“Hurricane Ida devastatingly impacted our area, the urgency to understand this kind of threat and determine the risk it poses became abundantly clear.”
Use the link below to see a full version of this map and the article. A strategy to protect the community from the likelihood of more intense rainfall is available now. Question the integrity of the E21 Street catch basins due to recent construction. (E21 Post) This is a reasonable first step. Would you please explore Portal311 (here) on this issue?
About 180,000 small residential buildings in NYC are vulnerable to rainfall flooding – 168,000 have basements, 123,000 below grade. In addition, the community is susceptible to “nuisance flooding,” however, the city’s data is incorrect regarding the “below grade” data.
Issue: The community has been made more vulnerable due to concrete and other material dumping into the catch basins at Kenmore and Albemarle. An investigation may be needed. However, AKNA would likely be at the lower end of a very long list of remediation actions under the heading of flooding resiliency.
A 311 Portal is available to call out this problem. A good first step has been to question the data. Note the new build is not on the map, and second, call out trouble with the catch basins on the 21st. I have observed three dumping acts that could have compromised catch basins along E21 Street. They were, 1) during construction of the new building on E. 21st. 2) during construction on Albemarle Terrace and 3) during sidewalk repairs along with the Dutch Reform Church. Only the new E21 construction was reported.
Lucy Walker captures the horror of California wildfires and explores the “global fire crisis” in a CBSN two-hour documentary.
After the first hour, the horror of fire is well established. Then another source of horror in the documentary begins. Reconstruction with the presumption of resilience with new re-building standards accompanied by comprehensive resistance to all forms of mitigation. Only the fire is permanent. Everything else can be taken to ash.
Embers function like a virus.
Destruction produces an unusual libertarian contract that Ms. Walker describes as a form of “self-immolation under the mantra of personal freedom,” Her European values are carried in no small part due to two horrifying wars of fire. This American reaction made her California experience seem “insurmountably foreign.”
Last word. The Westcoast fires may seem insurmountably foreign in the Northeast as well, but it is not.
“The purpose of the organizations listed in this section is unified by one-word “extinction.” It is an event that occurs daily all over the earth. It is a difficult word to absorb as a part of daily life. Like air, it is only noticeable as a threat during high winds and storms. It is the nature of Creation to give and give and take environments settled by life. It is what life is across millions and millions of years. I go to this section to see what people are up to. Mostly it reminds me of Hattie Carthan. All she wanted to do was save a Magnolia Grandiflora from a “tiny-extinction” on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn. Today that tree is one of two living landmarks in New York City. Thousands of struggling community organizations like the Magnolia Tree Earth Center conduct education programs for next-generation organizers. They are strengthened by a growing network of national groups listed below. Please get to know them. They are likely to be the most important leaders to follow in this century.”
Rex L. Curry
The following list is of sixty national organizations attempting to inform policy in all sectors of the national economy. Additions and corrections are appreciated.
Works to inspire all Americans to explore, enjoy, and protect the Earth’s wild places, to practice and promote responsible use of the Earth’s ecosystems and resources, and to work to restore the quality of the natural environment that sustains us.
An organization founded by environmentalist David Brower that fosters the efforts of creative individuals by providing organizational support in developing projects for the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the global environment.
A federation of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations that use time-tested tools of investigative research, media exposes grassroots organizing, door-to-door canvassing, and litigation to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote sensible solutions.
Unites 12 of our country’s largest unions and environmental organizations and advocates for more and better quality jobs in the clean economy by expanding a broad range of industries, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, the substitution of safer, cleaner chemicals, modern transportation systems, and advanced vehicle technology, domestic manufacturing, high-speed Internet and a smart, efficient electrical grid, green schools and other public buildings, improving our nation’s water infrastructure, recycling, and sustainable agriculture.
Shows urban communities locally and all across the country how to develop more sustainably: showing that development that is good for the economy and the environment makes better use of existing resources and community assets and improves the health of natural systems and the wealth of people
An affiliate network of the Climate Action Network (CAN), a worldwide network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working to promote government, private sector, and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.
Facilitates and publicizes local and national climate actions that draw attention to the climate crisis and the strong measures needed to address it and organizes forums and events designed to broaden climate action constituency beyond the traditional environmental movement.
A national citizens’ organization working for clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses, and empowerment of people to make democracy work.
A coalition of environmental, conservation, religious, scientific, humane, sporting, and business groups around the United States that serves as the guardian of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).
Works to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction, by means of science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.
Conducts both domestic (US) and international programs to halt toxic trade in toxic wastes, toxic products, and toxic technologies, that are exported from rich to poorer countries and to ensure national self-sufficiency in waste management through clean production and toxics use reductions.
Documents human rights and environmental abuses in countries where few other organizations can safely operate through campaigns, reports, and articles and litigate in U.S. courts on behalf of people around the world whose earth rights have been violated by governments and transnational corporations.
Encourages collaborative approaches and cross-cutting solutions to environmental challenges by acting as a catalyst, facilitator, and mediator in cooperation with individuals, industry, and government.
Contributes to sustainable development by advancing policy recommendations on international trade and investment, economic policy, climate change, measurement and assessment, and natural resources management.
Uses policy-oriented research to design, monitor, evaluate, and improve the social and environmental commitments of responsible tourism, as well as to promote sustainable practices and principles within the wider tourism industry.
Works to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them by opposing destructive dams and the development model they advance and by encouraging better ways of meeting people’s needs for water, energy, and protection from destructive floods.
A research institute at Tufts University dedicated to promoting a better understanding of how societies can pursue their economic and community goals in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.
A project of the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington, DC) and the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam) that works in partnership with citizens groups nationally and globally on the environment, human rights, and development issues with a particular focus on energy, climate change, environmental justice, gender equity, and economic issues, particularly as these play out in North/South relations.
Uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, creating analyses, databases, and maps to help inform the general public as well as scientists and government officials.
Public policy research organization dedicated to informing policymakers and the public about emerging global problems and trends and the complex links between the world economy and its environmental support systems.
Through workshops, leadership development, and consulting, provides tools of systems thinking and organizational learning to clients and partners working on issues of sustainability, helping them to be more strategic, engage multiple stakeholders, and learn continuously. Formerly, the Sustainability Institute.
Dedicated to protecting all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities, particularly focusing on (1) the accelerating rate of extinction of species and biological diversity and (2) habitat alteration and destruction.
I was a director of a community service department at Pratt Institute when I first came to Albemarle Terrace in the early and late 1970s. My students and I were conducting land use and building condition surveys for the Flatbush Development Corporation. At that time, there wasn’t a block in Flatbush that did not carry the burden of a vacant or abandoned building. The survey helped to prioritize the energy of a community-based nonprofit development corporation in its preservation efforts.
I also knew the area in our work for Irving Choban to produce an architectural details record of Flatbush Town Hall (Synder). As a lawyer and historian, he was tenacious in saving this High Victorian structure (more here), getting it on the National Register to prevent demolition in the late 60s. It became New York City Landmark in 1966. He was a tenacious man. He lived on Kenmore Terrace. He is why we live in a historic district.
In 1998, I brought my wife to see Albemarle Terrace and meet with Richard and Dorothy Montague. They raised their two boys and decided to move to upstate New York and sell their home on Albemarle Terrace. I knew Richard as a writer for the New York Post. The day Rupert Murdoch took it over, he and Roberta Gratz, author of “The Living City,” left the Post to its dust and grime. Along with Roberta, Richard’s greatest joy in writing is to chronicle moments directly in front of all of us. He wrote the following article about our little part of New York as an editorial for Newsday. I hope you enjoy it, and it is a beautiful bit of writing. It describes what it was like in 1978 when they learned they had succeeded in sustaining a part of Brooklyn’s history through its architecture.
Two Short Blocks of a Great City’s Past
Richard Montague Newsday Sunday, July 23, 1978
“Like any place else, New York’s essential characteristics are rooted in times past.”
Nathan Silver, Lost New York
A little after 8 o’clock on a recent Wednesday evening, a Brooklyn lawyer named Irving Choban and his wife, Rosalind, had an open house for their neighbors.
The house is an attractive two-story brick structure on a dead-end street in northern Flatbush. It is older than either of the Chobans; it is 59. Along with 30 other similar buildings close by, it has been designated the day before by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission as a part of a new “Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District.”
So, for the next couple of hours, in the Chobans’ comfortable living room at 2118 Kenmore Terrace as full of cheerful people, all members of the terraces’ block association, celebrating their official recognition.
That was a landmark for everybody too. Represented by Choban, who is the official historian of Flatbush, and Donna Sanft of Albemarle Terrace, the association began asking its first hopeful questions about how to go about obtaining “landmark status” five years ago this fall.
The new Albemarle-Kenmore historic district is one of the smallest in New York. There were 31 others Brooklyn Heights, for instance), plus 526 individual landmarks, 13 interior landmarks, including Radio City Music Hall, and five scenic ones, of which Central Park is the best known. The commission has sought out, examined, and designated them all in only 13 years.
Sometimes the choices are easy, undisputed, and without commercial implications. Other times, as demonstrated by years of litigation in the Grand Central Terminal case just decided – in favor of preservation –by the U.S. Supreme court, there could be intense, expensive contention. In either case, the values involved are always appreciably more than financial.
The new Brooklyn landmark is “historic” because, as a commission survey puts it, the terraces built between 1916 and 1920 are “part of the general history of Flatbush.” They exhibit well cared for examples of the “neo-Federal” style; include designs that developed from the English Garden City movement (adapted to Forest Hills Gardens in Queens in 1903); and were among the earliest row houses to have garages, setting a style that is now standard in many parts of New York.
But there are other features to be appraised; the languorous sway of the tree branches in the vagrant winds of idle summer afternoons; the cascades of red and yellow leaves and bouncing acorns from the oaks under the blazing blue sky of fall; the door wreaths, lights and family carolers at Christmastime, and the small back yards in spring, with their moist flowerbeds, budding shrubs and secret corners hiding moss and violets.
In his book of photographs and thoughts on “Lost New York,” the vanished buildings were torn down over the years, architect Nathan Silver quotes Lewis Mumford: “in the city time becomes visible.” Silver thinks, “Architecture provides the only measurable way to discover the past in the urban environment.”
Discovering the past doesn’t interest everybody. Landmark designation is not automatic preservation of either monuments or neighborhoods. Some have subsided into decay. Others have been daubed with graffiti, chipped, and hacked at, even hauled to scrap metal dealers. Those that have escaped that kind of abuse are not always decently cared for. There has not been a surplus of money for maintenance in recent years.
Nevertheless, the landmarks everywhere in the city serve honorable, dignified, and particularly today, invaluable purposes. They are as different as possible from the fast-food architectural style common in much of New York construction. They were created and built with care, imagination, and civilized intelligence. They are sentinels of a kind, guarding tasteful traditions that are sometimes neglected as the landmarks themselves. They have the artistic durability to reward admiration and care, no matter how long it has been deferred.
Consequently, they are essential to New York’s recovery and restoration as belated fiscal reforms, a revival of industry, accessible jobs, and schools worth of the name. It is inevitable that other monuments and buildings will join “Lost New York.” The vitality of the living city depends a great deal on how many more are found, appreciated, and saved.
Everyone’s neighborhood is the representation of national issues. The issues reported here describe how it affects me personally, my family, and my neighbors. Those issues can be explored and arranged in the carousels below. The benefits of content management systems used by websites and weblogs such as this one are “tags and categories,” In this case, the content is organized under the parent heading “My Neighborhood.” Sub-categories can then be assigned, such as Internet, politics and plans, and several others that examine issues that reflect my experience, that of my family, friends, and neighbors.
I live in a tiny place on a closed street with just twenty-two, three-story, brick buildings completed before 1920. The New York City Landmarks Commission accepted the residents’ application for designation as a historic district in 1978 (more here).
Local to Global Politics
The political structure of dense urban areas reveals the sense of movement and position to what a person knows as proprioception. The political body can, similar to a person, be seemingly unknowing and still have the capacity to produce decisions and consensus. In effect, accepting democratic leadership allows large populations to take steps up a metaphorical ladder without examining each rung. It can call people to heroic efforts built on little more than intuitive knowingness of a good purpose.
Today, the problems of urban life require a deeper understanding of the ways political science links to the physical sciences involved in running a city. The evidence that human beings can change their physiology by thought and intention is growing (here). Moreover, the practice of building cities is similar. Medical research calls it an interoceptive focus. Urban anthropology calls it Anthropocene. These terms help encourage greater environmental intent in deciding how and where humans re-build the earth from the material of its crust. Below, you will find a set of carousels that sketch out ideas that interact with law, politics, and science from the “neighborhood up.”
Caduceus Erroneous? Geopolitical challenges such as a pandemic or the multiple impacts of climate change instruct humanity's genius to bring about systemic change and resist and reverse “them not us” …
Letters to Verizon and our political representatives were mailed 7.17.2015 The image above represents our first set of formal letters to Verizon officials and AKNA political representatives. We shall see …
Will The V-Shoe Drop? An excellent Wikipedia summary of Bandwidth throttling describes the intentional slowing of Internet service by an ISP (Internet Service Provider). Throttling can occur at different locations on a …
The Charter Revision of 1977 created community planning boards in NYC when the decentralization of authority was a popular idea. It aligned with social change forces seeking civil rights and social justice, …
Caduceus Erroneous? Geopolitical challenges such as a pandemic or the multiple impacts of climate change instruct humanity's genius to bring about systemic change and resist and reverse “them not us” …
The Center for Responsive Politics keeps a record of corporate dollars for political representatives. The table and map (below) looks at the House of Representatives for Brooklyn and surroundings. AKNA's representative is …
In 2010, Black Rock City (aka Harveywood) was the fourth largest city in Nevada, but only for a short while. The total population was 51,515 paying guests as the marker, not including a couple thousand undocumented, smuggled in amidst the art. Larry Harvey’s motivations vary for having this big party. They change with each new experience, annually repeated since 1986. Perhaps that is why he wears an unusual hat. He is a designer and an architect, a friend and observer of life. He is tightly wrapped by the kind of humor that only a real sense of tension can produce. While its control has surpassed the management capacity of the few unique people that began it all, its epitaph remains incomplete. But one part has been written. Long live Harveywood, but from now on, we will cap this party at 50,000 souls.
Without a doubt, any discussion of establishing a super urban density and a pure wilderness is likely to engage the subject of living in the desert wilderness of northwestern Nevada for a short while as an event. This idea confronts a void, fills it with art and design, and then goes away. Just beneath the surface, there is a lot of responsible talk and action about taking only pictures and leaving only footprints, and thus the Black Rock City party’s actual theme is revealed. It offers real proof of how messy humans will be to make a point. The point is a big one. No matter how temporary, that bit of dessert will always have a mark, and it is a warning.
Ten percent of Planetizen’s Top 100 Public Spaces in the United States were in New York City. It was based on a crowdsourcing survey initiated by regular contributor Chris Whitis. The “interested participants” factor suggests another important point for investigation.
Resource Planning Act Assessment
The acronym “SLAP” is used to describe “space left after planning.” The use of the urban public place demands a new aesthetic. Thus, one makes the meaning of an urban place something more than a preserved hunk of “green” or platform for architecture.
The public space is also a place of last resort, where people can press unrelentingly on the button of unresolved social or economic issues. Of course, we can all name hundreds of places with equal quality or grander views as those listed below, but in an urban design thought experiment — how would the following “top ten” type places work if they were “occupied” by aggressive social change agents?”
Urbanization is only problematic if it cannot be stopped.
Cities build strength in response to restraints. In this context, you can get ten cool open spaces. Once the technology represented by “the city” is restrained to “a geography,” it might be possible to achieve a purpose greater than that of the wilderness. A place that humans can only return to damage.
