Dr. Christopher Jones is a Professor at UC Berkeley and the Director of the CoolClimate Network. Like many who have examined the climate crisis thoroughly, he has told everyone the truth. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand. In other words, we know what to do. However, a better definition of the problem is to find out why global implementation will not occur.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
After a half-century of work by esteemed scientists, the paradox of self-interest continues to allow for thousands of successful micro-projects to be funded. Yet, at the same time, the implementorsconsistently agree to a global failure. Despite tangible micro-efforts and these life-affirming successes, it seems the global breakdown is not regulatory, nor is it architectural or engineering. It is not due to the inadequate investment in technology or the lack of enforcement. The truth is far more fundamental. Members of the fossil fuel industry passively accept a different path regarding global action on climate change. They will play the barometric-bomb game on a rapidly spinning climate roulette wheel. This is a strategic business decision well outside of tactical public controls. Perhaps a nonstrategic approach is an essential complement to the required response of science. After all, since the very first crack of lightning threw Homo sapiens to the ground, wind, rain, and thunder have been numinously controlling.
Now that sustainability is lost, what is being done? First, the psychology of resilience is supported as a hedge on all standing and proposed assets. Second, four business drivers provide an evaluative framework for daily decisions. These monitor 1) regulatory changes, 2) litigation trends, 3) technological transformations, and 4) specified barriers linked to market operations associated with climate change. Third, these steps involve advanced practices associated with the large businesses undergoing consolidation against significant dislocation threats and climate risk. The top example involves the operations of 20 fossil fuel companies linked to a third of all GHG emissions in the modern era. With precise data, the mysterious Doppelgänger of Climate Change is presented. The climate requirement is to grapple with this knowledge. We are not in the presence of weather as an expression of divinity – it’s twenty fuel companies.
Fingers and Toes Solution
A fingers-and-toes acquisition is available to reset reinvestment patterns to 100% clean energy. This is not a radical step. According to Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute, as reported by Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts for The Guardian, twelve of the 20 companies are state-owned. Climate accountability is possible because the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.
Actual climate impact costs are embedded in evasion processes. They are challenging to discuss openly due to the presumption of confidential business information and its exposure. The solution at hand is an eminent domain style acquisition of the industry. Acquiring one-third of the industry would eliminate the complaint of unstandardized metrics within and across GHG-producing fossil fuel industries. The global acquisition resolves the data obfuscation problem and reduces portfolio risk factors associated with environmental and social issues. A global taking of just one-third of the industry is possible as mitigation today, as it is inevitable and dispositive. The requirement is to force recognition of three facts. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.
The global and national policy framework states all people live with risk. That policy includes recognizing a scale that exhibits risk levels by location, occupation, socioeconomic conditions, and many other factors. This, too, is an evasion process. The actuarial tables are available to anyone capable of conducting a premium price check by zip code. In a grueling process, a team of public-interest research individuals can work with web-crawling sites such as Policy Genius to analyze sophisticated pricing that obscures the public cost.
The American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA) is a worldwide group of leaders in insurance risk management. Reading the “walking papers” of the two presenters tells a story between the lines in their 2019 Annual Meeting presentation entitled: Rethinking Risk and Resiliency (here). Large swaths of the country are not hazard insured. FEMA, the national guard, and other public entities are the single-payer in this system. The federal and state agencies are the ones who will be called to that number on the roulette wheel in response to a hazard. In all cases, the response will be too little, post-trauma, neatly administered under the Grace of God policy banner regarding your place on the climate change roulette wheel.
Once again, the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand when research (here) proves that 20 fossil fuel companies account for 480 billion tons of GHGs, representing 35% of carbon emissions since 1965. Yet, as the climate continues to collapse, the current policy allows individuals to perish alone in that notch on the roulette wheel. Searching for research papers on the subject reveals how and why public policy is weak. One of those papers will be found here.
The climate requirement is clear. Conduct an appropriate remix on the mathematic and the mysterious. Some insight into the remix issue is (here). It is an examination concerning how people live is about where they live. Added motivation on this point is (here) on the issue of fire and the stumbling leadership in architecture (here) that includes a modest pitch for hope from Peter Calthorpe.
On the other hand, this new assignment has aimed at the writers, videographers, policy wonks, and strong modern activists regarding the existential crisis handed to succeeding generations. Thank all of you for sharing (here).
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.
“New Yorkers, if the ride isn’t
killing us; the megabytes might.”
These three books are among many that challenge our understanding of the world and the sense of place that we need. Builders still hope for a complete urban place, but face terrifying possibilities of failure. The cause of the troubles that David, Peter, and Charles attempt to define have one thing in common — the megawatts we want for megabytes? It is a conundrum – it is both the solution and the problem.
The megawatts needed for megabytes could become a serious source of Green House Gas (GHG). Wally Broeker would know. He is the Columbia University chemist who coined the phrase “global warming.”
“The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.”
God rest his soul. There is the more optimistic Peter Brannen’s,The Ends of the World: (Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions) who says,
“Life on earth constitutes a remarkably thin glaze of interesting chemistry on an otherwise unremarkable, cooling ball of stone, hovering like a sand grain in an endless ocean of space.”
He was an optimist about life, not humans.
The consciousness-raising chronology of Earth Day 1963 to the recent present (here) began with Earth-rise — the Apollo 11 photo of the earth from the moon. Earth Day reminds us that our sense of place today is about a tiny cooling 4.5 billion-year-old rock. Our sense of time on this rock has become the last few “seconds” on a geological clock. The place and time of the earth are now defined by the warming of that glaze of chemistry we call air. To change that from the negative it appears to be today to a positive in the future would be a first in all these billions of years. There is nothing like a “first” to get humans interested in change.
The density of urban life lowers energy costs per capita, and the energy systems put in place will become containable and capable of 100% GHG capture as renewable sources bring increasing promise. Nevertheless, the world of 5G energy includes acknowledging the cost goes up to 1,000 times. Energy is a design problem in energy use, and solutions are evident when the dense urban world is measured separately. This simple step of separation puts a significant portion of the world on a renewable, reinvestment, and resilient path. It sets up good examples for replication. An excerpt, from “Density,” describes growing recognition of the earth as a whole due to the Apollo photographs (here).
Concerns over energy efficiency are occurring in conferences about 5G deployments, and methods for reducing energy consumption have begun, only after the facts. Even the political forces surrounding net neutrality are those that seek to create price structures connected to solving this problem, but there are no laws on the subject. It therefore slumps into the demand for resetting priority. The most well known is the call to eliminate the rank unfairness in the world’s social structures defined by the newest indicator of stress. That would be access to data and the capacity to share our common problems.
In brief, it is possible to recognize devices whose energy consumption scales with traffic, and devices (including the end accessories) measuring energy intensity in energy per data and in energy per time (i.e., power only) as load. An electrical load is carried by a component that consumes electricity. Internet energy intensity (energy consumption per data transferred) have estimates differing from 136 kWh/GB (Koomey et al., 2004 – here) down to 0.0064 kWh/GB (Baliga et al.,2011 – here), a factor of 20,000.
Reviewing this literature through 2020 is similar to the tobacco lobby talking to Congress, the discussion is different, but the addiction is similar. Finally, it is in the Uninhabitable Earth that David Wallace-Wells says we have assembled, “out of distrust of one another and the nations behind the ‘fiat currencies’, a program to wipe out the gains of several long, hard generations of green energy innovations.” He was talking about the immense energy requirement world is demanding from the full implementation of 5G to the operation of electric vehicles. We are addicted, but as full implementation is likely by 2050 the world can read about 200 million climate refugees at 20 Gig per second or more. Silly, are we not?
He actually answers the question about how and why we are in this fix.
This one looks at implementing a political agenda to reverse the trend where self-interest economics has lost its ability to reinvest. This is thirty minutes on the growing demand from the ordinary person for progressive solutions. The business community had better get involved.
The budget proposal Donald Trump’s administration announced yesterday will slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by nearly a third, crippling an agency that has played a key — but often unnoticed — role in American life for nearly a half-century.
The main target of the president’s ire seems to be the agency’s programs that address climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a press conference. But cuts so large won’t just affect climate change-related programs — they will trickle down, affecting all of the agency’s work and the state environmental protection offices it supports.
Even Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate science-denying EPA administrator, seems to feel Trump’s cuts go too far. When an initial budget proposal surfaced slashing the EPA’s funding from $8.2 billion to $6 billion, Pruitt expressed concern about the effect a reduced budget would have on programs aimed at cleaning up and repurposing toxic and polluted sites, a function of the agency that he supports. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport report that Pruitt lobbied Trump to rethink the cuts, but his appeal, apparently, didn’t work: Trump’s finalized budget flouts his EPA administrator’s wishes by calling for even deeper cuts than initially proposed, slashing the agency’s budget to about $5.7 billion.
That budget isn’t final. It will still have to get through a Congress where even Republicans who have staunchly opposed the agency in the past are worried about what the funding cuts will mean for their districts. So, given that some in Congress might be deciding if and when to take a stand, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of what the EPA has accomplished over the last 46 years since Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1970 bringing the agency into existence. These successes were, almost unanimously, won despite the strenuous and well-financed objections of recalcitrant polluters, and are, almost unanimously, now taken for granted.
1. Patching the Ozone Hole
Remember the ozone hole? We don’t really either. But ozone concerns were front-and-center in the ‘80s when, frighteningly, scientists discovered that pollution was causing the part of the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to deteriorate. The issue came to a head when, in 1985, British scientists announced that an expanding hole had formed in the ozone layer over Antarctica.
The president at the time was Ronald Reagan, a zealous proponent of deregulation who did not seem to have strong feelings about environmental protection. But he surprised his advisers by vigorously backing the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty between 197 nations that banned chlorofluorocarbons, a chemical that was used as a refrigerant and was also found aerosol sprays, and was to blame for the hole. (Why did Reagan take up the cause? No one is quite sure. One theory is that Reagan’s own experience with skin cancer made him particularly sensitive to the topic.)
Once the Montreal Protocol was signed, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to give the EPA the power to enforce a ban on chlorofluorocarbons and protect the ozone layer. The agency’s success in doing so, along with the efforts of environmental regulators worldwide, helped the hole begin to repair itself — and also, it turns out, lessened climate change. Though scientists didn’t realize it at the time, chlorofluorocarbons contribute to global warming. If not for the Montreal Protocol, climate change’s effects might be twice as bad.
2. Cleaning up America’s Harbors
When the EPA was created in 1970, the water around America’s cities was in a notably different state than it is today. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River was, famously, so thick with combustible industrial chemicals that it often caught fire. Manhattan was dumping some 150 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River each day. Around the same time, a failing wastewater treatment plant in Boston was also spitting out huge amounts of sludge, leading health officials to warn that anyone who fell into Boston’s Charles River or the harbor it emptied into should go immediately to the hospital to be assessed by a doctor.
It was the EPA’s job to deal with these problems. The Clean Water Act of 1972 charged the agency with cleaning up America’s waters, and provided billions of dollars to do so. Among other responsibilities, the EPA was tasked with laying down minimum standards for wastewater treatment before cities could release it. The EPA was also responsible for regulating city sewer systems so they didn’t overflow, spilling sewage into the streets during heavy rains.
This made a big difference in America’s cities. New York brought a large, new sewage treatment plant online in 1986, solving Manhattan’s dumping problem. In Boston, a series of lawsuits prompted federal action. “Secondary treatment of sewage is a national standard, which means no more Boston Harbors,” said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell, who, as a former commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection, worked hand-in-hand with the EPA to clean up the water around the city. Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest in the country.
3. Cracking Down on Lead
For years, industrial players who used lead fought regulation, with disastrous effects for Americans. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 people died each year from lead-related heart disease. Tackling lead poisoning was one of the agency’s founding agenda items, and it did so over strenuous objections from the industries that put it in their products. The metal is now virtually illegal, leading to dramatic improvements in public health.
Legislation in the 1970s effectively banned lead from paint, and a 1985 EPA order required that the amount of lead in gasoline be cut by 90 percent by the following year. Five years later, a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act demanded that lead be completely removed from gasoline by 1995. The EPA also reduced the amount of lead that could be emitted by smelters, mines and other industrial operations, leading to an 85 percent decrease in the amount of airborne lead pollution between 1990 and 2015.
The effort, of course, was imperfect. A December 2016 Reuters report following Flint, Michigan’s lead crisis found 1,100 areas around the country where lead levels were regularly four times what they were at the peak of Flint’s contamination. Many, like Flint, were in poor regions neglected by state and federal policymakers. Unlike other toxic chemicals, lead does not break down over time. But the agency’s efforts did have an enormous effect. A 2002 study found that the level of lead in young children’s blood fell by more than 80 percent from 1976 to 1999, and that IQs increased as a result.
4. Making the Air Safe to Breathe
The agency also cracked down on other forms of air pollution, leading to a decrease in particulate matter and chemicals in the air that cause asthma. Their efforts meant a visible decrease in the smog that often choked cities in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
To do this, the agency cracked down on vehicle emissions and the pollutants coming from the smokestacks of factories and power plants. As the number of miles Americans travel per year has steadily climbed and the amount of power Americans consume has grown, emissions have fallen.
That saved hundreds of thousands of lives per year, and meant millions fewer cases of asthma and respiratory diseases. According to a peer-reviewed EPA study, these regulations in particular meant 165,000 fewer deaths per year in 2010 than in 1990 and 1.7 million fewer cases of asthma. One recent study found that, thanks to these air pollution controls, children in Southern California have lungs that are 10 percent larger and stronger than children’s lungs were 20 years ago.
5. Cleaning Up Industrialism’s Legacy
Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, residents of Love Canal, New York noticed an odd smell coming from the 99th Street School. And they noticed that odd things were happening too: Childrens’ sneakers melted to the pavement; dogs burned their nose when they sniffed it. Turns out, the school was built on top of a toxic waste dump. The “canal” for which the town is named was filled with toxic waste by the Hooker Chemical Company for three decades — 22,000 tons in all — before, in 1955, the area was paved over and a school was built on top of it. The chemical company had sold the property to the city for $1 — part of the deal, the “Hooker clause,” was that the company would not be liable if anyone got sick or died in the school.
When residents of Love Canal uncovered this sordid history, it provoked national outrage. Efforts to regulate toxic chemicals had already been in the works — in 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as part of an effort to respond to concerns about illegal, toxic dumping, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gave the EPA the authority to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals. But in 1980, largely in response to Love Canal and other toxic disasters that garnered headlines, Congress established a program to make use of a “superfund” that would clean up America’s most toxic places, and throughout the ’80s the EPA put the money to work, cleaning up heavily polluted sites from landfills to oil spills, factory fires to sludge pits, throughout the US. A program for less-urgent but still important cases, the Brownfields Program, was launched in 1995, tasked with cleaning up sites where contamination was an impediment to putting a vacant property to better use.
These programs, taken together, amounted to a formalized, government-supported environmental justice initiative, improving toxic sites that were unjustly distributed across America’s poor and minority neighborhoods. But, in recent years, shrinking appropriations from congress have slowed cleanup efforts.
6. Making Water Safe to Drink
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, giving the EPA the ability to regulate the water that came out of Americans’ taps. The agency ended up banning more than 90 contaminants from the water supply and cracking down on companies whose business practices poisoned Americans.
The EPA also issues “revolving funds” to communities to for improvements to the infrastructure that brings water to homes and to water supplies.
One of the agency’s first acts was to ban DDT, a pesticide that first came into use in the 1940s but poisoned wildlife and humans as well as bugs. The chemical’s effects were, famously, documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 New Yorker serial Silent Spring, but the chemical industry, lead by Monsanto, fought bitterly to keep it in use. The EPA’s decision to ban it was a major environmental victory.
8. Attacking Acid Rain
We heard a lot about acid rain in the ’90s but don’t so much anymore. Congress took up the issue in 1990 — George H.W. Bush had, in fact, campaigned on addressing it. Despite opposition from electric utilities, Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act so that the EPA could regulate the chemicals that were to blame: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
It worked. “Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60 percent — while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in 2015.
9. Paving the Way for Indoor Smoking Bans
Back in 1993, the EPA, in response to overwhelming research, classified secondhand smoke as a pollutant likely to cause cancer. At the time, this position was braver than it might seem today. Tobacco companies had waged a multidecade-long campaign to keep Americans smoking by questioning the link between cigarettes and cancer, even going so far as to suppress their own internal research that indicated otherwise.
The following year, tobacco CEOs admitted in testimony before Congress that cigarettes were dangerous, though their lobbying efforts against regulation would continue for years (a PR effort spearheaded by, among others, Myron Ebell, who resurfaced on Trump’s EPA transition team). But the EPA’s decision prompted a wave of city- and statewide indoor smoking bans; the majority of states now have them in place. And in the decade and a half following the EPA classification, the number of Americans who smoke — and, in particular, the number of high school-aged Americans who smoke — decreased dramatically.
10. Building a Cache of Public Data
One of the EPA’s greatest resources is the vast supply of information it has collected over four decades, some of which is available to the public through the internet. This data provides excellent documentation of the threat posed by climate change, but it isn’t limited to that. Spread across dozens of databases, the numbers include such information as the chemical compositions of various toxic pollutants and the locations in the US that those pollutants affect. The databases document the trends in air and water pollution, acid rain and the health of beaches and watersheds. It tracks which companies have been inspected and cited for enforcement.
Scientists are worried about the fate of this data under Trump, and have been scrambling to preserve it. “There is no reason to think the data is safe,” Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently told The Guardian. “The administration, so far, hasn’t given any indication it will respect science and scientific data, especially when it’s inconvenient to its policy agendas.”
11. Beginning to Address Climate Change
The US government’s effort to address the greatest climate threat to face the modern world will — at least for the time being — be cut short. But during Barack Obama’s second term, the EPA began the work of figuring out what serious US efforts to address climate change would look like. In the face of an intransigent Congress, Obama ordered the agency to take the lead, and under Administrator Gina McCarthy it did, drawing up plans to, among other things, raise the number of miles per gallon gas vehicles were required to achieve and to cut pollution from US power plants.
Both of those initiatives will be tossed out by the Trump administration. While they were on the books, they were enough of an indication of America’s commitment to dealing with the climate crisis that other large polluting nations — notably China — came to the negotiating table in good faith. That lead to the Paris Agreement, a pact that the US looks likely to either pull out of or ignore, but that the world appears likely to continue to uphold without us.
Making way for the Vehicular Pedestrian will be more than a critical mass issue due to significant changes in dense urban land use and dimly recognized design problem that must be solved. As a result, Personal Urban Mobility Assistants (PUMA) and power assist vehicles (HPV) will begin to reshape urban design decisions the hard way. Unfortunately, the city remains poorly prepared for this change.
For some time, the rule demanding the separation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic has required extensive revision. The reason is the emergence of the “vehicular pedestrian” in small, lightweight vehicles. As they continue to arrive on the roads far more quickly than the current supply of re-designed or de-vernacularized roads can manage, trouble is inevitable. Moreover, HPVs and PUMAs are ecologically appropriate and efficient for urban use yet confront a dangerous interface with the American fascination with the truck chassis beneath a sports utility vehicle.
HPVs and PUMAs are well-known as bicycles, in-line tandems, and power-chairs. They now include power assist recumbent, side-by-side tricycles, and standing boards. These and many others fly along the roads with impressive power and speed. All are causing urban designers to examine a brand new set of “right-of-way” challenges. Regrettably, they are not successfully awakening the need for lawmakers to pave the way. Transit leadership has responded with paint for lanes, moved auto parking a bike lane away from the curb, and posted “share the road” signs. The campaign has included not-so-subtle reminders on bus ads that tell you that it is a felony to knock a person of a bicycle. If the speed is over 30mph, the rider’s death is more likely. Finally, NYC took a “Vision Zero” view of NYC’s speed, lowered the limit to 30mph and then to 25mph, and added speed cameras with priority placements near public schools.
Only a tiny part of the regulatory way is established in the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Practical, if not elegant, design solutions serve physically disabled travel on pedestrian routes and “low-speed roadways” where various wheeled “cart” vehicles are available. Use does not require registration or licensed use. Still, much is unclear about proceeding from this modest standard of care framed by the ADA. These design solutions have made it easier, but the problem remains well beyond improving access. New forms of mobility will completely reshape the way we live in cities with more ways to move to get things done as individuals, families, and businesses.
New forms of mobility will completely reshape the way we live in cities.
The mobile web is built on mobile devices with processors running on faster networks that access cloud services described in thousands of publications entitled the internet of things (IoT). The two most common outside of the home, the smartphone and personal vehicles.
