime, I’m certainly no expert about Japan; so I can’t judge the book against current scholarly literature. But, taking the book at face value, it tells a fascinating story (I’ve only read 2+ of 5 chapters). I’ve just been through the second chapter, “Imperial revolution: embracing modernity,” which is about the Meiji Restoration. What’s interesting, and compelling, is how drastically Japan was able to remake itself within a generation or two.

When Admiral Perry landed in 1853 the country was ruled by the samurai class. By 1880 the samurai class had dissolved, though The Samurai and its bushidô (way of the warrior) creed had become enshrined as a national myth.To be sure, this was no popular democratic uprising, nothing like it, but still, the change was dramatic. And it was not imposed from the outside (that wouldn’t happen until the late 1940s).

Could something that drastic happen in the United States? Inquiring minds want to know.

I Want to Be a Mayor – NYTimes.com

30 Jul

Smaller is better.

In fact, if you want to be an optimist about America today, stand on your head. The country looks so much better from the bottom up — from its major metropolitan areas — than from the top down. Washington is tied in knots by Republican-led hyperpartisanship, lobbyists and budget constraints. Ditto most state legislatures. So the great laboratories and engines of our economy are now our cities. This is the conclusion of an important new book by the Brookings Institution scholars Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, entitled: “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.”

via I Want to Be a Mayor – NYTimes.com.

City Diplomacy – Organisation – City, Diplomacy, Sponsorship, UCLG, Conference, First World Conference, First World, The Hague, Peace Palace, cities, villages, local governement, governement, local

20 Feb

Seems a bit like C. Keil’s Global Organization of Democracies.

Founded in May 2004, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is the united voice and world advocate of democratic local self-government. UCLG is the largest local government organization in the world. Representing over half the world’s population, the members of UCLG are present in 136 UN Member States. Over 1000 cities are direct members of UCLG, as well as 112 national associations which represent all the cities and local governments in a single country.

The main objective of the UCLG Committee on City Diplomacy, Peace Building and Human Rights is to promote the role of local governments in social cohesion, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction.

via City Diplomacy – Organisation – City, Diplomacy, Sponsorship, UCLG, Conference, First World Conference, First World, The Hague, Peace Palace, cities, villages, local governement, governement, local.

Curators’ Statement: Spontaneous Interventions – Design – Architect Magazine

29 Aug

Cities have always been built by their citizens. For millennia this was literally so and our cities have grown though myriad forms of participation and creativity into a brilliant synthesis of the ideas and actions of millions. The exponential growth of the modern city has also inadvertently estranged us from a role in shaping it. For many, the city seems just too big, too intractable, too inaccessible. But around the world, scores of people and organizations are intervening directly in their own environments, bringing incremental improvements to their streets, blocks, and neighborhoods. These acts of micro-urbanism, of informal urban design, are characteristically small in scale, and often temporary—the opposite of the qualities we traditionally associate with good design—yet their power resides not so much in their forms as in their impacts, in their immediate ability to infuse places with value and meaning.

via Curators’ Statement: Spontaneous Interventions – Design – Architect Magazine.

Urban Revolution is Coming — Occupy Wall Street

29 Apr

Max Rivlin-Nadler interviews David Harvey in Salon.

Geographer and social theorist David Harvey, the distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and one of the 20 most cited humanities scholars of all time, has spent his career exploring how cities organize themselves, and when they do, what their achievements are. His new book, “Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution,” dissects the effects of free-market financial policy on urban life, the crippling debt of middle- and low-income Americans and how runaway development has destroyed a common space for all city dwellers.

Beginning with the question, How do we organize a whole city? Harvey looks at how the current credit crisis had its root in urban development, and how this development has made any political organizing in American cities virtually impossible in the past 20 years.