The Resource Planning Act Assessment issued every decade by the U.S. Forest Service finds the primary cause for the loss of natural forests and rangelands is residential and commercial sprawl, along with other land-use changes. Additional threat factors include climate change, wildfires, insect infestations, bacteria, and fungi. These trends in the structure of the nation’s renewable resources project to 2060. Current land-use policies supporting the population and economy are threats that shrink the resource base connected to rural areas.
The Resource Planning Act Assessment is completed every ten years by law in the Forest, and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, a 1974 law (Pub. L. 93-378). The latest RPA Assessment draft is available for public comment through Sept. 30. Draft and final reports can be accessed (here). Public comments on the draft 2010 RPA Assessment were filed at: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/rpa. The 2020 RPA Assessment is here.
Evaluation of measures to protect these places from being overwhelmed are requested. Thanks!
One World Trade Center was expected to incorporate a high level of social responsibility in urban design introducing new architectural and environmental standards. Yet when completed in 2013, it will offer on a small footprint, 2.6 million square feet of office space in 70 office floors, a public lobby with a 50-foot ceiling, an observation deck at 1,265 feet above the ground with a restaurant, extensive shopping, and ample parking. Call me crazy, but that reads like the “same old” pitch to me. Millions of dollars are committed to a vast public process for Lower Manhattan Development following the World Trade Center tragedy in a $2 million meeting at the Javits Convention Center. It also gave rise to the “small is beautiful” idea when a dedicated group of design professionals from all fields began to forge a new vision for New York. It also fueled the idea that APA-Metro should establish an Urban Design Committee and press for answers to how public engagement in design and planning can be more effective.
If criticism is a method that gets to the truth, then so be it. But, when it does not, then what? The Urban Design Discussion group put together a “Public Place Public Process” to get started on engagement methods. After all, criticism begins and ends with a public that is by many accounts in a coma. This link opens up a 40 page summary of submissions to an Urban Design Committee. It is a PowerPoint (2.4M pdf): San Antonio Presentation.
The Urban Design discussion combines the thinking of planners, designers, and architects to accomplish one thing – to move social and environmental equity forward on the nation’s list of priorities. The solution to the global challenge is urban.
In 2006, fifty projects identified by New York Magazine (NYM) offered a start by scrunching some of the world’s best architects into a group to stimulate the mind’s eye.
The signatures are clear in the image pictured left. There is coherence as individuality but could an advanced public process improve it as a statement ” of a larger community?”
The lack of reciprocity between the tightly defined images of the developer’s market image research and the experience of the public.
The following examples (1-5 or more) will require ongoing review. As Brooklyn’s northwest coast begins to develop, we expect it to reveal a new public realm in a receding industrial waterfront.
Community pressure produced a demand for inclusionary housing bonuses to exact 20% to 30% of the units as affordable in Brooklyn and opened the gate for the first expansion of the General Exclusion Area, formally known as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone. (Note: all maps are by Jason Lee for New York Magazine)
The Edge: Stephen B. Jacobs; master plan by FXFOWLE and TEN Arquitectos, September 2008 (view NYC Construction Top Projects pdf: here) Scaled back from 1.5 million to 1…. what else?
Palmer’s Dock: FXFOWLE, phase one, 2008; phase two, 2009 (Impact of tax credits on design discussion in Journal of Tax Credits pdf article: here
The Charter Revision of 1977 created community planning boards in NYC when the decentralization of authority was a popular idea. It aligned with social change forces seeking civil rights and social justice, equality, and human rights in the United States. Concurrently, the mainly white upper-income population since the late 1950s found a small government easy to talk to in their newly built suburban enclaves. The population in New York City remained diverse and sought to build the resource of self-determination into the city’s neighborhoods. The best it became was a gesture for expanding participation but not to the power sought. Now is the time for improved strategies. Watch the slides.
RLC – OCCUPY
Community Board Members will serve no more than four consecutive two-year terms.
The Community Board (CB) staff is a skeleton.
It is barely able to support members and manage schedules.
Community Boards see themselves as part of the problem, and they like it.
“If all they will let is do is protest, then we will protest.’
Why is a hammer the only tool?
Why is the CB a shed for hammers? Many other skills are on offer.
The squeaky wheel powers of CBs can strongly influence some city agencies’ project development practices, but not in a good way.
Financial crises, health care, hunger, income disparity, obesity, poverty, terrorism, and sustainability are examples of wicked problems further complicated by climate change, biodiversity loss, persistent poverty, and food insecurity. The difficulty is knowing how everything happens all at once and why everything is connected to everything else. Wicked, right? Maybe not, with a wicked problem plan for knowing how and why all you need a where. I pick Flushing.
RLC – OCCUPY
The planning process for dealing with wicked problems would simultaneously initiate three interdisciplinary actions. Evaluate community business visions, examine technical capabilities, and conduct a comprehensive assessment of community/user needs. If there is a match, you have a plan.
If the geographic units for a constant data flow are clearly established (even as a sketch), it may be possible to fully understand the interdependencies and relationships that reasonably account for billions of interactions. It begins by getting everything to the East of College Point Blvd. to focus on everything west of it with a vested interest. It provides the grist of a plan. The interest could range from open space access to job retention to affordable housing. It is easy to get resistance to change. In this case, the fight is to get a piece of the action. Beware of the work to produce a CBA. Unregulated agreements between local, influential actors and developers are at the core of the problem.
The Flushing Creek environment as it stands now has astounding contradictions. The UHaul is readily available to move displaced families while the Assi Food and Households Goods Market is closed. The vitality of the UHaul appears to stay, while the market is to be replaced with housing and the unpromised possibility of retention within a new complex.
Permissible data points and technology sets the restraints for the capture and distribution of all the business interests. Gathering these interests determines the full effect of the standing Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) as it attempts to alter the current zoning envelope. These points can also be drawn out for data on a building-by-building basis on a vast set of variables. Of them all, what are the most relevant (see map below).
Another Brief but Interesting Digression
One other vital element too often forgotten is technology demands a continuous ability for experimental thinking. In other words, the process needs art. (See: Galileo). For example, if given an unchanged boundary and the prospect of extensive high-density locations, is it possible for a city’s total floor area to be unlimited and still retain a viable open space ratio? If the answer is an essential no or yes, would a rising sea matter?
Back to the Wicked Problem Plan
Extending access to information beyond a library or a laboratory to enrich life requires confidence in integrative disciplines. The tools needed to accomplish robust interdisciplinary methods must first discover the knowledge in people. In this case, the people of Flushing. The meaning of data can be found in a person. Small specialized groups can deal with the world’s wicked problems at the local scale. They are strengthened further with rapid communication systems. Where are they? Who are they? Do not ask. They support a wealth of joint actions and, most notably, a shared understanding of the effort involved. The grist for a plan becomes known, the people is a “less so” and a “it depends.”
Urban forms are intentional operations that entangle all life. Human responsibility has moved from its single-center (the human in nature) to the duality of multiple centers numbering in billions of known interactions. The new centers are the ones from which gigantic numbers of small groups move toward and away simultaneously. These two forces circle indefinite urbanized structures and their constructions. One force moves to a center (a dot on a map, for example), and another is accelerating outward and away – from wilderness to farm to lanai garden. This human force never recognizes the species made extinct to produce a sweet pear for consumption on a high-rise balcony. The centers are unfixed, always incomplete, yet capable of continuously producing observable results of continuous replacement.
OK, OK, put it this way, the data set has been prepared. It awaits your use. The dots (centroids for GIS nerds) on this map represent place-based data. It can be enriched enormously for the empowerment of the people of Flushing. The data is tabla rasa, and it awaits purpose. Who will use it? Who knows how to use it? Find them, and you have a plan. Is there an MYSQL and ArcGIS person available?
Observation of a meaningless or harmless intervention is now impossible. Everything changes once an event is observed. The big difference today is everything in urban development is intentional. For example, we experience design most often in various symbolic and visual communications. One of the more relevant communication documents relevant to this examination is the Generic Environmental Impact Statement that reviews many aspects of state and local EIS processes. (see pdf here). The context of a document such as this stands available for comparisons and critiques of impact.
Any course of action involving the manipulation and management of natural resources may result in altered conditions. The Flushing waterway, from natural estuary a half millennia in the past to the use of waterways for industrial use a century ago, to the attempt at naturalization in the future, can be construed as having adverse effects.
All action agendas have conflicting results. Thus, the mitigation argument demands an accommodation to what planners and developers know about the stewardship of natural resources that includes human life quality. There is no bounded rationale insurance.
We are surrounded by material objects that are products of a design process. Unfortunately, a few products end up as discarded material. A recent article on the Gowanus Canal and Flushing Creek by the Architectural League (here) exposes the issue of what development actually costs. Here is a quote from that article.
Parklands hold the measure of decades of leaded gasoline in their soil. Bodies of water (the Hudson River, Bronx River, Flushing Creek, Coney Island Creek, to name a few) receive and harbor sewage and legacy contaminants. Industries on a rising waterfront risk release of what are called “fugitive chemicals” with every storm.
We engage work and life through various activities expected of us using a long list of organized services. Each is designed to respond to complex systems and environments for living in a city made for play, work, and learning. So the question for a planner serving a community that feels and senses a threat, the best way to get really close to it is to smell and taste the cash it breaths.
A Wicked Plan is Better than a Comprehensive Plan
What is required is a double repositioning of the design problems associated with wicked problem planning in gaining participants within an interdisciplinary forum. The comprehensive plan idea pretends to mash them together, but it does not. The first presumption of planners and participants is that people will move into action based on information. The opposite tends to be true far more often. People will likely engage in a recent analytical report based on their independent actions, leading to the empirical knowledge they can explain to others. Activity helps make additional information more absorbable, used, and understood as applicable to a current situation. In the day you are in now. The required steps are to move from the familiar and expected to new experiences leading to new data acceptance. The data is always there, always waiting for reasons that will bring it to use. Once established, reciprocity is formed in the learning experience between residents and agents of change.
Part VI – Planning Together (Is it Doublespeak?) or back to Index
Zoning is used to protect people. Today it exists to help residents oppose change. Something is wrong. It is a metaphor for our times. Here is a story from way back in the olden days– say the 1940s and 50s. Change for the worse has begun.
Council legislation seeks “long-term” planning. (LTCP) Neighborhoods need strategic planning
A decade before WWII, an immigrant family came to the city and turned a small business idea into a large successful business within two generations. Family investors acquired equity in a few land purchases and expanded business locations. The effort ensued with hardship and sacrifice, but investors continued to over the decades to build a community. Then big outside investors began to see the community as safe for investment and ready for displacement.
Small family groups like this began in places such as the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It continues in neighborhoods such as Flushing in Queens today. The same dreams continue to live — acquire capital and invest in expanding local businesses. A bakery factory is envisioned. A storage warehouse and a site for the assembly of human-power-assist vehicles are planned. The vehicles will be designed by brilliant industrial design engineers, the grandchildren of veterans in the Flushing family who served in the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. These plans are done quietly and without much fanfare in the ordinary course of business growth and investment located in an area west of College Point Blvd.
Unknown to this community, investors associated with the New York Real Estate Board meet with the Department of City Planning (DCP) Director. They present several projects coming onto the table for negotiation, and they provide an advisory on pre-planning projects coming off the shelf. The total investment is estimated in 2017 dollars is $250 to $400 billion. The Director is pleased. As sensitive property acquisitions are ongoing, independent calls to the affected community’s business groups and political officials were not advised. At that moment, the dreams and traditions of small local investors are attacked. While considering billions in financial concessions, The DCP, the agency responsible for the city’s land use and community development, became a contributor to durable inequality policies in New York City.
Why does zoning exist to help residents oppose change? Huge residential investors (REITs) can legally combine with large but ordinary local real estate investment groups. They can hire planners and architects to look for opportunities in older, mostly industrial urban areas. In many ways, they appear on the scene like marvels of certainty. In other ways, it is a valid symbol of a tragic time when the availability of overwhelming capital can quietly blame residents for opportunity hoarding, referring to those who had been quietly investing in the community since WWII. (See story on another angle of the subject (here).
Zoning has become the battleground of sides. It offers a binary choice of capital in vast amounts or the perception of comparative nothing. It threatens decades of ordinary neighborhood transformation. It produces well-known t-shirts such as “Blight Me” and “Develop, Don’t Destroy.” Although most development occurs within a set of existing (albeit complex) as of right rules, zoning is now used for various reasons, and perhaps too many. From the basics of land use planning to forecast municipal finance or its use to help with preservation, it has a history of racially motivated exclusion, and more recently, funding affordable housing inclusion. (see Manhattanville) In other words, it is not pro-growth vs. anti-small growth. The zoning situation has become New York City’s wicked problem (wiki).
A Brief Digression
This view of problems has a fascinating history and following. When Richard Buchanan (Case Western) connected design thinking to wicked problems, the impact created a substantial change in problem-solving from definition-to-solution into a condition-change assessment. Read his paper (a pdf is here). The questions surrounding community design draw from planning, architecture, and engineering as creators of a physical realm. However, changes in community conditions occur in the overlap of these professions with the psychology of a place.
In today’s community development practice, we see two separate forces that believe they are correct. Both are at odds on how and why investment functions. It is wicked because the two parties are unaware of the other; thereby, they are without data: their values, outlook, economics, and culture conflict. Points of intervention are possible but difficult to imagine. The uncertainty poses the creativity possible in ambiguity, but the ships have already passed in the night. Finally, the forces of resistance often lead to their repression. Whether imposed or internalized, the impact of repression alters mental health conditions. It is far too easily ignored, but the results of stress, anxiety, and depression have proven harmful to the individual and have a community impact.
The Carbon Neutral Strategy
Calculating carbon footprints is still in its infancy. Still, the standard calculation today is based on an estimate of $400 per ton of emissions. If you are Bill Gates, you more than double it to make another point. He recognizes the Green Premium cost and is quite willing to say he can easily afford to pay it. He is not sure about the rest of us, so he suggests we ask and decide what we can do as individuals.
Policymakers can take on only so many problems at once. Getting on that “only so many” list will require concerted political action. A regional support strategy will help local organizers get on that list. For example, it could alter or stop an environmentally suspect development project in Flushing Queens. Drawing encouragement from regional to citywide to neighborhood organizations willing to focus resources on one example can be used to push climate change to the top of that list.
Political leaders need to sense concerted political action from their constituents. Climate change and the Flushing Meadow project can be encouraged as an example of a grave error that must not be allowed anywhere in the region. Digging into the specifics of these errors will help every participating organization. Some examples are:
The Flushing Development is not paying the Green Premium. The project needs to tell the energy systems companies, services, and utilities what it will pay to address climate change.
The Flushing Developers, architects, and engineers have no idea what a zero-sum, carbon-neutral project would look like.
The developer is only complaining about its profit margin. Simultaneously, the project’s failure and its cost will fall on the city and the state when the community is flooded and stays flooded.
The list of households most likely to be displaced by climate change (flooding/storm surge) is about 4,000 today. The Flushing project could double that figure and quadruple the cost.
A focus on getting a more aggressive regional and citywide partnership on this project is needed. The attention can help produce a carbon-neutral development or stop one that isn’t. Either way, it is an important market signal. The political action statement is straightforward. Not paying attention to the carbon footprint issue today could put your grandchildren on the endangered species list tomorrow. It is that serious. The science of this argument and proof of this project’s failure to recognize the problem is the work that lies ahead.
The big question: Is the idea of a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan capable of adjudication? Can it confirm or refute any of the fears of the people? Can it alter the inexorable facts of climate change and its impact on Flushing? As a BOA site will the developers, provide services and funding covering lifetime health-related illness from work or living on the proposed site. You get the drift.