The Mobile Web
The mobile web changes everything. Finding your way, the acquisition of connected things nearby translates into dramatic changes in business technology toward user-centered design in the context of every possible use.
For decades, development practices and residential investment behaviors have produced what the planners, urban designers, and architects often refer to as “non-place” landscapes. They are deeply intertwined with the public’s demand for personalized transport – a car.
These vehicles offer multiple destination flexibility, abundant storage, and varying levels of self-expression, from practical to exuberant. With this as a given, it is logical to seek ways to encourage movement from a school campus to a train station, hospital or shopping district by other means such as walking or cycling. The destination should determine the choice of vehicle if the option was available. To do that requires an improvement in public policy on mobility systems driven by the mobile web.
Vehicular diversity is controlled by the pathway offered. The vehicle is of little use without a public right of way. The power to alter it should be shared equitably, but it is not.
The planning and urban design approach involve partially or completely de-vehicularized roads or routes that add alternative vehicular capacity. This dual approach is gaining added attention for two key reasons. First, it serves public safety due to the increase in human-powered-assist vehicles (HPVs). Second, mass transit can accommodate the addition HPVs. They are as benign as folding bicycles or power boards, but it stops there. Therefore, the problem includes encouraging the routine use of HPVs as life-affirming, turf-sharing, circulation, and vehicular portage.
The demand for HPV route designs is significant. So much so that the lack of “parade” permits has been used to prevent “future now” or “critical mass” expressions by cycling interests eager to demonstrate for added safety. The image below is drawn from a Community Design Center in Arkansas (see website: here).
The “mall culture’s” unintended social and environmental consequences reveal opportunities to expanding access to destinations that increase urban development and density. The demand for transportation options between “big box” retail exposes mass parking lots as “ex post facto” land uses.
Perhaps the most visible choice of personalized vehicle is the fully-powered Segway and competitors serving security at the “mall.” At this point, they are classified as neither a motor vehicle nor a consumer product. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a preliminary opinion that they should be considered a “consumer product.” Therefore, they remain unregulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This designation will change as more personal mobility devices become common due to necessity.
The initial result driving the change envisioned in Arkansas was market-driven regulation arising at the state level to protect citizens.
Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation allowing the use of Segways.
Five states (CO, CT, MA, ND, and WY) have no legislation permitting the use of Segways.
Two states (AR and KY) have no statewide prohibitions against Segways, but local regulations may exist.
Choices that do not require new regulations or added government oversight are broadening rapidly in the HPV/PUMA business in general, thanks to the aggressive marketing efforts of Segway. The range of vehicles entering the market is, in fact, staggering. A review of what Segway and others are launching is aggressive, only hampered by the CPSC list of recalls. The NHTSA’s focus on adding automobile connectivity can reduce collisions, but the NHTSA has yet to focus on alternative vehicles. The following runs through a brief search of what’s “out there.” The short answer is not much. Not yet.
The B-cycle offers a “what if” link that is based on zip codes. At one time, a researcher could experience a marketing effort for New York City. Put zip-11368 on the website, and you are asked if you want Flushing or Corona, Queens. Choose Flushing, and the program tells the reader is in an area with just over 1 million people that could use about 380 bike stations and nearly 5,000 bikes. It suggests that if just 10% of residents participated for just 30 miles per year, the following dramatic results would occur.
The vehicle miles traveled would be some 3.5 million. This translates to reducing carbon emissions by about 1,700 tons; it would save over 170,000 gallons of gas and produce $2 million in savings for other expenditures. In addition, the use of an HPV would help reduce traffic by over 100,000 cars, and the users would burn around 162 million calories or the equivalent of 47,000 pounds lost or 0.403 pounds per cyclist.
This particular “bike-share” idea is a partnership of three industries. Humana. Trek Bicycle Corporation and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. A health services corporation and a bicycle manufacturer combined resources on the bet that people are looking for new ways to move around their city. However, people are being motivated by the vague influence of climate change data, the addition of health providers, transit planners, and urban designers are seeing an opportunity to make the roads human again.
Market-Driven Change Failed
The big boys on the block all also have their ad-eye on the advancement of HPVs. These companies are directly tied to selling more stuff in more ways than ever with ads called faces. HPV stations and bus shelters meant getting faces on more places as close to eye level as possible. When web-connected, each face could project the newest stuff, like rain gear that enhances the joy of a wet bike ride.
Cemusa, Clear Channel and Decaux
JC Decaux reported over $5,000,000 in losses related to its Paris bike-share fleet over eighteen months. Some have suggested this is a negotiating ploy for aid from local governments eager to earn green points. Another leading company the expressed an early interest in the bike-share field is Clear Chanel. In the mid-1970s, this industry claimed a significant share of New York City’s public space. At the time the New York was in a recession and severe financial crisis. They offered a share of ad revenue from “faces” on bus shelters that Clear Channel would provide and maintain. Unfortunately, their shelter design and management solution proved to be a failure on many levels. Cemusa has recently taken the NYC market share with a bus shelter and/or newsstand upgrade and new technology. They are also interested in the placement of bike-share kiosks or stations as sites for ad space.
Opinions, from the average person to the head of the Federal Reserve, the more stuff we buy, the better off we will all be, except for the contradiction that over the long term, this is not possible. Confronting inherent contradictions in wealthy society is difficult. Exponential growth cannot go on forever in a finite world that demands adherence to sustainability principles. Those who promote the idea of exponential growth are either quite mad or economists, as Kenneth Boulding once noted. But, it was Marshal McLuhan that reminded us that only the little secrets are protected. The massive ones are kept secret by our own incredulity. The one we live with now is that our economic system must fit itself into the ecological system.
Yes, buying more and more stuff may not be good, yet reversing life to spiritual self-fulfillment, is not as easy as riding a bike. Does it come down to something as simple as an HPV and the new kinds of urban environments they would shape? It is not about more stuff but choosing more rightly in a newly designed “waste nothing” world. Therein lies the classic contradiction when company sponsors use bikes to encourage consumption. An HPV minimizes consumption to maximize rider well-being—leadership in advancing the law on landscapes for public health and safety is needed. The investment compromise is obvious, and it is possible to list where ads are allowed on what retailers call “faces” and expand the use of slower places for riders.
Public Interest Design Explorations
In 2008, a modest step in the direction of encouraging bicycle use was taken by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and Transportation Alternatives. The promotion of the CityRacks Design Competition admitted a need above the existing 5,000 bike racks in the city. However, tossing more bikes onto the streets is not placemaking. While welcomed, the entire process missed a key point addressed by the Forum for Urban Design. The Forum is a New York-based membership organization to advance awareness of best practices and confronting urban design challenges. The New York Bike-Share Project was one of its initiatives. Here, place-making was emphasized as a “bike station” for personal bike storage and bike rentals in the Red Hook Competition. In turn, this opens the discussion productively in the “best location” area and, after that, to the public responsibility to promote placement incentives. Perhaps, the lesson to date would find an “urban design” and an industrial design process beginning the more supporting community design process is not developing well.
Today, cities have a few slightly heavy, modestly well-branded bikes free for 30 minutes round trips but rentable for any “station-to-station” travel. Beyond the initial hype, they are a feel-good utility in the service of touring hotspots. Still, they are unlikely to shift the paradigm to general public use of HPVs as viable or zero-carbon transport for modern urban living. So if leadership in this area delivers ad companies, what are the other choices?
Advancing good business practices by outfits such as Sustainable Business Consulting offer an understanding of the metric tons of carbon dioxide produced by staff activities. The reduction of harm is beneficial. It sets goals and measurable objectives for CO2 reduction reducing water use or sending zero waste into landfills. The steady flow of metrics into the process is an appropriate push on public policy.
The New Equity is Energy Used Well
The interplay between transport systems and urban design is evident. Whenever a system can deliver 9,000 people to a place per hour, the responsibilities go well beyond appropriate circulation and way-finding. It is exhibited everywhere, from suburban sprawl to new cities that have adopted transit-oriented development.
Adding alternative transportation concepts to the system has begun.
The power to provide “the way” is in the public domain.
Making way for newly competitive low-cost public transit from HPV to a bullet train only requires two components: lanes and destinations.
In older urban centers such as New York City, transit-stationed neighborhoods are equivalent to entire towns in other parts of the nation.
Efforts to produce transit-oriented villages remain in the planning stages. In New York City, multiple public transit hubs are recognized for robust economic returns.
The lesson learned by newer places such as Portland or Seattle is to add value by defining transit stations as whole places. The American Public Transportation Association’s (TPTA) work on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) develops in various local and international case studies. The central issue is how to frame development benefits sufficiently to assuage the perceived loss of market share by reducing auto parking to minimal yet reasonably accessible levels.
Measuring the public benefits more broadly (i.e., carbon cap and trade systems) will be helpful, and legislation has stumbled for over a decade. Nevertheless, improvements in the health of the walking/cycling community are genuine savings. Ultimately, the household pocketbook issue remains central to effective change.
Infrastructure Change is Too Slow
Put Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) into any search engine, and the data for nearly every website concerns trucks and cars. Not cool.
September-October 2008 issue of World-Watch explored alternative transportation ideas. Gary Gardner wrote When Cities Take Bicycles Seriously (World Watch 11, no. 5 (1998): 16-22) cited increases in bike commuting and its growing prestige. He suggested that if five percent of the 1.5 trillion miles consumed each year in cars and taxis were taken by bicycles, it would save its consumers $100 billion. Moreover, if ordinary people could safely choose five percent of their trips using an HPV, it would easily and consistently move upward in urban areas alone just that five percent is the break-even point on the investment, more on the subject (here).
When redefined as urban “hubs,” the train or subway station becomes a prime asset. Obviously, they cannot all be “grand central’ in character yet sufficiently equal in charm to encourage social capital and enhance the public’s sense of well-being. NYC’s lesson from these newer urban cities is less about real estate value than effective leadership in five-point placemaking.
Efficiency: The average cyclist travels at about 12 mph. This is faster than the average driver during peak hours anywhere in New York City. The peak is around 2:30 PM and bracketed by the morning and evening rush.
Equity: The low infrastructure cost of cycling is obvious. An HPV uses one-twelfth of the mid-sized car space. Transit systems with infrastructure for all forms of HPVs generate more efficient point-to-point destination volumes.
Exercise: Biking uses more muscles than walking. It invokes the release of endorphins — natural renewable energy that includes a strong sense of well-being. Riding as little as five miles each day improves health.
Affordability: A bicycle is more than affordable. Public transit in NYC cost fours dollars round trip (2009) and $5.50 (2020) and rising steadily. Three months of bicycle use for commuting would equal the average acquisition cost of a bike and now deductible as a business expense for employers.
Sustainability: Public knowledge of sustainability concepts will grow if walking and HPV are used to acquire goods and services. Extending new access modes to regional centers expands competitive positions.
NYC Planning Department website describes mandated bicycle parking in privately-owned public spaces (here). Grasping the budget and regulatory pressures in New York City is difficult. Why does it take over 25 years to get 70% of the way toward increased HPV use and safety? The 1997 Bike Master Plan, by the City Planning, set a goal for 1,800 miles. The Department of Transportation celebrated getting to 1,000 miles in 2020 (described here). For a brief comparison, spend a moment or two on the Tokyo bike storage system for up to 10,000 bikes.
The (Bike) Path Ahead
A place HPVs creates a highly strengthened transit-oriented system. European examples abound in this area. The Tokyo system is one example. In the United States, the empirical insights of Jane Jacobs remain a compelling argument for the diversity of use inherent to the dense urban grid.
This is because the city makes the bicycle and HPV vehicles extremely useful. Therefore, policies that make the city more efficient in this way will release design creativity. Three locations in NYC are manufacturing sites for HPVs. The only element missing to bring this market forward are places for the vehicles on the streets of NYC.
Policies that make a more human-powered city:
Ban or reduce automobile traffic lanes from streets: Just three lanes of Manhattan’s north/south avenues could serve over 100,000 bicycles per/hour per/block. Steps for increased HPV/bicycle safety require a design solution. In NYC, a street closing caused stress. The strain of a complete conversion is spread to all north/south streets can be made permanent by the current design. HPV dedicated cross-town routes can work as well. Imagine pleasure riders but see a vast increase in business-to-business deliveries. Extend the policy to the boroughs.
Replace car lot space with bike lot space: Obviously, bicycles are a better fit. A law to provide a tax-free pricing system for bikes can be absorbed by increasing rates for cars. Is there room for “bike stations”.
Increase tax on trucks/cars: The gas tax in Europe is five times the USA. Congestion pricing to push truck deliveries into night schedules is common. While regressive in the short term, it is worthwhile to stimulate “pedestrian-oriented” cities across the nation. Places like the Netherlands have thousands of miles of a dedicated bike path. Still, they are New York City’s routes growing correctly – to assure success? Have you been “doored” lately?
Walkable city: Reduced auto use increases transit and design efficiencies once well-placed mass-transit development centers are identified. Where is the leadership at this point in NYC? The term “woonerf” is Dutch. It describes streets as dominantly pedestrian. These are tree-lined routes with culvert drainage systems and “neck-downs” open enough for local traffic and emergency vehicles. Implemented for residential life, they were quickly adapted to commercial settings.
HPVs for long or short-distance transit routes: Trips from Midtown Manhattan to Downtown Brooklyn, as “HPV ride would add seats to the train. Mass transit needs the low-impact of the vernacularized rider.
Arrivals and Departures: Zoning bonuses and related tax incentives should emphasize space for showers and bike storage. More people would ride a bicycle to work if they could do so in a designated bike lane, park their bike in a safe place, and clean up a bit on arrival.
Existing urban design solutions promote “pedestrian and bicycle-oriented” travel reasonably well. A row of parked autos protects pedestrians. The same solution now serves human-powered vehicles. Turning the dominance of the automobile readily available to manipulate into a source of added HPV use. The college campus or other large regional parks already also offer clear bike transit that does not require reinventing the wheel. All that is needed is safe passage and the opportunity to build a brighter, cleaner, sustainable neighborhood, city, and world.
An excellent summary of the issues associated with the “critical mass” bike ride occurrences in NYC and the response of the NYPD was prepared in 2006 by the New York Bar Association. The Association criticized the legislative role of the NYPD on HPV. It advised the City Council to discourage using the police power to pre-determine constitutional issues based on vague rules defining “a parade.”
Legislation based on basic economics, triple bottom line science, ecological footprints, happiness indexes, and accurate cost accounting are emerging. All seek the means to press for more sophistication in measuring and confirming sustainability principles in the city.
Changes in weather or global averages in sea levels and temperature from year to year are popular tangents for discussion but only as useful as a local sports talk show. The real news is how improvements in energy generation demanded by the dense urban environment are now responsible for most GHG emission reductions. However, the motivation to change urban conditions in response to climate change remains weak, but envisioning tools by Climate Central that show logical sea rise levels is a step foward.
The threat alone is not enough. The word “climate” is also used to define a human relations condition of importance in community development. For example, New York City produced 48.02 million tons from all energy sources to reflect a 19% reduction from 2004 to 2013 in three main categories. The main GHG producers are buildings plus street lighting, transportation of all kinds, GHGs connected to urban wastewater treatment, city landfills, and solid waste removal out of the city categorized as fugitive.
Solutions come from the urbanization of energy.
Cities are effective at measuring and then decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The urban focus on energy varies by economic sector and social choice. The choice of fuels that reduce carbon intensity remains economic. However, the lack of choice in controlling external factors is the most problematic. External factors that control the amount of energy needed are population growth by location and the weather in “degree days.” Still, the distinctions between energy and its users are diminishing rapidly for the first time in human history. Energy use includes the ability to visualize a set of futures based on fact. The presentation below is not sophisticated climate science. The elevation above sea level is “a,” and the sea-level rise or a storm surge is “b” a long list of coastal cities will have seawater as predicted.
The political readiness for the advent of a new ocean/human/earth “oneness.” is the most disconcerting due to the “fear itself” effect. The extreme sea level via a vision reveals more than the risks. It exhibits the lack of capacity for a public decision-making process in a privately-held world. The hidden data involves changes in value. The effect can go one of two ways. It can push every investor of every square foot into climate change denial for the lack of any other plan, or it can draw every investor into a plan with the capacity to confront the paralysis embedded in such projections.
Given these conditions, the demand for an evidence-based, performance-measured, and outcome-driven protocol that can reach the local need for global effect is now an indispensable policy requirement. People can understand basic units for analysis such as building floor area and total population and apply a per unit/per capita analysis to provide a reliable basis for trend and regression analysis. Energy coefficients established during study periods help determine the change in carbon intensity for each energy source in each sector to yield the percentage of each source contributing to the GHG inventory.
While dense urban cities are the largest producers overall, they offer the best environment for protocol analysis and comparison among all other resilience/mitigation measures that may have an impact on global conditions. Three “get started” sources are here:
GPC – Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Personal growth is the main stimulant of culture and a balancing agent against the excesses of power. We slowly realize the stimulants are here and now when this growth is offered to all people freely. The next fight for freedom will be to sustain our ability to share what we know. The very first place to test for truth will be right outside your front door and where you can walk from there.
A broad new set of factors injected into the urban scale expresses a numerical value such as “top ten” as if a place has a price, and therefore comparable. These factors are used to index urban “livability” across the rapidly changing structure of cities. The index aid policymakers in rating the sensibilities of ordinary working people or retirees about those who seek to profit from their labor, skill, insight, capital, and productivity.
Two ranking styles are popular; the first puts a high value on economic and financial services supporting trade in material resources and economic measures. The second index lists environmental pleasures such as the climate, interesting scenes, cultural experiences, and the general absence of discord. This yields the appearance of objective criteria to implement a marketing response to a specific human need or general desire regardless of wealth or station.
The demand for policies that measure and react in short, precise cycles has begun. As a mathematical matter, the city’s economic value now includes specific environmental conditions such as costs associated with aesthetic perspectives. Voila! More parks, green streets, more room to walk. The mathematical value associated with vibrant or viable space is different than sustainable or resilient or secure and stable. Aesthetic measures associated with sociocultural conditions such as recreation and entertainment are used as a ranking. The mathematics of such ratings on all of these things center on the idea of weight, whether weighted equally or in a framework for preferences.
Undoubtedly, these value conditions continue to produce a dense urban form for people, yet it remains an abstraction of consumption weighted by per capita spending. The new flurry of numbers means one new thing, “they know” and “we know they know,” so now what? What is the impact? Measures of equity will become highly visible. It is now possible to index racism, even sexism, by place for scoring.
The driving factor for these new index factors will involve three-quarters of the earth’s population, who will have an urban life of some description by the year 2050. Most will be holding smartphones. The demand for an urban life has created this 3:1 ratio of “attraction,” leading to self-fulfilling urban development that continues without checking for the balance required. For example, the demand for a set of values that express diversity as one cherished over the concentration of wealth would be useful. Those who remain far outside the urban region may be recognized as those most important to sustaining that realm and keeping its ability to be wild as its stewards.
Our one purpose is to participate in a forum on the complexity of urban density and examine its makers worldwide. In the research for Density, we are reading hundreds of websites, books, and articles. Most are online. We are not stepping completely away from the dead tree press, but new opportunities are exposed with more than one thing in hand at a time. This is wide open network team. Privacy remaing permanent. Expectations are listed below.
The objectives implied by this purpose will require the expertise of many contributors with various skills and thousands of locations. For example, the development and use of KML code will add an important online function.
Our team envisions regionally and city-based writers willing to establish a long-term research effort on opportunities created by urban density, The product will describe the problems density helps to solveby analyzing issues, various approaches, and action ideas.
The partnership aims to produce a continuous, worldwide exploration of dense urban environments’ successes (or failures).
Additional excerpts from a working draft of Density includes an offer to join in developing this “partnership project.”
Begin by sending an inquiry below or for a different approach on the policies and politics of Density see Writers Wanted.
