Startups

Startups are efforts to plan and deliver a new project, program, product, or service under conditions of uncertainty. To examine the precariousness implied, pay close attention to five well-recognized organizing views   They are known to business development interests in every field. Software services dominate today’s startup business market, but these systemizations of the entrepreneurial spirit probably date to when someone imagined a potter’s wheel becoming a vehicle.

RLC

Here are those five views:

Entrepreneurs are 1) everywhere 2) most have management skills 3) and they are subject to “validated learning.” (?) Therefore, the fourth and fifth views focus on 4) implementation as a “build, measure, learn” sequence but rarely are they well informed by 5) innovation accounting.

If you hit that “? link,” you took a peek into the twilight zone of management gurus and a vast array of elegant maxims for ending uncertainty. One of those clever maxim gurus, Eric Reis, The Lean Startup made enough sense to hold a strong place on the NYT Best Seller List (roughly 5-10K sold per week to get on the list, then rising to #2). You will also find his approach transferable to the nonprofit, NGO world. The following is how we read it from that point of view.


Deem it possible to create ventures for an idea in short precise cycles. In that case, the institution, business, or industry size is not relevant. Instead, the key to using these views for a project is to notice changes, savor them and validate what was learned. A startup can perfectly or poorly select the metrics for deciding. Some of the most common are linked below that focus on the more agile sequences.

The startup strategy may seem obvious, but it varies significantly by the project or product sought. The traditional steps are 1) setting the requirements, 2) with specifications, to 3) begin design.  As these steps occur, they make the problem and the product solution prominent in the mind of individuals.  With this comes the confidence to 1) implement, 2) verify with modeling, and 3) test for maintenance and usability issues. Finally, the practice of fully recognizing the problem/issue leads to trusting the intended solution as understood equally. Unfortunately, these concluding steps tend to involve unsatisfactory participatory bargaining frameworks, even with oneself. To prevent these malfunctions from destroying the whole, innovation accounting is essential, especially to “startup” initiatives. There is a useful introduction to the novelty implied by this phrase from Reis (here).

What is the Account?

The release of a project/program into “the wild” may deploy many iterations for acceptance, rejection, and eventual dismissal into the market and a life of use destined to fail or soar. Trying to understand customers with specific consumable solutions (Joost vs. YouTube ?) share this unknown destiny. The effort to inject something into the world, even if it is a singular, unique item, hopes for approval marked by an exchange. Thereafter, the use and enjoyment, or how likely it will be dismissed or displaced by a competitor, is less concerned. Only the uncertainty seems sustainable. Nevertheless, the practices described above are reasonably successful when the solution and the problem are well known and similar to past endeavors.  Injecting the lasting practice of discovery into the “account” requires a diversified approach.

All the iterations of a known solution from the horse and carriage to a self-driving car led to this brief tale on innovation.

Leaving the country estate, Sir Alfred Reid passed out while driving his carriage. He awakens outside his London home, surprised he stroked his horse and stumbled off to his bed. Thereafter, he was happy to tell everyone that he had a good-pony-solution or GPS.

Getting to transformative innovation in transportation doesn’t mean putting everyone into Sir Alfred’s carriage. Instead, this tale represents a singular feedback failure. However, even though creating systems as functional as a horse’s pathway memory appears to be today’s advanced technology, it does not. It merely presses for a known and comfortable solution. Moreover, it ignores innovation accounting disciplines in preference to the useful comforts of validated learning. Finally, it fails by not understanding the customer, only the product. The account is a practice that maintains a reckoning with customers as immediately as possible. In this century, the open-ended practice of dropping sparkling objects ere the consumer’s eye is one of the most self-destructive mistakes to social and environmental well-being ever made. Reis argues it is for the lack of revolutionary innovation. We agree.

What is Innovation?

Successful innovation has two sides of a coin. One moves quickly to understand conditions in short-time sequences. The other side uses data from these compact arrays that define relationships. Thus, two sides of a coin establish opportunity, but you have to move like Mario with new data. (?)

How? First, with your product or service, create a clearly established baseline composed of a minimally sustainable/viable product (MSVP). Sustainable means undamaging to future generations, and viable, in our opinion, means “not dead yet.” Couple the MSVP with the ability to measure customer utilization and behavior as it occurs. Next, collect the short cycle data and measure each trial. Savor the metrics in these cycles, but know they must be carefully selected.  

No matter how innovative, a point of diminishing returns occurs. If attention is only paid to the first two components of the accounting effort, trouble will brew.  The final benchmark, therefore, becomes knowing when to pivot or persevere. Despite the uncertainty of this decision, recognizing the third side of the coin is critical during this process. The pivot or persevere side is the one on which it spins. Here is one story of the “when, where, and why” of a pivot.

In the mid-1980s, a well-known university architecture and urban planning program offered its students two studios entitled Community Design and Social Action to be taken sequentially. The courses were supported by a small administrative office that vetted requests for planning and design assistance from local community development organizations throughout the city. One prospective client approached the office with an idea for an extensive training and education center. The center would heighten the skills of volunteers from neighborhood associations and the staff of community-based development corporations.