A Muddling Strategy
Zoning is well-established police power, yet it is officially opposed and challenged, questioned, and denied—a political pawn of progress. Consider the possibility of an impeccable elimination of racism, classism, sexism, and the all-around favorite “placism” in the zoning text and resolution as policy. \Is there a way to bring its original health and safety purpose more explicitly focused on the pace of neighborhood change? Deliberate but incremental negotiations could help charge ordinary people’s expectations with a new interest in community investing. Plans for a mutually determined and purposeful change quality can be absorbed by the community, but gradually. This helps alter the lock on the status quo and governmental privilege systems into more of an emollient for progress.
The New York Metropolitan Region is a megacity, yet zoning (or changes to it) only considers a few blocks at a time. Given mobility throughout this region, its people can live in places where they can become most productive. The missing resource is the lack of information, innovation, and opportunities to meet and optimize these choices. Instead, the “transit-rich” locations in the city are sold for minor capital improvements. These deals between a failing private corporation (MTA) and the local, state, and federal government responsible agencies. The inevitable common-sense conclusion could be zoning is failing communities that are not transit-rich by establishing transportation dependency in all others. A rapidly advancing capacity for equitable movement would be to make everything in the region within reach of everything else within an hour or less.
One excellent example is Downtown Brooklyn, NY that is the most transit-rich region of New York City. The fight over Atlantic Yards an expansive uncovered rail yard serving the Long Island] Railway. New York City partnered with a developer, Bruce Ratner, to develop the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. (contention) The construction of an arena, the Barclay’s Center, was first to develop, to yield the headline. How to Build a Sports Complex by Promoting 2,000 units of Housing. The proposal engendered legal and political battles for a decade. The use of eminent domain, how the developer would bid the project, and even the developer’s vision were challenged in the courts by residents. The Civilians, a musical theater troupe,produced apopular musical farce detailing indignation only to prognosticate the ephemeral promise of affordable housing.
Meanwhile Back in Flushing
In 2010, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation received a grant under the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program. The State used it to develop plans to replace vacant and underutilized properties and revitalize Flushing’s waterfront area. If approved, the development would serve as an extension of Downtown Flushing. The Special Flushing Waterfront District was established by a vote of 40 to 4 margin on 12/10/2020. This brings the process to the final ULURP process. Unfortunately, we have not seen the application.
Impressive Eye Candy
Flushing is For Sale
The Hill West Architecture firm has an impressive portfolio of projects (here) with a few waterfront locations. However, the Flushing development concept has yet to make it to their list or map all projects (here) real and digital hopes. The proposal’s renderings available now are useless preliminary sketches projecting the total floor area allowed in a set of unchallenged zoning approvals. New York Yimby seems to have the best set of illustrations (here). But let’s pretend the following is real and will be built, and the architecture might look like this project in Brooklyn.
The proposed 1,725 units are criticized for including a minimal amount of affordable housing and 879 hotel units. However, as housing advocates know, hotel rooms are used to house displaced families as an alternative to warehoused children in shelters. Is there an “off-table” agreement here to provide such units as needed, and if so, how might it be included in the city’s incentive package without been seen?
Office space and community facilities, and retail space are estimated at 700,000 sq. ft. Parking & BOH: involves 440,500 square feet, and the waterfront public space may have about 160,000 square feet. Is that closed Assi market sized into this structure? Would the rent be fair? Will there be competitors?
Part V – Wicked Problem Planning or back to Part III on the energy displacement issue, or back to Index
There are nearly one-half-million students of higher education and over 1.1 million students in the NYC public education system. A resource of enormous power given 1) affordability and 2) focus on priorities of the city through scholarships and education incentives. These institutions have an enormous stake in the health, housing, and general welfare of New York City people.
The analysis of public response to the Great Recession of 2008 reveals those errors compounded in the Pandemic of 2020. The failure to produce a system change from the private and public realm regarding these two instances is evident and a little frightening—the time has arrived for writers to demand improvements in critical thinking from every mountain top.
Financial service companies, insurance agencies, and families went underwater on bad loans and poor judgment. Thousands of people have become sick and face financial disaster. A high percentage of the most vulnerable to infections have died. Fire, flood, drought, and a rising sea is encircling cities all over the world. Ending what is beginning to look like tragic cycles of change requires a summary of the public response to correcting the “money” problem. Money, faith in trade, and its use for the oblivious accumulation of goods is the root cause of this trouble. The use of it dominates the argument and the conversation. It is real but a distraction to the purpose of consequence. More plainly, my super wealthy grandparents just said, you cannot take it with you, and we (all of us) should only get a leg-up on confidence with a dose of tenacity.
In 2008, the American business community won the case – use federal funds and reestablish aggregate demand, sustain liquidity for global trade, keep employment up, but income marginal in a high percentage of households. Attack tax rates, government interference, and expose public incompetence. Continue to reduce and weaken mechanisms for public oversight into private financial practices. These are highly persuasive claims and strategic practices from the business community. They draw values such as individual freedom and independence that took over two centuries to establish a Republic built on a foundation of slavery.
The struggle for freedom of all people remains unexamined. Civil rights, social justice, equity, and a basic “leg-up” is falsely claimed as a strain and a distraction. Despite the depth of the 2008 and 2020 global economic tragedies, several questions go unaddressed under the heading of disproportionality. Why wasn’t it disproportionate when eight percent of the households in a Georgia county were slaves? You will hear that isn’t the issue today, but I have comparable questions. Why does the world function as if the acquisition of equity is the only means of power? Where are their attempts to succeed with alternatives? Where are the dividing lines that tell us what separates the ability to meet human needs in the private marketplace from those essential to the validity of a public realm?
The difficulty of challenging and changing the last two hundred years of the American communication experience requires new leadership. Only one modern American hero has a national day of remembrance for the courage it took to lead that kind of challenge. His agony became ours, and his name was Martin Luther King. He was murdered in 1968 by something much bigger and more heinous than the racism of his era.
King’s anguish for justice held the U.S. Constitution to account first, but this did not extinguish his view on economics. He believed the solution was not in a “thesis of communism or an antithesis of capitalism.” His demand was for synthesis based on two facts. An economic system built on slavery and imprisonment will not change the rules. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income…” MLK
The economic crisis of 2008 and the health and financial crisis of 2020 has one word that tends to stop any discussion of system change dead in its tracks. That word is “debt.” Less understood is the concept of equity in our minds. An accountant will tell you that “equity” is a combination of your assets and liabilities. One of the first pre-eminent sources of it in the United States is homeownership. With the help of government mortgage guarantees, it is the prime asset held by most Americans. Still, confidence and trust in each household is the one thing that makes the liability expressed by a mortgage possible.
Recently the idea of retaining that trust and confidence was expressed by none other than the American Enterprise Institute in a map of the United States they tweeted to the world. The map illustrated the relative GDP of individual American States with other countries globally so that people would be more confident – to trust the system. I would call your attention to Wisconsin before you read the next paragraph.
In response to the pandemic, Europe understands the “system change” relationship between public and private equity. I have one example of why Wisconsin should have no difficulty changing the system if they were like Denmark. The Denmark government stepped forward to continue paying wages even when they are not working. People kept their jobs with their employers. Denmark retained some business and most family income and stopped the virus from spreading efficiently. The policy maintained the cultural status quo of the nation steady t anticipation of ending the crisis. The system allows business activity and production to restart with as little cost and disruption as possible.
I have a request in closing this bit of critical thinking about the need to produce a system change first with the idea that this would allow the rules to change. The first is to ask you to conduct a brief exercise, followed by taking the concept outlined above further in some way and sharing it with this blog – a link would do.
The habits of the mind that contribute to critical thinking involve the following types of thought. The first one should be on the word critical. In health, the word describes a “short term” condition. Here is a quick exercise. Run through the following ten words in ten seconds, asking.
If you had a rapid response to each one of them, know three things 1) you have some or all the skills listed below and 2) if it took even a bit longer than ten seconds, you need more work on them when “critical” thinking is essential and 3) they are just words — you can pick your own ten if you choose.
break the whole into parts to discover practical relationships
list the parts piece by piece
sort the things into things
judge using well-known rules
apply personal, professional, and social standards
compare and assess the means
recognize differences and similarities
rank things together or separate in groups
differentiate categories or decern status
basis of evidence
predicting if that then this
determine possible consequences
Pick Your Own
Critical thinking can be brief, momentary, temporary, short-lived, impermanent, cursory, fleeting, passing, fugitive, flying, and like lightning. It can also be transitory, transient, temporary, brief, fading, quick, and meteoric. Not being curious enough is a problem — inquisitiveness exercises human intuition. It helps a person run inference, seek integrity, and demand contextual change. Therefore, differentiating the language to become more demanding, improves hearing. To solve problems adequately, or ask more satisfying questions. I use the following chart to create a system change.
Just after the election of POTUS45, one message kept getting repeated about the need to produce change at the level of the local law that moved to the city, county, and state governments. Only then would a system change have a chance for federal legislation or be recognized as a new cultural norm. The example given most often was the demand to make laws governing marriage far more inclusive. The changes began locally but rapidly across the United States. The rules change issues regarding women’s rights and a voting rights act. All noted here because none of them go unchallenged, and all of them require leadership demanding a civil discourse and faith in the law. The following table or chart is one of the easiest to read summaries of the process.
What are additional efforts needed to curb the American Super Power to make fools of ourselves? I came across Tech Against Terrorism that might be useful. It is an international organization that recognizes the one-world communication issue in which we now function. Americanizing Europe’s far-right problem is a mistake. The lesson here is to recognize the ease of manipulation a free society is willing to accept and take a deep, long breath before marching to anyone’s orders to do anything before taking a deep f’n exhale.
Another more serious and useful global super-power is revealed in the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. It has given two lessons. If a little bug can bring capitalism to its knees and put some cash in our pockets, that bug is telling you something about national confrontations. By “our pocket,” I mean small businesses, your local public hospital, and so on, you get my drift. I say, get prepared. This is the beginning. The second lesson comes in the form of a question. How does a belief in a conspiracy address any of the underlying problems in your life? That brings me to the following post.
Rethinking the Fairness Doctrine
I was among many people in a school bus to D.C., ready to encircle the Pentagon to expel its evil symbolism. Along with many others, I crowed up and sat on its steps, surrounded by the ordinary national guard guys for a long cold night. People tossed sandwiches into our vigil, I ducked a pack of Lucky Strikes, saw socks and cotton gloves tossed in for added warmth. Our guards smiled at our efforts and our chants to end an unjust war. We were one people in the right to protest. Eventually, we were swept up into the reality of our trespass, asked to accept our punishment in the name of so many others in the search for justice, and we left. The Pentagon did not elevate. I was not that surprised. My beautiful companion was deeply saddened.
Do you remember the FCC’s “fairness doctrine?” It demanded balance from the broadcast networks until it was scrapped under by Reagan in 1987 via veto that sought to codify the following ideas in law.
(1) that every licensee devotes a reasonable portion of broadcast time to the discussion and consideration of controversial issues of public importance; and
(2) that in doing so, [the broadcaster must be] fair – that is, [the broadcaster] must affirmatively endeavor to make … facilities available for the expression of contrasting viewpoints held by responsible elements concerning the controversial issues presented.
The personal attack rule stated that when personal attacks were made on individuals involved in public issues, the broadcaster had to, within one week of the broadcast, notify the person attacked, provide him with a copy of the broadcast (either script or tape), and allow him an opportunity to respond over the broadcaster’s facilities.
The political editorial rule required that when a broadcaster endorsed a particular political candidate, the broadcaster was required to provide the other qualified candidates for the same office (or their representatives) the opportunity to respond over the broadcaster’s facilities.
For the details on the origins of “fake news” see Snopes
When the FCC established the doctrine in 1949, the national frequencies available allowed ABC, NBC, and CBS to exist. By the time Clinton’s Presidency concluded, everything changed, as along with the expansion of the cable providers, a robust digital network exploded. The Fairness Doctrine is a reasonable attempt at balance. Still, as technology expanded, it cannot be applied constitutionally to cable or satellite service providers as well as it can broadcast networks. I still watch “antenna tv” because it is free and still interested in fairness, and if not that, then I still sense an attempt at balance.
When applied to the print media, the Supreme Court has recognized that regulations like the Fairness Doctrine are not constitutional as law. Regulations aimed at others may be subject to the same opinion when applied to Cable TV, satellite, and digital platforms. The remedy is only available on a post-trauma basis. In other words, people are free to disregard content-based restrictions on speech and yell fire! Doing that creates an imminent threat to people only if there is no fire in a crowded theater. The least restrictive remedy for misuse of free speech is to await prosecution from the hurt and offended people or institutions.
Preventing further restrictions requires a government to use the least restrictive means of achieving an interest, such as assuring public safety. The people labeled far-right insurrectionists are perfectly within their rights to act and be punished for their actions.
Buy now because these are the top twenty Black Owned Businesses to celebrate the 2020 victory. Time Magazine did a cool thing and made a list; I’m passing it along because they checked it twice. (Full article here) New York Magazine lists 180 in NYC (here). Anyway, you get the point on your dollar this year.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) gets into the impact of “dark money” on the Supreme Court. His introduction on 13 October is here or below, and important to see before you watch his 14 October follow-up here or below. Attention to the facts is why I am a Democrat.
13 October 2020
14 October 2020
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham scheduled a committee vote for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, the morning of the last day of hearings.
Barrett’s nomination is expected to be brought up for a vote at that meeting and then delayed for a week, per committee rules to 22 October 2020.
In all of our worlds (social, political, economic, biometric) we search for things considered necessary. We see closed doors, glass ceilings, and tables with no invitations. The good news is we have a set of new rules that could make change more positive.
A way to develop answers to change rests with the combination of several very new organizations such as the World Wide Web Foundation and some old scientists such as Nikola Tesla pictured (left). Both are excellent examples of learning and unlearning everything to begin every day differently than the day before. Pioneering access to information has always been available at the speed of light thanks to your hippocampus, but now it is a many-brain experience. We need new skills.
The first rule of knowledge is that it expands through the experience of frequency. The second is you control what you make recur. The third rule is books do not hold truth or meaning. Meaning is in people, and the truth is just outside your front door. Take a long-looking walk every day.
These three rules draw a vital connection to the immensity of comparative change. Here is an example. It is a comparison of Nikola Tesla and Tim Berners-Lee. Here we find two people who looked just outside their door but managed to see the whole world. Just under a century ago, Nikola Tesla explored every aspect of energy he could imagine. Just a few decades ago (1989-1991) Tim Berners-Lee and others created the URL and HTML as a fast method for sharing and editing documents on a worldwide basis. There is a connection.
I came across an examination of Tesla’s writings and interviews on the subject of the future at The Smithsonian. In Tesla’s vision, leaning to control the energy of everything will establish the recurrence of all things good. A movement to elect scientists instead of lawyers to leadership positions in the legislative branches of government has begun. In a 1935 Liberty Magazine article, Tesla was among those who saw science as the parent of law and writes,
“Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of new scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats. Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news. The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere ” stick ” in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.
Something Is Wrong
A century later, for every $100 paid in U.S. federal income tax, well over half of it still goes to the military in the 21st century. Something is wrong.
Tesla saw the ability of science to improve people in the same way law sought to protect. Called eugenics at the time, these discredited and immoral practices present a view of the world based on the distorted views of privileged white males, and this has yet to change in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, the debate continues in a broad spectrum by manipulating DNA in thousands of lifeforms. CRISPR will continue to press for the inclusion of the human genome. The practioners must be watched. Something isn’t right, if they are not.
Tesla recognized the lack of control over the waste machines create as he was a builder of them. He envisioned a national agency with the mission to prevent pollution (waste nothing) and regulate the discarded materials of production for the specific purpose of protecting the land, air, and water. Unfortunately, the EPA did not form until 1970. President Nixon was in office. Something isn’t right, waste continues beyond reason, and it includes human beings.