The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset describes 60 geospatial datasets on road infrastructure worldwide, covering 222 countries and over 21?million?km of roads. The dataset is split into 5 types: …
Twentieth-century urban and technological development events represent immense power. Yet, whether they are judged superficial, highly significant, or isolated and irrelevant, all share the common ground of small self-interest groups …
In November 2007, Bruce Katz presented the challenges of the "mega" urban world. The exquisite logic of Blueprint for American Prosperity was this century's "Rachael Carson" moment. The truth is almost impossible …
"One number above all other metrics suggests a housing affordability and infrastructure emergency is pending. In New York City, one emergency is around 40,000 people living permanently in shelters, with …
The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset describes 60 geospatial datasets on road infrastructure worldwide, covering 222 countries and over 21?million?km of roads. The dataset is split into 5 types: highways/ primary/ secondary/ tertiary/ local roads. It is used by organizations such as GloBio to monitor human impacts on biodiversity. The GRIP dataset consists of global and regional vector datasets in ESRI file geodatabase and shapefile format and global raster datasets of road density at a 5 arcminutes resolution (~8x8km).RLC
Data gathering such as this may appear to be a process like that of an embalmer, given the rate of change in biodiversity and the increase of global warming gases, largely facilitated by the expansion of roads and what the lead to for our use. But, could it be that simple? Would it be possible to end road construction?
The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset was developed to provide a more recent and consistent global roads dataset for global environmental and biodiversity assessment models such as GLOBIO. The GRIP dataset consists of global and regional vector datasets in ESRI file geodatabase and shapefile format and global raster datasets of road density at a 5 arcminutes resolution (~8x8km).
The United Kingdom has a national land-use policy like most of the EU. However, the UK is a dense island nation represented by a core of residential, institutional, and commercial urban centers in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While the relationship with the Republic of Ireland is improving, it is deteriorating with the EU due to Brexit and complications with Northern Ireland.
The urgency of sustainable energy or a zero-waste world is well defined philosophically, but the question of successful implementation is unanswered. On the other hand, the UK might be the first place of significant size where implementation will offer some hope.
In the United States and the EU, economic policy distributes energy resources to accomplish affordability while anticipating a period of increased scarcity extending through the twenty-first century.
The increase in “green deals” and the promotion of tech innovations focus on all levels of new urban development. Alternative bio-energy/hybrid systems design materials based on re-use as the sustainable alternative addresses 10% to 20% of the problem. This is roughly equivalent to the rate of new products entering the market. The remaining 80% to 90% is represented by the world that is already built.
The issue is neatly symbolized in the United States by the high-speed train. Thousands of rail mass transit miles in older urban centers offer a century of trial and error development of enormous value to successful urbanization. For example, the New York City transit service area is just 321 square miles serving its 8 plus million residents who, over the course of one year, will travel nearly 12 billion miles.
Older mass transit systems are examples of how government absorbs private economic development in the public interest. Based on where and when the goalposts are set, “a penny saved” and “payback” investment in the existing dense core should encourage the holders of real estate to invest mightily to save millions. Still, the capital continues to move to greenfield opportunity (AKA – nice flat farmland) and in the American drylands (mid-to southwest areas), where substantial new development has occurred.
As of the beginning of the 21st century, nothing compels investors to “future-proof” past the wonders of a solid ROI. Doing so will require new forms of public investment to move the dime on the zero-sum question by limiting development outside of the present urban core with various disincentives.
Similar limitations are outlined in the vital areas of the social economy. The social security systems of European and American origin drew a safety line around everyone. These health, education, welfare, and defense investments borrowed extensively on continuously advancing “productivity” technologies. Is it reasonable to protect the high cost of long life and civil society, or is it more responsible for funding a permanent state of global warfare in various combat settings?
The only threat to analysts becomes increased social and economic dysfunctions contained within “regions.” The bet on technology, a reasoned quality of life contract, and a way to end the confrontational conditions caused by the poor allocation of energy resources require a serious look at the lines of demarcation.
DATASETS & INDICATORS
The following list of “road datasets” suggests how important investors assess this large public function. Conduct a simple search test of the dataset titles [in brackets] below to confirm this impression. Report back via comments and published papers, musings and so on. Thanks
Road density (km of road per 100 sq. km of land area) [IS.ROD.DNST.K2] Roads, goods transported (million ton-km) [IS.ROD.GOOD.MT.K6] Roads, paved (% of total roads) [IS.ROD.PAVE.ZS] Roads, passengers carried (million passenger-km) [IS.ROD.PSGR.K6] Road sector diesel fuel consumption (kt of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.DESL.KT] Road sector diesel fuel consumption per capita (kg of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.DESL.PC] Road sector energy consumption (kt of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.ENGY.KT] Road sector energy consumption per capita (kg of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.ENGY.PC] Road sector energy consumption (% of total energy consumption) [IS.ROD.ENGY.ZS] Road sector gasoline fuel consumption (kt of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.SGAS.KT] Road sector gasoline fuel consumption per capita (kg of oil equivalent) [IS.ROD.SGAS.PC] Motor vehicles (per 1,000 people) [IS.VEH.NVEH.P3] Passenger cars (per 1,000 people) [IS.VEH.PCAR.P3] Vehicles (per km of road) [IS.VEH.ROAD.K1]
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.
Twentieth-century urban and technological development events represent immense power. Yet, whether they are judged superficial, highly significant, or isolated and irrelevant, all share the common ground of small self-interest groups nested into their environments with various needs, interests, and concerns. Diversity is good for density.
The city makers and builders might control great wealth for scanning vast expansion opportunities. On the other hand, the makers could implement simple actions such as confronting crime abuses with more sophistication than a neighborhood watch. The deep and complex range of these events are measures of the urban place and experience. They are like the frequencies used to describe the technology of communication. Whether the event source is the long reach of a real estate investment trust or a modest urban infill project, the impact, whether top-down or up from the bottom, is less relevant than the diversity of methods applied by these actors and thereafter the regulators of events in response.
Envision a set of human occurrences in single-family homes on half an acre, tree-filled lots and compare that activity to what might occur in rows of multiple-story apartment buildings resting on commercial service and retail establishments, a school, and a couple of train stations.
Accounts of the action contained in urban spaces allow us to define unique spheres of influence. For example, a market analyst or urban demographer might apply the gravity model (wiki) to examine the economics of the actions and events within these places. Still, the actual forces involved are not dissimilar to that between the earth, our moon, and the solar system in which we are contained. The wonder of the billions of small moments involved in this system is that now it is possible to imagine taking stock of all of them, and there are many examples.
The so-called “smart-city” already lives in the imaginative eyes of those who are now trying to build them, and they might call upon an IBM data system called “Watson” to examine options, and so on. The need to build “a safe camp” or ‘a good city’ or “a flourishing earth” is a process that succeeds best when the action is community-motivated and understood as such. Individual self-interest behaviors are well known, and extraordinary work on interpersonal communication and behavior continues to advance. This makes the main problem very clear, but it is no longer a camp or a city. It is the earth. It is not something we can build like a camp or a city, or is it?
Nearly eight billion people form the earth community. Comparatively, small groups know the spatial implication of this. Yet, while each is capable of great accomplishment, they prove to be painfully ineffective in solving ‘whole earth’ problems. Yet, we also know the most successful responses to changing conditions, both social and natural, are buried in these small actions.
What are the connective tissues that would make a whole earth strategy workable?
In our minds-eye, a few practical examples in three segments are crawling into view that might become whole earth networks aimed at human dignity. The armature for building this vision is built on the grid, the second segment deals with the nature of consumption within the grid, and the third examines the urban brand or vision so formed.
The Infinite Grid
Alongside the expected order of the urban grid stands its shadow. Grids demonstrate an infinite matrix, a system for moving forever outward over the landscape. But, equally, the complexity of the movement developed for the use of all grids brings forth the novelty essential to what Alfred North Whitehead describes as the “what else” question.
We require knowing what is possible now. Science and engineering disciplines inject the grid with service components like mass transportation, steel construction, and the elevator. The grid provides unlimited electric power within all spaces, and with it, the presumption of certainty such as living is about thinking up new ways to live. The unique human capacity for campfire innovation is effective and responds to challenge well. Then suddenly, the urban question changed from how can we “make cities better” to “can we stop cities” and we all know why.
From basic urban reform to anti-sprawl, today’s global conditions are born of grid technologies that have begun to threaten life and community, but it still holds the novelty we seek. The same way the stars were once seen as sparks from the fire, the city’s vision as unending expansion will also change. Yet, we face one single great problem. Will the unlimited potential of the sphere bring balance and containment to the infinite grid?
Materialism is associated with human well-being toward the negative. It tends to reduce positive-social behavior on interpersonal levels. We also see materialism as a major contributor to ecologically destructive actions defined globally as “overshoots” and “footprints.” Worsening educational and social outcomes occur when focusing on the supremacy of personal preference and pleasure over other values. Finally, excessive materialistic behavior is associated with unmanageable debt, often linked to a broader range of pathologies. While these are negative outcomes, the economic arguments dismiss these criticisms as unfortunate behavior while denying the cancerous downside of growth. Containment will require a new kind of intelligent abundance.
The economic growth of nations and the foundation of most revenue schemes depend greatly on the two forms of physical consumption. The overall economic condition is clear; it will drive spending to high levels by encouraging the purchase of “materials,” but that includes all required to provide or buy an “experience,” and therein lays the novelty we seek. As spending shifts away from physical products toward acquiring personal experience, it offers a unique step toward sustainability. It could build a society with the capacity to recognize the power of introspection and limits.
The Creative Asset
Cities have a brand heritage often leveraged as history along with a set of cool stories that firmly establish their urban product. One of the most important or useful of these narrative brands is the ability to cross-cultural borders with food, social norms, sensibilities, clothing, patterns, color, and experiences you might not acquire otherwise. However, when ‘professional urbanists’ seek to change an existing condition thought of as bad to something good, they have not successfully targeted their target audiences for the lack of one ability — to shift perspective.
Narrowing the professional focus to a single project or program is a step toward failure unless it can be consistently, if now relentlessly infused, with a new view up from the bottom, or from alongside, the top, or via a simple pan inward across the entire creative landscape. The capacity for superlative focus in response to a violent storm or fire is well known. It is a power to be tapped in new ways as its purpose is to force an element of lateral “death and life” Jacobian creativity in every action (after Jane Jacobs, 1969).
For another example, the creative application of an oblique strategy is one of the best ways to shift views and see new opportunities. Please take a moment to explore. Then, post it in the comment section below if it works—a personal reference via BBC podcast here (30 minutes).
The oblique strategy phrase that started the three indulgent and digressive paragraphs below was: “Make a “blank” valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame.”
Due to the above reference to Jane Jacobs, I will put a regional development policy idea aimed at increasing non-auto access to places in an exquisite frame. As a result, various multi-use districts would gain advanced levels of market strength given three new frames of regional urban development policy.
First, I saw employment growth in these beautiful business clusters created by land-use policies that discouraged job dispersion. Then the potential for these sleek competitive regional economy trains emerged. They were blue.
These trains controlled the direction, if not the physical quality of development or the stability of growth, but each cluster and the train riders had enormous power.
Next, a portrait of the funding agents for quality urban form found my frame. My blue transit system (rail, light rail, and bus) connected combinations of government services, knowledge-based employers, and major universities and medical centers, including “entertainment-based” cultural institutions with finely targeted retail offerings.
The “branding” idea of strong, dense centers connected to other strong, dense centers is an elegant picture. The next frame captured traditional agricultural areas, watershed protection zones, and other natural resource functions, including older auto-oriented retail centers and other large warehouse and distribution centers reliant on trucking. These outliers (currently dominating my landscape) will gain the opportunity to be financially supported to defend an expanding natural environment through stewardship. Equally, the dense core structure offers an environment where the toxins of human activity are contained and eliminated with zero-waste policies, but I digress.
Summary: Choose How Your World Works
That little “oblique” exercise above is a method to take a personal experience (my education, training, career) and think about how the world should work. The concept works equally well in the organizational development of small groups, especially when there is a breakdown.
This brief essay on frequency and diversity is a simple example of individual thought and ideas. It needs to fit somewhere like a thought bubble among other people to conclude this way.
Government should pay for the essential stuff like keeping the nation on a permanent war footing or to help corporations and great big banks cover losses, oh, and spying lots of spying to protect old lines in the sand. But, then again, maybe it (that would be we) should pay for health and environmental protection, affordable housing and public transportation, and lots of education and training.
I know the former is a well-known path to economic distrust and collapse and the other, an intentional step away from madness toward human dignity. Yet, paradoxically, the former policies may be drawn by “rampart survivalists” as the way it has always been and requires us to circle the wagons. The latter may want to “occupy” new economic priorities by causing a re-energized, democratically digitized, public networking process. Both are “small group” formations – the former is a small group of large organizations and the other a large group of small organizations. The thing on offer in this example is to launch a quest for balance instead of power.
The former can be overly defined as the one or two-percent groups with great financial power, global corporate structures, and a managed “public good” regime on the balance sheet. The latter is composed of lots of small groups with chaotic, tentative goodness rules because they are working on new theories of financial power and economic change. One is informed by a small group press and media that the few need and read to solve information problems. The latter works to solve the integration problems of small groups, and they read about ways to build new education process networks. These two forces are at work to change the other. With both in play, something exciting might happen in the region of balance.
Examine the following examples of that large group of small organizations struggling to find new ways to build their small individual stories into a larger and globally efficacious narrative.
The Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project. Connect people to their personal and community ecosystems. To create a way forward, this value is held as the guiding all others. This force identifies and eliminates all elements that contribute to ecological collapse and, in doing so, design and implements a biomimetic future. This alternative is known as the new intentional pathway.
Science and Technology
Ask Nature challenges everyone to reexamine every aspect of how we use nature to make stuff, think and store ideas, and manage waste. It will produce a massive catalog of nature’s solutions to human design challenges.
Consumption and Well Being
The Good Guide proves people with safe, healthy, green, & ethical product reviews based on scientific ratings of some 250,000products
Education and Training
Kahn Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone.”
Participants are asked to expand this list in the comment section below to help develop new main headings, indexing, and groups. The main criteria being the information, and in some cases, the services provided are free. Voluntary donations may be requested.
Climate change events and displacement impacts threaten water, land, and food security. These security questions link directly to culture as defined by race and spirituality, wealth and poverty, and so on. A thousand questions rise to decide whether or not a proposed practice such as treating carbon dioxide as a regulated pollutant or whether a financing scheme such as “cap and trade” fits into how your world works when it comes to the cost of food, energy, water, transportation, and housing for people.
Whether it is the “company store” or cooperative alternative, the question will remain clear. Is there an equitable transition made by this decision that increases human dignity opportunities and reduces the potential for ecological disruption and catastrophic resolution?
“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.”
Challenging smart-growth-talk has seemed impotent until recently. Perhaps this is why it might change.
A decade ago, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan contrasted sustainability defined technologically and ecologically in their book Ecological Design. They pointed to the hubris embedded in the tech-solution approach unless it was fully tethered by how David W. Orr describes the higher priority of ecological principles. (See one through four below.) Technology is zero-sum +(but not net-zero) when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change.
First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset. (Citicorp, AIG, and the rest…)
Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt most successfully from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change. (something that every small successful business knows well)
Third, traditional knowledge that co-evolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used. (duh, the 2008 election)
Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face. (climate change is as more message as measure)
Technology is zero-sum when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change. The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et. al) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:
The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et al.) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. It was published on January 12, 2009. One can order from Island Press here. For more information, See Dernbach’s website. See “Books” and papers for lists.
The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:
Ecological footprint system integration
Greenhouse gas reduction programs
Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
Organize government initiatives using sustainability principles to prioritize
Expand options for sustainable living choices to consumers
The advancement of public and formal education to higher levels
Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
Systematically improve access to data for decision making
The major networks C-Span, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, etc., are plentiful. Those who broadcast to the nation for free (with ads) are asked to follow the fairness doctrine. But, on the other hand, cable television can produce strange “entertainment news” and misdirect, position lies, and step as close to incitement of insurrection as possible. Other online sources range from subscription-based and highly expensive free, slightly odd, smart, and hopeful.
I live in the center of Brooklyn, just south of Prospect Park. I believe there is a need for a political review channel that is purely local. It would cover Congressional Districts 7, 8, and 9 led by Nadia, Hakeem, and Yvette as major contributors to the influence and effect the federal government might have on the lives of the residents from year to year. These three districts have about 2.1 million people. A few hours a month could fund their campaigns with a 20 share of that audience. The combination of experience and personal styles would be interesting. Our representatives have YouTube tidbits worthy of listening if you take a seasoned “What are they saying?” attitude. Solid local reporting on the workings of Congress by our Congressional Representatives could consist of City Council and state representatives.
Stronger together, but all of this is impossible. One cable station New York One (Spectrum), produces a few issues specific to Brooklyn and the rest of the boroughs. It requires a subscription. It should be free.
Watch and Listen to Achieve Confirmation Bias OR —
Media on “politics, people and issues’ has suddenly become vital within the realm of “confirmation bias.” Look it up, the Wiki is a good place to start. Please weigh in on the following political outlets and make your thoughts known regarding a “none of what you read/half of what you see” approach for getting to good questions. Also note, the bias here is to the left, and it is proving difficult to find center/right examples.
Brookings is one of the original “think tanks. “ Its review of issues has been tagged “liberal” by the American Enterprise Institute largely because of its positions on urban policy. The United States has become a metro nation. For this reason, they advocate for an urban policy agenda focused more on “metro-regions” than “States.”
John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post to become The Politico‘s editor in chief and executive editor. Politico
The Humanist Report is a retake of a week’s news. It circulates socio-political and religious news stories with what sounds like a politically progressive commentary.
MoJo is a politically progressive American magazine that does independent and investigative reporting on politics, the environment, human rights, and culture. Clara Jeffery serves as editor. Monika Bauerlein has been CEO since 2015
A news aggregator and blog has both localized and international editions founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, Jonah Peretti, and Andrew Breitbart. Despite the last name, the information is a progressive accumulation, reflecting the overall tenor of reporting justice and fairness issues. The wiki biography links are a good place to start.
Viewers and supporters of The PBS News Hour will recognize Amy Walter’s commentary and analysis and her role as the anchor on Washington Week. The Cook Political Report includes a subscription that provides good detail on local congressional issues for $350.00 and only $1,400 for five subscribers. Something to keep in mind as the New York Delegation: Indivisible builds a base.
Moyers is well-known. He is one whose life as a journalist is to make sure we understand the principles of democracy and see the erosions of liberty. This site has 1,000 archived programs.
The National Journal says it equips government and business leaders with information, insight, and connections they need. Most DC-based organizations have higher followings and engagement rates on Facebook than on Twitter. However, Facebook remains more of an entertainment platform than a news platform. #DCInfoAge
The next step would be to examine local independent broadcasters to help aggregate national issues into a local impact presentation. There is an unending media explosion. It will end with a number – those who will listen. This is probably good because ever since POTUS-45 declared it “the enemy of the people,” far too many people pick a “media” to follow in a silo, even though it might kill you, get you into prison, It just makes choosing difficult. Help choose. Peace.
“Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see. It frees you to ask good questions.”
The authors in the following (long list) visit New York City routinely. Perhaps they would enjoy a conference…a workshop. All of the works listed below are a decade and a half or more. The question to you as a reader is who among them made sense on the “design” for change? Who remained persuasive enough to see implementation? Use the form below. Thank you so much for your attention and participation. One example from personal experience has been the lasting contribution of Robert Gutman to encourage architects to engage in social change through design.
Global Challenge Questions
Architectural Practice: A Critical View by Robert Gutman
Thousands of practitioners in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry may have been influenced (albeit briefly in a classroom) by Robert Gutman’s ratio of professionals to the urban population (Princeton Arch Press 1988). The central point was about 98% of the population never gets to meet or talk with an architect or engineer – ever.
I would like to recall Robert Gutman to start off. The point being, to define measures of inequality in design practice.
The intellectual rigor of Putnam’s research has much to offer. In Architectural Practice, he established useful controls for a wide range of factors such as poverty, residential mobility, and education that affect “life in architecture.”
To set a relevant tone for making urban design a comprehensive AEC contribution to sustainable earth, re-read and update the legacy of Robert Gutman. Then work to address questions such as the following to people such Adolfo Carrin Jr., White House Office of Urban Affairs (a planner) (Twitter), or Shaun Donovan, an architect (HUD) currently looking to my NYC’s Mayor. (Twitter) and their global counterparts. Believe me, and they are both very familiar with “bottom-feeding” architecture and planning. A key question is whether they continue to find it an acceptable part of the overall community development puzzle as generational or merely transitional/
Question One: How possible is it to locally (if not globally) alter fee structures to represent a new set of values such as carbon reduced, energy saved, life cycle defined.? When will new levels of public leadership effectively encourage changes in the “live-work/play” behavior of humans over the next century that enhances their safety and self-esteem, and well-being? If not, why not? Get a handle on that, and the second question might be fully definable within AEC.