The Community Design course provided the planning and research for the concept. Within fifteen weeks, the idea of a training center proved positive, as confirmed by a study of community needs, availability of participants, and a line of probable funding for training people. However, capital for a new or rehabilitated physical location was not available. As a result, the client’s dream of a bustling center of social change agents faded. New questions were asked in the next fifteen-week Social Action cycle. Is space of any size available to demonstrate the training idea? Eventually, a location previously thought of as undesirable was re-identified. It was small but in a convenient location. It represented a minimal but sustainable opportunity. At this point, a clearly identified program baseline was defined. The product became the design and construction of a flexible set of inexpensive, lightweight tables and vertical surfaces adaptable for small-group workshop areas and moderately large presentations.

Tools for Resilence

The first distribution of sequences occurred in fifteen weeks, involving traditional steps. The project could have produced one process: presentation drawings for an extensive training center design along with a hearty handshake and a good luck smile. However, the metrics to demonstrate successes/failures would have been obscure. So instead, the Social Action component in the ensuing fifteen weeks asked to identify a minimally sustainable product. It was assigned metrics and benchmarks to sustain a record of accomplishment lasting years. In this process, multiple layers for understanding “the customer” occurred in just thirty weeks. The project selection process for access to this planning and design resource used a detailed online questionnaire. In brief, it incorporated the organization’s characteristics, the type of assistance requested, background logistical data, timeframe, names of committed participants, mission statements, and extra-investigative elements. It was the minimum sustainable product for establishing essential data to define opportunities for a close customer relationship.

The project began with students, faculty, and a client/customer. The customer/client transformation into a training director was possible because the initial selection and interview process and research confirmed the client’s skills and experience in attracting customers. In this training center case, a modest effort was launched with volunteers and staff. Unfortunately, the process came face-to-face with the spinning side of that coin, and rather than persevere in hope. There was a pivot.

In the decades since this example, the capacity for a deep exploration of the relationship between technical assistance needs of all kinds and the desire of leaders to improve the quality of change is available for development. It lies in a vast digital matrix for expediting the delivery of products and services with a built-in capacity for rapid change. With the thirty-week sequence, including uptake and administrative follow-up support, this customer joined a growing movement of nonprofit local development corporations, community-based organizations, businesses, and companies dedicated to mission-driven change in metropolitan areas.


Draw Conclusions

Feedback is best when it is unhesitating in a social setting. However, moving quickly from idea to building and measuring, gathering data, and leaning back into a conceptual idea should also be immediate. Developing a digital backbone for networks is extremely useful but demands new techniques. The links below can be explored for ideas on how to gather and share data on a platform.

From the fine artist or artisan to the builders of the new, new thing, the content of a post-product relationship varies dramatically. These relationships are vital but can be as simple as “how is that ‘it‘ working out for you” to the millions of data queries accessible by grouping values that aggregate items using the discrete categories of mathematical functions. Functions such as arithmetic mean, median, mode, range are available to anyone that decides to count things and, with their customers, build a platform to do so. A startup can establish a relationship with all those interested in acquiring a mutually useful set of products or services with prepared resources. These systems can focus on money solely, but the metrics are available to include other views such as those expressed by the term 3BL (?).

Whether for a social change training center or alternatives to a self-driving pod, the practice of innovation demands a careful selection of metrics. Moreover, the choice to engage in social change training or urban transportation engineering requires interacting with people and serving investors of all kinds. The following links will take you to a set of choices. Some of them may be uniquely suited to your program, project, or product development. Most will not. The options are many to choose from. They tend to focus on digital products. However, even the smallest product and service endeavor will have a digital existence. Transcending the customer-consumer model begins with the challenges of mutuality, transparency, and environmental intelligence. Understanding new and extraordinary ways to establish reciprocity in the exchange is the central provocation.

The following needs vetting. Each link is a rabbit hole to peek into for one reason. A fast sequence could list clients to compile a customer/client archetype and possible recommendations and referrals. A fast measure could be to prepare a split test occupied with a fast build unit test. If you have a website, you have an SQL database subject to refactoring. As mentioned above, these are rabbit holes. Choosing by adding information is not.

We are interested in personal reactions and recommendations useful for NGO B Corporation efforts. If you have some to share, please use the contact link (here). For example, becoming a Certified B Corporation® (here) does not refer to tax status at all; it describes a business with a particular mission to promote the public good in certain ways. Another post (here) examines New York City B-Certified businesses and seeks reviews.

Fast Sequence

Fast Measure

Fast Build

B Corporations

The B Lab Company (B Lab) is a nonprofit (IRS Form 990 N.E.C. (W99) that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good.  Located in Berwin, PA (EIN20-5958773 its mission is “to change the operating system, culture, and practice of business so that all companies compete to be best for the world.  In 2020 it self-reported about 12M in revenue and 10M in expenses (Guidestar).