Tesla’s outlook on the energy requirements of the human diet eschewed all stimulants except alcohol. Perhaps he was like Mark Twain, who said that “too much of anything is bad, but too much Scotch is rarely enough.” Still, he knew it was possible to provide “…enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world.” He criticized the industrialization of animals for protein. He was a contemporary of Dr. Norman Borlaug.
Tesla recognized energy drawn from the burning of fossil fuels as wasteful and dangerous. The identification of global warming gases began in the Nineteenth Century. He saw clean energy from sources such as water-power and the scientific preservation of natural resources would end the agonies of drought, forest fires, floods, and viral infestation. Instead, Federal Disaster Declarations have doubled and tripled since 1955. Something isn’t right.
Science proves Right
Tesla’s favorite work is in the invention of remotely controlled machines designed to automate production. He understood communication as wireless. In 1935, he said, “At this very moment, scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a thinking machine. In all of our worlds, for right or wrong, the only proof of communication is persuasion. Can a “thinking machine” isolate the wrong of a lie?
In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formed an international community devoted to developing open web standards. Tim Berners-Lee is the Director of W3C (2017). The question is direct. How well can this resource advance the frequencies of useful change that Tesla envisioned? In 2009, Berners-Lee formed The World Wide Web Foundation and began operations as an independent, international organization fighting for digital equality. It envisions the continuing implementation of an open web as a public good and a basic right. Its mission is to help build a world where everyone can access the web and use it to improve their lives. The internet community produced the following revolutionary ideas.
The Rules are Under Attack
In August 2020, the United States, under the Trump Administration, began to attack the idea of internet sovereignty in favor of an authoritarian view that would redefine the idea of free expression. The following principles of an open and free internet are therefore under attack.
Decentralization: No permission from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”! The implication: freedom from indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
Non-discrimination: If I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This principle of equity is Net Neutrality.
Bubble-up design: Code is in full view of everyone (Ctrl/Shift/I) to encourage maximum participation and experimentation. All you have to do is right-click and select inspect.
Universality: For anyone to publish anything on the web, all the computers involved have to speak the same languages to each other, no matter what different hardware people are using, where they live, or what cultural and political beliefs they have. In this way, the web breaks down silos while allowing diversity to flourish.
Consensus: For universal standards to work, everyone had to agree to use them. The achievement of consensus occurs by giving everyone a say in creating the standards through a transparent, participatory process at W3C. The consensus to agree with everything, at least “somewhat” and a known degree.
Two immediate suppositions are evident when comparing Tesla’s ideas (turn of the 20th) about the world’s future with what the World Wide Web now offers (turn of the 21st). The first insight reveals a public education policy at risk, and the second is one big assumption. The risk is that a probable series of severe social, economic, and environmental events will increase and continue to occur as “chaos costs.” The assumption is the threat of these costs will lead to repression as if the cause/effect in this situation is a certainty. It is not.
A third observation is less reactionary—the documentation and implementation of two resilience strategies can serve as benchmarks. For example, putting a global price on GHGs and focusing on investments in new energy solutions are arguments for action in less than a decade. The reasonable deadline appears to be 2050 by most observers to achieve net-zero. It could be sooner.
If initial benchmarks establish firm roots, a path will become apparent on improving our global selves with the aid of super useful “thinking machines” focused on facts and knowledge instead of death and war. Envision a world where trust is about truth and not about machine ownership. Something is wrong. The internet is not a machine.
A responsive market approach can succeed. The value system accepts disruption in parts of the physical and emotional community, but not the spirit of people in the wake of that change. The infusion of world wide web values now offers decentralization, non-discrimination, a bottom-up design, super universality, and consensus. This is a compelling alternative to authoritarian rule. The rules are clear for building pathways to new physical realities. Implementing one hellish set of trusted, tried, and true algorithms remain along with the desire to go outside. Have a good, long look at the world. (Knowledge share link here).
On June 26, 2018, the residents of the Ninth Congressional District had an opportunity to test leadership in Congress on criteria established by voters. Clarke won by a slim margin. Challenged again in 2020 she won again big time. Adem Bunkedekko was the closest rival, capturing 17% of the vote among four other bird-dogging candidates – all democrats.
Political leadership has gone to hell. New York leaders are useful when they respond to an urgent condition on a single issue. There is no outright fear for democracy, because better than most, they know it is practically gone. None of that is occurring. The only live-die-repeat is incumbency and the dead ones are the challengers.
Have a good long look at the candidates and their “watchers.” (See examples: Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) Ballotpedia’s fine details are here. Money equals victory. A national watch group, Open Secrets has the data to prove it, including the outliers that illustrate exceptions. The deep end of the data pool is with reports at the New York State Board of Elections.
Leaders with skills in critical thinking, creativity, responsiveness, and obedience will do well. Proof of unselfish giving is through service that includes a record of judgments publicly specified with grace and dignity. After reviewing the public expressions of our federal leaders, are challenges within the party positive and optimistic? Does the officeholder or the challenger have a bias toward getting results? Finally, good leaders know how the practice of listening to be heard gets their constituents to help themselves do the hard stuff.
Adem Bunkeddeko Lost in the first race by a slim margin, and he machine tanked him in the second
He got more votes the second time, yet adding votes from the three additional not really serious, probably “bird-dog” candidates, he would have still lost. The third time is the charm, I said. Off years are best. I hope he will write a review of the loss. Meantime, he now works as an Executive Director for CORO. He has been cultivating young leaders who seek to make a difference in our city and tackles the complex issues affecting New Yorkers. Please drop him a line at email@example.com and if you want to know more before you do that, visit Adem’s Website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also has Instagram and Snapchat if you must. If snail mail is your thing, you can write them to this mailing address: Friends of Adem, P.O. Box 130-427, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
Yvette Clarke Drop the candidate a line on the federal website. She has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. To write via snail mail the local address, 222 Lenox Road, Suites 1 & 2 Brooklyn, NY 11226, and a D.C. address, 2351 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. I would be amazed if you get an answer beyond stat and pat. She is a guaranteed tow-the-line Democrat, so there is that, I suppose.
The national Campaign Finance Institute confirms the long-term success of this legislation in its testimony to the NYC Campaign Finance Board in 2017. (The Act). After thirty years, the NYC CFB has protected voters. Perhaps the best example is NYC representatives sustain the “F” rating from the NRA in their demand for stringent legislation regarding the use and purchase of weapons for war. That is where the feds (your representatives in Congres) come into the picture to confront and confirm national policy.
In NYC, the Campaign Finance Act has kept the local government on the side of working New Yorkers for the last three decades. A $6-to-$1 match of small donations turns a $100 donation into $700. The law has strict contribution limits and an outright ban on all corporate money, and an excellent enforcement record.
Political Action Committees
The Political Action Committees (PAC) come into the picture today as a permanent part of federal election campaigns. They represent almost 40 percent of an elected candidate’s campaign funding. A challenger is far less likely to be supported by a PAC. The PAC phenomenon began in the 1950s, but since then, their corrosive influences over Congressional Representatives reflect the concentration of wealth in the U.S. and the rule that corporations have a right to political speech as people and that money is speech.
Unlike people, wealthy corporations can live forever. Corporate outfits such as the NRA and the Koch brothers have a large bag of political tricks designed by well-paid political operatives to protect specific interests, not including the bot/troll issues that confuse voters further. It was a sign of real trouble when New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer asked his constituents to help fight against Koch Brother attack ads against a fellow Senator, Joe Donnelly (D) from Indiana with a help him Keep His Seat! Email blast.
Representative Government, Election Waves, and Money Three Republican Congressmembers (Faso, Tenney, Katco) in NYS may have “toss-up” elections in 2018. To keep things in perspective Faso’s 2016 spending was: $2,904,089, Tenney’s was $885,895, and Katco’s was $2,384,152. These races could contribute to a wave-election referendum on the chaos in the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives and shift as many as 25 seats to Democrats. (See NY Mag summary here). The 2018 mid-term election might have a single issue.
Peter King, a member of the Republican Party, is completing his 14th term in Congress, having served since 1993, and he quit. Clarke has been there twelve years and barely serves and runs on “good attendance” and perks from PACs.
The playground was made of 12×12 inch pressure treated Douglas Fir in lengths from three to eighteen feet. The photos will say everything. There still is a park there today. The timber is gone, there is a Head Start Center, a fire station/rescue, and new housing has replaced the tenements that Hilton described as burning.
I was the one on the steps with new beginning thoughts. He was the one demanding to know why I was there, doing “stupid shit”, and I said it was to finish the playground and a place for community theater or shows, pointing to the trellis. The genius of rage came right up into my face at that moment. All he said was I was a lame, white motherfucker, it’s too late, too fuck’n late, and walked up the steps passed me.
The Genius of Rage
In his closing, Hilton read a portion of Homecoming essay saying, “and now it is happening to you,” and that is when that whole experience of Brownsville came rushing back into my life. I have both of their thoughts in my mind now, Hilton’s and the guy with the knife. It is still happening and it is too late.
This post is motivated by another place-based examination of community development. It is an experiment of mine in looking back at the history of Lincoln Square/Center as an attempt to compare it to the recent five-year build of City Center (here). I’m guessing, but I think the thread of it might be displacement as the transitional function of institutional racism, a cycle of recurrence that must be stopped.
Take a look at all of the “political clubs” in Brooklyn. Rarely are these outfits exposed as viable components of local leadership, merely those who have a detailed understanding of the inner workings, tips, and tricks of a Board of Elections system that needs to be Repealed and Replaced.
Congress Member for Life
Why did the founders make representatives every two years if we get them for life. I have a “legacy” representative in Congress with a “D” rating. So I supported an alternative candidate (Adem). I liked his candidacy for two congressional election cycles. He almost won the first time, got the “club” attention, and he got crushed the second time by an odd general consensus. An incumbent representative is the best option, or “hey, I might have a shot at this office”, leading to a primary election that is chock full of candidates. Either way, it is the ambiguity that assures the status quo.
There are nineteen political clubs in Brooklyn that attempt to decide what issues candidates can speak to with credibility. For the candidate, they will examine records of accomplishment of their opponent and coach on the hot buttons of the day (i.e., health care costs, immigration, DACA). The political clubs and their candidates are the up-from-the-grassroots owners of a process that makes the top-down discussion of congress members, senators, and judges come alive as constitutional actors. It is in these settings where ordinary people determine who runs and how. The analysis continues by district and office from local to federal that allows participants to compare incumbents to a challenger. But why are incumbents 98% successful in defeating possible challengers. Why is AOC the outlier? The answer is made obvious below. Review with the knowledge that there are over 300,000 registered voters in this CD9!
Why Does the Democratic Party Sustain Incumbency as a Priority? Is the System Broken? JUNE 23 Primary 2020 – In Brooklyn, a Primary Win is a Win in November.
Four Candidates Assures Incumbency
100.00% of precincts reporting (532?/?532) (source)
Once the choice of candidates for a political office or a judicial appointment is complete and aimed at the next election cycle, the value of local issues in the form of votes is exposed. An incumbency win is therefore easily recognized as a big money win on the issues and far less so on the issues affecting people’s lives. What do you think about 50% of every dollar you pay in federal taxes is paid to the military people, but the medical and science people have to fight for scraps in the battle for the other half? Are the big-money interests dangerous? Are they looking out for you?
A candidate does not have to be rich to be a leader, but improving the grassroots knowledge of the problems of wealth, power and government is a starting point of high value on every question related to the quality of public life. The cash from a PAC and other significant funding sources compare directly with vote capture and the percentage of contribution from ordinary citizens and public matching remains a token.
The capacity of civic engagement to get results is being pushed toward, well-known as well as unexpected breaking points. The big paying interests only have one interest in mind — to keep the government as a predictable entity, not an honest one, or fair or even one that cares. With this level of power, it is not possible to see a difference between the availability of cake and day-old bread. That is the terror of it.
Robert Venturi once observed Las Vegas as the only uniquely American expression of architecture. No one ever says it is a product of thoughtful planning. In 2006, when MGM Mirage and partners decided to build City Center, Las Vegas, NV, New York news aptly described it as an entertainment-based retail project. A comparison with an older effort confirms why metaphor-desperate architecture critics get super busy; however, I think lousy planning is the more useful element to engage. Enter stage left, Lincoln Square, Center, and Circle.
A viewpoint for examining the similarities and differences from one other kind of uniqueness can be useful. America is not built on ancient traditions, universal religion, ethnicity, or race; our founders believed they could be built on ideals. The principles of human dignity are given the highest value. Without the rigorous implementation of this core value, community development tends to fail this purpose. The question is not if the development practice in Lincoln Square, NYC, and City Center, Las Vegas was racist. The question is, how much racism is in play?
These two real estate investments are instructive of American urban development. They stand fifty years apart, but it might as well be five centuries regarding their exposure to values. Robert Moses broke ground on the Lincoln Center project with President Eisenhower. The biography of both patriarchs confirms a systemic racism component. Both believed Black people should be treated equally but did not think they were equal, and many of the policies and actions of both remain as proof.
Lincoln Square is an example of racialized architecture rationalized in New York City because the backdoor (parking/shipping) of Lincoln Center is Amsterdam Avenue adjacent to public housing. The entry plaza logically favored the Broadway/Columbus intersection. This was a reasonable architectural decision for many reasons. However, one reason rarely, if ever mentioned, is that architecture as a profession has no design solution for racism. They are subservient; the racism of their clients is included. The profession received clear notice of this problem in 1968 at their 100th convention (here).
Lincoln Center’s development is not as apparent as the proliferation of Confederate monuments from 1900 to through the 1920s, which continues through the 1950s. Lincoln Center did not support segregation with intimidation. On the other hand, it did support rules of law ito demolish a mostly Black neighborhood in the name of high-culture.
The Civil Rights Movement pushes back, and Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Park is now Emancipation Park. A record of the effort to remove intimidating monuments is kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). On the other hand, the high culture of Lincoln Center uses the grade sheet of their traditions. They seek to convert participants into high arts as their earnest effort to confront racism and claim success in programmatic terms.
Lincoln Center represents issues that architectural design or sculpted monuments cannot handle. Its creation was born of the slum clearance, race intimidation movement known as Urban Renewal. It developed through the redlined 50s and into the late 60s in NYC. The civil rights response pushes back but is compelled to accept reconciliation measures. Reconciliation also occurs in the offerings of special district law in 1969. The Lincoln Square District’s roots can point a bit remarkably to its transformation. It led to comprehensive inclusionary zoning laws, albeit fifty years later.
As a renewal program, the special district design attacked the southern diaspora of poverty into the North with displacement strategies. As for tactics, restitution-like compromises such as the promise of affordable housing and well-funded ‘top-down” cultural services can be agreeable goals to the “fighters” and the losses, grave as they may be, deemed acceptable.
Understanding these programs’ rectitude provides the added depth needed to understand the term “systemic” in race relations and economic change. The displacement practice, once quoted to me once as, “you are free, just not here, because you can’t afford it,” continues to this day and well examined in a report from the University of Pennsylvania’s City Planning program (here). Displacement is a percentage game, and if human dignity was the measure, the players on both sides are losing. Penn’s work is an excellent update of Chester Hartman’s book, “Displacement: How to Fight It,” developed by Dennis Keating and Richard LeGates (1981). The truth in both publications, now decades apart, is the displacement process has only changed on the margins. Therein lies the terror of it all.
A small portion of New York City (Map: CT 145) covers an area of eight typical city blocks just west of Central Park. It had a 2000 population of 4,500 people living in 2,900 housing units that sustains a low vacancy rate of about 2%. The land area is 60 acres to yield a residential density of 48,000 people per square mile. (Facts to be updated following 2020 Census – see below.)
The area includes the Fordham University Law School, and it is just south of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Juilliard School, and a dozen other cultural miracles. It is not just a neighborhood composed of multiple-story apartment buildings; it is a destination experience established by cultural centers, the splendor of Central Park’s open space, and the Time Warner 12-story shopping “mall” without the standing auto-surround. The daytime population density can be doubled with ease and well supported by a transit system at this location that can deliver 5,000 people per hour, 24/7/365.