Question Two: Without a doubt, we live in a house that we all build, but unlike the other service professions, AEC produces places for hundreds, even thousands of private domains interspersed with poorly linked and unevaluated public realms. It has the name SLAP, for space left over after planning! How can this industry change the existing contours of civic representation in AEC? AEC is tragically invested in so few that it seems illogical not to address a greater sense of balance in the public goods market if not, a broader social system for non-litigious support and participation.
The first stage of a humanitarian crisis is generally denial. As a result, defining the first question offers hope for finding and accepting new methods for living sustainably on the earth. The second question is aimed at biological beings facing an ecological crisis that is not short-term. It must be made clear that a focus on the technology of “life: work/play” will not effectively define these ecological problems. Essentially, there is no fix without establishing a vastly broader sense of responsibility.
Given this foundation, several other questions require development: What policy changes within New York would the following folks recommend? (fiscal, land use, zoning) How would they implement a regional strategy?
Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Position: Consumer-driven change will work, given the right iPhone-type app at the right time. To understand the full impact of a single consumption choice, the question “Is this good for Earth?” is impossible to answer for the lack of life cycle data. The moment of consumption is well past design or production and ahead of use and disposal. Daniel Goleman defines this “being good” problem in his book, Ecological Intelligence and describes “industrial ecology” as a way to act ecologically – confronting a complex global challenge that is embedded in personal consumption choices and, in doing so, alter the forces that drive design and production, as well as, demand new cycles of responsible disposal and retention.
The Entropy Problem
Beyond advancing the bounded rationality embedded in individual consumption choices, the backbone of consumption is the connection between railways, expressways, and the power- and water-grids. The body held by this backbone is considered infinite. Will the ecological intelligence approach improve the quality of decisions that will make the 50,000 miles of national expressway infrastructure functional, or 225,000-mile national rail system more useful, or keep 200,000 miles of national grid power from routine catastrophic failure or plug up a very, very leaky water grid? Simple answer — no f’n way.
The scale of coordination among states to address these questions is well beyond the power of individual consumer choice. The mega-city structure of these regions and mix of private, government, and public benefit corporations serving as ad hoc regulatory bodies do not appear to have a capacity for rational thought, let alone ecological intelligence.
Sustainable America by John Dernbach
Position: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. Ten themes are developed by Dernbach as follows:
Ecological footprint system integration
Greenhouse gas reduction programs
Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
Organizing government using sustainability principles to prioritize
Expand options for sustainable living to consumers
Advance general public and formal education
Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
Systematically improve access to data for decision making
Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan said it best in Ecological Design when they contrasted sustainability defined technologically as opposed to ecologically (pp. 18-23) Here they summarized David W. Orr’s position on ecology.
First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset.
Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt only from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change.
Third, traditional knowledge that coevolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used.
Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face.
Technology is zero sum when placed in a priority higher than these principles of real change.
Peter Droege also believes the question of technology is probably secondary. He is the author of The Renewable City: A Comprehensive Guide To An Urban Revolution and offers up the tool kits on city greening that have been around since the 1970s. The kicker is they were not implemented for the lack of “payback” and other reasons.
Mitchel Joachim seeks to integrate ecological design, but Dr. Joachim wins Time Magazine’s Best Invention (2007) for work with Smart Cities Group Compacted Car. As a partner in the nonprofit design organization Terreform, Fab Tree Hab project, and so on, he baits the Sprawl vs. Urban Center debate as a choice: is it better to spread over the landscape or produce dense, compact cities. Aside from the “unstoppably both” answer and the more jargon than juice issue, is anything going on here other than too much talent chasing after too much money, or is it more hubris? I’m talking about the kind of technology embedded in Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon (the $100M sailing ship that one person can sail). Even he is embarrassed.
Mike Davis would seriously disagree about the “urban solution” to the “global challenge” question in Planet of Slums. As an urban theorist, Davis takes a global approach to the poverty that dominates the planet’s urban population. The list is growing from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum. Davis argues health, justice, and social issues associated with gargantuan slums like Mexico City’s estimated population of 4 million seem invisible in world politics. He writes, “The demonizing rhetoric of the various international wars on terrorism, drugs, and crime is so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.” Statistics showing the number of “mega slums” or “when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery” have been forming since the 1960s. Davis paints a bleak picture of urbanization’s upward trend and a severely negative outlook for urban slum-dwellers.
Matthew Kahn wrote Green Cities: Urban Growth and Environment to frame the process of rapid urban growth and sprawl as a source of concern about economic exclusion and environmental health. Are they mutually exclusive? Most policies pursue both, but Kahn suggests it is naive to do so. Is Kahn the best for asking the tough questions about the costs?
Douglas Farr’s recent publication, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature (2007): Wiley (and a whopping $75.00 and 304 pages) is his admitted first “draft.” The debate is open, case studies are available, but the initial steps toward a neighborhood-based “excellence” process on the long list of techniques worthy of implementation are outlined well. Doug will be the first to tell you that it is “hell” out there, especially after spending a decade on a relatively simple process of trying to make it easy to walk from one place to the next. New Yorkers know intuitively that so many solutions to the problems of the glog lie quietly inside our tiny realm of islands. (glog? – the blogged globe).
Peter Newman and Isabella Jennings most recent work is Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems, Principals and Practices. (2007) This book explores urban design as a resource for streaming energy, materials, and information into a new urban system. Newman and Jennings recognize that “a system” can only be described in larger, more complex systems. In this brief introduction (296p), urbanization as a system presents a series of human/non-human “man against nature” interactions inexorably overwhelmed by the larger ecosystem. Nevertheless, Newman and Jennings make a case for an urban solution to the compelling global challenge.
Christopher Leinberger’s recent work is The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream. (2007) Chris is within driving distance of Detroit and must therefore be compelled to write a book with this title. Top on his list of problems is the lack of affordability in communities where walking to most services is available and mass transit for the remaining specialized services affordable and comfortable. Concerns regarding recent land-use policies in NYC now support as many as nineteen different forms of “drivable sub-urbanism” in New York City that seriously challenges the existing walkable urbanism structure. Local leadership is failing as developers (who only know how to do it their way) continue to be very pocketbook persuasive with policymakers. What is that other book – Retrofitting Suburbia?
Kim Moody has prepared a detailed summary of political/fiscal policy From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City 1974 to the Present. (2007). The book summarizes the transformation of political and fiscal power by the Financial Control Board following the 1974 Fiscal Crisis. Since then, the New York City Planning Commission and the Department of City Planning’s budgetary powers are in the hands of the New York State government, whose “fiscal order” has become a national embarrassment. Several questions require development as follows: Even though he believes it is “nearly too late” to make policy changes that would effectively address the economic “bifurcation” of New York, we are compelled to ask what might be done? How would he implement a regional strategy that also recognizes older urban centers’ impoverishment throughout the region?
Collaboration in Urban Design and Planning was recently extolled in Part III “The Design and Planning Components (Levels of Integration)” in the second edition of The Built Environment: A collaborative inquiry into Design and Planning (2007), edited by Wendy McClure and Tom Bartuska, Washington State University.
Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe wrote An Inconvenient Book (Threshold Editions). The tough solutions to problems such as global warming, poverty, and political correctness are described. Many weeks on NYT bestseller list. I suggest following it up… via James Lovelock vs. James Hansen? Panel and workshop?
ULI’s Army (always used their Dollars and Cents series but this caught my eye)
Getting Density Right: Tools for Creating Vibrant Compact Development. The compact development tools are in place for New York City, yet walkable communities remain strangely incomplete. What is missing? According to NMHC, the key to improvements will be better leadership from local officials and neighborhood activists. The “frontline” obstacles to compact development are many. A review of this resource is needed. Get it, read it, report and review. It’s $40 with a DVD of start-up presentation materials.
Robert Wright in Nonzero – The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Pantheon Books 2000) draws parallels between the trials and errors in the evolution of life and the determination of human culture to form a moral architecture. The competitiveness for “place” through manipulating resources ultimately demands a social, if not a moral, trade and exchange framework.
For the most part, this relationship is the stuff of embedded knowledge that we “just know” but don’t talk much about in our day-to-day discourses. Wright suggests this social data frames the trajectories of the community through selection. Well examined, these processes become predictable and will ultimately lead to nonzero. Why? Our capacity to produce increased system complexity is grounded in the reality of trends and organic form evolution over thousands of years. It is also a confirmation of the inevitability of convergences in the emergence of civilizations.
As we know, life emerged from the inorganic to organic, to biological, and ultimately to physiological specializations producing the psychological – the mind. In this continuum, the next stages of human history will be defined by the globalization of trade and communication technologies. Yet, is the human transcendental destiny defined by expanding our potential to shop? Is this a world with meaning? Is it worth having? Where is the glue to bind these survival and pleasure imperatives to a moral reality? The argument in Nonzero is the application of design as the teleological determinant.
The nearly irredeemable corruptions of systems that would process and manipulate physical material, including DNA, are balanced best by seeding human capacity with the information management resources to see, feel, and define the interwoven refined transformations into these choices. We are now entitled to answer “of what community am I a member? We should also be entitled to ask and answer “of what community will I become a member by the making of these choices?”
In Makeshift Metropolisby Witold Rybczynski allows his teaching ability to lay down a lecture without admitting that at this stage in human history — people really need to be protected from what they want — Americans especially. Like other top-level designers who succeed in a big way, I think Rybczunski writes to compromise with this success’s realities as a teaching moment. You see it in the choices he makes to think once again on his own terms, or at least free of his client’s terms in a way that justifies the work of being incremental in the urban landscape.
The urban world is a physical and intellectual experience that fuels periods of vast prosperity, civic responsibility, investor confidence, and an intangible sense of â€œpride of placeâ€ regardless of economic status. Cities are catalysts for millions of experimental expressions of human thought and desire. They range from the myopia of projects for rapid capital returns to civil self-reforming society’s grand visions. Within these many experiments, perhaps the greatest question confronting the expansion of global urbanism is whether it is capable of containment. Is the city a physical entity that can stop expanding? Were this possible, it would give the city entity a new ultimate purpose to focus on humankind’s intellectual capacity and to recognize one key priority. Protecting the diversity of the wilderness requires separation.
We tend to forget that the market is never right until it corrects what some call the race to the bottom in corporate governance. It also suggests that the aggregate of individual decisions eventually becoming overwhelming in every system. Turn the econometrics of this fact on the earth as a whole, and the rate of resource consumption is approaching the equivalent of 1.4 earths per year. It now (11.30.2011) takes approximately 18 months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in one year. The level of correction suggested in this model is painful to contemplate.
Like so many before him, I fear that Witold Rybczynski will force himself or will be forced into the survivalist fringe of Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti or the anarchy of Larry Harvey’s Black Rock City to be true to his word. One is physical proof of intellect. The other is a call to the intellect for proof. Both illustrate how messy humans (OK, just architects) will get to make a disjointed point.
As you’ve scrolled to the end breezing through all of the great thoughts of the thoughtful and yes, nothing has happened in the physical world, save a few hints here and there.
People all over the world select great readings and reviews to share. An architect, engineers, and construction filter for this summary of “human condition writers” are built on one question. What kind of earth are we building? Please submit similar networks that use similar filters. An occasional joint session with “same bubble” choices could produce excellent results. Please consider participating in the development of this resource.
The main ability to learn is new ways of thinking is due to an initial agreement. Every idea is carefully coupled with a resonant resolve to stimulate a rejection of it in trade for a larger union. This practice is both intellectual and anti-intellectual, and it is healthy. The following agreement accepts the idea that communication will not occur without the willingness to persuade or be persuaded.
In 1968 the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council of New York (CHPC) produced a little sixteen-page booklet on the housing problem with a five-room apartment on the cover. The presentation’s genius is how the five rooms (image here) represent housing development production problems. They were labeled 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs, and then pointed out of these five, lowering the cost of money produced the only substantial impact on rent. A post on the subject of housing and CHPC is in the Malfunctions series is here.
The Furman Center has produced one of the most comprehensive lists of all the ways government and the private sector are attempting to produce affordable housing. As it stands now, the resource to look at first is in the digital library — here. It is great for the Housing Geek Squad, but the site would do well to break it down into CHPCs five rooms for the ordinary person with interest, perhaps a seat on a CDC neighborhood board.
If you took a quick look at it, what happened to you is called MEGO for my-eyes-glaze-over. I am known for always one thing regarding data: no one is as smart as all of us, so a little MEGO is OK. There are a lot of people working very hard to produce housing. Simplicity is offered in the self-assessment strategy section (here). There is a short version and a longer one if the “short” sell moves your needle.
In addition to producing enough detail for a nuclear scientist, the Policy Map (here) will take the user to regional MSAs throughout the United States for a regional context and a housing report. The thing to do with a lot of information is to enjoy knowing it is there so that if a question is posed, places like this often provide suitable answers. The image above represents the edgelessness of urbanization and the location of where it has the greater density. Were it to develop a real edge; housing production might have a chance.
The counties of the NY metropolitan area, like that of New York State, produce a GDP similar to Canada. The report outlines the fine detail of housing affordability and how it will not survive economically if every dollar earned is taken for rent by the shelter owners. The formula used now is to produce the minimum proportion required to house low- and moderate-households fully.
Another excellent, low-BS source comes from the Independent Budget Office on a wide range of problems confronting New York City residents.
If you look at the snapshot, you will see how the proportions of affordability production are developed for public distribution. It is not the minimum required by any reasonable standard. However, it is an effort of value embroiled among manly other metro areas in the United States dealing with the failure of a robust national housing policy.
All Analysis Leads to One Big Question
When will a growing proportion of new and rehabilitated housing be financed through direct grants for construction and long-term operation?
Within the second decade of the 21st c., the need for a fully-funded public production role in housing will be more than apparent to policy-makers. It will be a necessity. A plan to prepare for this will be required. The public will have to come to terms with several facts.
First, there is a reasonable amount of affordable housing, but a vast portion of it is in the wrong place, poorly built, and in several regions throughout the nation that present significant environmental dangers associated with climate change.
Second, as it plays out in the general bigotry of people, racism has produced a series of geographic aberrations such as the concentration of poverty, massive disinvestment in public housing, once considered transitional, but today traps for the elderly and people of color.
Third, the “us vs. them” problem. Diversity works in dense urban areas – people of mixed economic backgrounds can easily share an apartment building, the subway, services, and shopping. Diversity in areas of low density is far more seriously ghettoized. Public investment in housing can work to pay the green premium and retain affordability in dense metro areas. It will have a much greater problem making the same investment in locations without a transit-based strategy linking small metro-locations.
However, there are other issues as the political choices stand for Americans in this decade. The three listed above are essentially non-negotiable. Listen again. The song is fun to hear.
Personal growth is the main stimulant of culture and a balancing agent against the excesses of power. When this growth is offered to all people, and we are slowly coming to realize the stimulants are here, and it is now, the next fight for freedom will be to sustain our ability to share what we know, but the very first place to test for truth will be right outside your front door and where you can walk from there.
A broad new set of factors to the urban scale expresses a numerical value such as a price level of something compared to something else. When used to index urban “livability” across the rapidly changing structure of cities, the index will aid policymakers to rate the sensibilities of ordinary working people about those who seek to profit from their labor, skill, insight, and productivity.
Two ranking styles are popular; the first puts a high value on economic and financial services supporting trade in material resources and political and cultural matters. The second index lists environmental pleasures such as the climate, interesting scenes, and the general absence of discord. This yields objective criteria and a means to implement a measured response to a specific human need or general desire regardless of wealth or station.
A city’s economic value is a mathematical matter, and only recently have specific environmental conditions been added as costs associated with aesthetic perspectives. The former is a mathematical value associated with sustainable or viable, resilient or vibrant, secure or stable. Aesthetic measures associated with sociocultural conditions such as truth and beauty or governance services such as law are also. The mathematics of index ratings on all of these things center on weight, whether weighted equally or in a framework for preferences. The demand for policies that measure and react in short, precise cycles has begun.
Without a doubt, these conditions of value continue to produce a dense urban form for people, and yet it remains an abstraction of consumption. The new flurry of numbers means one new thing, “they know” and “we know they know,” so now what? The driving factor for these new index factors will involve three-quarters of the earth’s population who will have an urban life of some description by the year 2050. The demand for an urban life has created this 3:1 ratio of “attraction,” leading to self-fulfilling urban development that continues without check. Those who remain outside the urban region are the most important to sustaining that realm and keeping its ability to be wild, safe.
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.
Two forces are at work in the continuing creation of NYC. First-force is energy aimed toward “centers.” Second-force moves outward and away from its centers. Implementing the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) is an interesting example using a comprehensive urban planning perspective of both. The centers are locations where there are buildings with more than 25,000 square feet in NYC. The force is generated by a global condition demanding a reduction in GHGs. The focus is on large urban centers within large metropolitan cities.
The CMA requires building owners to contribute to meeting the 80/50 goal.
By 2050 NYC will reduce GHG’s to 80% of current levels.
If the legislation passes, the first milestone in the ten-year LTCP will be the City Report’s Conditions (COC). The narrative will draw on the ongoing objective, measurable data that City agencies generate every year over the last five years and punch it into the COC. The COC focus on long-term issues as embedded in the data concerning long-term planning and sustainability will have to face the Climate Mobilization Act’s impact.
Suddenly the Climate Mobilization Act marches into the room from 2021 to 2024 with compliance requirements through 2029. If there were anything like a 1,300-pound Grizzly in community planning, it would be every building owner in the community with square footage over 25,000 square feet yelling, “the investment in energy efficiency, for the reduction of GHGs, will cost the community jobs and displace residents.”
The law says tenants will be protected, but we are in a buyer beware world. The following was set from “deepdive”
“When the act originally passed last year, owners of buildings where rent-regulated units make up less than 35% of the total were given an alternate path to compliance due to what officials called “outdated” rent laws in New York State. That path allowed landlords to pass the cost of building upgrades to tenants by charging for major capital improvements through higher rents.”
“Then in July, the state-level Housing Stability and Tenant Protections Act of 2019 altered how such improvements can be imposed by only allowing rent increases for rent-stabilized units if they make up 35% or more of the units in a building. While this adjustment saves tenants from having the costs of capital improvements and retrofits passed on to them, some councilmembers worried about landlords’ ability to absorb those costs themselves.”
“Elected officials said while more established landlords can likely take on the costs for improvements like HVAC and lighting upgrades. Still, those who manage smaller buildings may not be able to, especially as the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected their rental incomes.”
Residential building owners will see it as a perfect opportunity to displace tenants through major capital improvements with added harassment efforts. Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and careless rule enforcement allow building owners to raise rents on the unsuspecting. Documented abuses in monthly MCI rent hikes over $800 per apartment are well-known and feared.
Is it possible to imagine that the plan that eliminates jobs doesn’t matter because the people who have them will be displaced anyway? A counter-measure is available if the focus on the green economy is on jobs. The data is available in jobs from the production of a net-zero supply-chain to the production of well-educated people in the universities NYC has to offer. (See list)
Whether that ridiculous scenario occurs or is more likely in some neighborhoods than others, the Climate Change crisis is that Grizzly in the long term. It has the capacity to push aside all the other issues, education, transportation, public health, arts and culture, economic development, zoning, and land use.
Set by climate policy, the Climate Mobilization Act’s implementation priority will focus on projects that involve about 50,000 buildings in this category, about 2,500 have a million square feet or more. NYC’s Open Data portal has an example Building Footprints to illustrate that the city can be super-square-foot smart on a building by building basis.
The GHG reduction goal is a force applied from the outside toward these locations. The impact on sales and acquisitions in real estate markets for all land uses old, new, and proposed will be significant. The buildings are known and mapped. This is where defining the second-force comes into play.
An old example of a first-force, “center-inward,” and a second-force “center-outward” impact was global thermal nuclear war and auto-technology. The policy was to spread out urban life, leaving energy-efficient public transit systems behind and in decay. The priority was to produce the massive growth promised in an auto-driven economy. Hey, it looked great for a long time, but now hundreds of articles available from the GBC and elsewhere talk about the lack of balance in this policy.
The building owners and communities involved and informed by the Climate Mobilization Act will be encouraged to understand its requirements. These reactions to a problem will occur outwardly from the lawmakers who know stuff to ordinary people who haven’t been told and may never know.
The conduct required involves analyzing existing energy use, building condition, and capacity for financing implementation. Depending on the community, facility projects will either fail or comply with their carbon emissions reduction to 26% by 2024 – 2029. The Green Building Council (GBC) here provides details. The structures involved are organized by space classification, and fines and penalties for non-compliance may not be significant. A good example is the Empire State Building will have to pay $1.25 million as a fine for failure. See story, The New York Times.