Is B Corp Certification Worth It?

A Certified B Corporation® (here) does not refer to tax status; it describes a business with a particular mission to promote the public good in certain ways. B Corp Certification measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates and verifies operations and business model impact on workers, community, environment, and customers.

Transparency and accountability requirements are used but do not prove where a company excels, however it commits a company to the long-term changes in a company’s legal structure.  A true Benefit Corporation is formed under state law. A list of NYS statute-produced corporations (here) does not include businesses with B Lab certification.

Public authorities have the power to create subsidiary authorities without additional legislative authorization. An example is 2007, the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC) dissolves 13 of its subsidiaries and merged 25 others into a single holding company and still encompasses many subsidiary organizations. While major public authorities can only be created by special legislation, many local development corporations have been created under the General Not-For-Profit Corporation Law as Local Development Corporations (LDC). They function in much the same way as other public benefit corporations and public authorities, but do not need to be established by specific state legislation and like businesses seek B Corp Certification. The speculation is the surge in interest seeks to soften the negatives associated $1.5 trillion tax cut package in 2018. Even B Lab posts an apology for certification delays.

Should a new startup seek a B Corporation Certification as a means to link other studio and production activities?  One way to find out is to look at the current group that has certification in New York. Using the B Lab directory the following selection of B Corporations based in New York City and nearby areas can be explored. The image to the right exhibits a selection from the B Corp directory. Use it (here) for individual searches not found on the list to the left. Reviews are requested and held in confidence. Use the contact link (here).

Need a Laugh?

and Benign Violations 

Everything changed when the screen eye brought the horror of the world to you. To get over it, begin your day with a critical listen to Bill Hicks’ “Sane Man” on absurdities of American culture via Netflix and as you realize much of it shouldn’t be funny anymore, or go to YouTube for little of Samantha Bee’s political satire and then to the radar brilliance of W. Kamau Bell for a rush of the ridiculous truth on CNN.  Finish the mental easing exercise with the “release” offered by John Oliver and then go see Hasan Minhaj if you can find him.

If you are encouraged to add humor to your interest in social change take a look at the benign violation theory presented by Peter McGraw on TED

Basics

When you ask architects for a joke, or something funny, they say, “Sorry, I’m still working on it.” Urban planners, on the other hand, like acronyms. Here are a few examples: AICP: any idiot can plan, SLAP: for space leftover after planning: MCIP: my career is painful (Member, Canadian Institute of Planners) BANANA: build absolutely nothing anytime near anything and to more favorites, DUDE: developer under delusions of entitlement and BOHICA – bend over here it comes again. As far as urban design is concerned, I remember being told not to hurry around an old plotter because they can smell fear.

Megawatts for Megabytes

“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.”

Wally Broecker (here)

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?

Si se puede

Set aside the question of how much of the earth can or should be urbanized. There is one lesson that helps us make the right choices with just three questions.  Regarding the business of making the urban structure sustainable, the first lesson might begin this way:

  1. If I am not for a limited urban presence on the earth, who will be?
  2. If I inform myself on this question in solitude, will it make it so?
  3. If I do not act now, when?

The long history of the phrase si se puede is spoken by people that require action in the fierce urgency of now. It can be recognized in the “Yes, you can!” and ” Yes we can” (si podemos) of President Obama’s first presidential campaign.  In my life, it was “What do we want? Peace!”  When do we want it? Now!”   The most useful actions create stories that assure the tale is taken home.  Whether the actions seek social justice and economic progress or ice cream and cake, it is the narrative that matters.

Exciting narratives track individuals who embrace effectiveness and error, efficiency, and miscalculation.  The three initial questions above are useful for building a stance that respects the individual globally, but they lack the mechanisms to change the phrase “If I” into “If we.”

Recurring trial and error experiences yields an organizing structure.  The main elements are, 1) willingly accepted delegations and 2) responsibility for the impacts of implementation.  Currently, the depth of this strategy is strong on delegation and weak on post-enactment accountability.  When both are fully active, combinations of skill in distributing tasks increase the potential for exchange and trade.  In turn, this broadens authorization and allocation cycles that fund increasingly successful plans.  In all of this, life-long learning becomes strong.  The lessons are frequent enough to continue the implementation with confidence.  As kids, we learn to swim, but first, we learn how not to sink.

Two other structures keep an organizing process functional – 1) the way information is transmitted and the most problematical – 2) access to it and the resources it describes.  Decisive questions such as; can mass replace cash? or 
can an a concerned activist, public produce a resource for establishing truth as effectively as cash to protect self-interest?

Authority is diverse, flexible, open, and temporary when “groups” create and control social structures.  The size remains in question, but in the democratic sense of consensual participation, a group will also be read as “a cell,” which carries very different connotations.  Margaret Mead settled this question by telling us not to doubt that small groups change the world because it is the only way it has ever happened.  Yes, decisions in the interest of a group or cell can be good or bad.  Finding ways to assure a greater number of the former over the latter is the central challenge.

