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Archive for the ‘The 'New Urbanism' movement’ Category

In many respects America is falling behind certain European nations and increasingly various Asian countries when it comes to the physical condition of its cities.  In order to continue being economically and socially competitive the USA must embark upon a major social, political, and economic campaign to clean up and modernize its cities, to bring them up to 21st Century standards.

Due to the current recession there are large number of unemployed/underemployed people in America who could be employed in a multitude of projects to clean up and modernize American cities.  Doing so would ensure a stable supply of jobs for millions of Americans for decades to come, including tearing out the old and building the new, installing solar panels and solar hot water heaters in homes and businesses, setting up more sustainable agriburban communities in appropriate areas, intelligently revamping cities and suburbs to in order to build better public transportation networks, building high speed train lines linking up major cities, and dozens of other green-collar jobs.

Due to neglect or mismanagement over the last few decades many American cities are not as functional or aesthetically pleasing as they ought to be when compared to cities in other countries.  Many of America’s cities are sprawling, auto-dependent, and more suburban in nature than truly urban, and this could be gradually and intelligently modified to help concentrate more people in true urban areas that are cleaner and more efficient than endlessly sprawling suburbs.

Overall it is clear that the USA must embark upon a major 21st Century campaign to clean up and modernize its cities in order to provide a better quality of life for many of its citizens.

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All over the USA and in many other post-industrial nations there is environmental blight and ecological devastation found nearly everywhere, especially in many cities and suburbs.

Thus I propose that we engage in a long-term phase of ‘constructive destruction‘ wherein we tear down very many of the old, useless, and decrepit buildings, shuttered factories, decaying neighborhoods, and so on and put better things in their place or even return those areas to natural greenspace.  Luckily this is occurring in some areas of the USA, but not at nearly a quick enough pace.  This will serve to create many jobs, since it would take literally decades to remove, rebuild, and/or retrofit many of the old buildings and areas which were rashly built in the last 100+ years of mass-industrial fervor.

This is already happening in some American cities; read: “US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive: Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic “shrink to survive” proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline

For instance, if we take an old factory which has been closed down for decades, a building (or buildings) which is nothing but an ugly scar on the landscape that attracts crime and creates pollution: we could employ dozens if not hundreds of people to descend upon the site and tear the old factory down, being very careful to fully recycle any potentially reusable materials.  After the process of destroying/dismantling the site is finished, local/community planners could be employed to find various ways to re-utilize the newly opened up space.  If there is no need for new industry or jobs in the area, the site could simply be turned in to ‘ecodense’ housing (if it is needed), or a public park, or it could be reforested, or a school could be built, or a local lake/reservoir could be dug there, or even large public garden(s) or orchards could be created, and so on and so forth.  The possibilities are literally wide open, because obviously anything is better put in the place of ugly, blighted, and abandoned buildings or old factories.

The main point of this process of ‘constructive destruction’ is to remove as many of the now useless buildings and abandoned eyesores which were built in the past but which now are worthless and serve no real purpose whatsoever — in doing this we would in turn create millions of new jobs merely by cleaning up the hideous industrial wreckage of the past.  There are plenty of new ways in which almost all of these blighted areas could be reused, and many people in the local areas where these abandoned buildings or neglected sites are located would certainly have many ideas for things which could be created or put in their place.

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I’ve noticed a few of recent stories about locally/regionally-based agriculture and sustainable/green living in the news recently in my area, which was very good to see and hear.

+ Up around the small North Carolina town of Granite Quarry located in Rowan County, the ‘neo-agrarian’ concept of ‘Agriburbia‘ is taking root in a planned community/village called ‘The Farmstead‘ which is slated to be built there in stages during the coming years.  Good radio interviews with the planners of this ‘Agriburban’ community can be heard HERE as well as HERE.

Basically, the concept behind ‘Agriburban’ developments such as ‘The Farmstead’ in Granite Quarry are extremely similar to various ideas which I have been thinking about and formulating for quite a few years now.  It involves a neighborhood, or village, or small town, and/or simple cluster of sustainably-built homes which are located adjacent to shared farmland, orchards, pastureland, and so on.  Each home would also be built with personal/familial gardenspace located in their backyard (if they chose to utilize it).  Thus, anywhere between 1/3-1/2 (or even more) of the neighborhood’s plant-based food could be grown right there on-site, with some left over for sale in local or regional markets.  Additionally, some local shops would also be located in the neighborhood or village to facilitate  neighborhood commerce.  Overall, these ideas seek to create more sustainable, cohesive, and self/communally-sufficient suburban and/or small-town developments, in effect semi-mimicking the pre-industrial villages or towns of yore though with all modern technological amenities still available.  Instead of being highly dependent ‘bedroom communities’ wherein the residents must seek all sustenance away from their neighborhood or community, these ‘Agriburban’ developments are instead focused on being comparatively ‘mixed-use,’ i.e. they incorporate residential and commercial/mercantile space with local agricultural space.  This is a great idea, and one which I wrote about a bit on this blog HERE — I’ll definitely have much more to say about these ideas on this website in the future.  In the meantime, read the following articles on various ‘Agriburban’ projects which are currently underway in the U.S. state of Colorado HERE and HERE, plus one located in Illinois HERE.