Poorly defined second-forces can include the displacement of low- and moderate-income households in rapidly complying and gentrifying NYC neighborhoods due to the well-known impact of “major capital improvements.”. A well-funded outreach and community planning process is needed to get beyond the dubious effect of fines. Assured compliance with Social, Economic, and Environmental Design (SEED) and the LEED nod to this issue is essential. The SEED Evaluator and certification framework establishes social, economic, and environmental goals for building projects to measure success. Buildings are the major contributor to global warming. Still, the people of dense cities such as NYC are the low per capita energy users. The people in the buildings (residents and workers) should have a higher value than the buildings.
The lessons of displacement are throughout the United States.
I urge you to hear Colette Pichon Battle. What she knows now, we need to know.
TheGulf Coast Center for Law and Policy and Colette Pichon Battle’s work raises awareness on equitable disaster recovery, migration, economic development, climate justice, and energy democracy. Climate change is not the problem. It is a symptom of a more significant system problem the American people must address. TED presentation (here).
The NYC Zoning Resolution is now open for business as a negotiating tool. Mandated inclusion to subsidize rental housing is the most recent example. A mandated subsidy drawn from the energy savings produced could be used to prevent displacement and sustain affordability. A therm saved is one earned. The thing is, there is no negotiation with a rising ocean, only the duty to protect all people from all the forms of displacement it will cause.
Exposure to all the wiggle room (cash savings for wealth owners) could help line up social justice and equity goals with needed compliance. For example, Local Law 84 mandates benchmarking and disclosure of energy use. However, it exempts buildings with 10%+ (really, seriously) floor space devoted to data centers, trading floors, or broadcast studios. No Energy Star score is required because disclosing a terrible energy use intensity (EUI) is awful PR. Example abound in this arena of the wiggle.
Carbon offsets are allowed. Purchasing unlimited renewable energy credits (RECs), also known, can reduce reported emissions for electricity. A citywide emissions trading scheme (ETS) focused on greenhouse gas emissions will come up in 2021 and so on. Every dime should turn into an anti-displacement dollar for one reason — the law outlines “guidelines” most of the specifics have yet to be reconciled. And, in addition to Local Law 97, the Climate Mobilization Act includes other laws:
Local Law 98 – Wind Energy: Obliging the Department of Buildings to include wind energy generation in its toolbox of renewable energy technologies.
Thankfully, there are resources to help building owners navigate this evolving regulatory landscape. The NYC Retrofit Accelerator supports building owners’ efforts to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency. (calculator) At the state level, NYSERDA has several programs geared towards putting buildings on the path to energy efficiency.
Voluntary nonprofits are gaining traction to assist institutions with the measurement tasks for a price. A good example is CRIS — The Climate Registry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, reporting, and verification platform, accessible at https://www.cris4.org. This tool is used by The Climate Registry (TCR) reporting members, TCR-recognized Verification Bodies, and the general public to measure and/or communicate the carbon impacts of organizations of all sizes across all sectors.
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.
Wait to discover what the new Democratic members in the House have in common. There are three unelected leaders working 24/7/365 to get more Democrats and Independents in the House and Senate. They are Nina Turner, the new president of Our Revolution, Maurice Mitchell, the new national director of the Working Families Party, and Yvette Simpson, the new chief officer of Democracy for America. They share concerns for the dignity of the American worker and family, and they represent a unique political triumvirate. If they can protect one another, build an agenda for 2020 and start winning the future for the people left behind or pushed away it will be about more than politics. Whether conservative or progressive, that is all that matters.
The depth of their shared experience as dynamic African-American leaders will be measured by how well they inject the people’s intellect into movements for change, but one other thing they have in common is a little scary. They seem woefully inadequate to the task and appear slightly ineffectual in the scraps of video available. Perhaps, it is the lack the money essential for digging into the demography and mysteries of votes and power. This kind of analysis can be replaced by the analytical skills of a grassroots organizational structure but, do they have it? Some of the poor impression is theirs to own, but the main problem is with us. What do they need to prove? They can lift their organizations into positions of great power, but when will we know? Winning elections is no longer sufficient. What will be? What must we do?
Most of the poor and struggling families around the world are in the outlying urban areas both near and far from the dense core of economic forces that push and pull people from the land. Homelessness is a production function cities. The vast ability of dense urban areas cities to create demand also cause a maze of economic disruptions that displace and break families. In much of the world, the human byproduct of this displacement is evident in large informal settlements. The housing market is failing to provide housing to one-third of the world’s urban population. Why do they get pushed? Do they know? No, and no one is telling them, even in America.
One person knows a lot about the economics of this is Bruce Katz, Director of the Center on Urban Metropolitan Policy at Brookings, a century old, centrist purveyor of fact. There are five short presentations and one long video by Katz (HERE). It will take about 30 minutes to watch this selection. He may sound libertarian, but he is just the messenger. I recommend listening to him before reading further. If you’d rather not, here is the super short version and why a triumvirate, such as the three imagined here is essential.
Our metropolitan centers are by far, the vital economic engines of America, and as such will continue to produce unrelenting displacement pressure on low-and-moderate-income households. They are the engines of learning, full of universities, colleges, advocacy organizations and training centers fully capable of creating a next-generation citizen fully capable of breaking down and eliminating gender, racial and ethnic barriers. Details are here.
Skilled civic engagement in regional growth is a cultural phenomenon with specific strategies. First, retain the residence of threatened populations in the core. Second, draw down every opportunity to inject the reality of displacement pressure into the political heart of leaders. Third, this is a “no news is good” issue. Capable leadership will flee, equity holders will cash out, take their young and move far too soon into lower-cost environments (south and southwest). You need them. Encourage them to stay and fight.
Lastly, the 535 people at the federal level of representative leadership are ignorant of this fact, or at least behave that way by deferring to state powers. The triumvirate(s) suggested here is a stateless organization, they are capable of creating policies, projects, and priorities that strengthen multi-state regions and agencies. The U.S. more than its 50 states; it’s a network of 363 economically integrated metropolitan areas (click map above). Regional development policies are thousands of times more relevant to the future economic and social health of working-class America than the set of lines drawn by cartographers to establish the Republic a couple of centuries ago.
The boundaries of the states were formed using an imaginary grid that stretches across the earth. The intent of this coordinate scheme is to locate or identify precise geographic positions. The idea dates to 190–120 BC, it was used to draw uniform boundaries of the American states, and today your phone knows where you are to within a meter. The states are arbitrary constructs of uniformity and similar size, the metro-regions are synonymous with the health of the nation and in a metaphorical sense they are “circles.” The circle looks inward. It is an object that shows its boundary to the world, the grid does not. This is the organizing principle upon which triumvirates will develop their power. The voters of these regions are majority blue, Democrats and Independents. The organizational realignment toward multi-state economic regions will take a while, in the meantime, several strategic components require special attention.
Is a “rainbow coalition” possible? The presumption that it exists is wrong; it does not exist. All the appetizers, entrees and fixings are laid out in the kitchen, but supper has yet to find the dining table, even the one that is in the kitchen. The foundation for celebrating this high quality of change within the American diversity spectrum is barely recognized or touched let alone stirred with any fondness. We have no language, no string of words for it and it dates to 1984.
Building a foundation for American diversity is developing in two places, universities with civic engagement policies for incorporation across their curriculum from STEM programs to the more traditional centers. The leaders are in law and political science who carry the strongest interest in a sustained discourse on democracy and its institutions. The second place occurs in the city where the language of diversity is improving followed by state and federal elections that exhibit serious divisions and therein lies the dark side of the social justice coin.
Counting over several years and multiple election cycles, the U.S ranks 27th out of 35 economically developed countries in voter turnout. Volunteerism in community service ranks low at 20 to 25% of households, and it is top heavy in the higher income ranges. More recently, threats to the well-being of working families have increased civic engagement activities, especially in urban areas. These facts were so widely apparent that it led to the creation of the American Democracy Project (ADP). It started with colleges and universities in 2003 and remains a nonpartisan initiative of AASCU in partnership with The New York Times. The knowledge resources on this subject are online and free for digital distribution (HERE). An author’s presentation on the 2017 edition is (HERE). As these efforts are failing, a viewpoint on why is outlined (HERE) for comment. American civic engagement practices for dealing with problems is the problem. The plug has yet to slip into the outlet, the power is there but the switch is missing and there appears to be no endurance limit on our knowledge of this fact of self-oppression.
Problems: Ships in the Night & The Lost Soul of the 60s
We have the radar for the existence of other ships in the Democracy, thousands of them but that is about all. Here is one example. To Kill a Mocking Bird (1960) is one of the most read books in America and widely assigned in schools. White people think the attorney Atticus Finch was a hero but to the African-American, he is a stone looser, yet Aaron Sorkin is willing to use his exquisite use of language and force that point into the debate of how we must “all rise,” the last two words in the play. The demand is to get to a better American place (read a PBS interview (here). Where is the language that makes it possible to call out or openly condemn people that tacitly support a culture of hate and malice? The American psyche is far too easily driven into little camps and throwing a “big tent” over it remains as unpalatable as always.
When thousands of people like the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi (first 5 min. only – on video here – 170K pop. 80%Black and a third Asian) enter your world the tent can get more interesting. Getting past platitudes and on to education and housing in Jackson will be his issue. New leadership like this will be watched and if possible assisted to see through the clouds that new leaders attract. After the 2016 election, many groups pulled big national lists together for study but they not useful. As the digital revolution began in the 1970s, the ability to study, think, act, and respond together became the more useful MOOC. The isolation remains and groups still struggle to form beyond encouraging references to Margaret Mead and her opinion on the subject.
Americans need an intervention regarding addictions to racial ignorance. Where is the tough-love slap in the face that makes everything right and gives us back our senses? This intervention is possible. It will be done with superb care on the ground yet to be found for a foundation unlaid and a building we can barely envision. It will be done as if all the oppressed, unlucky or struggling rainbow of people in this nation could stand all at once and scream NO to pandering leaders, and yell in one sweet sound, “we are the change we seek, we are the change we seek!”
Nina Turner (Our Revolution) puts it this way. When “the hunter,” writes the story, there is no story of the lion. Political movements are similar. It can use filters that leave people out who think they are in. Like the term “hunter,” labels such as “neoliberal” or “self-reliant” simultaneously attracts people to power they cannot acquire. In tracking the lion, the hunter knows what the lion is willing to submit to and uses it to the exact amount needed to achieve the injustice of its death. The hunter’s brand is visible, control the narrative of bravery and therefore secure its benefits and power. The lion’s story is direct; death is food. Death is the gift of her pride’s survival.
If we are the lion, our revolution is underway but barely notice unless there are videos of a shooting. Being African-American and politically progressive should be a natural fit, “if” there is a family history of engagement in fights against social and economic systems that insist on a second-class citizenry defined by gender, income, color in the rainbow, one at a time or all at once. We do not forget the people who died in resistance to this condition. They are the builders; they own the long history of this change in the nation. We hold them as gifts and if we can, we will add chapters.
We do not speak of the blood horror, hopelessness and fear it took to get those moments that made the change. A great joy rests with its victories, each of them rings triumphantly in our nation’s history. Today we watch scrapings from historic speeches, we read books, listen to songs and examine pictures about the cost of resisting oppression. Today, over a half-century later it appears to many that there are those who take a black life are becoming unpunishable and at worst made legal actors in a much broader attack on all people facing the pain of a soft oppression, a sense that something was taken, an addiction and the threats of despair that each cause. of us have had “the talk” with the young about protests, lawful police orders, and standing ground. The hunter would have you fear the lion and drain you of compassion for her pride, yet all the while to the lion; death is a gift.
America’s history of death and pain rings painfully for each loss and because each bell we ring for them, tolls for us all and it is here and now. The bell rings if we resist the “lawful orders” of a cop, it rings loudest in friendly fire, and it rings until we cannot hear at all. Following difficult times, it is in our nature to bring out the good in ourselves and find reasons to celebrate our sacrifice but the movement today is very different. There are more ways to assure the story of the lion than I can count, and there are now thousands who can damn the old hunter’s lies. Is this not enough, what needs to be new, what needs to be different? Skip the ad and listen here for it from a collection called “Outskirts of the Deep City.”
The average, everyday person will talk about issues and events but often lack the will to act. Modern political analysts understand the events leading to changes that improve lives. Actions do not come easily without the experience of working for the prospects that succeed. Change politics can fool you. it will ask you to stare at the beak of the Eagle on America’s Seal and love your country. The new politics of change will put you in the grasp of her talons; make you the builder of her nest of arrows and hold you in her branches of peace and victory. What needs to be in the new politics?
A voice of unification for the working family that restates American values of fairness with justice. Better education for your kid? A wage scale that keeps up with costs? How about better protection from ill health, big pharma, and corporate greed? When we face threats to our well-being, who will be there? Look left, look right and say I will be there for you, I will be there. What needs to be different? We are the change we seek.
At this time in history, most Democrats and Republicans (save a few) can only equivocate and obstruct. If 2020 is going to be an opportunity, the “be there” time is now. Maurice Mitchel is now the National Director of the Working Families Party. (WFP). He is one of those “go” leaders with extensive experience in movements beyond, in front of and behind elections. He will continue to expand our understanding of what a democracy can do. He can see the irony when both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump say, “the system is rigged,” and it says one thing to him and me. We need very new politics.
What is exposed here? If we are to remain a democracy, we are challenged to do big things. First, increase the number of voters by 1,000%, crush all forms of voter suppression and stop playing short can-kicking games. There needs to be an ass where there is a can. Watch his mildly nervous presentation at NetRootsNation.org is here. All the right words are all in a row, but he needs the kind of heart that beats in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get the sound we need. He has the words, now give him the sound. Words are important, but how they sound is even more so.
There is a better sound in Maurice here as he defends the Working Family Party (WFP) from an attack by the three-term Governor of New York State because of WFP support for Cynthia Nixon in a primary. Challenging the governor happened for one important reason, it is time to say “No” to the oligarchs and those who say yes to them. At the heart of it, Maurice defines what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party in the nation as it is in NYS. Maurice would not be taking anything away from Alexandria if he repeated her reminder that New York leaders of the past had led the progressive movement with great courage. The entire WFP requires voices that do not speak of defenses against attacks to define injustice. The math is easy, the foolishness of the peacemakers exposes their failure as change makers. If you hear, “Five-hundred or so American billionaires are not the cause of America’s problems.” It is time to share everything, every strategy, and tactic. It is time to offend with relish and know all the actors who are firm in their purpose and who might face death in the anarchy we all detest.
After Yvette Simpson lost her bid for Mayor of Cincinnati, she acquired a new position as Chief Executive of Democracy Now (January 2019) as described in a news story interview (Here). Yvette Simpson’s membership of the Democratic establishment represents the party’s better self because individuals from diverse backgrounds who seek public service expect to be Democrats. The record is improving slowly, but the proof is the problem. The majority of every Congressmember’s senior staff is not diverse. This was not widely circulated news until the membership became more diverse.
Can a Democracy care for all people and meet unique needs without sowing division and discord? What I learned from Yvette was the calculus of a representative government requires a variety of navigation skills throughout a campaign without end. She knows no one on the progressive side of the equation is better at grassroots engagement. She notes that if you run you cannot knock on doors, you must walk the race. Winning is face to face, not face to the screen. She believes in the power of “we.” Her experience proved to her that the road made by walking is formed best with a bold and unapologetic agenda aimed at making changes that people want in their lives. It was once summed up as rights, first to the pursuit of life, second to liberty and third happiness. Winning a primary but losing a run for Mayor gave her insight into the challenges of 2020 hopefully aimed at the Senate as a priority. Will the triumvirate be up to speed and ready to respond?
The growing economic success of central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan is also the story of large, diverse cities in multi-state regions that hold with a significant share of the state population. For decades disinvestment in the infrastructure of dense urban regions presents hidden dangers. Not spending where spending is needed exposes failures of transit services to and from these centers. Auto congestion where and when it is hated the most. A rising cost of housing, including deteriorating conditions in the suburbs, the displacement of low- and moderate income people into suburban neighborhoods, and sporadic increases in urban homelessness. The more significant sources of stress are evident in the protests of working poor teachers in decaying schools alongside troubled police and fire services and other first responders racing into a long list of preventable social and environmental problems of life-threatening severity. Pick-up a copy International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection and all of this is documented.
Death, Taxes and Social Justice
Putting added reduced tax cash flow into the hands of wealthy people and corporations are not coming to the resolution of any of these problems. They are without accountability; the board members of the super large foundations are out of touch with the broad national dialogue needed to keep our democracy responsive, instead of their wallets. Yes, new partnerships are there, but the old lines of privilege remain unchallenged and taxing them is failing because loop-hole land will never go away without reinventing America. If the horrible truth is super high tax revenues collected by the government don’t work, what needs to change?
We live in a society where the most important things go unsaid. For example, the question on the table in a substantial foundation’s boardroom is “Are we failing in our quest for social stability?”. What is known but never said aloud is, “Well, if large groups of the society get upset and start causing trouble with disruptions of the economy and endangering their own lives and the lives of others, we have fully equipped our police forces with enough riot gear and other tools that could conquer a country.” Can you hear that lungful exhalation flow across that confident conference table? Look again out of the conference room’s vast windows overlooking a landscape of terror that could be unleashed, then turn to the doorway as it opens. Meet your new master, the authoritarian who can only keep this crowd at bay with your foundation’s loyalty. Impossible you say? Not according to world history.
It’s Their Fault
If you hear, “Several hundred multi-billionaires are not America’s problem.” An economist in a rabbit hole is baiting you. Don’t go there. Of course, high taxes don’t work, government (city, state, federal) have never been able to get much above 20% of America’s GDP from the very beginning of this measure. Using the 20% rubric, the GDP in 2018 will top $21 trillion to yield on average $6 trillion in annual revenue. The interest paid on the national debt is $364 billion. (10/1/18, through 9/30/19). The total public debt is around $17 trillion. Individuals, businesses, and foreign central banks are its owners with 90 percent of it in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. (Details here.)
America’s “good faith and credit” is highly respected, 30-year “treasuries” sell with ease. Credit is another word for trust so, the bottom line, the money is there to do what we want. Therefore. We must ask, what does work instead of taxes? The answer, spending on the right stuff, followed by the right questions that get asked but never answered. What is the right stuff? Where you put your political brain requires you to find out.
In 2012, Jim Sorenson put $13 million into a business school in Utah and created the Sorenson Impact Foundation where they quietly work on a long list of projects that would make every candidate for sainthood happy. Other things like program-related investments (PRIs) vetted by the business school, “select and develop business models for high-impact, early-stage social enterprises capable of reaching underserved populations.” I love mouthfuls like that, but what is wrong with it, what is missing in philanthropy? According to Forbes, not a thing (Here).
If you read that Forbes article, then you know the objective of all foundations is to “go to scale,” and that means two things, the more obvious is to spread money all over the globe with a goodwill website to prove it. The other is to make wise social impact business investments and get universities to establish a methodology for measurements and publish the results. Highly respected multi-billionaires like Jim Sorenson and all the other billionaires in his moral class think they know what the right stuff is or needs to be, so he like many others create these hopeful puppy dog foundations. I can look up all the billionaires and foundation staff; I can know where they live, play and work nationally and internationally. They are the wealthy residents of a tiny planet.
Bottom line, what is wrong, what is missing? The hundreds of multi-billionaires are missing in the vapor of their wealth. A wrong-headed street-intellect assumption is they have formed an oligarchy and now vie to rule the world, distracting us with their wonderfulness. The truth is far dire; they have tucked themselves away in their boardrooms happily overlooking their private empires of goodness, adapting and maneuvering to sustain themselves among one another, while all the while the world is burning, slowly almost imperceptibly into ash and dust. So, bottom line, yes, it is their fault, and this is important, except for a few they didn’t mean it.
What is missing, I want you to join in this practice. Below is what I have so far. You can give advice or list wrongs, make rights, just click here.
Pay close attention to the big picture, I hear a staffer saying “It’s just so impolite to be alarmist,” They are wrong, rude is important right now.
Step on another charity’s toes, stop being so nice. One word, “Unjust.”
Spending fortunes on accountants, tax attorneys, and lobbyist only assure private capital will sustain the line that reads “goodwill,” on income statements and balance sheets. Think again, good will is insufficient.
Contributing to all 535 members of the legislative government (retirees and agency staff) enough to keep their campaigns afloat (or not) or to point them in other directions is thr nest way to control citizens, not unite them.