Income <=>

Obama defines the problem extremely well.

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.

EPA Saved Cities

11 Ways the EPA Has Helped Americans

March 17, 2017 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

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.

7. Controlling Pesticides

The EPA has also played a role in regulating pesticides, which helps keep our food safe. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, a law that dates back to the Progressive Era, was put under EPA’s responsibility in 1972.

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.

The Vehicular Pedestrian

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

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 Yellow Brick Road in Arkansas

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 has gone electric in its locations, the Citibank’s bike has captured NYC and remains human powered.

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.   

Test Cases

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. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

David Steindl-Rast

The differences between fully institutionalized poorness such as that established by prisons or prison-like conditions are often countered by the cultural experience of modest, joyful lifestyles of poorness. Another difference is how being poor is defined by subsistence. It implies a dependency on the acquisition of necessities: water, food, shelter, and security. However, does meeting these minimal requirements translate into the opportunity to achieve emotional and environmental intelligence?

The means to an emotionally sound, intellectual community is a subject worthy of development but oddly thwarted by anti-subsistent demands that say meeting basic needs cannot generate the opportunity for self-actualization unless one becomes a Benedictine monk with an institutional history dating to 529 A.D. Maslow’s hierarchy is well known. Yet, these benefits appear to be overwhelmed by a completely unknown (or poorly understood) set of disruptive factors that support various social pathologies that prevent a more broadly based public achievement.

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References to research on this subject that extract the contributions of architectural space to the causes associated with this issue are needed. One of the “bridges” extends from architecture that serves the monastic life. David Steindl-Rast is part of the Benedictine tradition. He has unique insight drawn from a lifetime. He finds the freedom from fear is a good place to start by recognizing it as a choice, not a condition, but only if we stop, listen, and go to the references of the surrounding space. A fifteen-minute TED talk on the idea of gratefulness offers an appealing introduction to the problem.

Federal Agents

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Project Question: What is the strategic relationship that links each of these cabinet positions.

Established in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to each member’s respective office duties.  Diehard political scientists examine the Archives on the agencies for comparison.  

The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments; the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.  Here is a slightly larger list to explore.  Connect the dots.

Denise Meadows

The Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet hosted a one-day symposium on March 1, 2012, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Limits to Growth.


The first report to the Club of Rome was published in 1972, and sadly the book was followed with vilification. By 2012, the scenarios offered proved correct, and two truths have become evident. First, there will be a managed solution by putting a price on GHGs and creating new energy solutions. Second, this is a bet made with one assumption.

There will be a series of catastrophic resolutions with severe social, economic, and environmental “chaos costs” in the world to create needed change. Whether it is small or big business or national or local politics that provides the urgent action needed is of little consequence because it is too late to achieve sustainable development for five main reasons.

  • Public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages.
  • Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
  • The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
  • We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
  • The time horizon of our current system is too short.
Dennis Meadows

The term resilience is more common than sustainable for these reasons. The actions called for fit into what business and governance believe they can implement in their self-interest. Dennis Meadows’ investment in getting us to accept “resilience first,” like “fix it first,” gets our ducks in order.

The estimates for a stabilized and sustainable world called for about 3% of the world’s GDP. Resilience will cost more than that, but now there is no choice.  Resilience is a metaphorical “wall” that organizations such as Global Footprint and the Club of Rome define as the overshoot problem.

This assessment only began one generation ago, and the ability to get traction on change or the least purchase of the metaphor requires a new growth paradigm instead of a limit. A dramatic term for drawing a line around a place could describe the whole earth or a small town.  Nevertheless, once done, it becomes possible to construct an earnest per capita analysis inside that line to form the urban sphere. Per capita analysis is an excellent measure for comparing the needs and behavior of individuals, groups, and societies that create demands on natural resources. We learn to develop in extraordinary new ways from our personal social, economic, and cultural places. As a friend says on this, you can “parse that to the bank.”

Limits To Growth

Chart Sources: Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. and Behrens III, W.W.(1972) (Linda Eckstein)

How does density fit in?

  • Density reduces the cost of essential resource delivery
    • water, food, energy, and material goods
    • resource transit from places to place
  • Pollution and toxic waste functions
    • are reduced per capita and
    • high volumes are contained for advanced treatment.
  • Density reduces “chaos costs” and increases resilience
    • it integrates renewable energy structures/systems
    • sustains natural habitats and can stop open space fragmentation.

?

People

Kundera describes ways people want to be recognized.

In the Unbearable Lightness of Being he put it this way:

  • The first longs for “the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes”;
  • The second needs “many known eyes.”
  • The third demands the eyes of “the person they love”;
  • The fourth is most rare and composed of people “who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.”

All are recognized in the dense urban world. The world is full of information and data, big and small on every subject and place imaginable, but its meaning is in people. Have a look. Make a recommendation.