The public goal (1969) of the Special Lincoln Square District is to enhance the area as an international center for the performing arts. To achieve this goal, urban design along Broadway will follow street line rules. Arcades for interior urban-room retail and service facilities provide a compromise for regulation and limits on street-level uses. Supply-side development bonuses are through special permits that offer added square footage for housing rented at lower (but not low) rents governed by Inclusionary Housing R10. and subway improvements. The demand side bets on good shows, a friendly neighborhood, and a sincere hope that the NYC mass transit services do not collapse.
Lincoln Center is a life-long learning opportunity in community development. Despite a long history of cultural engagement efforts as compensation for a vast mid-50s clearance of thousands of families, a tabula rasa planning strategy, and elements such as the fortress edge at Amsterdam Avenue, the entire project remains an unfulfilled story of transitional urban power. Its future continues to be written for the success it still might get, not by crossing Amsterdam, but in recognizing how well the social fabric of this part of Manhattan is willing to attack its drift into a binary culture and ignore new opportunities that offer exceptional new levels of depth.
The comparison with another entertainment-retail center for the high-spend culture has America written all over it. It is instructive of the “binary problem” and a warning of competing solely for the high-end. The City Center was a five-year design and build “hit”, not unlike graffiti, but way neat and well worth the time exploring innovations.
The $9+ Billion Las Vegas City Center (left to right): KPF’s Mandarin Hotel, (392) Libeskind, and Rockwell’s Crystal’s premium goods mall, Pelli’s Aria, (4,000) Helmut Jahn’s Veer, (335) Foster’s ill-fated Harmon. (demolition was in 2015) Also in the City Center, Rafael Viñoly Vara hotel and residences (1,495). A “who’s who” of architect high-end destination creation. The City Center project broke ground in 2006, and despite significant construction difficulties, including nine deaths in sixteen months, the new skyline hit the press in late 2009. The plan for this massive development was based on speed regardless of the human cost and a systemic “rent-comes-first” problem.
The entire project is symbolized by the demolition of Foster’s Harmon hotel, but like New York City’s development projects, the greater effort survived the 2008 recession. In Las Vegas, all bets are all on the black. Undeterred, billions spent in building the City Center out of nothing that can be remembered occurred even though Las Vegas sits amidst the aridest desert on Earth. Most of the 2.6 million residents trust in the spin on Lake Mead as shrinking (or not), rejecting any notion of a prolonged era of despair due to the rains of 2016/17.
The fresh knowledge of anguish from the City Center project became available when the Las Vegas Sun received a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the causes of construction deaths and lax regulatory assessments. The tragedy of a worker’s family is described (here). You can read all of the stories by Las Vegas Sun for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service (here). One of them points to NYC’s positive response to construction safety. Please read the work of Alexandra Berzon of the Sun who explored the pace, fear, and death, and terror that accompanied the creation of City Center before taking in the five minutes on the spin on the final product in the following presentation.
All of Las Vegas began as a city of no-rules sprawl. The property taken didn’t make the news. It produced thousands of hotel and residential condo units spread through multiple structures on a 67-acre site. The Vara overlaps residence floors with a 1,500-room hotel. Regular housing is included in the Mandarin Oriental and a 37-floor twin tower. The housing and related residential accommodations combine a complex of hotels, shops, and gambling entertainment. Whether the housing is composed of permanent residents or time-shared ‘hotel-condo participants is of small consequence. The community with this density can resolve the service implications with reasonable ease based on density. That leaves median income and whether racial and gender disparities are becoming dispositive.
Developing business models on the provision of unique destination-retail cultures (high or low) are coupled with a base of rental units, permanent, and condo-hotel housing. Development of this kind suggests the need for a comparison built on the demography of a place, before, during, and after. Such a comparison could yield measures by which the fast “time is money” impact of capital project disruptions that often lead to forced and economic displacement also provide proof of balance. There would be sufficient generational investment for those found in the wake of this harm that will never occur to that household again. It would be a guarantee that the cycle of poverty ends with an emphasis on every child regardless of the cost.
The resident population of Las Vegas will be close to three million people in 2020, and before the 2020 pandemic, this city had 42.52 million visitors in 2019. There are just two “isms” that describe gambling in Vegas, “tourism” and “capitalism.”
The increased competition for gamblers as entertainment-based retail comes clear in a joke you would not hear at City Center. “What is the difference between an online casino and a live casino? – When you lose online and cry, no one will laugh at you.” The enclosures of the modern casino encourage over-confidence, leading to the illusion of security. Our brains like this as a sense of pleasure and contributes to the idea that an educated guess can be precise. Illusions of control also negate outcomes of chance into more extreme emotions, such as a “near win” means getting close to one.
To the visitor, the core illusion is gambling is a personal decision not influenced by the environment or knowledge of “the odds.” Both support and encourage the fantasy of winning and a sense of superiority despite a uniform failure (not-wining) rate. This phenomenon is well understood; however, the public policy allows gambling while discouraging it as a dangerous, potentially addictive practice.
A growing proportion of society participates in gambling. The economic impact occurs in every public jurisdiction. It is not treated as a preventable problem, but a percentage of the population issue, leaving it to post-trauma “hot-lines” to resolve. Proof of a high-quality education system will occur when the “casino” as a land-use disappears or when no one other than the fabled 1% gamble.
Every resident, business, and neighborhood in the nation has a census tract. The Bureau of the Census has made significant improvements in providing online access to data for ordinary people. There are thousands of tables on who we are as a nation, city, state, county. The census tract is the “where” of this data. Knowing the actual condition of our lives yields an assessment of fitness and reasons for action based on comparisons. The first and most important bit of that knowledge is to know that the patriarchy that beats society into submission cannot be used to dismantle its house. One must know how the house got there in the first place.
The creation of the structures you enter to live, work, shop, or play must be safe structures. To assure these objectives, the regulations governing land use and the practice of architecture, engineering, and construction are strict. When errors are discoverer and repair is impossible, the building comes down, as in Foster’s building in Las Vegas. The structures also have social and economic impacts, but these products are not well regulated or measured. The ideals of the American Constitution demand fair treatment measures under the law, fair and just compensation and unfettered access to quality education, and a “we the people” promise of fairness in the pursuit of happiness.
Following, you will find a glimpse of the 2010 data on two U.S. Census tracts illustrated in the description of these two locations. This glimpse will await the final publication of the 2020 Census. Both locations are products of a largely racist power structure focused solely on the flow of capital as exhibited by the value of the real estate. The fulfillment of America’s constitutional ideals is deemed irrelevant or, at best, secondary to that flow of capital. Ironically, improving the flow of capital is touted as the best remedy to whatever set of problems a social justice agenda might present. Therefore, the quality of life becomes a material consequence of profit. Rightly so, until a tipping point occurs when the measure of quality lowers until it is only viewed as the ability to subsist.
Population, Sex, and Race
Census Tract 145 Manhattan (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,960. It is 64.4% White, Non-Hispanic, and 38% of the population 15 years and older have never married. Census Tract 68 Las Vegas (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,077. The White, Non-Hispanic population is 23.2%, and 45% of the population 15 years and older have never married.
Defining a New Public Engagement Process for Placeless Participation
Where are the physical places for public decision-making that assure the right to a personal view and the power to express them freely on all matters? If you can answer that question and make a list, know they are opportunities. If you don’t, find out where are they now. They will be needed.
The places to create a system change are disappearing into globalized digital fragments. You know the old range; it moves outwardly, from the privacy of the bedroom to places where you cannot scream words like fire, and to larger venues where rights of passage allow you to be heard and there are places where you can yell as loud as possible and no one would hear you, whether it is a canyon’s echo or in the din of a crowd.
System change requires these places. If a small group like “a band” learning to play in a garage eventually fills a stadium with thousands of ticket buyers, that is a system change. It is organized by a defined set of communication tools and the talent to create music that people would purchase. Communications may be written as a narrative or clearly spoken, become music, fine art, or any of a thousand mediums of choice. There it is, communication tools are ubiquitous. Therefore the question, how do you find people who seek, receive, and impart information and ideas in a useful way other than the sale of tickets? You know this as an experience of membership, from classroom to university, congress member to Congress, but what if you want to get that metaphorical band together or back from where it was lost? Or what if there is no right of passage, no recognized path, or place you can name, even locate? What can you do?
What if the revolution came, and you missed it, lost the poster, didn’t pay attention, or only listened to minds that hate? The communication tools for placeless participation are new, and there is a struggle to use them well. The new devices offer an evasion of experience that absorbs the placeless like a sponge.
The quality of space is its climate. Care is taken to assure sound, temperature, color, do not assault, and gatherings are not disrupted. People can exchange views, trade ideas, or data, as well as negotiate over intent, desired results, and expectations. Change occurs in the act of face to face, in a place structure for participation, but it is not a system change. That requires an open exchange between the known and unknown.
Kevin Lynch in “A Theory of Good City Form” (1960) describes five elements for “legibility” in the urban or suburban experience of a place that can be adapted to the placeness of digital communications. We organize our ‘mental maps’ into elements that yield our physical relationship to places. The way Lynch broke it down is widely regarded as a useful intellectual and graphic notation tool for communicating the abstractions of urban places and structures.
In” Image of the City,” Lynch isolates several categories of form-generation growing out of urban experience to measure growth and development: vitality, sense, fit, access, control, and two significant criteria – efficiency and justice. Despite a generation of ‘interpreters’ every element of Lynch’s analysis remains true, yet it without the power to implement. It is now possible to achieve in the virtual space, and anyone can do it because everyone can have a role in implementation.
When inputs predict desired outputs efficiency becomes measurable, but unless an impartial application of conformity to what is right, the former loses value. Lynch points out two major-criteria (efficiency and justice) are themselves aspects of each spatial criterion described below. In each case, one must ask, “what is the cost in terms of anything else we would choose to value, in achieving a degree of vitality, sense, fit, access, and control?
As for performance dimensions of a human settlement, the five criteria map onto ecological parameters for community survival; that is, they may be employed in the design of an urban place, an arboretum, or even an aquarium. It is ecologically reasonable to assert that if we destroy a plant or animal’s performance dimensions, we tend to destroy the organism. That is, if plants and animals have value only in their use to people, then any non-conversion of land must consider these values as lost. That is, the value of new houses or shopping centers is greater than the opportunity forgone. If plants and animals do have an intrinsic value, then some extra-market systems must arise to embrace new values. Here is an idea that has been with the creators of urban environments such as Lynch for decades, and yet it has not developed.
Vitality is the experience of energy and strength. The intellect is developed with the injection of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. The relationships established in a place based on vitality and sense produce an understanding of a fit, conditioned by access and control. These remaining two elements suggest access in a variety of layers or portals in which the rights of entry are established. The overall effect of vitality, sense, fit, and access reveals a quality of control, or the capacity to assure the recurrence of events, products, or processes. The purpose of understanding these elements is to recognize and expose its failures.
With these seven elements well-considered, the creation of a place in which people can change the rules of access and challenge control is possible. The difficulty of entering the placeless environments offered through digital communications is realizing and interpreting these elements without the physical functions that offer proof in Lynch’s urban analysis. The design and development of participation platforms online are developing rapidly and as in every virtual environment, nothing is impossible. First a brief description of the physical aspects that facilitate civic participation.
The use of passageways, conduits, and tubes link one destination to the next. These objectives will have a boundary or frame confirmed by a transition and experience of difference. Within these destinations, three main components will be found. A joining of assets linked to pathways pass through edges to form nodes, that may become districts or regions defined by a constituency placing value on its uses. Each may have a range of functions such as a university campus, or a shopping district. Within these places, there are experiences, familiar sights, signs, monuments that function as markers.
Participation in public affairs and friendly discourse is nonlinear when it is within the limits of a few lives, but its content tends to fold into the layers of a more extensive cultural process involving many lives. These creative cultures shape a person’s individual capacity to expose similar experiences in comparable periods with the different perceptions of others.
Back in 1975, I became friends with an artist, pictured here, and we raised some money to paint murals. He was very fond of his “riders” and drew them everywhere. He painted them because he wanted people to see and protect them. It would not be until the turn of the century that a far more powerful communication tool would be used to make a change. In 1977, American Youth Hostels with help from Citibank organized the five borough bike tour, and now put over 30,000 people on a city tour to raise funds to support cycling. It allowed people to see their city in a new way. In the 90s, I worked with architect’s and planners as community advocates called design centers. The Pittsburg, PA design center also wanted to raise some funds and get it people to recognize one another with a bike route. A project known as Pedal Pittsburgh (now PedalPGH) was born and it proved to be a powerful exchange that crossed through old race and ethnic lines and people developed a new and joyful view of the steel city. Closing the streets for a bike tour once or twice a year is not enough in fact, it was a problem.
Places for serving a specific interest such as city-cycling vary, but as the following example will illustrate Pittsburg, New York City, and cities all over the world have thousands of cyclists who are in danger. They need a right to the road among automobiles. From the seventies through 2000 a new power was discovered. Each rider’s personal experience and the purpose of riding could be shared in a virtual space to discover and expose one truth – a bike trip in NYC (or any city) should not be a life and broken bones experience or a flirt with death.
At this point (2004) a highly motivated communication effort steadily built an ability to air this grievance with many voices via “text” and a blog. When challenged for their power by the police authority, it became necessary to sustain “critical mass” demonstrations, until negotiations were re-established more seriously and a system change occurred that saved lives, and safely replaced automobiles for many trips. It opened up new pathways, albeit mostly etched into the road with paint, but it also began to mark the way and the place for a variety of small multifunctional vehicles that could enrich the quality of life for all residents
February 2005, in the heat of battle, when the New York Police Department was bearing down on our once peaceful critical mass. Enormous precedence was being set. The police were trying to define what critical mass was and fit it into some logical explanation complete with leaders and organizations. This was happening, most likely to justify their actions of mass arrests five months earlier, just before the Republican National Convention came to NYC. I wanted to help define critical mass myself, or rather keep it undefined and make it be an ever-evolving, spontaneous unique experience for the individuals who participated. I wanted a way to personalize the experience through my own words and to connect with the amazing fact that this bike ride was happening on the same day in over 300 cities around the world.
Before examining the structure of system changes as facilitated by attacking a malfuntion, it essential to produce demonstrations that motivate the agencies of change. I like Kevin Lynch’s observations, but they do not provide a pathway to civic participation, only the context. The acquisition of new power, even in this “safe biking” example, requires a better understanding of why “the police” had to be used to create the leverage for a reasonable change in public transportation policy.
The use of passageways, conduits, tubes serves to link one destination to another is a useful metaphor. The places where you live, learn, and work as a network of physical destinations now includes a new address. The old addresses have boundaries with transitions that express differences of experience. Within these destinations, there are four main components—a joining of assets linked to 1) pathways that pass through 2) edges to form 3) nodes. A constituency placing value on a range of uses and range of functions to create 4) districts. Within these places, there are familiar sights, signs, monuments that function as 5) landmarks.
Agency of Change
The new address is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol (IP) for communication. Your home/work and IP address serve similar functions. At home and work, you are part of a host network with known physical boundaries and edges with location addressing. The difference is an interface identification protocol (IPv4 and IPv6) increases communication access to every place in the world. The path is for lightspeed travel, and the edge, as described by Kevin Lynch, is gone. Well almost.
The edges that Lynch spoke of would mark a noticeable change in the environment as defined by a coastline or river or more subtly in transitions from a shack in the woods, to lonely single-family buildings, to brownstone rowhouses and tall, skyscraping multiple-use structures. The edges formed by IP addresses, on the other hand, build more keenly on economic circumstances and preferences in communication styles with the documentation of preferences and purposes.