Not paying any damn attention to the small picture. Take a long walk through your community, and then to a place designated as underserved and in need of charity. Ask why? Get back to me.
Realize that despite amassing of billions of dollars in a personal fortune, no one person on this fragile earth could be that productive in any sense other than god-like.
I have no interest in tracking them down, although there is a project aimed at doing so. (here). Our charity must believe they will find the “right stuff,” otherwise they face incurable insanity. Our job is to be persuasive regarding the need to make course corrections essential to the survival of next generations. I know about the hideaways in the mountains and the means to get there. I do not know who is worse off, those without sanctuary or those forced to say, “Mine is full, you are not selected?” Want to add to the list? Click here.
The USA is not the America Tonight Show. The adjective (above) describes giving your name to something. It is also called identity politics, so you get people who are Trump Republicans. Identity is much bigger than a person, a color, religion, political philosophy or favorite late-nite TV show host. A claim of leadership in the name of dignity for all life produces a replaceable leader. Arguments are won (or should be) on the facts of the day, week, year and decade, not charismatic leadership, bullies or the learned helplessness of their constituents. For example, we win the war of words when we describe the death of young minds and the heart lost in persons beaten low by hate. We win when we force all to hear the frightened whispers from the mouth of hunger. We win when we describe the violence embedded in climate change or assault rifles and how randomly either can take anyone’s home or life at any time or place, one of them used to be in God’s hands, today, both in are ours. We win if all these voices are unified not by fear but in a single call to defend the dignity of the human person. Stand on this path and you will know methods that move all of us forward and away from the confusion that divides us.
The three organizations and leaders briefly mentioned here know these methods. In listening to them I know this is Our Revolution, we are the Working Families of this nation, and the demand for Democracy for America is now. We win when our unity is theirs and theirs ours. Calling for an accord does not create unity. The phrase, “the people united will never be defeated” begs the question. What is causing our downfall, our defeat? To keep our democracy, we must be the change we seek and to begin, form triads. Triangles form the strongest structures, tripartite coalitions are a step forward. So if our revolution is to be composed of working families working to assure our democracy remains useful nationally, these three among many others need to find and build local triads.
The voting record from any combination of election districts for offices in cities, states, and Congress by voter and candidate reveal a set of cultural signifiers useful to the practice of removing identity politics toward a healthier method of governance. If the triumvirate’s network is true, if the depth is there, it can conduct this analysis across state lines and recognize the issues of working people step across all the other lines used to divide Americans.
The traditional roots of the old identity way are made sustainable by the quiet assurance of a 98% retention rate among incumbent candidates all the way up and down the political spectrum. So, I am not talking about politics. This is about change. Being conservative or progressive comes naturally to people from low to high income for two reasons. Households are “conservative” because every change tends to be loudest when it is for the worse, and progressive because it is a way to seek out useful and if not, virtuous change that will protect the family. One of the more complex examples of change follows:
The retention of wealth by the wealthy began in 2016, it was legislated in 2017 and became law on January 1, 2018. The expectation of tax reductions for corporations an increase in wages, they have not. The bet is that a few extra dollars in the working families tax return suffice. That it is billions among the super wealthy remains an abstraction. The national revenue is increasing, but the federal budget is still ripping holes in the safety net that helps a growing number of households protect family health, old age, and their financial security. Why? Uncontrolled congressional spending.
The subtle implementations of the attack on so-called entitlements is unclear, but the lion’s strategy, in this case, is easy to spot, go for the slow and weak ones in the herd. The human problem with this kind of attack is the lack of fairness in compliance and the complicity of the herd. In these transactions, this failure should not be lost. Nevertheless, do not allow the debate to move away from the cap held by the hunter regarding issues. Taxes are not paid for social security from incomes over $138,000. Where is the security in that equation? If the answer remains, the revenue is still insufficient. What is missing?
Roots, Roots and More Roots
In my small part of the world, I have organized a tool to implement one of our best methods. I have one or more persons in every election district able to build or join a canvas team and be on the ground for a candidate. You can see an early version here. Security is a growing issue. Sign up here if you are in the district. Instructions follow.
This canvas method is easy to implement, more so in a blue majority city and state and it grows exponentially through a natural network of friends and family. It reveals the enormous power of democracy with personal decisions to work for a specific candidate (city, state or federal) on a routine basis for a limited period every two, four and six years. If tools like these are deployed in the metro-regions, with a clear understanding of the unique economies of each, the ability to produce change people need and want. If not, the answer is clear, try again, and again, and again because we are the change we seek.
The deep concerns of people are not articulated well by most current leaders, especially those who are dependent on identity politics and tenure in office. We should ask why but do not. Leaders acknowledge our concerns but we still allow them to remain fuzzy about accountability to benchmarks or criteria from year to year. There are no triggers or penalties in exclusive political alliances based on religion, race or social background. This tendency allows leaders who see a lack of basic employment with a living wage only pushing a few into desperation. The lack of health insurance protection bankrupts “only a few” families. Our safety in the community, the affordability of our housing, and the failure to educate our young, only hurts “a few families.”
The promise to sustain the two largest safety nets American’s ever fought to acquire serves everyone even but even the vast “we” of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is under attack. The subtlety of the attack, even the logic of it will read to divide not unite. I want to be able to say it all began in 2018. This is when just enough people realized the rise of opposition politics and the resistance found ways to diagnose all the reasons for a lack of movement on working family concerns and the honest needs of ordinary people. The first pronouncement is to put a number on “only a few.” We are now that few, there of millions of us and we vote. The second is to learn how not turn against “the other” in this movement, fight for scraps or fail to fight for the few. Those of us who can create moments and events, year after year will rip the mantle off the shoulders of the tenured leaders if needed. It all began in 2018. As it goes for the few, so it goes for us all.
At a political rally, I overheard a leader say, “We need more facts to make that decision.” It was the response that got my attention. “You’re a damn fool, we don’t need any more damn facts, just walk out that door and look around. There are your damn facts. We have got to get to work and it starts now. Do you hear me? If you walk out that door you can smell it. Tsunami’s don’t come with a warning until it’s too late.” The third benchmark for the growth of a progressive movement is swift decision making. Do not wait another day, rush to the defense of neighbors and all those struck down, stand in the light of MLK and seek his justice.
Reflections on Success and Failure
Some professionals study organizational development in such depth they have become almost impossible to understand. But I did come across one article in the reasonably accessible Harvard Business Review that gives me hope. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman use of massive amounts of business data. On the question of diversity, they compared leaders’ self-ratings with their ratings by bosses, peers, and subordinates. These ratings reveal leaders assume they are better at valuing diversity than they are. Take that to heart, the social change movement is never doing as good a job as its leaders want, and there are good reasons to be aware. Defending the movement demands your failures.
To understand the cause of poor decision making, Zinger and Folkman used data on leaders and compared the behavior of those who were perceived as making poor decisions with those perceived as making very good decisions. Whether leading a major international corporation or a scrappy nonprofit organizing committee, pressing for these traits tend to hold true. Here is a description of the common paths that led to poor decision making from the most to least significant. Laziness tops the list, some of the signs are not checking facts or confirming assumptions. Next, not anticipating negative events reduces the ability to defend. When a leader is indecisive it tends to be costly to an organization due to missed opportunities. Leaders that remain locked in the past will make decisions with assumptions that are no longer true. Lesson: Always look forward.
Among the lesser causes of poor decisions are in failures to align “dots” in an organization’s membership. The overall strategy of the organization often referred to as a lack of strategic alignment deals with the leader’s isolation breaking down important interpersonal relationships and dependencies. Similarly, over-dependence on one person who is waiting for another, who in turn is waiting for someone else leads to poor decisions. A leader’s lack of technical depth will reduce the use of high-level expertise within an organization, and if it is there, people need to know. It’s always the coverup. Statistically, the least named cause of poor decisions was found to be a failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. I wish Nina, Maurice, and Yvette all the success in the world as they head into 2020 with the capacity to produce swift and effective decisions for their organizations.
Next, I think it will be fun to have a good look at those that have shattered glass ceilings in their hometowns. They are inside the beltway for the next two years. Ordinary observers can find out what they have in common other than the obvious and if they can lay the ground and build the foundation for a significant change in the culture by the means necessary.
Social Impact Measures
The following three paragraphs are lecture-like. Nevertheless, they represent the standard by which I believe our glass breaking, culture changing, the newest members of Congress should be evaluated. I’m open to other ways, but I will fight for the following as I share in the spirit by which you now hold office.
The purpose of leadership is assurance that change is manageable.
You have entered Congress with a personal theory of change. We all use it to adapt to our environment according to need and want, as well as, evaluation of performance. Results are measures to indicate the quality of adaptation in one of three ways, positive, neutral or negative. Change through experiments reinforce the positive and reduce the negative. We are cognizant of the trial and error world in which we and our family, friends and coworkers’ function. From child play to professional practice we learn that we control what we can make recur. I can get Sally to laugh and Bill to chase me every time, and that’s as a grown up. I also know the reverse of that is impossible. The information gathered through experience is routine and enough. You can work through personal skill sets on this question by recalling past actions in getting (or not) a date with a person of interest back in your school days or a “contract” more recently. Knowing how to lead yourself is the prerequisite for leadership of others.
A business or a government agency must measure complex social impacts
The number of people and dollars involved in business and government require confidence to take action. There are consequences at every step. Seeking to alter a in negative society or to improve a positive one requires careful thought and experimentation. In this setting, dialogue gets to the capacity of individuals in business or government to collect reliable information, review methods of data acquisition, analyze and predict results. Confirmation of concrete benefits from people with these skill sets leads to investment decisions as mere possibilities. At this point, choice and timeliness come into play involving the number of options made available.
Confidence in research and planning allows trials and testing to proceed
The changes sought are thereby proven to the satisfaction of the decision makers and it becomes their legacy all the way through implementation. Comparison with alternative trials within or in opposition will minimize risk or advance the position of competitors. Given the period of work, in weeks or decades, the institutional response is to claim an impact and advocate for its continuation with confidence.
To reduce the abstractions of these three components, two recent events will illustrate the human problem inherent to the science of this practice. Science obscures additional motives by building silos. As 2018 ended, the incarceration practices of the federal government were reformed. In practical street intellect, this meant the 30+ year enforcement of harsh drug laws that achieved the re-enslavement (imprisonment) of African-Americans (mostly men) for nonviolent crimes would end (Watch 13th again).
The public investment in a huge federal prison system has consequences, however, accountability for this practice as a racial strategy is practically nil. Creating a big door through which cops and prosecutors could quietly push young men into federal prison (and still do in city/states) was easy to ignore due to a tacit agreement on both sides of the issue. Here it is in one sentence over the procession of two ounces of Marijuana. “We have 15 to 25 mandatory years on you that can go to seven maybe five with the name/location of your boss.” A generation of lives lost and for what, “El Chapo?”
The second event involves the language code that embeds a similar level of bigotry and racism. As the close of 2018, the word was “wall.” Create a wall to protect our borders from the demons to the south. Street-intellect reads that as keep out the Spanish speakers, the Mexicans, Hondurans and everyone else. The super short-term political trend exhibited here reveals consequences without the accountability to reason and practical solutions. An orderly process for dealing with immigration is consumed by the rhetoric of violence and a symbol upon which the 45th president can lean.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme That any man be crushed by one above.
When reforms and laws are passed to ensure that armed agents of the state cannot kill people of color without the consequence of a transparent indictment and trial, reform will occur. Do not add “all” people to that thought; it only means you do not understand.
The numbers do not lie. Spend some time with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (here). The problem presented is clear. Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States. Over the life course, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police. Define this issue completely, and America could be on the path to inalienable, universal rights for all people, but we have a lot of work to do.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
"Let America Be America" Langston Hughes
Police killings are the most exposed cause of untimely death. The risk of being killed by police use of force by age, race-ethnicity, and sex is described (here). There are hundreds of other causes and America has tried to ignore the roots of it for far too long. Inalienable, universal rights reform will not happen efficiently unless every American recognizes the impact of slavery in our history. The problem is not whether all of the events since 1619 are racist or not. The question is this: “How much racism was at work?
The lack of any positive measure of equity formation defines African-American life for four centuries. With the end of enslavement, an entire people with barely a penny found freedom without restitution. When equity was established, it was ripped away by acts of terrorism. The battle for the cultural and economic assurance of fundamental human rights is long, and the bend toward justice only began as an act of government in President Lynden Johnson’s War on Poverty. He recognized the strategic problems when he said,
“Negro poverty is not white poverty. … These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression. For the white, they are a constant reminder of guilt. But they must be faced, and they must be dealt with, and they must be overcome; if we are ever to reach the time when the only difference between Negroes and whites is the color of their skin.”
1965 Commencement: Howard University supporting Voting Rights Act
A project began in August 2019, marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. In 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for The 1619 Project. It traces black American enslavement as the central enabler of America’s vast material success and, through their efforts for freedom, assured our democracy. The United States may have a long history. Still, it was not a democracy until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act ensured all people’s voices could be heard in a fully representative government. In a June 2020 article. “What is Owed?” Hannah-Jones expects America to know in its heart how false definitions of race as “the other” and be turned easily into hatred. Her struggle leads to equality for us all. Most Americans really want to feel different about race and all the impacts of enslavement. They want to expel it from themselves and the lives of their children. That leaves one step left for all people, by skin color, positions of privilege, and wealth. The action required is to be different, every day, openly and freely.
The quality of speech and journalism continues to improve white America’s understanding of racism as a cultural disease and bigotry as a heinous character failure. When combined, these flaws lead to insidious political behavior far too easily disguised. The use of public policies from Jim Crow to Sundown Town or from Police Militarization to Mass Incarceration persists as a live-wire fear in America. The path to inalienable, universal rights for all people can be cleared of this rubble.
It will be in this decade, in a century of enormous challenges that all public actions allowing these character flaws to sustain a systemic racism culture will no longer occur without consequence. Perhaps the most important of them will be a continuous, broadly read, watched, and taught American story about freedom. It will reveal an unrelenting effort to achieve social and economic justice for enslaved people. It is a story that would change all of history for all people all over the world. Another take on this issue is (here).
It will be difficult to become different.
I have been writing this as Congressional Representatives debated the second impeachment of POTUS45 when one of them referred to a Supreme Court case that was compelled to allow hate speech (here) as a justification for the President’s misguided attempt to retain power with lies. I recommend listening to the oral argument below of the case the Representative used to defend the President. It will take you back to 1969. The case involved a conviction of Clarence Brandenburg, an organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in Ohio. If you are in a hurry pick it up at around the 29th minute. When one of the people’s representatives can stand before us and use this case, of all cases on the First Amendment it exposes the true horror of our time.
The Court’s Per Curiam opinion held that the Ohio law violated Brandenburg’s right to free speech. The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”
The court ruled that Ohio’s Criminal Syndicalism Act made illegal the advocacy and teaching of doctrines while ignoring whether or not that advocacy and teaching would actually incite imminent lawless action. The failure to make this distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.
The two tiers of the Brandenburg Test have become the standard for determining criminal advocacy. As a nation that respects the law, the courts and the legislature could also seek to judge speech as producing the test of a clear and present danger or as a test of direct incitement.
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.
I have no idea if Aeon Video is a good source to use, but these few minutes of James Baldwin are vitally important to recall as words spoken a half-century ago. Even more instructive is the obsequious British joy in gaining Balwin’s participation in their instruction and then of the insight of Buckley who became an apologist for racism while defending American values as he has learned of them.
Nowhere else can one see more clearly how the knowledge and experience of hypocrisy carried by Baldwin contrast with a white male intellectual who sees his world as one designed specifically to conduct “a win” at the expense of all others. The community’s authentic voice is diverse, and it is this built-in strangeness that every agency or agent for change struggles to understand.
Do you know how a disaster (flood, fire) in a city will strengthen resolve while drought will have people at each other’s throat? I do. We are in that drought, and the political premise is correct — we do overvalue consensus because people want it to exist. A bit of core knowledge in the people of the color world is that change tends to be for the worse, exceptions prove the rule, and there is a pedagogy of the oppressed. These core perceptions are poorly understood and that when “the white world of capital investment” comes knocking at the door and says we are here to x, y, and z you all. It becomes incredibly disappointing. The things to which you, we, or they can agree to “at least somewhat” do not built well on contradictory and unevaluated value systems. Not once in my long life has a developer entered the room saying we are racist. We represent a racist system. What is said is you have a role to play. If you move outside of that role (caste) and exact a price on the change we propose, we will label your efforts extortion. Not once have they ever said we accept full responsibility as system representatives. We commit ourselves to finance a way for you, for all of us to being that way starting now and forever.
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.
The promise of planning, architecture, engineering and construction is usefulbut not the way we think.
Designers, planners, architects, all of us, suffer from several well-documented cognitive failings that distort our ability to predict accurately. But, hey, it is the future, it is not that easy to predict, but this could be changing due to two causalities:
Are we more likely not to believe evidence contradicting a commonly adopted meaning of a bright-line, hot button event? The event is easy to recall, leading to the likelihood of overestimating such events’ incidence. We are, thus, less likely to accept contradictory evidence without the bright lines.
We know how to make events recur with increasing accuracy right along with the sunrise and the tide. But, the capacity to build for the future does not include knowing what it will mean to people or do to their lives?
Solid psychological evidence of these abilities and behaviors leads to one of my favorite things — inevitable conclusions. With human behavior data, governments and businesses use open database connectivity (ODBC) to build businesses. ODBC is a powerful alternative to firms making decisions based on an experts’ track record.
ODBC is complicated because we are all involved. Knowingly as well as without our knowledge, we are all participants in a huge regression to the mean experiment. New ODBC business partnerships bring unbelievably accurate tools to analyze/improve urban evolutionusing a benign participation process with some sticky privacy issues.
New kinds of knowledge capital are consistently built through curiosity and action. Known preferences are finely tuned essentials of routine design decisions predicated by the senses of the human body. The ODBC benefit builds on this framework for a reform movement in which designers, planners, architects, and engineers acquire the leadership role and loses their subservience to capital by capturing a higher level of control over its uses. Aside from the political challenges involved, the advancement of certainty is a forceful way to assure the quality of human life on the earth.
The Decline of Expert Discretion
I offer two examples as to why this decline is probable. In Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart, Ayres describes the replacement of the “expert” whose knowledge is built on experience and track record by step-by-step procedures with fact-holding computers for data modeling. He argues that anything can be predicted. Just before the publication of Super Crunchers, an equally popular book entitled Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, illustrated how extensive analysis of databases reveals hidden causes and new questions replacing the “firm expert” approach to community development services.
These writers explore new business structures that replace the expert. They skillfully illustrate how massive datasets’ quantitative analyses make hundreds of real-world decisions using algorithms for people asking better questions. The question posed here does not regard removing the role captured by traditional experts from the policy framework. The question is not when or if but how quickly it becomes inevitable. Is there any solace in this truth? It seems the answer is yes.
The remaining and most important human element is to guess. Guessing requires a test to discover the variables that should and should not be included in statistical analysis. In other words, to generate hypotheses remains ultimately human. To ask “what causes what” remains the most valid human act.
What Causes What?
Our present experience is coupled with a dense urban environment where the exponential growth in the number of variables affecting choice is now instantly available. These “sets” of information are beyond our “intuitive” abilities to use, let alone an individual or team’s skill at defining problems. However, tools, such as telescopes in space or microscopes in laboratories, force new observations. We thought they were stars, but they are galaxies, and we are a little blue marble in one of them. We can’t see the “atom” but know why they are objects of matter that are smaller than a wave of light. This quality of observational insight is now available regarding human behavior.
The selection of statistical inferences capable of building datasets that explore human behavior is a vital new policy tool. Hours of sleep, the expenditure of dollars on everything-everywhere, miles traveled, even tears shed, and a laugh out loud. It will help designers to see things never seen. Discovering novelty and asking questions will be the source of human insight in regression to the mean data. Still, the sources of data to establish commonality will define the ultimate decision-making structure of every individual. The trade-off could and must be equal. For example, have a look at this narrative on Earthdays (here).
Consensus on OBDC
Therefore, the consensus on this question is developing as follows: There is a lack of extensive knowledge regarding viable algorithms useful for defining the aesthetic of the urban living experience as weighed against the privacy sought. New questions:
How will people be added to this group to develop the super-crunching urban design discussion?
How will end-user experience data become a routine product for design and planning firms in dense urban and metropolitan areas?
