“ It’s absurd to think that rebuilding the nations roads and bridges and water systems, not to mention investing in broadband and mass transit, couldn’t return more than 2.4 percent over time. In fact, the decision is more obvious even than that: if we put those investments off, we’ll still have to make them later, when borrowing costs will be higher and bridges and roads that need to be repaired now are so dilapidated that they need to be fully rebuilt. ”
Almost missed this one in the NYTimes but for Metropobliss. Memorable line, “Go, social-planning technocrats! “
This one really got me today. The loss of Hamidi matters to the field of city planning because, internationally, it sheds light on how Middle Eastern cities typically plan for their future - they don’t. Anyone who attempts to implement a vision for stability, human health and education, and economic development is quickly evicted from power.
I think Jill captures the ‘sentiment of hope’ in her interview, which I hope you take the time to watch here, or below. Hamidi clearly cares about helping the people of Kabul. He just wants to do the right thing. (So does the incredible Jill). Now, juxtapose these human acts against his assassination, here, and you’ll see how challenging instilling “hope” really is in the Middle East.
Hope is continually crushed. Leadership is persistently lost. And I cannot see how it will ever change. Ever. There will never be a Middle Eastern period of enlightenment, and that’s why they’ll never catch up or develop. They need an introspective enlightenment…
I know a courageous city planner, Michael Crane, who contracts with cities in the Sunni Triangle, Iraq. I say ‘courageous’ because he’s been almost killed in assassination attempts. This past spring, in Boston, I invited him to speak on one of my conference panels for the American Planning Association’s International Division, of which I’m a board member. Our panel topic was Challenges of International Planning.
Crane told a story that had everyone in the room the edges of their seats. He’d been working in a 5 story office building in Tikrit with other city officials. Assassins stormed the building in the middle of the day and killed over 30 people. They walked in, went floor-by-floor, and shot everyone on sight until they found the guy they were looking for - a low level, though visionary, city planner who was appointed by the mayor. After this man was shot dead, they got into their trucks and drove away. It was hours before “help” arrived in the form of locals and a smattering of troops.
After telling his story in near tears, he took a deep breath and wrapped up his talk. Focusing on his audience, he concluded by saying that, in the Middle East, the concept of city planning and economic development is completely lost once you enter Iraq. It’s a non-existent enumberance that, when implemented, turns out backwards.
Everything in war-torn, Middle Eastern cities, therefore, is a day-to-day hodge-podge of just fixing things. There are no computers and electricity is random. It’s inhumanely hot. Files and records are lost, and what are kept are impossible to decipher or enforce. Employees, if they show up, steal and bribe. There are no true building codes, environmental regulations, land use laws, or property rights (as we know them). The water is filthy. It’s just a chaotic mess of fixing things - a road gets bombed, the planners work with troops to fix it. A hotel “falls down” from cheap materials, the planners work with new construction crews to build another, equally shoddy building.
I gather that holding all this together is this rich milieu of culturally guided, benevolent anarchy. It’s a system of trust and feud, favors and family. You get things done on a daily basis, not a generational one.
You find bread today, not invest in a bakery for tomorrow. There’s no such thing as “retirement.” Which is fine if it functions well, if there’s support and family and friends to stitch it all together. But, add nasty terrorists to this mix and you get a tattered fabric of hopelessness and horrible death. There’s no hope for the people -the residents and children - when their closest city councils are blown to bits every other week. This was Crane’s blurb for the conference. He went off script for sure:
Michael Crane, AICP, Sr. Project Manager SGI
This presentation will be based on real examples of urban planning in Iraq. It will document personal experiences as planners tried to collect and analyze data, engage the public and politicians, and create new city plans for some of the most ethnically and politically sensitive areas in the country. The audience will learn with the benefit of hindsight to identify and avoid cultural and political pitfalls by hearing from our mistakes. They will also learn of the significant challenges of working in a war zone such as communicating to avoid detection, securing buildings before meetings, and the challenges of working with armed guards.
Benevolent anarchy + functional terrorism equals a reliably desperate community. Nothing can get done, and there’s little reason to hope for a better tomorrow, especially problematic when you have no positive pasts to emulate. It tears my heart. As a result of this formula, city planning in the Middle East is a cobbled together mash-up of corruption, nepotism, short-sightedness, and dangerous engineering (as you can see from the video, some building ‘engineers’ can’t even read). Worse, a military-force response is not the answer, it’s pointless.
More on the assassination: Here
More on my hero Jill Dougherty, an incredibly brave woman: Here
This weekend Inhabitat rushed to the opening weekend of Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market, a joint venture between specialty market developers Urban Space and designers Youngwoo and Associates. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of the market, which is built from discarded shipping containers…since March. It has brought together local entrepreneurs into not just a market, but an outdoor community center that showcases Brooklyn’s current economy and culture, while hinting at its heritage as a major manufacturing center and commercial port.
Read more: inhabitat, 25.07.11.
Yale’s E360 goes there: The World at 7 Billion: Can We Stop Growing Now?
The elephant in the room is what to do about overpopulation.
For those who care about the environment, the future of human civilization, or both, the Day of 7 Billion should prod us to face and address the risks of continued population growth.
By the sheer scale of our presence and activity we are putting ourselves and all life at risk. No human being has the right to consume forever more than any other. Yet if we could somehow close the global consumption gap, the importance of our numbers would be even more obvious as the limits of natural systems were crossed.
Above: Population growth, historical and projected, 1950-2100
It scarcely lessens the importance of reducing both consumption and inequity to celebrate the fact that population growth can end without policies that restrict births, without coercion of any kind, without judgments on those who choose large families. We are not far from a world in which the number of births roughly balances the number of deaths, based on pregnancies universally welcomed by women and their partners.
An excellent read: E360