Startups
Startups are efforts to plan and deliver a new project, program, product, or service under conditions of uncertainty. To examine the precariousness implied, pay close attention to five well-recognized organizing …
B Corporations
The B Lab Company (B Lab) is a nonprofit (IRS Form 990 N.E.C. (W99) that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good.  Located in …
Need a Laugh?
and Benign Violations  Everything changed when the screen eye brought the horror of the world to you. To get over it, begin your day with a critical listen to Bill …
Environment
Extinctions "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 …

Bucky Fuller

Fuller World Game

The World Game Report (1969) shows Buckminster Fuller before a map he designed to eliminate distortion and represent an accurate global scale. A half-century has passed, and the demands in this little report remain. It called for a world reporting process that would be accessible to the ordinary person, and it offered this extraordinary promise if this was done, “all of the humanity can be brought to economic success within one-quarter of a century – thus eliminating the fundamental raison d’être of war.”

RLC

Designed for “intelligent amateurs,” the game sought a logistically reorganized use of the world’s resources. He introduced a progressive wave metaphor where each wave would create a layer of improved performance per unit of invested time and energy. Knowing how every component functions within the global schedule has continuously improved, perhaps beyond Fuller’s expectation, but not his vision. Global economists since Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith have defined human relations as “trade.”

The wonderful thing about Fuller is how he knew to offer a view that creates change through design using “scale” to produce balance and proportion. Applied to a map, a nation, a city, or a neighborhood, the scale offers a direct route success. There is much more on Bucky by the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Climate Central

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.

RLC

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.

climate

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:

  1. GPC – Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  2. LGOP – Local Government Operations Protocol
  3. Climate Central – Download the free Surging Seas CRS Guide

Index Density

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.

RLC
Isolated this song may sound like a warning, for those of the dense urban world it has a joyful tension.

The Ranking

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.

Search “Livability” for Thousands of Ranking Agents

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.

Density

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.

RLC

  • Our team envisions regionally and city-based writers willing to establish a long-term negotiation with the world on density opportunities and the problems it solves by analyzing issues, various approaches, and action ideas.
  • The partnership aims to produce a continuous, worldwide exploration of dense urban environments’ success (or failure).
  • The objectives implied by this goal 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.
  • Additional excerpts from a working draft of Density and our offer to join in developing this unique “world partnership project” can begin by sending an inquiry below.
Environment
Extinctions "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 …
Megawatts for Megabytes
“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 …
The Vehicular Pedestrian
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 …
Climate Central
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. …
Index Density
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 …
Road Density
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: …
Black Rock
Black Rock City 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 …
Diversity/Density
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 …
Tale of Two CTs
City Center Lincoln Square 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 …
Getting on Track
The Ties Make the Track Three factors have brought about the demand for global, multilateral change in national societies with varying impact degrees, and all of them are tragic. First, …
Self-Analysis
In 2006, New York Magazine identified 50 projects and commissioned the "world's best architects" composite. In 2006, the most active and closely watched areas were: Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn, 2010 & …
Mega Region Design
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 …
Seven Elements/Four Topics
The following few thousand words seek a new value system for the city and regional planning, architecture, and engineering professions. Your bones tell you, you smell it, there is the …
The Urban Planet
"The social contract for authority is at the center of money, politics, and religion. No surprise there. Each center’s loci has confirming elements such as the high priest’s temple or …
Catastrophic Resolution
Dense Cities are Self-Renewing
Cities are Different
"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 Synergy Project
The plan for compacity
Remember Muir
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911, …
Urban Mobility
Artists of various urban futures are fond of envisioning the easy movement of people and goods as a visually exciting urban benefit. We see crowded, yet free-flowing shoulder-to-shoulder sidewalks, sweeping …
Global Density
Add fees on Amazon books below will be assigned to our effort. This one brings the lessons of the explosive structure of density from observers along the Pacific Rim. Comments …

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs’ first reference to density called out the mixed-use character of Boston’s North End and its infamous reputation, and yet in many ways, it had the power to un-slum itself. The failure of urban reform, urban planning, and architecture of her time, on the other hand, was in how they failed to expose racism fully and openly. To the everlasting credit to her insight, she accepted this point in her last book (2004).

RLC – OCCUPY

Jane Jacobs Medal
First Awarded in 2007 to Barry Benepe & Omar Freilla

“…the death or the stagnated moribundity of formerly unassailable and vigorous cultures is caused not by an assault from outside but by an assault from within, that is, by internal rot in the form of fatal cultural turnings not recognized as wrong turnings when they occur or soon enough afterward to be correctable. The time during which corrections can be made runs out because of cultural forgetfulness.” Dark Days Ahead

Jacobs saw self-renewing practices in urban districts occurred due to a sense of containment that sustained connections to the city as a whole and the quality of diversity that served many purposes. The urban structures of these districts would be full of corners and small useful places. Structures would vary in age and size across these districts with “hard-working streets” from “specialty store to animated alley.”