How is urban design data produced, made accessible, and used to alter urban design practices?
“The attention given to the social construct of race and racism is four-hundred-year-complicated, the subject of multiple doctoral thesis, many excellent books, and legislation. On the other hand, there is an uncomplicated pre-systemic solution to racism for ordinary people available right now. Become a playful toddler again, and stay that way, We would just have new friends to play the game of growing up in the world. We could sustain the social context of newness without bias. The lesson here is we do not have a self-identity in these first years of our lives and that the bias now held is learned and can be unlearned.”
Rex L. Curry
Yes, white people do something. Everything we think we know about the world is wrong, and that is a good way to look at it if we expect to learn anything new. I found Corinne Shutack (also white), who found Kara’s work (above) to be a helpful image for the distribution of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Her list helped me get into racism as one of several American malfunctions I am working on and drafted for you to scroll through (here).
Shutack’s work helped me view recent events as having systemchange potential, a process described in five other posts (here).
Even though the world has been brought down by one innocent pangolin, the secret lesson of the dystopian pandemic is the exposed super-power of a national strike for health and social justice. Coupled with ongoing racial injustice events, I must now plead with you to gird your loins, gear up, and steel yourself for the return to normal.
Do Not Let That Happen.
One of her brilliant teachers said the problem is not whether the events are racist or not. The question is this: “How much racism was at work?”
To deal with the inequality of life chances for a newborn child, it is necessary to recognize probable impediments. Number one on the list should become the disparities of culture, race, and ethnicity that pose grievous imbalances caused by each of those obstacles. Those that are products of city, state, and national policy offer many opportunities for change. They are aimed and every human being from New York City to Los Angeles and from Minneapolis to Houston. Each of them produces vastly different consequences for everyone on the diverse spectrum of America.
The blue note is coming for all to hear and understand (listen) (read). Common interest groups will form, and coalitions for change will be built. System changes occur all the time (here).
Love the One Your In?
A significant part of American history and perhaps of the whole world include patterns of race insecurity. The system we are in fosters that anxiety. The combination of insecurity and anxiety attracts opportunists of all kinds. The emotions are often sought out and exploited by those with political power to sustain or advance their position. Recognize the overarching pathway of this behavior as follows: Pick a group, ostracize them, identify a weakness to exploit or strength to fear, support false but agreeable “like-with-like” ghetto policies, and next, isolate and then criminalize the poverty of the marginalized people. Find or select behavior to define as a crime, confiscate their possessions through forfeiture, and then seize and imprison them. As a process, this is a historical lineage nourished by hate and fear. Reform is a failure with this kind of unremoved, unexamined sickness in the world.
The history of this pattern is that of political practice. It reveals a design to fund and establish the eradication of equality as a self-sustaining Apartheid. In America, the persecution of Chinese immigrants, the internment of Japanese citizens, the eugenic sterilization of the “unfit,” the criminalization of drugs vs. health treatment for the addicted are well known political power moves. Justice speaks when these practices are exposed, the crimes are admitted, and payment for reparations is agreed upon. On a rare occasion, paid up.
Vox developed a story on the four times reparations were paid in America of the six-times world. Think about that ratio. Vox also encourages close reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ case for reparations. Since the early 1970s, the genocidal aspects of American racial policy remain in the slow-motion systems associated with the so-called War on Drugs. Like all war, the one on drug use has failed the people while it enriches the businesses of war itself. Reform is a failure; a revolutionary perspective for change will be needed. The debate for me hovers over the idea called a “new era of public safety” vs. “the end of policing as we know it,” and that’s all right.
The two contemporary responses of enlightened leadership on race and cops can be considered as pivotal. The wisdom and vision of Barack Obama to even tackle the subject and the far less known insight of Alex S. Vitale, a “critical criminologist.” Of the thousands of research efforts available for discovery, I recommend two of them as follows:
“…here’s a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House. And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.” The whole 416-page full policing pdf report is (here).
Barack Obama 2020
The second response includes the excellent criticism of the Task Force’s thorough but modest volley toward a fundamental change in policy by Brooklyn College Professor Alex S. Vitale. His book, The End of Policing, reviews the multifaceted work in this field that recognizes the path on which law enforcement now stands has made it a significant contributor to America’s spiral into deeply racist and racialized practices. There is no double or triple bottom line; cops do more damage than good, and “protect and serve” is the exception to the rule. The bottom line is Fidelis ad mortem does not have to be the NYPD’s motto. It can translate as “faithful (unto or until) death, and there you have the poetic vs. narrative art of the blue wall.
The call from the President of the United States to serve is a compelling and personal honor. A review of the task force report and toolkit reveals a set of thoughtful, experienced change agents. The movement for racial justice in America must call upon the task force’s people to confirm progress, if any, and consider the next steps.
To fully understand the task force report’s failings, excellent insight is offered in Vitale’s book and through his media interviews (here). The Policing and Social Justice Projecthas an implementation arm for the movement. Finally, life-long learners on the subject should subscribe to The Criminal Criminologist (here), where he interviews scholars and activists. It is a great way to meet people you have yet to work with or encounter.
The relationship of policing to racism requires the use of the inverse proportion rule. It occurs when one value increases (more people working to solve non-police problems), and it decreases another (i.e., the incidence of unproductive police tasks). Adding more workers on a task to reduce the time to complete the task is inversely proportional. Reducing the time to get law enforcement less harmful is now critical (meaning short term) or back to the same old and seriously wrong-normal.
The best relationship between all Americans to every neighbor should be about the structural, materially unequal experience a child may have when entering the world. The systemic inequality of life chances for newborn children of color is exposed decade after decade. The facts are exhibited as shameful but continue unchanged, even though it would be good for every kid.
The use of law enforcement tends to be the hammer that helps to silence criticism. The rightfully enraged also hold a hammer. The better question is, who and what put that hammer in both their hands? Why is the hammer the only tool available? Much of this is already well understood, it is known, and solutions can be implemented with levers and a fulcrum, but not with a hammer. Wilson (below) can tell you in a few seconds with perfect intensity.
Since the early 1970s (Nixon), the severe problems (the ones requiring a sophisticated toolbox) got fully embedded in racism. Ever since Nixon, every President has presented to the American people ideas with an air of cultural sensitivity. They are truisms such as the need to improve ties, strengthen lines of communication, and to make right past wrongs. All of them are politically calculated half-measures and part of the problem. A social reflex in America is to hide from its history while acknowledging our nation as one of the immigrants. Ignoring the record of formal attacks on the “value” of every new group requires exposure and condemnation from every leadership position available on slavery.
Marginalizing the oldest mass immigration group explicitly enslaved since 1619, to build the nation requires uncovering the cover-up of all cover-ups. The failure of remedies for yet another century of repression angers the mind and fills the heart with hopelessness. Neither form the basis for a system change.
Perhaps it is the violence of human history and centuries of brutal intolerance that the American Constitution sought to purge from people’s governance. It aims to enable and encourage people to sustain the hope for change outside of the system by establishing a false representative government and inside produce as majority vote rules to kill compromise. The idea is that excesses of either could be no longer be rendered invalid by the other.
Nevertheless, America’s social and economic power continues as a thing fueled by slavery and imprisonment. It is a governance system that appears unwilling to fully deactivate rules that encourage and support racism even though the incidence of injustice persists. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system.
The system has been changed, and for an hour and a half, I ask you to please watch white folks talk about the bifurcation of America by Robert Putnam and friends regarding the subject of “our kids.” Beware, the time spent here is informative, but it can make you a little crazy. They know, they really do know, and have the numbers and the argument for change, so why are we supposed to think they will? they do not create change. Is it because they are just “talking points?” Have we failed to empower them to turn their power into change? Do not let it go back to normal.
One last thing. If you believe in the power of working-class greatness, remember the super-power revealed the 2020 pandemic – a national strike for health and justice could get health and justice because if a little bug can bring capital to its knees and put some in your pocket, that bug is telling you something. Encourage everyone to have three to six months of savings to cover the basic, essential living costs. This is a challenging thing, but it is doable and smart for many reasons.
Put “The 100″+”*” into a search engine, and about 20 billion references will be listed, so it is a popular idea to take 100 things and add “top or most influential” or, as in this case, “change agents.” A couple of sentences on the list below will not sum up a life; they only spark further interest. Nevertheless, understanding the individual accomplishments of the one hundred people listed here exhibit the extraordinary impact of “design,” the best in urban analysis, and a vast network of pathways beaten to their doorsteps. This success of individuals must now become the focused leadership of many.
The image below displays the first grouping using the search criteria. Why is this 100-list labeled “The Big Fail? In the world we live in now, Gene Kranz’s words, “failure is not an option” (Apollo 13) ring clearly, yet any of the 100 on this list, living or not, cannot muster up a tenth of the value assigned to a popular television series combining teenage angst with a dystopian theme. The metaphor is not lost on anyone.
Creativity is assigned to one person by supporting millions willing to accept their leadership or inventiveness, innovation, and talent, but not transforming the urban experience into new domains. At least one hundred living and intensely engaged change agents are needed to create a series exhibiting an American urban future that people will believe possible.
If I had between one and five billion dollars for ten years for a group of 100 people on a list like this, a series of on-the-ground projects would soon demonstrate the new world we must have and need. But, instead, the “big fail” is upon us for not thinking in a new way, or at least as creatively fundable as a TV series.
The revenue of a popular television series over ten years is similar to the fund proposed. Think in a new way.
1. Jane Jacobs – (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs is credited with nurturing a new era of community-led planning. Famously opposed Robert Moses on some of the most famous planning controversies of the 20th century.
2. Jaime Lerner – An architect and urban planner, founder of the Instituto Jaime Lerner, and chairman of Jaime Lerner Arquitetos Associados. A three-time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, during a period of revitalization that made the city renowned for urban planning, public transportation, environmental social programs, and urban projects.
3. Frederick Law Olmsted – (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) A landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator. Olmsted is considered the “father” of American landscape architecture and is responsible for many plans and designs of open spaces around the country, perhaps most famously exemplified by Central Park in Manhattan.
4. Jan Gehl – An architect and urban designer famous for refocusing design and planning on the human scale. Author of Life Between Buildings; Public Spaces, Public Life; and Cities for People, among other books.
5. Andrés Duany – An American architect, an urban planner, and a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Duany is credited with the plan and code for Seaside, the first new traditional community, the development of the SmartCode, and the definition of the rural to urban transect, among other accomplishments.
6.Lewis Mumford – (October 19, 1895 – January 26, 1990) Mumford interpreted architecture and urban life in a social context while working as the architectural critic for The New Yorker magazine for over 30 years and authoring numerous books, including The City in History, published in 1961.
7. Robert J. Gibbs – President of Gibbs Planning Group. Planned Michigan’s first ten New Urban communities and form-based codes, in addition to contributing to commercial developments in more than 400 town centers and historic cities in the United States and abroad.
8. Frank Lloyd Wright – (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) Perhaps the most famous architect in U.S. history. Frank Lloyd Wright led the Prairie School of architecture and pursued the theory of organic architecture. Fallingwater, a home located in Pennsylvania, is a beloved example of his work.
9. Le Corbusier – (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965) Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, was a pioneer of modern architecture and planning. The “towers in the park” concept that emerged from his Radiant City Plan was adopted in cities around the United States.
10. Charles Marohn – Founder and president of Strong Towns, a news and commentary website and a popular portal for advocacy on issues of planning. Marohn authored Thoughts on Building Strong Towns, volumes 1 and 2, and A World Class Transportation System.
11. Richard Florida – One of the world’s most visible urbanists. Richard Florida authored The Rise of the Creative Class and, most recently, The New Urban Crisis. He serves as a university professor and director of cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto.
12. William H. Whyte – (1917 – 1999) His 1980 book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces enlarged the standard of observation and the study of human behavior in urban settings.
13. Donald Shoup – Distinguished research professor in the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. Author of The High Cost of Free Parking, which has succeeded in launching a new approach to parking policy, as a fundamental aspect of planning and land use regulations, in communities around the country.
14. Kevin Lynch – (1918 – 1984) An urban planner and author of The Image of the City (1960), What Time is This Place? (1972), and A Theory of Good City Form (1981) In The Image of the City, Lynch posited a theory of paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks that is referenced implicitly or explicitly in many planning and design efforts of the current day.
15. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk – Co-founder of Arquitectonica and Duany Plater Zyberk & Company. A leader in the New Urbanism movement and the co-author of Suburban Nation: the Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, and The New Civic Art.
16. Janette Sadik-Khan – Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007–2013, while the nation’s largest country pursued and delivered one of the most sweeping revitalizations of the city’s streets in a half-century. Currently the principal at Bloomberg Associates and chair the National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO). Author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.
17. Robert Moses – The “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City and environs, Robert Moses is one of the most polarizing figure of modern city building. Perhaps the most powerful man in New York City for a long stretch of the 20th century, Moses pursued a campaign of modernism based on slum clearing, public housing projects, and high-speed automobile transportation evident in New York to this day. Moses’s ambitions also inspired the growth of an opposition movement around Jane Jacobs.
18. Daniel Burnham – (September 4, 1846 – June 1, 1912) An American architect and a towering figure in the history of American planning, thanks to his work in co-authoring the Plan of Chicago. Burnham also contributed to plans for cities like Cleveland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
19. Ebenezer Howard – (January 29, 1850 – May 1, 1928), the originator of the garden city movement. Authored To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, published in 1898, which described a utopian city in which people live harmoniously together with nature.
20. Christopher Alexander – Architect and design theorist, regarded as the “father” of the pattern language movement. Co-author of the 1977 book A Pattern Language.
21. Jeff Speck – A city planner and urban designer and a leading advocate for walkable cities. Author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, among other books.
22. Peter Calthorpe – Founder of the award-winning firm of Calthorpe Associates, Calthorpe is also one of the founders and the first board president of the Congress of New Urbanism.
23. Michael Bloomberg – Michael R. Bloomberg is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who served three terms as the mayor of the city of New York, during a time of innovation in city government and placemaking efforts in the nation’s largest city.
24. Jane Addams – (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) Known as the “mother” of Social Work.
25. Enrique Peñalosa – Mayor of Bogotá from 1998 until 2001, and then again beginning in 2016, overseeing major transportation and public space projects in the city. Also served as the president of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
26. Nikos Salingaros – A mathematician by training who applies his work to urban theory. Salingros has championed network thinking and traditional architecture in the books Principles of Urban Structure and A Theory of Architecture, respectively, among other books.
27. Charles, Prince of Wales – A frequent commenter on matters of the built environment, Prince Charles is an advocate of neo-traditional ideas, such as those of Christopher Alexander and Leon Krier. Prince Charles illustrated his ideas on the built environment during a 1984 attack on the British architectural community in a speech given to the Royal Institute of British Architects, in which he described a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London as a “monstrous carbuncle.”
28. Ian McHarg– A pioneer of the environmental movement, McHarg founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Landscape Architecture and authored the book Design with Nature, published in 1969.
29. James Howard Kunstler – Noted author and critic of suburban development patterns, best known for the book, The Geography of Nowhere.
30. Rosa Parks – (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) An activist in the Civil Rights Movement who set the stage for the Montgomery bus boycott with an act of civil disobedience on public transit.
31. Pierre-Charles L’Enfant – (August 2, 1754 – June 14, 1825), A French-born American military engineer who designed the basic plan for Washington, D.C. known today as the L’Enfant Plan (1791).
32. Buckminster Fuller – (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) An American architect, author, designer, inventor, and futurist. Fuller published more than 30 books and developed numerous inventions and architectural designs, including the geodesic dome.
33. John Muir – (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) A naturalist and author, most famous an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His activism helped preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and many other wilderness areas. Muir also founded the Sierra Club, which is one of the most active environmental groups, advocating positions on development projects throughout the United States.
34. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. – (July 24, 1870 – December 25, 1957) A landscape architect and city planner who worked on projects in Acadia, the Everglades, and Yosemite National Park as part of a life-long commitment to U.S. National Parks. Also a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
35. Léon Krier – A leading proponent of New Urbanism and provocateur or modern urbanism. Best known for the development of Poundbury, an urban extension to Dorchester, in the United Kingdom.
36. Rachel Carson – (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) An American marine biologist, author, and conservationist. Carson’s book Silent Spring is credited with bringing environmental advoccy to a new level of public awareness.
37. Walt Disney – (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) An entrepreneur, animator, voice actor, and film producer. In 1965, Disney began development of Disney World as a new type of city, the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”
38. Candi CdeBaca – Co-founder and co-executive director of Project VOYCE, founder and member of the Cross Community Coalition, and founder and principal of Rebel Soul Strategies.
39. Henri Lefebrve – (June 16, 1901 – June 29, 1991) A Marxist philosopher and sociologist, best known for pioneering the critique of everyday life and for introducing the concepts of the right to the city and the production of social space. Author of 60 books and 300 articles.
40. Jimmy Carter – The 39th president of the United States, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and a tireless champion of Habitat for Humanity.
41. Patrick Geddes – (October 2, 1854 – April 17, 1932) A Scottish biologist, sociologist, geographer, and pioneering town planner, Geddes introduced the concept of “region” to architecture and planning and coined the term “conurbation.”
42. Saul Alinsky– (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) An American community organizer and writer and an early adopter and champion for many of the practices of modern community organizing.
43. Edward Glaeser – Economist and professor of economics at Harvard University. His book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, is a popular and widely cited reference for urban boosters.
44. Gil Peñalosa – Founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, and a leading advocate for the design and use of parks and streets as great public places, as well as sustainable mobility: walking, riding bicycles, using public transit, and the new use of cars.
45. Saskia Sassen – Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a member of the Committee on Global Thought. Coined the term “Global City,” and authored Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, published in 1991.
46. David Harvey – A theorist in the field of urban studies, geographer by training, professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and prolific author.
47. Peter Hall – (March 19, 1932 – July, 30 2014) Professor of planning and regeneration at University College London. Also served as president of the Town and Country Planning Association and the Regional Studies Association. Considered the “father” of the enterprise zone, a policy tool subsequently adopted by countries worldwide to support economic development in disadvantaged areas.
48. Edmund Bacon – (May 2, 1910 – October 14, 2005) An American urban planner, architect, educator, and author. Served as executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970, earning the nickname “The Father of Modern Philadelphia.”
49. Jacob Riis – (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) Social reformer, “muckraking” journalist, and social documentary photographer.
50. Georges-Eugene Haussmann – (March 27, 1809 – January 11, 1891) Commonly known as Baron Haussmann. Carried out a massive urban renewal program of new boulevards, parks, and public works in Paris commonly referred to as Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.
51. Thomas Jefferson – (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) The third president of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and an accomplished architect. Jefferson’s designs for his home of Monticello and the University of Virginia campus are significant contributions to the architectural heritage of the United States, as well as influences on the federal style of architecture that survives to this day.
52. Brent Toderian – Vancouver chief planner from 2006 to 2012, during the city’s 2010 Winter Olympics-related planning and design process as well as the EcoDensity initiative and the Greenest City Action Plan. Toderian is now a consulting city planner and urbanist with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS and vocal advocate for livability initiatives.
53. Allan Jacobs – An urban designer and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Authored the paper, “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto,” with Donald Appleyard, among other books. Also served for eight years as the director of the San Francisco Department of City Planning.
54. Jennifer Keesmaat – Served as chief planner of Toronto from 2012 until September 2017, during which the city underwent a period of rapid growth. Keesmaat is an active participant in the planning discussion, contributing numerous editorials for local publications that argued in favor of progressive transportation planning policies.
55. Vitruvius – (c. 80–70 BCE – c. 15 BCE) A Roman author, architect, and engineer. Author of De architectura, whose description of perfect proportion in architecture and human form influenced Leonardo da Vinci.
56. Rem Koolhaas – Architect, architectural theorist, urbanist, and professor in practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Koolhaus is the author of multiple books, including S,M,L,XL, which includes an essay on urban planning titled “Whatever Happened to Urbanism?”
57. Jarrett Walker – A consulting transit planner, Walker’s work in cities like Houston and his blog Human Transit lead current thinking about best practices public transit and mass transportation infrastructure.
58. Dan Burden – A leader in innovative transportation planning, working in the past as Florida’s first state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and as a co-founder of Walkable Communities, Inc. Burden is currently director of innovation and inspiration at Blue Zones, LLC.
59. Hippodamus of Miletus – (498 – 408 BCE) An ancient Greek architect and urban planner, among other intellectual pursuits. Considered the “Father of European Urban Planning” and the namesake of the “Hippodamian Plan” (grid plan) of city layout.