Estimates of nearly two billion websites include one person or family network to sites that serve millions of people daily, such as Amazon, Wikipedia, or Google. Also, some three billion people use the internet through several social media accounts. In this sense, participation along known paths and observed edges in a physical world have local launch pads in a physical place and a community that requires the observation of edge transformations differently. Connect these two worlds with comparable pathways of participation require a better understanding. The use of a common language will help to define the choices of involvement that can lead to better controls over both worlds.
The viewpoint for this observation of participation begins with two choices. A website owned by a person or company is an authoritative launchpad that controls the subject matter. The services of a social media account are considerable, but the pages are not yours. The content is removable by others, and it can be altered and monitored—the sale of user and usage statistics knowingly or unknowingly is routine. A personal or business website is the focal point for participation in other mediums, but it controls its content. Both choices will reflect expressions based on the physical experiences . Both are directly affected the quality of a place from which they speak. One is easily manipulated The first edge defines this choice of use, and it determines how the human relationship aspects of involvement in a community develop.
You live in the world on the left, but from a communications point of view you understand that world the way Lynch produced “images” of the city on the right. The online communications medium of the internet is not as complicated as the pathways and edges that define movements involving home, family, work, neighbors, friendships, and life in search of social and economic well-being. Nevertheless, the way Kevin Lynch adds nodes, districts, and landmarks to the urban arc of a life is super useful. Imagine the city on the right represent physical locations and constituencies with an interest in improving a specific quality of life such as being able to use a human powered vehicle for every trip with substantial guarantee of safety. Now imagine the power to connect with every person in that limited environment that wants the same thing.
When I understand my IP address, the questions are in what nodes am I apart, what kind of districts do they form, and what are the landmarks (attractions) of each. Using these three terms can reduce the jargon that describes the technical function of your phone or other computers.
In 1960, when Lynch wrote his first book, a node was a concentration of some characteristic at the strategic focal point into which a participant enters. In Lynch’s case, those points were identified and defined using a series of Boston streets (image above). Thus, Lynch demonstrates how the psychology of cognitive mapping is useful in understanding the city in the context of regional planning, urban architecture, and design.
Edward Tolman (1948) wrote “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men” to describe navigating an environment that uses spatial knowledge to make choices. In the early 70s, I traveled to Kentucky by car on a research project with a friend, a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and Bryant, an African-American. After arriving, we had a choice made for us when told that sensitivity levels were a little “touchy” and to avoid a stretch of state highway. I assumed that “sensitivity” was White, but I learned Bryant thought it was Black weeks later. We laughed.
Between 1970 and 2020, it is the lightspeed that changes everything. Traveling with an IP address has made cognitive mapping choices very different. We create mental images of a place based on our personal experience or as given to us by others. At any moment, IP travel offers a series of narratives, videos, training programs, and product offers as choices. However, there are, as yet, very few resources to further your understanding of what your IP means.
Adding Lynch’s knowledge of the urban form is useful in understanding your unique IP self or social media membership. In the lightspeed world, distinguishing between an IP that identifies you in a dense local district produces attractions that offer thousands of new types of engagement that you can acquire by walking. An entirely new and rapidly developing business model aims to know the fine grain of who you are in the context of a region the size of Boston or the Northeast, but do you know who you are in that world concerning the one you walk in?
Finally, a set of landmarks to which you are attracted form continuously. Examples are a specific data stream that meets a need or a planned set of experiences designed to build benchmarks that signify achievements. Regardless of the order provided, we should learn to perceive and understand the digital environment in the same way as the one we walk. Both pathways have the quality of a physical object, which gives it a high probability of evoking a larger image in which one path becomes vital because it is a point of decision, but is it yours?
Multiple sizes and locations across these landscapes of common interest discovery have many successes and failures. The example given in this post is a brief explanation why you will find bicycle lanes on city streets throughout country. The more difficult explorations for discovery are explored in posts on system change. The resurgance of the movement for civil rights or the termination of racism have complex sets of partial success and qualified failure. The definition of a growing list of malfunctions exhibit the rise of urgency regarding the course of human history
Three spatial forms describe how the engagement of participants leaves little room for reciprocity in teaching and learning about community change. These are the places in which a group is 1) manipulated, 2) called an exhibit, or 3) treated as tokens, are well known.
Those who administer an exit poll during an election or a consumer market or political opinion survey expect benefits. The product of their analysis of the data gathered provides an idea of what the immediate future holds. Identifying an unmet demand in the market for goods or services or taking a sample of a decision already made by a large group predicts outcomes.
We are all familiar with election night exit polls. There is nothing grievously wrong with these forms of participation, but the opportunity for redress on the part of those used for these purposes is limited. It is participation without balance. The manipulation occurs in highly localized places such as a shopping district or a street outside a voting place. Surveys or other activities that offer little understanding of purpose are acceptable to people. They enjoy sharing their thoughts in person, on the phone, or online and do not expect the knowledge gained by others is shared with them at some future date. However, there is a line, and when crossed, people will sense a lack of fairness. Whether they step or stumble across this line, numerous acts of betrayal are possible. Whether deliberate or unintentional, this is a significant responsibility in the practice of a community’s participation.
Perhaps you engage people (especially students) in community projects or a political cause, or a demonstration with a few placards for a march, or an event such as an awards ceremony. Here, the quality of participation is a lesson in how appropriate actions acquire benefits. Creating involvement in addressing a problem with public displays of concern, such as a brief march, will involve people. People are happy to purchase a ribbon and decorate themselves to symbolize identification with a cause. Still, they lack effectiveness beyond a show of power, an exhibition of solidarity, or the appearance of consensus.
Participation occurs in the form of judgment about a problem to make it pre-extant. For example, raising money or distributing position leaflets. Also, to get a child’s participation by saying, “you are a poor reader because you just don’t read.” is a judgment different offering a more attractive prescription by saying, “let’s find some things we are interested in reading. About?” A similar example saying, “you are within the law, but you are immoral,” is considerably different from working hard to see challenges within a larger ethical framework. Producing acts of uniformity for a cause works. The downside is that participation in socially diverse settings weakens when there are various issues to define and resolve.
Becoming engrossed in complex community development issues such as human rights, sustainability, basic safety, housing, and education affects many people in very different ways in all urban landscapes. Presenting options that deal with concerns in these settings that direct residents to their rights and responsibilities can become “tokens.” Individual leaders may understand an issue well enough to stand up and say, “We have the answer, follow us,” and do so with all the persuasive powers at their command. While this might be true, it precludes participation and the opportunity for others to engage the problem directly and define it for themselves. We may be quite willing to follow, but this weakens the chance to experience negotiation power regarding immediate and possibly, future actions. Participation based on the information given and little else inhibits the development of new ideas and data.
Participation as a “done deal” is reasonable; its weakness is the myth of the “now or never” demand. Its strength is in the implied rage built into “no justice, no peace” because it is not a threat. It is a prediction. What must be recognized is how the hopelessness that wells up when “Black Lives Matter” is countered with the “all lives” statement. The latter is a statement of willing ignorance or a poor understanding of history. The experience of no change whether, day-to-day or by generation, invokes the requirement for improvements in the public’s understanding of social change. It is painful to recognize differing perceptions of the same experience in a time and place as having validity. How people interpret an experience may be correct or incorrect but always considered to be correct. There are many reasons for this, but there are two I like best. First, it is well proven that we fill in visual data (color, images, light, faces) in the rush or stream of events before us, and second, doubting the correctness of our senses is considered a step toward madness. It is not merely sustaining the discipline to look both ways.
Newer forms of active participation produce leadership structures willing to give up predetermined conclusions and “re-enter” the problem from the beginning with participants in a continuous flow. Integral to the growth of democratic systems is knowing how other highly informed participants can broaden their perception of what is needed. What is the use of someone “knowing the way” when the capacity to follow will not grow or modify in the process?
It is impossible to say a better way is possible when none can be exhibited with validity. Rage and hopelessness are the sisters of no change. This is where advanced communication systems focused on local engagement and participation can bring a form of experience that can effectively eliminate the despondency of our times.
Toward More Effective Participation
At this point, it is appropriate to bring up “mobilization.” Being organized can come from the willing participation in surveys without ever knowing the results, participating as an exhibit of an issue, or being treated as a token for a cause in a march. It is OK. We don’t mind answering questions or walk in a protest carrying a sign or wearing a ribbon. We are a society based on assembly. We share classrooms to learn, churches for prayer and offices for work, arenas for games, and so on. The reason for this is apparent; society has valuable things to trade and information to deliver.
Some gatherings are regime–originated, others purely voluntary. As institutions, they may help us choose what we need to know. We participate in protecting what we have. But, on the other hand, when we have nothing or the appearance of nothing compared to others, participation seems to have a very high cost and little evidence of immediate, exchangeable value. Why?
For the most part, we freely allow ourselves to be part of the three most common forms of civic participation described above. The danger of it is not knowing that your knowledge is among the multiple types available. For example, the quality of a physical location experience is a product of active design and drawn from an original consultation form. The rows of chairs in a school or line of pews in a church is a design asking people to listen and accept membership. At some point, people were asked to create an assembly space. The same for the first desk or table, wheel, The new pathways described below are unnerving. As the process begins, participants are without clear, concrete objectives and a social distancing world. It is, by its nature, ambiguous. Luckily, these periods of ambiguity have the potential to be the most highly creative.
Overall, the forms described above have one overall acronym – DAD (decide, announce, and defend), and it produces in fun urban terms such as a LULU (aka, a locally undesirable land uses). One nationally active community organizing coalition describes the forms of participation described above as the BOHICA (“bo-hee-ca”) problem. Or “bend over, here it comes again,” suggesting these forms of assistance might as well be a swift kick in the pants. Another described it as a beautiful path to achieve “maximum feasible misunderstanding” to play with the phrase “maximum feasible citizen participation” regarding impacts.
Unlike a metaphor, the winding is literal and applicable as an alternative. A winding can refer to rivers and roads, even clockmaking. The mind-shaping type when being manipulated, shown for a cause, or asked to follow without the opportunity to question has viseral, potentially violent consequenses.
Testing the breaking and balance skills of participants occurs with a nonlinear injection of possibilities. The desire for speed is disrupted, but it can be replaced a similar emotion – discovering how to absorb different preferences and perceptions in the wind of common experiences. Help in assessing risk/reward conditions builds energy people can share. A review and exploration of five winding experiences suggest new engagement strategies. Briefly, the first present two forms of consultation – assigned and composed, that outline resource packaging for participant-initiated projects. The next three describe member command structures by delegation systems, then data sharing methods, and the third introduces various sets of control structures.
Someone or some group has gotten the attention of people and they assemble. A list of possible “projects” are offered that define and solve problems. A talk begins and the people question the plans. We confront the quality of participation every day. We understand and accept most of them, whether getting signatures for a candidate, selling cookies for the scouts, even when stuck in traffic on a communte. When something new is presented the “projects” tend to define and solve problems in the same breath – elect a representative, raise money for the scouts. When this kind of expectation fills a meeting place, ask, and answer these questions regarding accountability.
Who made the decision to seek public involvement and how is it planned?
How is the involvement people determined?
What measures are used to evaluate contributions to the program and projects proposed?
The discussion is guided by asking process questions such as:
When will the experience, thoughts, and energy of people shape or alter these projects?
How will this help resolve the problems we have just described?
How will this help us to accept, reject, reframe, and define the opportunities offered?”
With the knowledge that accountability and a clear process will remain in constant review, the work required to establish active project-to-project participation rests when the imagined events are activated. Reciprocal levels may be hard to find, but they often represent a form of freely borne membership that “self-assigns” the consultation process.
Without a doubt, an emotional coil forms to represent the impossibilities. Some will call it the camel’s nose, others – the elephant. Whatever people want to call it, the rise of several small groups will begin to examine all sides of the thing. Encouraging self-assignment through a consultation process gives the go-ahead to poke and prod it just enough to discover the actions available to kill the potential for apathy.
Say a group of trial lawyers want to change the behavior of district attorneys in arraignment proceedings. A group forms, and they get the DAD experience. A series of lawsuits or formal complaints report a failure in fulfilling rights guaranteed to citizens. In these matters, the court does not enhance the quality of life nor judge its inadequacy.
Those who have control will make turns on or off the road. They have managed the selection of a whole series of possible projects as part of a planning-to-act process. It helps to determine mutual accord and the consent needed to move on down the road.
Completing a fair summary of newly discovered information from recent events reveals the probability of moving too quickly. The process stops because of sweeping generalizations, placation, or other feelings that slide a crisis. The lack of human resources, skill, and cash, you name it. To help control the speed of participation, I recommend participant leaders develop the means to introduce the following consultations:
Members generate the program plan in the selection of project activities. (list, prioritize)
Resolve mistrust, or confusion arising from the powerholders’ release of power.
Encourage access to independent technical resources to those implementing projects.
Compose groups implementing projects to define potential programs.
Explore the issues and problems raised with adequate tools. (testing, skill assessments)
Ask participants to delegate the responsibility in summation to a representative body.
Summation involves proof of intensely undistracted listening. It requires a reading of non-verbal languages, and above all, the ability to exhibit the intelligence inherent in a collective enterprise. Top among them is to have a name for the variety of collaborations discovered to the time used.
For example, consider the formation of a “scouting team” asked to look further up the road to report views, or a “research group” asked to examine the past by interviewing participants in a similar effort about their satisfaction and achievements. Thousands of examples “never doubt” groups are possible. The operation composed consultation is to sustain interest in the discovery of new resources useful to all, and in doing so broaden and composition of new conferences. The prevailing summary statement should prove that “no one is as smart as all of us.”
With a few places to go to achieve identified ends, it becomes possible to decide how to get there – to choose a means. The power to maneuver, bargain, and negotiate also becomes distributable. A good partnership in many ways is playing in low-risk trial and error effort. The game can be solemn among adults, but once skill development is well exercised – it’s usually called fun.
The idea of a partnership contains many actions. They form to provide advice and consent opportunities or to protect and assist and reject or abandon an effort. For example, once a participatory project begins with young people, the partnership should be intelligent and skilled enough not to interfere with or over-direct the play as if they were surrogates. The very roots of our learning abilities begin with games followed by reflection with adults on their meaning. The reverse is equally possible.
Adults tend to respond poorly to the initiatives of the young because it involves that transition from “I decide” to “you choose.” These changes shape the “rites of passage,” for which there are many benchmarks, portals, and passageways. One of the poorest of these “portals” is as follows: “as a child, you play. When you become an adult, you work.” Non-interactive media such as TV, film, reading tend to dominate the concept of the game.
It isn’t the absence of the desire to be useful in community affairs for both young and old. Instead, it is more likely to lack leadership in forming participant-initiated partnerships that demand interactive forms of learning and experience. Here are some questions to use in building and supporting these organizations:
Do the projects serve the interests and needs of individuals in small groups?
Are these various designs recognized as part of a whole?
Are quantified goals and objectives written about these projects?
Is there a feeling of strategic accomplishment in meeting goals and objectives?
Have issues of policy and priority been discussed?
Are sufficient resources available to accomplish the projects envisioned?
What is the evaluation practice of projects undertaken as part of the plan?
The winding road metaphor begins to open up exhilarating views of the world when answers to these questions come with ease. If unanswered, the participants do not have a vision of the future and do not know where they are going. The phrase, “if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there” in my experience was restated best by Yogi Berra, when told us to be careful, “if we don’t know where we are going because we might not get there.”
Planning what to do has been outlined. Participant initiatives reveal an ability to undertake decision-making and assume responsibility. Exposing this as an enhanced condition unfolds practical limits and prescribed periods. Decision-making power organizes participants into groups given individually selected but mutual learning needs or interests.