The right ot the city:

So when I talk about the right to make the city more after our heart’s desire, and what we’ve seen in New York City over the last 20-30 years, it’s been the heart’s desire of the rich folk. Back in the ’70s it was the Rockefeller brothers for example, who were the big players. Now we have people like Bloomberg, and essentially, they make the city in a way that is convenient to them and their businesses. But the mass of the population has almost no influence over this process. There are nearly a million people in this city who are trying to get by on $10,000 a year. What influence do they have over the kind of city that is being built? None at all. Continue reading

The impending urban water crisis – Dream City – Salon.com

2 Apr

“When I talk to water utility people, one of the things I say to them is, ‘I bet most of you aren’t planning how to manage your water demands with 20 percent less than what you have now,’” says Charles Fishman, author of “The Big Thirst.” “If you don’t have a plan for that, you’re in trouble.”

You’ll find Fishman’s book in the nature section at Barnes & Noble, but it’s really about urban planning. Because the creeping hydro-crisis has nothing to do with “running out of water.” The earth has the same amount of water as it had 4 billion years ago, and it always will. “It’s all Tyrannosaurus rex pee,” says Fishman with a laugh. The water’s recycled endlessly through the clouds, but it’s the way we’ve built that’s made it seem scarce — with industry, farming and cities in places where there’s not enough water to support them, but still demanding more every year.

Luckily, an urban-planning problem can be mitigated with urban-planning solutions, and cities are blazing the trail — including, believe it or not, Sin City itself. Today, Vegas is soaked in “reclaimed water,” water that’s been used once and then purified for another go-round. It waters the golf courses and washes the thousands of hotel bed sheets. Even the pond at Treasure Island, where the nightly pirate-ship battles take place, is filled with water that the hotel’s guests have brushed their teeth with. (It gets run through a treatment plant under the casino.)

via The impending urban water crisis – Dream City – Salon.com.

Urban gardens: The future of food? – Dream City – Salon.com

22 Jan

Gotham Greens is a 15,000-square-foot hydroponic farm on the roof of a Brooklyn warehouse. It had its first harvest in June, and expects to produce 100 tons of food per year. The crops (mostly lettuce) grow in rows of white plastic tubing, their roots massaged by recycled water, under grow-lights and fans controlled by a central computer system. The system collects data from sensors throughout the room and adjusts the environment accordingly. This pampered produce will eventually end up on restaurant menus and shelves at stores like Whole Foods.

Two years ago, Forbes predicted that by the year 2018, 20 percent of the food consumed in U.S. cities will be grown in places like this. It’s safe to say that’s almost certainly not going to happen. Right now, urban-grown produce represents a minuscule slice of the food system. But there are several plausible scenarios that could make such food more commonplace in the city kitchen of the future.

via Urban gardens: The future of food? – Dream City – Salon.com.

How should we design the cities of our dreams? – Dream City – Salon.com

28 Nov

The dirty secret of our urban rebound is that today’s cities are more economically segregated than they were in the ’70s. By 2005, only 4.6 percent of the homes for sale in New York were affordable to people making the city’s median income. In L.A., rental prices doubled in a decade while wages grew by less than one-fifth. And Washington, D.C., has become the wealthiest city in America by income — even though the jobless rate in its poorest neighborhood is the highest in the country.

via How should we design the cities of our dreams? – Dream City – Salon.com.

The Death of the Fringe Suburb – NYTimes.com

27 Nov

Over all, only 12 percent of future homebuyers want the drivable suburban-fringe houses that are in such oversupply, according to the Realtors survey. This lack of demand all but guarantees continued price declines. Boomers selling their fringe housing will only add to the glut. Nothing the federal government can do will reverse this.

Many drivable-fringe house prices are now below replacement value, meaning the land under the house has no value and the sticks and bricks are worth less than they would cost to replace. This means there is no financial incentive to maintain the house; the next dollar invested will not be recouped upon resale. …

The good news is that there is great pent-up demand for walkable, centrally located neighborhoods in cities like Portland, Denver, Philadelphia and Chattanooga, Tenn. The transformation of suburbia can be seen in places like Arlington County, Va., Bellevue, Wash., and Pasadena, Calif., where strip malls have been bulldozed and replaced by higher-density mixed-use developments with good transit connections.

via The Death of the Fringe Suburb – NYTimes.com.