60. Joseph Minicozzi – Principal of Urban3, LLC, Minnicozzi is an advocate for downtown-style mixed-use developments, especially as preferred to big box retail.
61. Michael Mehaffy – Portland-based consultant and author specializing in walkable mixed-use projects. Mehaffy is also a senior researcher in urban sustainability at KTH University in Stockholm and the executive director of the Sustasis Foundation.
62. Fred Kent – Founder and president of Project for Public Spaces, and an authority on revitalizing public spaces.
63. Jim Venturi – Jim Venturi is the founder and principal of ReThinkNYC, a New York City-based urban transportation planning think tank.
64. Mitchell Silver – Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Past president of the American Planning Association (APA) and former chief planning and development officer and planning director for Raleigh, North Carolina.
65. Christopher Leinberger – Research professor and chair of the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business, president of Locus: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, and founding partner of Arcadia Land Company. Recently a proponent of Walkable Urban Places, or WalkUPs.
66. Carol Coletta – A senior fellow with The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice, Coletta is leading a proposed $40 million collaboration of foundations, nonprofits, and governments to demonstrate the benefits of a civic commons. Former vice president of community and national Initiatives for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and president of ArtPlace.
67. Dan Gilbert – The chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans Inc., Gilbert makes this list for his portfolio of downtown development investments in Detroit and Cleveland.
68. Zaheer Allam – An advocate for energy and urban systems in Africa and the Small Island States. Co-founder of the Plateforme Citoyenne.
69. James Rouse – (April 26, 1914 – April 9, 1996) Founder of The Rouse Company, was a pioneering real estate developer, urban planner, and civic activist. In 1982, Rouse created the Enterprise Foundation, an organization that helps community groups build housing.
70. Majora Carter – An American urban revitalization strategist and public radio host from the South Bronx area of New York City. Carter’s work focuses on inclusion and sustainability.
71. Ellen Dunham-Jones – Professor at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture and director of the school’s urban design program. Authored, along with June Williamson, Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.
72. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – A pioneering hip hop group formed in the South Bronx of New York City in 1976. Their classic song “The Message” is an instantly recognizable urban manifesto.
73. Gaétan Siew – Architect, planner, and founder of Lampotang & Siew Architects. Work includes master plans for the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Mauritius, the Chinese neighbourhood in Port Louis, the Seychelles International Airport, and other projects around the world.
74. John Nolen – (June 14, 1869 – February 18, 1937) A landscape architect and planner best known for work in Florida and Wisconsin. An advocate for regional planning and land use controls to counter land speculation.
75. Mike Lydon – Principal with Street Plans and a leading proponent of Tactical Urbanism. Co-author of Tactical Urbanism: Short-Term Action, Long-Term ChangeVol.1-4.
76. Bruce Katz – The inaugural Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he focuses on the challenges and opportunities of global urbanization. Served for 20 years as the vice president and co-director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, and authored the book The Metropolitan Revolution, published in 2013.
77. Camillo Sitte – Architect, painter, and city planning theoretician. Authored City Planning According to Artistic Principles, published in 1889, frequently cited as a criticism of the Modernist movement.
78. William Penn – (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) An English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
79. F. Kaid Benfield – Former director for sustainable communities for the National Resources Defense Council and high profile author, writing at numerous urbanism publications and authoring several books.
80. R. John Anderson – Co-founder and principal for Anderson|Kim Architecture + Urban Design.
81. Earl Blumenauer – The U.S. Representative for Oregon’s 3rd congressional district, Earl Blumenauer is one of the federal government’s most ardent supporters of alternative transportation, through public transit and bike infrastructure, as well as sustainability initiatives.
82. Walter Benjamin – (July 15, 1892 – September 26, 1940) A philosopher famous for theories of aesthetics. Benjamin also focused academic inquiry on the concept of the flâneur.
83. Naomi Klein – A journalist, activist, and author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Shock Doctrine, and No is Not Enough.
84. Donald Appleyard – (July 26, 1928 – September 23, 1982) An urban designer and theorist, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. Author of the book Livable Streets and, along with Allan Jacobs, the paper “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto.”
85. Henry Cisneros – Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, from 1981 to 1989—the second Latino mayor of a major American city and the city’s first since 1842. Cisneros also served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the administration of President Bill Clinton.
86. Ildefonso Cerdá Suñer – (December 23, 1815 – August 21, 1876) A Catalan Spanish urban planner who designed the 19th-century “extension” of Barcelona called the Eixample.
87. Shelley Poticha – Director of the Urban Solutions team at the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). Formerly a senior political appointee in the Obama Administration, where she led the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and launched the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
88. Doug Farr – Founding principal and president of Farr Associates Architecture and Urban Design. Farr also founded the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Core Committee and is a board member of EcoDistricts.
89. Virginia Hanusik – A New Orleans-based artist examining the the relationship between culture and the built environment. Hanusik’s most recent projects, Backwater and Impossible City, were detailed in Places Journal.
90. Richard Sennett – Centennial professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and university professor of the Humanities at New York University. Sennett studies social ties in cities, and the effects of urban living on individuals in the modern world, and has authored many books on related subjects, including The Fall of Public Man, published in 1977, about the public realm, and Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation, published in 2012.
91. Kennedy Smith – Expert on commercial district revitalization and development, independent main street businesses, and economically and environmentally sound community development. Co-founded the Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group, LLC. Also the longest-serving director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center.
92. Mike Davis – A writer, political activist, urban theorist, and historian, best known for his investigations of power and social class in Southern California. Authored City of Quartz, published in 1990.
93. Clarence Stein – (June 19, 1882 – February 7, 1975) An urban planner, architect, and writer. Stein was a major proponent of the Garden City movement in the United States. Co-founded the Regional Planning Association of America to address large-scale planning issues such as affordable housing, the impact of sprawl, and wilderness preservation.
94. Jose Corona – Currently the director of equity and strategic partnership for the Mayor’s Office in the city of Oakland. Previously worked as chief executive officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA).
95. Jason Roberts – Co-founder of the Better Block Project, founder of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, and co-founder of the Art Conspiracy and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff.
96. Jean-Michel Basquiat – (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) An American artist, who began his career as a graffiti artist in New York City, helping to popularize the medium.
97. Emily Talen – Professor of urbanism at the University of Chicago, following previous faculty positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University. Author of numerous books devoted to the relationship between the built environment and social equity.
98. William McDonough – Architect, product designer, and advocate. Authored the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, as the most famous expression of his message. Also the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners and co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC).
99. Theaster Gates – A Chicago-based installation artist, Gates’s addresses urban planning, among other issues. Gates is also the founder and artist director of the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on cultural-driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-served communities.
100. Norman Krumholz – Professor in the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. Long-time Cleveland planning director, serving under three separate mayors, and a leading proponent of equity planning.
Software, digital hardware, and the life-science industries can add jobs indirectly to a local economy as multipliers, in much the same way as the manufacture of autos and appliances contributed decades earlier with one significant difference. The education of the workers.
Research and development firms in physical, engineering, and life sciences were the first to take full advantage of information management’s technological revolution. As a result, these industries deposited economic growth into regions with innovations in software and hardware. Perhaps the best-known example of this marriage of technology and science is our understanding of DNA would have been impossible otherwise, leading to exponential growth in these industries into exclusive new fields.
Economists have several explanations, but two words get to the multiplier effect for business and jobs – supply chain. The 2020 pandemic revealed specific concerns regarding breaks in this chain, reflecting national security concerns. The logistics of technology for refining material acquisitions into “just in time” cash-saving packets fail miserably during periods when critical conditions demand everything “all at once” to avert a crisis. Global terrorism, climate change, and pandemic conditions more than hint at this issue. Each occurs like an hour hand, but it is the second hand that sweeps the planet with a new reality regarding readiness. Frightening concerns as these are recommitting Amerian policy to jobs and education may be the only way for the economy to stop shaking. It is time to stop looking at the promise of a chrome future and think of it as something a lot more fleshly.
UC Berkeley Economics professor Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs examines places in the United States that illustrate the critical difference between economic growth and decline in the context of winner/loser locations in a rapidly globalizing economy. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, Moretti’s book exhibits maps of the United States to reveal the system change’s location impact. The growth areas were those with a high percentage of college-educated people. He shows a decline in the regions that still have many “smart people” to this day but failed to produce, keep, or attract educated people in the newly growing system change businesses.
Scholarly observers labeled “the losers” as shrinking cities, pointing to Detroit, MI, and others of the Northeast “rust belt” following their 2000 and 2010 Census analysis. Studies of similar “shrinking” conditions throughout Europe focused on this as a phenomenon of industrial globalization, regional deindustrialization, and suburbanization. In all cases, the winners were those who had in residence or could attract well-educated people. The analytical resources are available for the ordinary observer to dig into these changes as a dynamic force and one affected by public policy. In 2020, the importance of easy access to vital information and re-establishing confidence in the small business and banking community was more important than ever. As the history of the Bureau of the Census shows in its “understand America” mission, it has grown to become a major business subsidy for nationalizing businesses. Moving forward is how to make the Bureaus’ “jobs and education data” more widely available and easily accessible by the small business. Here is a quick look.
Geographic Support System Initiative (GSS-I)
For the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau’s reengineered address canvassing reduces costs. In December 2015, BOC published a 100-page report entitled, 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan for the Address Canvassing Operation to describe this new Address Canvassing methodology. The practice has been routinely updated through 2018 (here) and eventually rolled into the GSS Program.
The maps (left) should be of interest to all Americans. Authorization constraints still hamper the advancement of this resource toward the routine use of a small business. The API from BOC has tutorials on how the data can help businesses. A tutorial of an analysis that links small businesses with congressional elections (here) is an excellent example.
The policy impact on regional economic growth or decline ranges from why Microsoft owners decided to move to Seattle to attract business policies two decades later. Microsoft took their small but rapidly growing 1970s company to Seattle because they were from and felt comfortable. However, the decision by the fledgling Microsoft is also like, but the reverse of public initiatives in regions hoping to find growth. Both are equivalent, as they are a roll of the dice, plus confidence. Federal officials would not learn of the software and hardware technology industry’s explosive growth until the early 1990s when various attraction-bets came logically into policy.
I doubt that Bill Gates went to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to select Seattle as the optimal location. The SIC was developed in the late 1930s as a New Deal-era initiative by the Interdepartmental Committee on Industrial Classification. His business was barely on the list and would not be there solidly until the reinvention of the SIC in 1997 turned it into the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). By that time, Microsoft had already put sad little Seattle on the wow-map, but it was not all by itself. It happened because of the enormous attractive power of the industry. Seattle was not a place with a high percentage of educated residents in the 1970s. Over the next twenty years, Microsoft attracted whole businesses, and they all attracted people with educations that met their needs.
The nerd factor here is essential in another way. The mayors of cities called up their planning, and economic development commissioners said, “get me some of that!” So they put the staff that loved digging into the nooks and crannies of the NAICS to define their regions for comparison to all others economically. As a result, more mayoral questions on the decline and what to do tended to get answers such as publicly investing in “cultural transformation” that led to the arts and a bet on people’s instinct not only to be creative but also productive artisans.
A search engine for NAICS (here) now takes researchers into a six-digit code that parses twenty industry sectors: five goods-producing industries and fifteen services sectors, all geographically searchable at the Bureau of the Census (here). Thus, in looking at the economic structure of employment, the basics are:
Jobs drive economic growth wherever they are located.
So, where you find around 50 percent of workers with college degrees, there is growth.
When the meaning of the word strategy is to get the advantage, examining sector-based development is a good idea. When it comes to isolating specific industries by region, this is especially true. Shared needs mean common supplies and mutually beneficial investments in human capital. Public “attraction” strategies that attempt to connect a worker to an employer are an abstraction. It functions well in the short-term, but in the long, it is a malfunction sustaining the myth that low-end employment leads to a ladder that has rungs. They are there, but very far apart if the business model is the provider, without public partners.
What works more effectively are efforts that alter the worker/employer relationship with massive investment in skills that add choices to the worker and their flexibility within a region. Flexibility has cards to be dealt into the public policy hand as well. The options range widely from help with a car, or specific procurement practice, to a fully paid training program or support for a master’s degree. An added benefit of worker-centered investment is that participants can contribute to the advancement of policy decisions in the future of meaningful work.
Whether that work is by a forensic accountant or a cashier, the purpose of a system change is to build on challenges, opportunities, and futures of them both into eloquent experiences in personal development. The idea of winners and losers will probably always be a macroeconomic point, but it should never exist as a community-based experience. Instead, what should happen in the heart of the cashier or the business owner is the opportunity for growth and knowing there is a higher education resource that is unquestionably and unequivocally available.
The national partnership between employment and education is a failure. In 2014 the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute and the American Assembly (Columbia University) published Connecting People to Work: Workforce Intermediaries and Sector Strategies. It is a 500-page set of whitepapers. The paper to read in this book (pdf here) examined the February 2012 announcement of the Community College to Career Fund. An eight-billion-dollar investment was seeking to bring skills that lead directly to good jobs with the goal of two million workers. The program aimed at high-growth industries by funding regional or national industry groups tasked with identifying workforce needs in their fields and developing solutions like standardized worker certification, new training technologies, or collaborations with industry employers to define career pathways for workers.
When a 500-page document becomes available for the ordinary reader, parsing it for keywords is a powerful tool for skimming the material, searching for specific content using one or two words. I discovered the essay on public investment in a community-college program this way. This one brought out the economic “malfunctions” that affect connecting jobs and education to community development. The words below are ranked from most to least.
The word “sector” occurs 1,319 times and “national” 817 and “region 468 times. The word “federal” occurred 197 times but “federal government” just 14 times. Community College was 151, “university” 115 with cities at 86 and “suburb” only 5. I found “local government four times, and “regional government” just once. The use of the word “schools” – 20 with high schools getting only three mentions. The choices are many, “union” was interesting as was “interprofessional” and training.
Central to improving connections between job seekers and producers is the idea of fairness or balance. In a global economy where the imbalances are overpowering, local efforts can seem heroic. This is what is wrong with them. With this view, the use of the word “race” was a mere 36 times, that broke down to “African-American” 24 times and to Hispanics just 7 with the rest mixed in with the word “gender” 18 times. These are not hot-button words for the footnotes. The issues the people face with these labels must drive the conversation forward, not help it disappear.
Again, the brilliant, heroic work at the local level is not the issue. The megaregions of the nation hold over 85% of the nation’s GDP. Still, the usefulness of regional institutions beyond a structure of few mutual benefit corporations is nil. Malfunctions in jobs and education remain piled into a quagmire of State policy competition neatly encouraged by national policy scant.
In every developed nation in the world, children are considered the top national resource. In the United States, the policy appears to be the children of America are among the highest percentage of low-income whites amid towering imbalances involving people of color. Programs that look at popular fixes such as H1B visas and other short-term job filling policies fail to fully consider a thirty to fifty-year generational failure aimed at children from low- and moderate-income in America.
“The vitality of architecture does not stand on the strength of its foundations or the vision of its builders. It stands on the dignity of life formed in the heart of all of its creators.”
Rex L. Curry (Review of video by Mike Yellen for Ironworker Union 2017) Watch below.
The video above will also be found in a “system change” post on planning, architecture, and engineering (here). It opens like this: “Your bones tell you, you smell it, there is the challenge of unclear change on the tongues of the public speakers. The sticky multiple versions of the truth offered in our modern lives’ political-speech will be swept away by the clear mind of science. This is a call for help in that simple pursuit.”
Below: a sample of data available from U.S. Census Interactive Maps as described above.
The causes of the housing problem can give you a facial tick. Here goes one recent example; the housing market has added single-family-rental securitization. This specimen is made of our old friend mortgage-backed securities backed by inflated home value and a rising market for rental housing. Combined with the collapse of employment, a friend from Michigan put it this way, this could turn into a nasty brew of outraged and hungry people, all of whom have guns.
In 2016, 95 percent of the distressed mortgages on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s books were auctioned off to Wall Street investors without preconditions and few provisions. As a result, the market recovered but without homeowners. Instead, private-equity firms acquired over 200,000 homes. While cities like New York are attractive but expensive investments, a substantial percentage of these new acquisitions occur in middle-class and low- and moderate-income suburban neighborhoods. Single-family-buildings have been in the rental market for a long time, but only recently has this practice added volatility to the market with the public humiliation of eviction.
Matthew Desmond’s book focused on eviction as a cause and consequence of distress in low to high-density communities. Once considered a big-city problem where evictions occurred formally through the courts. Less known and understood are management practices using subtle displacement practices such as “rent to buy schemes,” where low rent is the “hook,” and high down payments provide the profit. Overall, the increased rate of housing displacement is driven by weak government policies attracted to quick fixes, leading to the rise of institutionally managed and owned rental housing, and a court system that does not recognize the rights of tenants as comparable to landlords or developed the capacity for mediation before calling a U.S. Marshal.
The tables below will look very different from 2020 onward. Eviction Lab’s website (here) may become one of the best places to keep an eye on America’s housing policy crisis. Ordinary citizens can help flatten their legislators’ learning curve by examining the Lab’s scoreboard of state policy changes in response to the pandemic. The continuing legacy of the 2008 crisis is directly reflected in the lab’s state-by-state and county checklist (here) and NYC’s Columbia Law School’s help. For example, new York landlords can’t file eviction orders against tenants right now – but they can after June 20, 2020.
The best source for monitoring policy changes in NYC is through the New York University Furman Center.
The market recognizes home value fluctuations with an increased number of tenants available to cover mortgages. However, the market could not recognize the collapse of renter capacity to prioritize shelter over all else. Another fly in the soup (aka malfunction) is the invisibility of increased corporate ownership in low-density areas whose legal systems heavily favor owner over renter. The table below shows how NYS is attempting to protect its 8.2 million people in rental households, of which 5 million are in NYC. The share of renter households whose gross rent made up more than 30 percent of their monthly pre-tax income is approaching 50% of households.
A 2018 study of New York eviction cases (Collinson & Reed, here) established a connection between eviction and homelessness in New York City. The malfunctions of the housing market go both ways. A similar graph showing the percentage of household income for rent would also move steadily up from a baseline of affordability at 30%, rising to over 50% in 2019.
America’s complicated housing market story includes a blaze of web articles (example here) that claim property management and rental housing acquisitions are good investments based on the volatility of sales (figure 3 below), offering the fun of bargain hunting coupled with the steady upward trend in asking rents (figure 2 above).
Wall Street as Landlord
Wall Street’s $60 billion real estate purchases have altered housing markets all over the United States. (NYT Story) The total funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) was a third of that at $20.292 billion in FY 2017. As in the 2008 recession, the malfunction is not paying attention to the possibility that former housing policies put equity in ordinary families’ lives through homeownership have disappeared just as the public might have been ready to recognize the inequity built into the system since 1950 could be corrected for the damage to families of color.
New York City’s real estate market includes some of the most high-profile properties in the world. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive in which to invest. This wrinkle in a hot market is smooth with the invention of publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).
These outfits are companies that invest directly in real estate through properties or mortgages. The Internal Revenue Service requires REITs to pay taxable profits in dividends to shareholders. Companies with REIT status do not pay corporate income tax. It has developed adjudicative services with support systems that recognize the rights of residents as renters. Investopedia’s description of Investing In New York City REITs is recommended reading.
In 1968 the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council of New York (CHPC) produced a little sixteen-page booklet on the housing problem with the above graphic on the cover. As a housing affordability advocacy group, they wanted people to understand what it took to build and operate affordable housing. So they put in the form of a five-room apartment in which the average cost of its development came to $20,000.
It is important to point out that this was considered reasonable and $20,000 in 1967, based only on the consumer price index changes that would be $155,000 in 2020 to yield a total inflation rate of 675% or 12.73% /year. The genius of the CHPC presentation is how the five rooms (image above) represented in the development was composed of 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs and then pointed out of the five which had the greatest impact on rent. Answer: the cost of money is the major factor. Today a change of one percent in the average interest rate from development through permanent financing could alter rents by $120 per month. Manipulate all of the other costs, and it will yield minimal impact on rent.
The affordability of housing is built entirely on Wall Street’s finance and banking industries’ desire to sustain both low (for them) and high-interest rates (for everyone else). Since 1967, or just over fifty years, the rate is based on the CPI alone, the trend toward high and almost 675%.
The lack of affordable rents and housing (a human right) sits squarely on government steps in handling the cost of money for the American people’s safety and health. A researcher on this question will find reasonably up-to-date data in another post (here).