With these main elements, dense concentrations can form a living city in successful regeneration and constant repair of a failure. This was a duality captured by the title of her first book, “Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Chapter Eleven, entitled “The need for concentrations,” closes the argument.

Density is a framework that supports high levels of diversity and resists the predisposition toward social regimentation.  This was 1961. A half-century later, it is possible to recognize the complexity of promoting new forms of social density in an urban form. Jacobs recognized her city as a place that could provide for everyone. It could do so because it creates opportunities to be creative large or small.  Yet, in the nation’s capital in 1963, these words were spoken by Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Much has changed in reducing sensitivities to the quality of social change driven by urban diversity. Still, much of the Jacobs’s argument for creative urban development tools that support social justice remains a poorly developed part of the city.

The Rockefeller Foundation offers the medal.  To nominate a New York urban visionary, participants are encouraged to send an email describing the nominees’ accomplishments and how they relate to Jane Jacobs’s work and legacy. Nominations are considered on a rolling basis. janejacobs@rockfound.org

Frank Lloyd Wright

MoMA, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal


The American city of the 1920s and 1930s was European with less form. Frank Lloyd Wright presented the possibility of a new identity. His Broadacre City design presented a consumer-driven form. His Mile High (image right) produced sufficient contrast to start the dense vs. dispersed urban design debate of the 1950s that continues to this day. Wright put this forth plainly as a real choice.

RLC

The decision to choose density as the principal caldron for the growth of the mind and body of humanity is the right one, but the image of life enclosed by brick and steel remained bleak compared to the deep DNA-like resonance of a bucolic forest and the pastoral life. The American Mid-Twentieth century post-WWII urbanism overwhelmingly favored the car. The urban policy specifically sought to spread the population out and away from the concentrated terror of nuclear war. The people were to be armed.

Only the writings of Jane Jacobs and a few others, such as Rachael Carson, dutifully prepared stinging critiques of the century’s growth liturgies. Since then, urban development policy has barely managed to praise and support the hapless pedestrian seeking an active public realm.

A century of dystopian and utopian vision produced a few examples of successful density thanks to Jacobs, but looking for ways to ward off despair and establish the wealth of lifestyles that minimized consumption has yet to yield a solution

Frank Lloyd Wright, Mile High, Chicago. 19560

Source of image via MoMA and the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

Historic AKNA

The Montagues & The Chobans

I was a director of a community service department at Pratt Institute when I first came to Albemarle Terrace in the early and late 1970s. My students and I were conducting land use and building condition surveys for the Flatbush Development Corporation. At that time, there wasn’t a block in Flatbush that did not carry the burden of a vacant or abandoned building. The survey helped to prioritize the energy of a community-based nonprofit development corporation in its preservation efforts.

I also knew the area in our work for Irving Choban to produce an architectural details record of Flatbush Town Hall (Synder). As a lawyer and historian, he was tenacious in saving this High Victorian structure (more here), getting it on the National Register to prevent demolition in the late 60s. It became New York City Landmark in 1966. He was a tenacious man. He lived on Kenmore Terrace. He is why we live in a historic district.

In 1998, I brought my wife to see Albemarle Terrace and meet with Richard and Dorothy Montague. They raised their two boys and decided to move to upstate New York and sell their home on Albemarle Terrace. I knew Richard as a writer for the New York Post. The day Rupert Murdoch took it over, he and Roberta Gratz, author of “The Living City,” left the Post to its dust and grime. Along with Roberta, Richard’s greatest joy in writing is to chronicle moments directly in front of all of us. He wrote the following article about our little part of New York as an editorial for Newsday. I hope you enjoy it, and it is a beautiful bit of writing.  It describes what it was like in 1978 when they learned they had succeeded in sustaining a part of Brooklyn’s history through its architecture. 


Two Short Blocks of a Great City’s Past

Richard Montague Newsday Sunday, July 23, 1978

Like any place else, New York’s essential characteristics are rooted in times past.”

Nathan Silver, Lost New York

A little after 8 o’clock on a recent Wednesday evening, a Brooklyn lawyer named Irving Choban and his wife, Rosalind had an open house for their neighbors.

The house is an attractive two-story brick structure on a dead-end street in northern Flatbush.  It is older than either of the Chobans; it is 59.  Along with 30 other similar buildings close by, it has been designated the day before by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission as a part of a new “Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District.”

So, for the next couple of hours, in the Chobans’ comfortable living room at 2118 Kenmore Terrace as full of cheerful people, all members of the terraces’ block association, celebrating their official recognition.

That was a landmark for everybody too.  Represented by Choban who is the official historian of Flatbush, and Donna Sanft of Albemarle Terrace, the association began asking its first hopeful questions about how to go about obtaining “landmark status” five years ago this fall.

The new Albemarle-Kenmore historic district is one of the smallest in New York.  There were 31 others Brooklyn Heights, for instance), plus 526 individual landmarks, 13 interior landmarks, including Radio City Music Hall, and five scenic ones, of which Central Park is the best known.  The commission has sought out, examined, and designated them all in only 13 years.