Leadership is often a thing “taken,” as if it were, in itself, power. On the other hand, effective leadership is something given and taken in the process of delegating and sharing decisions. Without a doubt, this form is more complicated and often painful in its seemingly sluggish pace. The heart of knowledge is experience and reflection with other people. As the “winding road” speed will vary with every individual or group, we recognize how awareness (cognition) occurs at different rates.
Delegated and Shared Decisions
Delegation systems acknowledge that no one person or group has absolute control. We face degrees of delegation to ourselves (to-do lists) that include, even guarantee capacity to make decisions for others to do. We also learn to negotiate the conditions that allow “outsiders” to change the list if the resources exist to respond to a delegation and delegate.
There is a useful image of a “mountaintop” on the winding road regarding decision-making. Everyone can get there in the sense of seeing it, but not all simultaneously or for the same reasons. The fact that it exists, that it is there, establishes the means for a continuing relationship, consistently defined between task groups to get us all there in one or more of its many forms.
The capacity to distribute resources produces a trading and bartering environment if the intent is to achieve mutual benefits. Many participant perspectives involving a series of reasonably well-implemented projects create individuals and groups who have the power to contract for resource exchanges from the “outside” or “inside.” The participants “know what they need to know” and control the process of gaining this information. The dialogue moves from “just tell us what to do, or know” to decisions about the forms of mutual assistance available to discover what needs to be done and learned.
At this point, there are also drawbacks, more like potholes than boulders, when a group stumbles on a task or project. The esprit de corps climate can foster win-lose confrontations instead of win-win conclusions. The result will be participants who are or feel “left out” of the process. Competitive sport is an excellent example of this drawback. It has a dominant win-lose component of real value. Still, the often-neglected win-win conclusion is a broadly dedicated group of participants engaged in applying physical skill and necessary teamwork. Remaining focused on these win-win objectives is essential.
All organizations run from the top down, but those closest to the source of information give power from the bottom if there is a way to bubble up. The freedom of those at the top can cause forgetfulness about the importance of stopping to take a look around. Delegating from the top to all participants is a power function to respond to demand from the bottom. This top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top flow of data describes an organization’s capacity to achieve goals. Structured training experiences are available to illustrate the importance of these types of events in real-life experiences.
Controlling “We Decide”
Control systems also recognize that organizations can establish absolute delegation power. Just ask anyone who has experience with New York City’s alternate side of the street parking regulations. As a result, control systems can have considerable influence over human conduct. While this example involves financial penalties for nonparticipation, active control systems are those fully embraced by community-wide value systems. After all, what the New Yorker is experiencing is alternate-side, street-cleaning as a commonly held community value.
A proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a community value, it implies modest differentiation between parenthood and the responsibilities of the community. Too often, we forget this includes the child. The exclusion of children as full participants is frequently due to the research styles of social, psychological, and even anthropological sciences limiting participation to the first three described above. For example, written “permission” for the involvement of parents in various events (being interviewed, field trips) is rarely asked of a child.
Under what conditions are people of any age allowed to say “no” or asked to “give permission,“ even as a child? There is a fundamental difference between going through the routine demands of participation and having real management control over outcomes. This point occurs in the path of life but recurs continually in the development of a community. Ultimately, a person or a community can control what it can make recur. For this reason, it is invalid to seek participation as an end in itself. More than any other force, involvement in the design of community activities is driven by the full and repetitive disclosure of values affirmed and expressed consistently and openly.
There have been eight parts of participation presented here. The first three describe the weakest and most conciliatory forms on the road to active service. They seek to “educate” or “treat” participants but leave little room for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the process of managing change. I used a winding road analogy to introduce activities that support tradeoffs and negotiation to define intent, the predictability of results, and the clarity of mutual benefits. Our sense of fairness is a consequence of participation in civic affairs; however, the more serious issue is that “hope” does not produce a future. A plan does.
The most efficient form of assistance engages task and project groups with experiences and resources to establish the capacity for the delegation of decision-making. The basis of managerial power every community can obtain in managing the complex array of activities leads to a planned course of events. Within the community circle or geography of the neighborhood, these games are intuitive.
Research on issues is by the people concerned socially or economically by degree.
Research is a commitment to the individuals and their control of the analysis.
Research begins when a concrete problem is identified; and
We proceed by investigating the underlying causes of the problem selected so that the members can go about addressing causes and solutions themselves within a series of standard geographic reference points.
On the other hand, when specialists evaluate an issue or problem, they carry additional influence and responsibility for the structure and direction of subsequent actions. For example, it is possible to alter people’s experiences without their advanced knowledge or insight regarding the nature of the change. More positively, the act of problem-solving itself establishes a self-empowerment process that encourages the provision and selection of self-enabling tools. In examining the availability and facility with these devices, the potential for a wrong is measured.
The motivation derived from defining and investigating problems is powerful. Detailed environmental analysis or local history produces scientific and humanistic questions. These issues engage geographic reference points that function from the local to the global and back again. Participation processes can embrace all people’s validity of their personal views, experience, knowledge, and foresight. Investing in the value of citizenship in this manner creates a condition where anyone at any moment can have critical insight essential to success.
Two essays that influenced this post are well known by Sherry R. Arnstein’s 1969 article in the AIP Journal, entitled A Ladder of Citizen Participation. The second is by Roger A. Hart, in 1992, Innocenti Essays No. 4, “Children’s Participation – From tokenism to citizenship,” published by Unicef – United Nations Children’s Fund that added his interpretation. Finally, the addition of Kevin Lynch’s viewpoint of the urban structure in A Theory of Good City Form and Image of the City helped give the language of place to the participation process.
No doubt that urbanization has been a messy business. The rapid pace of development over the last couple of centuries has led directly to life-threatening conditions in a rush to mechanize every aspect of life. People were packed into camps to harvest forests of wood, mountains of granite, and every available mineral with trade value. For thousands of years, absolute command over the environment has been the central organizing force, from tribes roaming the prairies for fruits, grains, and meat to the construction of massive urban towers to sustain these endeavors across the globe. I am therefore comforted with the knowledge that it has only been fifty years since we noticed the mess and began efforts to make improvements.
Whenever infection has taken a life, it did it wherever people gather. In strict epidemiological terms, the more significant the diversity of people in a natural gathering area, the more likely the subtle protections of the human immune system will protect all. Concerning human medical history, this is relatively new data. Today, more people know the biology of DNA finds all humans to be identical. They are learning that physical differences are unique, beautiful, even exciting but fundamentally meaningless. In just the last few decades, this knowledge is filtering an entirely new value system into American culture and mostly in urban areas.
There is no stable connection between urban areas and coronavirus impacts. What is significant is how cities manage an infection with compact actions and resource preparedness. Dense cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and Berlin have contained COVID-19 very well. Where greater preparedness is needed, suburban cities such as Detroit, Michigan, Macon, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, suffer right alongside dense areas like New York City with a similar impact.
In past attempts to solve urban social problems, the focus has been on eliminating inhumane physical conditions, it also had a tendency to place blame on people trapped in them. The effort to uproot the causes of their plight and poverty was intellectually criminal because good people did little on the larger issue. The failure to criticize the social and economic order as a principle reason continues to this day. It was fully expressed by the inhumanity of two world wars. The enormous successes of the nonviolent anti-war revolution for civil rights through the end of the 20th century reveal the courage of ordinary people. It also exposed an increasingly reactionary American culture due to the mere tinkerings from the top down on the edges of greatly needed reform.
Only recently, has relief from the view of urban life as unhealthy begun to fade. Hundreds of new and exhilarating urban places found expression in cities like New York throughout the country. For decades the history of urban success builds on the city’s capacity to identify and resolve the causes of potential disorder. These causes can be intense or subtle actions, but all are well-studied and tightly defined by deeply funded social science institutions and economists. Leadership and the flow of information in urban areas through interagency communication efforts allow course corrections and rapid policy changes in response to community demand. While many of the city’s top leaders have been taught hard lessons over the years, they remain well served by the deep structure of nonprofit city-wide and community-based institutions throughout the city. Without this structure, the distribution of essential resources during a city-wide emergency of any kind would be impossible to deploy.
The deep structure of urban governance produces trust in its diagnostic capacity for defining problems and then acting to get solutions. The city has taken its lessons in neighborhood economic disinvestment to create new kinds of banking institutions. Other social innovations help purge deterioration in rental housing before it spreads or in the case of the city’s public housing stock expose the failure of city and federal commitments in exquisite detail. Most recently, the city has focused on the depth of its communications resources to slow the spread of a pandemic with efficiency. Holes in its safety net are recognized with laser-like first responder precision and with this exposure repaired with the substantial institutional depth the city can muster.
Public institutions produce solutions to attacks on the quality of life by helping us to understand in highly sophisticated ways how and why we attack one another. The lessons through decades of urban crisis at various levels of impact continue to reveal the need to prevent and respond dramatically to the “tragedy of the commons” problems. The shared commons of the city are easily recognized by residents as our public health, education, open space, and transportation systems. On this point, there are futures all dense urban areas must carefully evaluate in the aftermath of every crisis.
Public Health and Education
There is no doubt, improvements in human health and education systems occur by fully defining the health concerns produced by commonly used environments. With this responsibility, a deepening in our common understanding of the issues depends enormously on the quality of public education. Today the practice of investment in health and education is grounded in policies to eliminate inequality and build better pathways to equity. We know as an undisputed fact this eliminates a long list of the health and economic disparities in life for all people. We have benefited from previous generations who also demanded reform with a noble cause. Nevertheless, we also know that many of the actions for transformation failed by forcing displacement and rehousing few. In the last fifty years of the 20th century, attempts to demolish homes, cultures, and the economies of entire neighborhoods produced a valuable urban institutional resistance defined by two words, “never again,” but as political leaders (as all of us) admitted to errors and vulnerability, the entire city learned to accept a new kind of strength.
Parks, open spaces, and transportation networks of the urban public realm are assets of the reform movements and business interests of previous generations. The so-called ‘lungs of the city,’ expressed by an extensive park system, and tree-lined streets are also like the city transportation infrastructure. Neither is a static or unchanging system, and both desperately need to improve as a safe, seamless, and unfragmented component of urban life. The well-tended park reminds us of the self-cleaning capacity of nature, the same role for mass transit can occur with the same principles of self-protection.
The Way Forward
The COVID-19 crisis offers many opportunities for reflection on the importance of national moral leadership and responsiveness, but there are more pressing issues. First, this recent crisis brings to the world a second major challenge to the quality of life on earth. Second, the vast landscape of human knowledge is at our fingertips. Third, this should make us all reasonably pleased, and this is why.
The science of geology states with confidence that the earth is about halfway through its 18 to 20 billion-year life cycle. For all the analysis of all the other “x-ologies,” we value; this alone should give people good reasons to take a deep breath and reflect.
New pathways for the growth of humanity in cities we are building all over the earth for the next few thousand years are here today, waiting for continuous improvements. Long waterfront parks will expand urban resilience as each reaches to extend its pleasures in an unfragmented, linked urban park system from the hills of the wilderness into the valleys of every neighborhood. All the massive structures constructed by our forebearers for public education and health await reinvestment and re-invention as centers for learning. We can make them all cleaner, brighter, and more beautiful than ever before. We will move with confidence onto the swift, super-clean, and revitalized mass-transit system for access to these exciting new resources. Every crisis tells us just one thing. We have more work to do.
Know the following things:
It Is too late for sustainable development because the public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages so realize that.
Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
The time horizon of our current system is too short.
This is why the term resilience is now used more often than not. The main changes are upon us and Dennis Meadows who say the above is right. It is time to invest in resilience.
The estimates for a stabilized and sustainable world called for about 3% of the world’s GDP. Resilience will cost more than that, but now there is no choice.
Geopolitical challenges such as a pandemic or the multiple impacts of climate change instruct humanity’s genius to bring about systemic change and resist and reverse “them not us” policies and strategies. These are tests for leadership without national borders that rage against the intolerant behaviors most likely to kill or hurt anyone at any time. Again, anyone at any time.
Recognize human vulnerability as a powerful strength. It instructs societies on how to share a threat or resolve an issue. The logic that prevention comes at the cost of an ounce must also resist demands for buying pounds of warehouses to manage death. Science offers useful and lasting solutions to problems that often require decades of complex analysis. In the stirrings for a more robust form of global leadership, the nationalized political rush to cures and deficient reaction to climate change will cause death. In the process, it weakens the direction and leadership of science.
Finally, science belongs to us all. Darwin was a scientist without professional degrees; he was curious. That is all anyone needs. Significant global challenges, such as climate change and pandemics, are vast and complicated. What can one person or a small group of friends do? Here is a brief example.
Scientists will show you how inside of the big problems, there are hundreds of other smaller ones trying to get out. Those are the ones to work on, dig into, maybe even solve. The accelerated rate of species extinction puts all human life in peril. There are hundreds of ways it reversed by paying attention by the human hand at “wild urban interface.” The growth of citizen science through internet partnerships is the counterbalance. Sharing observations can connect our personal experiences with the reality of all Earth’s life forms. Think of something in nature that you enjoy, and it can be anything, a particular kind of tree, or bees and butterflies, ferns, and orchids. There are billions of life form interdependencies between you, your children’s future, and the community that is not understood and need ordinary people to discover, document, and recover the forgotten. To get started, have a look at these great ideas:
One argument often stuffed into questions on how to build common ground and a good society or even the capacity to sustain positive change in bad times is the proposition that logic with goodwill solves problems. Logic is science, goodwill, nothing but untrustworthy feelings that destroy the former.
American’s have simple-minded, or perhaps merely unexamined adolescent confidence about what and who we are among one another and in the world. The tension caused by this lack of examination may be psychological, political, or economic. The 19th century was said to be about Hope and the 20th c. of GreatExpectation. The paradox of this as a trend is how it tips the 21st century toward the claim of Despair.
We recognize in ourselves the hopeless questioning gaze in the distress of a suddenly wounded child. We also see that it is not a dishonest experience, but one capable of reversible insights regarding exuberant, competitive, playfulness of our growth into freedom. The principle that, it is only business or it is just politics, accepts harm without limits as mere spoils.
The day-to-day experience of our time has become distrustful, but not only of one another. We are becoming hostile toward human nature. We can see in ourselves and Nature a capacity for spreading acts of unrepairable self-affliction. Readily accepted public controls to reverse these conditions come with a moody resistance and the repression of irrational, empty of analysis, without one moment of reflection.
Because of that, “reflect” for a moment.
One cannot exhibit judgment if statistics dominate decisions. In this context, true judgment is lost. Organisms need energy, water, shelter, and reproduction to exist in one of two places. Some will travel thousands of miles across the earth to acquire resources. Others will glue themselves to rock to acquire needed resources. If an organism or a nation loses the mysticism and belief in a philosophy of hope and expectation in which each is born, the capacity to conduct strategy meaningfully evaporates into the dust of poor judgment.
Three factors have brought about the demand for global, multilateral change in national societies with varying impact degrees, and all of them are tragic. First, climate change is an umbrella disaster held over nasty little wars, floods, and firestorms followed by infectious diseases. Second, inevitability is well recognized as a fact for centuries. The questions are only about when. The entire universe will die in a few trillion years, give or take a few trillion. Third, the world’s leadership is beginning to understand that much of the horror on the path to the inevitable remains preventable in each new cycle for the lack of enforceable global agreements.
Ironically, a fourth global factor is a conservative viewpoint expressed as the tragedy of the commons. The negative impact on a common pasture and the relationship among households raising grazing animals is real. The rules must change if the entire earth becomes that metaphorical pasture. Losing entire coastal cities worldwide to surging ocean tides and entire biomes (forest to coral reef) will become a lived experience. If millions of people could see billions of tons of waste that float and sink in the global ocean, would it feel like a shared resource? Would the “dead zone” of the Gulf of Mexico procure a voice? Instead, societies pay for these disruptions with children starving, the scream of a helpless parent, and the stunned dismay of families who falsely believe they are saved with compensatory access to wealth.