+ Relatedly, back in July the local public radio station had a show on the topic of local agriculture — in interested, that radio show can be heard HERE. On the show was the author of a book about reviving local/regional agriculture; the author’s name is Aaron Newton and the title of his book is A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil. I very much hope to buy and read Newton’s book soon, because from what I heard during the radio interview his views are very much similar to my own.  Also check out the website Know Your Farms, which is devoted to getting people in the Charlotte area more in touch with some of the local farmers who live in the region.

+ A June story from The Charlotte Observer entitled “How a Cabarrus Farm is Growing the Next Generation of Farmers” notes some very encouraging developments related to local agriculture (aside from the fact that, to quote the article, “North Carolina leads the nation in its loss of farms”).  On this particular farm in Cabarrus County a few people are (re)learning some of the necessary agricultural/agrarian skills needed to usher-in a new generation of younger American farmers.  Also, a more recent news-story from The Charlotte Observer about how “North Carolina is a state in transition” which is caught between its mostly rural heritage and the growing urbanity which is increasingly found therein.

+ A few years ago Central Carolina Community College (which is a community college located in Chatham, Harnett, & Lee Counties, NC) started a two-year Associate’s degree program in Sustainable Agriculture.  I think this is an excellent idea, and it would be great if every single community college in NC (or even the entire USA!) started offering a similar degree program that could be tailored to the specific climate and local soil profile of the particular county in which the community college is located.  Central Carolina Community College also offers a two-year Associate’s degree program in Alternative Energy Technology/Biofuels.  Overall, that community college seems to be far ahead of other colleges when it comes to the ‘green education curve’ by offering fairly low-cost educational opportunities to nearby residents who can certainly put these very useful skills to work in their local communities.  I wholeheartedly encourage other local community colleges nationwide (as well as larger colleges and universities) to begin offering similar two-year degree programs as soon as possible at a reasonable cost just as CCCC has done.

Related to the aforementioned news-stories, far too many modern Americans (even the majority of very highly educated historians of American history) often forget that the USA was founded as an ‘agrarian republic‘ and existed in that form for much of its history, i.e. nearly all of its citizens up until the 20th Century (which was the century when urban industrialism generally became ascendant in the USA, particularly in the post-WWII era) were involved in local and/or regional forms of agriculture in one way or another, and indeed many of the most important American Founding Fathers were prominent agriculturalists, farmers, and/or planters as well who were strongly influenced by the agrarian philosophies of an 18th Century French group of proto-economists who were called the ‘Physiocrats.’

It’s a shame that the USA has lost contact with its original agrarian/rural roots, but hopefully we Americans who still care deeply about agriculture and the ‘life of the soil’ can help to at least partially revive agrarianism in the USA and at least partially take it back from the handful of mega-corporations who currently dominate it. We ‘neo-agrarianists’ aren’t technology-hating ‘Luddites‘ and we clearly aren’t seeking to entirely do away with industrialism, urbanism, and high-technology (because that would clearly be absurd and counter-productive), but rather we seek to put American citizens back in contact with the more natural, localized, and agricultural principles that this country was founded upon along with the agrarian way-of-life which most of their American ancestors lived.  We ‘neo-agrarianists’ also seek to reverse the terrible neglect that has occurred in many of America’s rural areas by bringing much-needed attention back to the extraordinarily pivotal role which settled agriculture has played in building and sustaining human civilization for over 10,000 years now.

Back in the 1920s/30s, the Southern Agrarians tried to warn (to no avail) a rapidly industrializing/urbanizing USA about the dangers and pitfalls inherent within the burgeoning urban-industrial system. They published their scathing critique of urban-industrialism on the cusp of the Great Depression, during socioeconomic as well as political circumstances which were eerily similar to the ones which confront the modern USA — indeed, many of their statements were quasi-prophetic and clearly illuminate many of the problems that heavily industrialized/urbanized nations now face at the beginning of the 21st Century. If you have some extra time, read the excellent “Introduction: A Statement of Principles” to their brilliant book of essays published in 1930 entitled I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition.

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The best way to move toward more sustainable modes of living would be to utilize our advanced organizational skills to begin constructing environmentally-friendly ‘ecovillages,’ ‘ecotowns,’ and ‘ecocities.’  Actually, we wouldn’t have to construct much of anything because much of the needed infrastructure is already in place for such development – more retrofitting and intelligent planning rather than raw construction would be in order.  In doing this, we could all live much more locally, and thus more cleanly and sustainably.  We could easily relearn many very useful and practical skills which have mostly been lost in the confusing industrial shuffle of the past century.  This would necessitate ending the ‘division of labor’ and extreme economic specialization, thus allowing people the time and freedom to learn how to do many different things satisfactorily.

We should all get closer to food production (as much food as possible should be locally-produced), building construction and maintenance, making clothing, repairing machinery, and so on.  All of this would allow the natural development of people who are much more well-rounded in terms of their knowledge and skill-sets rather than forcing people in to becoming non-thinking, quasi-robotic automatons completely dependent on their particular socio-economic niche to survive.