Sometimes the choices are easy, undisputed, and without commercial implications.  Other times, as demonstrated by years of litigation in the Grand Central Terminal case just decided – in favor of preservation –by the U.S. Supreme court, there could be intense, expensive contention.  In either case, the values involved are always appreciably more than financial.

The new Brooklyn landmark is “historic” because, as a commission survey puts it, the terraces built between 1916 and 1920 are “part of the general history of Flatbush.” They exhibit well cared for examples of the “neo-Federal” style;  include designs that developed from the English Garden City movement (adapted to Forest Hills Gardens in Queens in 1903); and were among the earliest row houses to have garages, setting a style that is now standard in many parts of New York.

But there are other features to be appraised; the languorous sway of the tree branches in the vagrant winds of idle summer afternoons; the cascades of red and yellow leaves and bouncing acorns from the oaks under the blazing blue sky of fall; the door wreaths, lights and family carolers at Christmastime, and the small back yards in spring, with their moist flowerbeds, budding shrubs and secret corners hiding moss and violets.

In his book of photographs and thoughts on “Lost New York,” the vanished buildings torn down over the years, architect Nathan Silver quotes Lewis Mumford: “in the city time becomes visible.”  Silver thinks, “Architecture provides the only measurable way to discover the past in the urban environment.”

Discovering the past doesn’t interest everybody. Landmark designation is not automatic preservation of either monuments or neighborhoods. Some have subsided into decay.  Others have been daubed with graffiti, chipped, and hacked at, even hauled to scrap metal dealers.  Those that have escaped that kind of abuse are not always decently cared for.  There has not been a surplus of money for maintenance in recent years.

Nevertheless, the landmarks everywhere in the city serve honorable, dignified, and particularly today, invaluable purposes.  They are as different as possible from the fast-food architectural style common in much of New York construction.  They were created and built with care, imagination, and civilized intelligence.  They are sentinels of a kind, guarding tasteful traditions that are sometimes neglected as the landmarks themselves.  They have the artistic durability to reward admiration and care, no matter how long it has been deferred. 

Consequently, they are essential to New York’s recovery and restoration as belated fiscal reforms, a revival of industry, accessible jobs, and schools worth of the name.  It is inevitable that other monuments and buildings will join “Lost New York”.  The vitality of the living city depends a great deal, on how many more are found, appreciated, and saved.

My Neighborhood

Introduction

Everyone’s neighborhood is the representation of national issues. The issues reported here describe how it affects me personally, my family, and my neighbors. Those issues can be explored using the “categories” listed below.

I live in a tiny place on a closed street with just twenty-two, three-story, brick buildings completed in1916 on one part in 1918. The New York City Landmarks Commission accepted the residents’ application for designation as a historic district in 1978 (more here).

The database benefits of content management systems used for websites and weblogs such as this one are “tags and categories” In this case, the content is organized under the parent heading “My Neighborhood.” Sub-categories can then be assigned, such as Internet, politics and plans, and several others that examine issues that reflect my experience, that of my family, friends, and neighbors.

Categories

Local to Global Politics

The political structure of dense urban areas reveals the sense of movement and position to what a person knows as proprioception. The political body can, similar to a person be seemingly unknowing and still have the capacity to produce decisions and consensus. In effect, the acceptance of democratic leadership allows large populations to take steps up a metaphorical ladder without examining each rung. It can call people to heroic efforts built on little more than intuitive knowingness of a good purpose.

Today, the problems of urban life require a deeper understanding of the ways political science links to the physical sciences involved in running a city. The evidence that human beings can change their physiology by thought and intention is growing (here) and not dissimilar from the building of cities. Medical research calls it an interoceptive focus. I see it as a term useful for encouraging greater environmental intent in deciding how and where humans re-build the earth from the material of its crust. Below you will find a carousel of recent additions and my interest in exchanging law politics for a politics of science.

Carousel (new to old and old to new)

Environment
Extinctions "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 …
Reasons
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, …
The Fairness Doctrine
What are additional efforts needed to curb the American Super Power to make fools of ourselves? I came across Tech Against Terrorism that might be useful. It is an international …
Three Rules
In all of our worlds (social, political, economic, biometric) we search for things considered necessary. We see closed doors, glass ceilings, and tables with no invitations. The good news is …

Representatives
Invite representatives to be aware of your IT issues and concerns. A letter for comment on how to get their help (a …
Furious Yet, Effective
The growth of corporations in energy production, manufacturing and finance will continue to produce great wealth and pain, cover-ups and obfuscations. …
Privacy Politics
So what, if a few people get stopped and if they refuse to respond to a lawful order to give …
Revolution
Clip of the Chicago Seven. Raised fists had value at the 1968 Democratic National Convention Tom Hayden died in October …


Neighborhood Internet

The first issue was recognizing that getting access to high-speed internet was going to be difficult. It was vital for my kid, and important for me for work that became extremely important in 2020.

