There can be no success in “right to the city” struggles that is not, simultaneously, a success in democratically decarbonizing urban life. Once we realize that several core stakes of right-to-the-city struggles—especially housing, transit, and land use—are the also the core stakes of low-carbon urbanism, we see that it is no longer possible (or desirable) to deeply distinguish social from environmental politics
Two published this month;
Daegan Miller, On the liberation cartography of Henry David Thoreau, which concludes
It is tempting to read Thoreau’s river survey as a satirical anti-map, a snide rejection of disciplinary pretension that leaves its viewer wallowing in relativism. How could anyone measure anything with a tripolar scale whose differing notions of what an inch is babble over each other? But irony is only one of the tropes that Thoreau drew on. He was always more interested in improvement than deconstruction, and his countermodern map is affirming in its self-aware subjectivity, its desire to picture Concord as situated in a landscape teeming with life and human usage. This was a political choice. If Baldwin’s and Perham’s Concord River is anonymous and untouched and dead, an ahistorical space that denies change, a river that can be manipulated and controlled; then all those notes pinpointing where the plants grew, all those piles of figures and ghosts of surveys past, make of Thoreau’s a deep map — a view of an impressively interconnected world where nature, commerce, culture, history, and imagination all grow together — something nonfungible and specific: a full, a wild land living at once beyond and beneath the confined landscape of the town’s grasping improvers, both agricultural and industrial, who, despite their superficial differences, ultimately agreed that the best use of a river is to turn a profit.
Lizzie Yarina on Negotiating rhetorics and imaginaries of climate resilience, wherein she examines four large cities in Southeast Asia facing major climate risks: Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok. As she explains
Across Southeast Asia, infrastructures (often at incredible scales) are promoted as the answer to climate and environmental risks. Importantly, these projects provide an image of resilience, even if the actual merits are uncertain. But when I spoke with technical experts on the ground in these four cities, they emphasized the gap between what is attractive and what is needed….But the deeper and more insidious problem is that the technocratic language of climate adaptation rationalizes mass evictions….Too often, global media and institutions measure the impact of disasters by their monetary cost, rather than by the number of lives lost or impaired. We must ask, then, whether climate change adaptation is framed through the same lens. Do resilience projects truly alleviate risks for those who are most vulnerable to floods, storms, and heat? Or do they protect investments and foster speculative development by global elites? When adaptation planning is sponsored by developers or international banks, these categories become blurry.
“It’s worth remembering that two-thirds of the world’s cities sit on coastlines. In a high-emissions scenario, average high tides in New York could be higher than the levels seen during Sandy. A rise in global sea levels of 11 feet would fully submerge cities like Mumbai and a large part of Bangladesh. The question is no longer if – but how high, and how fast.”
From a review of, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilised World by Jeff Goodell in London Review of Books, by Meehan Crist.
From November 2017, Shannon Mattern on the material archives of climate science.
As she explains “In the geosciences, there’s a long tradition of regarding the Earth itself, the terrestrial field, as an archive. Talk about big data…Over the next century, this metaphor multiplied across layers of abstraction. First there was the Earth as archive; then fossil records and specimen collections, visual representations of those collections, textual catalogs, and, eventually, databases…In classifying and indexing samples of ice, rock, soil, and sediment, we acknowledge the Earth as a vast geo-informatic construct. It is both geology and data, ontology and epistemology.”
From December 2017, Amelia Taylor-Hochberg on Frank Pick, the London Tube and how as “chief administrator of the London Passenger Transport Board” he leveraged art and architecture to advance the “progressive ideal that public transport ought to be more than a means of getting around and that the ever expanding network was an unparalleled opportunity to enhance the lives of London’s citizens.”
Also from December 2017, John David Rose on The house in American cinema, from the plantation to Chavez Ravine. Therein he reflects on Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird
“When we see a house onscreen, the property relations implicit in the seemingly simple activity of moviegoing proliferate into confusion. And yet there is a kind of clarity in what is at stake here. In purchasing a movie ticket we pay for the right to occupy a space in order to gaze up at a space we can never occupy.
This is the story cinema has been mutely telling all along — a story about the house, the security and ease it promises, and the horrible anxieties produced when we try to force the house to deliver on those promises.”
From Jan 2018, Douglas Murphy on The Modern Urbanism of Cook’s Camden.
Places Journal published, ‘Jane Jacobs and the Death and Life of American Planning‘, an essay by Associate Professor Thomas J. Campanella.
Therein he explains why;
“To understand the roots of this sense of impotence requires us to dial back to the great cultural shift that occurred in planning beginning in the 1960s. The seeds of discontent sown then brought forth new and needed growth, which nonetheless choked out three vital aspects of the profession — its disciplinary identity, professional authority and visionary capacity.”
Back in Feb, Shannon Mattern argued that A City Is Not a Computer. The essay, in part a reaction to Y Combinator’s move last year into urbanism, problematizes ‘smart cities’ and tech’s Californian Ideology.
To wit –
“Were he alive today, Mumford would reject the creeping notion that the city is simply the internet writ large. He would remind us that the processes of city-making are more complicated than writing parameters for rapid spatial optimization. He would inject history and happenstance. The city is not a computer. This seems an obvious truth, but it is being challenged now (again) by technologists (and political actors) who speak as if they could reduce urban planning to algorithms. 20“
Further, references to “nonsemantic information“, “the longue duré“, “geologic insight” and “urban epistemologies”.
Back in 2014 Diffusive Architectures explained The fallacy of the ‘urban age’ and why
“To properly see, understand, talk about, and strategise for urbanisation, we need new ways to describe and map these processes of concentration and extension, and the churning of use and habitation patterns. ..”
Plus, Courtney Humphries argued that By making “urban” synonymous with “city,” we miss the realities of where we live (ie: the peri-urban or suburban) and how our sprawling ways are changing the world. In other words,
“What’s very clear is that we need a language and a finer-grain differentiation of different types of urban life and urban ecosystems“