The global climate has been stable for only the last 2,000 to 3,000 years. There should be no expectation that it would remain constant. The global climate is in many ways barely stable as a system, and a single push of added gases, heat, would make change inevitable yet still feel inconsequential as a threat. The demand for alternative ways of living is unimaginable as the swell of cheap energy continues to make everything, including faith in a quick tech-fix, easy to expect. In this psychological climate, finding replacements is difficult. Forcing amelioration by changing the price with substitutes violates the status quo. When assessed in the “commons” framework, two new categorical thinking patterns emerge as environmental and emotional intelligence. Try to find the “commons” in “energy explained” (here).
Ostrom’s Answer is Occam’s Razor
A problem in the future has two elements, one to design a defense, the other is to alter the future to make that unnecessary. The leaders involved may have had the skills of the legislative lawyer and personality for political leadership, but to produce solutions essential to create trust, the science part of our minds and the science professions will form a new community. A scientist can tell you the future is already here, just not everywhere. To do that, the change in the mode of problem-solving begins with a process that Elinor Ostrom has already figured out in a Nobel prize winning way.
Our ancient brains in various shelters for the night knew of beasts, enemies, and trouble. That sense of big trouble is real, but the community may never experience its pain because of that sense alone. From the cave to the laboratory, we have done what we have done to define problems we believe might be unlikely to occur, but we solve them anyway. The quality of thinking, in this instance, is an old tactic still in use by scientists today called Occam’s Razor. As Albert Einstein notes, a theory of a threat with the fewest variables requires problem-solving work where “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The first of Elinor Ostrom’s core design principles began in Governing the Commons (1990). Regarding implementation, she is as optimistic as an economist in her research for the World Bank. In 2009 her paper, A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change, considers a non-tragic global commons (pdf here). It is here that she gives her life-long partner Vincent Ostrom an attribution to a central observation. She quotes his definition of polycentric as “one where many elements are capable of making mutual adjustments for ordering their relationships with one another within a general system of rules where each element acts with an independence of other elements.” It is an excellent definition of the inner workings of catalytic cooperation and was written with Charles Tiebout and Robert Warren (Economic Base and Local Expenditure Theory).
Ostrom’s work with problems uses clearly defined boundaries because they are well understood. In economic terms. Boundaries are needed everywhere for everything but difficult to implement without the consensus of the parties involved. On the other hand, this first rule is essential to working with big global problems such as thermonuclear war, climate change, and a pandemic threat. Defining a boundary categorically offers promise as the concept is simple and easily understood as a system condition altered from one state to another.
Because purely economic solutions are easy to argue and difficult to implement, start with a simple physical entity such as a city as that category. Cities are places with a fixed boundary and a legal process for expansion or contraction. Thus, the city is an excellent place to implement the remaining seven parts of Ostrom’s solution. It is a “back to the future” type of problem.
A city is an outstanding place to begin implementation. The city with a boundary offers proportional equivalence and a clear, constantly improving data stream to monitor processes beginning with measuring benefits and costs in every imaginable center capable of giving itself a boundary. It is ongoing but without mutual benefit consent. Proportionality within multiple geographies of a dense polycentric city of neighborhoods, cultural groups, ideologies, genders, and so on can become a transparent way to understand variables fully. In this way, it is possible to put the equality sign (or not) between two or more social and economic expressions.
The city also offers multiple platforms for “collective choice agreements.” The center of Ostrom’s argument recognizes the practical use of carefully implemented sanctions. The city’s boundary offers a set of measures from price restrictions to penalties, incentives, and subsidies designed to meet goals such as a good balance of affordable housing or lower per capita energy use. In New York City, neighborhood-level participation in governance is voluntary and advisory, but it expands the central government’s capacity to understand issues experienced locally. As these practices contribute to local autonomy, they are also capable of interpreting them globally. Coming to the resolution of problems begins with the kind of efficiency and quality of data feedback that empowers local autonomy through participatory governance.
The last piece of Ostrom’s change-the-world puzzle looks to resolve existential threats with the ability to grow a polycentric rulemaking authority so that global rules are instantly recognized because they are already well-organized and in use locally. The only element missing is the lack of political recognition of this as an urban fact. Ostrom’s groundbreaking approach is not built on how people think but on how they will eventually organize their thinking. Hopefully, this work will escape its decade of discussion where it floats in the partial oblivion and trappings of its academic Nobel Prize (2009). It needs to find a city to live in as a permanent place of proof. I recommend New York City, and you know why. If you can make it here, you can make it everywhere. Again, the city with a strong existing boundary has these systems in place. The only element is the lack of political recognition of this fact.
A conservative friend of mine argues that everyone’s property is no one’s property, and wealth left is valued by none. Why? I said with a few examples brewing, but then she says, “Who would be fool enough to wait to use it when the next moment, it could be used by another?” I interrupted with “could be used.” Unphased, she said, “Would a tree for timber be left in the ground for another, would fish found in the morning sea be left if they would be netted in the afternoon?” Then she pulled out her economics degree and said, “Every factor of production without assurance leaves all things for all people as things without value.”
Natural resources and common property are free goods for individuals but recognized as scarce goods by the rule of “use or lose.” Value is obtained when the rules of property for value becomes subject to a unified directing power. To the conservative, this power is held as private. It is associated with the “free-rider problem,” freedom and the capacity to be free. It is tied to individual and corporate rights as the fuel of competitive innovation, new technology, and wealth, without which new problems cannot be solved.
“…there is no such thing as society; only individuals and families.” “The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help .”
Margaret Thatcher 1987 & Ronald Reagan 1988
The progressive’s argument (that would be me) is if the property becomes public (government), it does so for specific purposes. Regulating development that reduces abuse or corruption can produce value not only by preventing damage or by litigating cause but through the encouragement of a global culture that recognizes solutions to problems before they exist. Assign a value to that and we leap into a future that capital alone refuses to provide. My brief crisis management analysis (here) sees self-interest as a useful compulsion but if unregulated or tested, the practice drains shared resources.
When modified through price mechanism alone, addiction can be repackaged as vapor and the resource drained is the lungs of children. The charge of negative impact continues in the population (endemic) in unregulated markets, followed by claiming the need to add wealth to fix or mitigate the cause of problems. The progressive’s complaint continues because doubling down on methods (risks) that are counter to a long-term interest such as a child’s health (changing/eliminating flavors) are digressions that further discourages the mobilization of resistance.
The arguments of a conservative vs. progressive approach also have a long, tedious set of false premise conditions that also deter effective challenges to the status quo. Whether corporate or within the public realm, several types of economic behaviors clearly threaten the stability of individual nations and global health in general. The theft of a treasury, election fixing, killing in all places, and many geographies reveal known horrors.
Geopolitical oil, rare earth minerals, even access to space force technology are considered sustainable practices due to irrational thinking and false arguments. Corporate identity-interests also build on a variety of absurd claims. We know the tag lines: We are the best, the safest, most loved, recommended, and philanthropic business in the world. All of this is protected by free-speech and self-regulation norms until a stated fact is proven false. All of this is useless until a “False Premise Agency” becomes an agency with power, there are a few reasonable straight forward steps to logical thinking in a society. Examples are:
Change the mode of problem-solving with a new process.
Redefine problems in a categorically different fashion.
Eliminate the damage at the source or the cause, include failed prevention.
Substitute damages with relocation, replacements, and technical upgrades.
Legislation and litigation practices that pay for failure as an ongoing process.
The last three activities are classic fire brigade solutions, and while reasonable, essential, and undoubtedly continuous, it is the first two actions that require renewed focus if ending the cycle can be expected. Improving the modes of problem-solving processes is inherently demanded by the catastrophic resolution perspective in the position taken by operatives of the last three.
Thomas Hale of University-Oxford describes a similar but more hopeful choice he calls “catalytic cooperation” (here). Hale accepts the “resilience is all that is left” from the Club of Rome folks and rolls up his sleeves as a member of a very large group of academic economists. He sees three features of climate mitigation that depart from the accepted model: joint goods, preference heterogeneity, and increasing returns. The presence of these characteristics reveals the chief barrier to global cooperation is not the threat of free riding but the lack of incentive to act in the first place.
Humans have been redefining problems in new ways, from deciding that a cave with a guarded entrance is a good idea to the billions of “falsifiability” exercises ongoing today. They are theoretical, mathematical in the laboratory and the field. All of it is refreshing, but much of it is like a solid slap in the face with someone screaming, wake up, wake up. In many ways, we are still in that Neolithic cave, redefining problems in categorically new ways.
More recently, the injection of scientists into the partisan “what can vs. should be done?” debate has begun to dance around the global commons’ problem. A list of over fifty non-United Nations multilateral, mega-regional agencies (a list here) represents a doubling of “brigades” in 25 years and a trend toward continuing expansion on an even longer list of issues. Pushing a top priority for greater capacity in the global “what should we do” debate became the jingoistic nightmare that turned government into the problem.
“If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.”
Barack Obama (2006)
As the world’s economic growth slows due to realignments caused by climate change, combinations of regional populism, and global security interests, we are gripped by widening inequality as if it was only an issue of the unequal. The global human health condition is part of the climate change question that proves humanity is far more alike than unalike, with greater similarities with beautiful variations of great benefit to all.
A dip in growth caused by ongoing investment reductions in carbon-intensive industries also opens new processes that will break into a vast network of capital chains searching for alternatives. Short of an energy solution as dramatic as fusion, new forms of growth will from new stock symbol combinations associated with government-backed initiatives that reduce risk. The central question will be whether decision-makers will become sufficiently undistracted to plan effectively to implement a proposed change.
Public investment works with noted success in the traditional practices of the scientific method. Concerning theory, predictability, and peer reviews of specific concerns such as a common cancer problem, AIDS or SARS are successful. If Science is needed to solve macro human system problems, on the one hand, the public investment appears helpless on the other. The failure to end the rise of life degrading processes is all the more frightening because of how easily they are identified. Commercial food production, bacterial and viral contagion, energy use, poor transportation systems, and biome systems worldwide, to name a few.
If it is for the lack of “trust” that all may be lost, then public investment in the sciences of planning and engineering, art and architecture are all practices that can produce the immediate feedback essential to discovering how to live in a categorically new way, especially if the way now is killing us slowly or with deadly precision. It may only be a few at a time, in sadly separated multiple room huts, scattered across the American landscape of false independence or in the towers of despair we so eagerly and carelessly build, the task of getting on track is right now.
Getting on Track
Three global factors have brought about the demand for global, multilateral change in national societies that have experienced varying degrees of tragic impact. First, climate change is an umbrella disaster held over nasty little wars, floods, and firestorms followed by infectious diseases. Second, most of these effects are recognized as inevitable for a century or more, and third, the world’s leadership is beginning to understand that for the lack of a global agreement, much of all of this was and remains preventable in each new cycle.
Ironically, a fourth global factor is a conservative viewpoint expressed as the tragedy of the commons. The negative impact on a common pasture and the relationship among households raising grazing animals is a real thing. The rules should change if the entire earth becomes that metaphorical pasture. Losing entire portions of massive coastal cities all over the world to surging ocean tides and entire biomes (forest to coral reef) will become the lived experience of millions of people. It will be as if billions of tons of waste that floats and sinks in the shared resource of the global oceans and the “dead zone” of the Gulf of Mexico could be seen by all. Societies pay for these disruptions with the starvation of children, the screams of helpless parents, and the stunned dismay of families who falsely believe they are saved with compensatory access to wealth.
The global climate has been stable for only the last 2,000 to 3,000 years. There should be no expectation that it would remain constant, the global climate is in many ways barely stable as a system and a single push of added gases, heat, human and natural would make change inevitable, yet still feel inconsequential as a threat. The demand for alternative ways of living is unimaginable as the swell of cheap energy continues to make everything, including faith in a quick tech-fix easy to expect. In this psychological climate, finding replacements is difficult, and forcing amelioration by changing the price with substitutes violates the status quo. When assessed in the “commons” framework, two new categorical patterns of thinking emerge as environmental and emotional intelligence
Ostrom’s Answer is Occam’s Razor
A problem that exists in the future has two elements, one to design a defense, the other is to alter the future to make that unnecessary. The leaders involved may have had the skills of the legislative lawyer and personality for political leadership, but to produce solutions essential to create trust, the science part of our minds and the science professions will form a new community. To do that, the change in the mode of problem-solving begins with a process that Elinor Ostrom has already figured out in a Nobel prize winning way.
Our ancient brains in various shelters for the night knew of beasts, enemies, and trouble. That sense of big trouble is real, but the community may never experience the pain of it because of that sense alone. What we have done, from the cave to the laboratory, is to define problems we believe might be unlikely to occur, but we solve them anyway. The quality of thinking in this instance is an old tactic still in use by scientists today called Occam’s Razor. – a theory of a threat with the fewest variables, as Albert Einstein notes, requires problem-solving work where, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The first of Elinor Ostrom’s core design principles began in Governing the Commons (1990) and as continuously optimistic as an economist can be in her research for the World Bank in 2009 (here). The paper, A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change, considers the possibility of a non-tragic global commons. It is here that she gives her life-long partner Vincent Ostrom an attribution to a central observation. She quotes his definition of polycentric as, “one where many elements are capable of making mutual adjustments for ordering their relationships with one another within a general system of rules where each element acts with the independence of other elements.” It was written with Charles Tiebout, and Robert Warren, (Economic Base and Local Expenditure Theory).
Ostrom examined the power of working with problems using a thing already reasonably possessed and understood in the world – clearly defined boundaries. In strictly economic terms, such boundaries would be needed everywhere for everything and difficult to implement. On the other hand, this first rule is essential to working with big global problems such as thermonuclear war or climate change and the threat of a pandemic. Defining a boundary in a categorically new way offers promise as the concept is simple and easily understood.
Because purely economic solutions are easy to argue and difficult to implement, start with a simple physical entity such as a city as that category. Cities are places with a fixed boundary and a legal process for expansion or contraction. The city is an excellent place to begin the implementation of the remaining seven of Ostrom’s solution. It is a “back to the future” type of problem.
A city is an outstanding place to begin the implementation. The city with a boundary offers proportional equivalence and a clear, constantly improving data stream to monitor processes beginning with the measurement of benefits and costs in every imaginable or possible center capable of giving itself a boundary. It is ongoing but without mutual benefit consent. Proportionality within multiple geographies of a dense polycentric city of neighborhoods, cultural groups, ideologies, genders, and so on, can become a transparent way to fully understand variables. In this way, it is possible to put the equality sign (or not) between two or more in the social and economic expressions.
The city also offers multiple platforms for “collective choice agreements.” The center of Ostrom’s argument recognizes the practical use of carefully implemented sanctions. The boundary of the city offers a set of measures from price restrictions to penalties, incentives, and subsidies designed to meet goals such as a good balance of affordable housing or lower per capita energy use. In New York City, neighborhood-level participation in governance is voluntary and advisory, but it expands central government capacity to understand issues as they are experienced locally. As these practices contribute to local autonomy, they are also capable of interpreting them globally. Coming to the resolution of problems begins with the kind of efficiency and quality of data feedback. that empowers local autonomy through participatory governance.
The last piece of Ostrom’s change-the-world puzzle looks to resolve existential threats with the ability to grow a polycentric rulemaking authority in a manner that global rules are instantly recognized because they are already well-organized and in use locally. The only element missing is the lack of political recognition of this as an urban fact. Ostrom’s groundbreaking approach is not built on how people think, but how they will eventually need to organize their thinking. Hopefully, this work will escape its decade of discussion where it floats in the partial oblivion and trappings of its academic Nobel Prize (2009). It needs to find a city to live in as a permanent place of proof. I recommend New York City, and you know why. If you can make it here, you can make it everywhere. Again, the city with a strong existing boundary has these systems in place. The only element is the lack of political recognition of this fact.