Carousel (new to old and old to new)

Caduceus Erroneous?
Caduceus Erroneous? Geopolitical challenges such as a pandemic or the multiple impacts of climate change instruct humanity's genius to bring about systemic change and resist and reverse “them not us” …
Privacy
So what, if a few people get stopped and if they refuse to respond to a lawful order to give up the data on their phones (little computers really). If …
Survey Visit
Chris of By Byers Engineering Company 285 Davidson Ave., 203 Somerset, NJ 08873-4153 Chris of By Byers Survey visit “for right of way” occured again on August 20, 2015 with a …
What to Expect
I'll believe it when I see it. Expectations are difficult to manage and different for everyone as everyone needs will vary. I found this presentation to be one the few …

Broadband Map
A click on the map above (or HERE) will take you to a website that illustrates all of the broadband …
AKNA Tech
Platforms like Mindmixer, ShareAbouts, ChangeByUs, ioby, and others offer new ways to define and solve problems shared by a neighborhood. Ideas …
Throttled?
Will The V-Shoe Drop? An excellent Wikipedia summary of Bandwidth throttling describes the intentional slowing of Internet service by an ISP (Internet …
Verizon
Corporate Verizon June 18, 2014, DoITT Report Slams Verizon DoITT is the agency responsible for a level of review.  Please …

Road Density

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. 

(See the National Transit Database for your region).

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]

Black Rock

Black Rock City

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is harveywood.png

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.

Diversity/Density

SPHERE 2

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

Ring on 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?

Containing Consumption

food city

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

point

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.

Social Change

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. The Good Guide proves people with safe, healthy, green, & ethical product reviews based on scientific ratings of some 250,000products

Education and Training

  1. 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.”  

Sent-ts’an, c. 700 C.E.

Harlem

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  1. Harlem Piers: W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Spring 2007
  2. Columbia Manhattanville: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Marilyn Taylor/SOM, 2016
  3. Apollo Theater: Beyer Blinder Belle with Davis Brody Bond, under renovation (wiki)
  4. Loews-Victoria Theater: RFP issued, no completion date (wiki)
  5. Harlem Park: TEN Arquitectos, no completion date
  6. Kalahari Apartments: Frederick Schwartz and GF55 and Studio JTA, September 2007
  7. Uptown New York Reissuing: RFP, 2006
  8. Latino Entertainment Corridor: Architect TBA, no completion date
  9. East River Plaza: Greenberg Farrow Architects, spring 2008

Comments, images, pictures, stories, site plans are welcome on these locations. Additions are welcome (posted 2010)

Open Spaces

Ten percent of Planetizen’s Top 100 Public Spaces in the United States were in New York City. It was based on a crowdsourcing survey initiated by regular contributor Chris Whitis. The “interested participants” factor suggests another important point for investigation.

Resource Planning Act Assessment

SLAP

The acronym “SLAP” is used to describe “space left after planning.” The use of the urban public place demands a new aesthetic. Thus, one makes the meaning of an urban place something more than a preserved hunk of “green” or platform for architecture.

The public space is also a place of last resort, where people can press unrelentingly on the button of unresolved social or economic issues. Of course, we can all name hundreds of places with equal quality or grander views as those listed below, but in an urban design thought experiment — how would the following “top ten” type places work if they were “occupied” by aggressive social change agents?”

  1. Bryant Park 
  2. High Line Park 
  3. Brooklyn Bridge Park 
  4. Central Park
  5. Paley Park
  6. Grand Central Terminal 
  7. Teardrop Park
  8. Madison Square Park 
  9. Fort Tryon Park
  10. Mosholu Parkway

Urbanization is only problematic if it cannot be stopped.  

Cities build strength in response to restraints. In this context, you can get ten cool open spaces. Once the technology represented by “the city” is restrained to “a geography,” it might be possible to achieve a purpose greater than that of the wilderness. A place that humans can only return to damage.

The Resource Planning Act Assessment issued every decade by the U.S. Forest Service finds the primary cause for the loss of natural forests and rangelands is residential and commercial sprawl, along with other land-use changes. Additional threat factors include climate change, wildfires, insect infestations, bacteria, and fungi. These trends in the structure of the nation’s renewable resources project to 2060. Current land-use policies supporting the population and economy are threats that shrink the resource base connected to rural areas.

The Resource Planning Act Assessment is completed every ten years by law in the Forest, and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, a 1974 law (Pub. L. 93-378). The latest RPA Assessment draft is available for public comment through Sept. 30. Draft and final reports can be accessed (here). Public comments on the draft 2010 RPA Assessment were filed at: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/rpa. The 2020 RPA Assessment is here.

Evaluation of measures to protect these places from being overwhelmed are requested. Thanks!

Infinity & Change

A

lemniscate is a beautiful shape, easily recognized as a figure eight or an infinity symbol. The formula that runs this animated GIF is infinite as long as there is electric power. How energy is produced is how infinity challenges entropy.

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Timeline of Last 50 Posts