We desperately need to return to simpler and slower (but still technologically-connected) lifestyles with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. There should never be too much population density in one area (dense overcrowding) or anonymous urban living.  We also need to be in much more contact with nature (especially our local environments) in order to cultivate and inculcate a sense of environmental responsibility within ourselves. We here in the United States could possibly consult the Amish and other related groups in this regard and learn much from them in terms of how to bring back some of the ‘old ways’ – however, we would of course still retain the cleanest and most useful labor-saving technology which they shun.

We’ll of course still need many factories to produce the basic and easily mass-manufactured consumer goods needed for sustaining large human populations, as well as weapons/munitions for local and national defense.  However, industrial manufacturing should be de-centralized as much as possible to avoid concentrating environmental degradation in certain areas; it needs to be spread it out thinly in order to more lightly distribute the bad environmental impact of heavy-industry. This also applies to human population levels which have become unsustainably large in too many urban areas – as such, a certain amount of de-urbanization is likely going to be needed to bring those population numbers back down to sustainable levels.

We must promote and return to more local forms of agriculture, local livestock raising, local hunting/gathering, local fishing, and so forth.  We should start to use the landscape and its precious resources more intelligently and sustainably, including shared greenspace, gardenspace/farmland/orchards, pastureland, and fishing/hunting areas.  Every home should have adequate space to plant a garden or gardens if they so choose.  This would all need to be planned very well, researched exhaustively, and ruthlessly revised or improved when needed.

The concepts of ‘New Urbanism’ as well as ‘ecodensity’ should be tested and widely implemented if they prove successful.  We must also examine the so-called ‘Blue Zones’ found in select spots around the world where people have lives that are so often a great deal better than average and attempt to replicate their success if possible.

In the future, we will clearly need to have totally oil-free societies, civilizations which are as sustainable, clean, and free of pollution as humanly possible.  They should be run entirely on various forms of cleaner/greener alternative energy (this is still dependent on future technological breakthroughs). All of these ecovillages/ecotowns/ecocities will need to be intensively connected with environmentally-friendly mass-transit, and very clean ‘greencars’ should be cheap to buy or rent for basic traveling; ideally, much of the everyday local work, travel, or recreation would be done on foot or via small vehicles in your local area within a few of the surrounding square miles.  Pollution-free forms of transportation for traveling long-distances should be made available to everyone so that they can travel anywhere needed at any time.

Also, these ecovillages/ecotowns/ecocities would have to be connected to the internet and other modern forms of communication technology in order to promote cooperation, trade, and commerce between them, but even then they should remain mostly self-sufficient in terms of food production and the other basic necessities as much as is possible.

In order to facilitate information-sharing and the formulating of solutions to various problems, all books, articles, newspapers, and other material that has ever been written, as well as all other forms of human knowledge, should be digitized and subsequently loaded on to the internet, totally free for anyone to browse, read, and learn from.  This totally comprehensive internet should forever remain completely open and uncensored in terms of use, research, and discussion; internet servers must be decentralized in order to prevent the possible monopolization or censorship of the internet by various interest groups who might grow too powerful.

Banking and monetary policy should also be de-centralized as well in order to prevent the overconcentration of wealth, power, and influence in certain areas at the expense of all others.  The media should be decentralized too, but it could still nationally aggregative.  Also, the laws and rights of states must always trump national/federal ones, with local (town/city/county) laws and rights even more important than state ones.

We must work to end the insecurity of ‘economic nomadism’ and forced economic rootlessness by encouraging people to work more in the immediate local area(s) in which they have been born or raised.  People can only begin to care about their local area or community if they are intimately and deeply connected to it, and the constant shuffling around of people via immigration in search of economic opportunities is not at all conducive or favorable to sustainable/stable economic or environmental policies – in fact, it is entirely inimical to it.

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The Human Sustainability Plan (THSP)

OUR EARTH

PERSISTENT PROBLEMS – SOME SOLUTIONS – INACTION IS IMPOSSIBLE

It is increasingly difficult to deny that humanity is spiraling out of control on multiple levels.  As such, this website seeks to offer commentary on and possible solutions to the current socio-environmental crisis.

I particularly seek to provide a gathering place for links to other websites and/or pertinent research resources which are focused on the modern ‘green/sustainability movement,’ human/environmental sustainability, environmental conservation/protection, all aspects of environmental science, ecology, enviro-economics, ecopolitical issues, natural resources, simple living, agrarianism, localism, and a myriad of other related topics.

If you know of more good websites, books, or any other sources of information pertaining to environmental topics please put them in a comment here or in another post so that I can take a look and then possibly add them to the links section of this website if they prove informative and helpful.

Also, please don’t be shy in terms of criticizing the ideas contained on this website, as well as correcting the grammar, word usage, and/or stylistics of my writing if you catch mistakes.  Any and all criticism is very helpful and is fully welcome here.

I’m adding the entire categorical structure of this website to this particular post (see directly below) so that readers can get a sense of what topics this blog will focus on.

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