The Urban Environment As A Regenerative System

We have large portions of urban dwellers whose legitimacy is questioned, thus we need to create a new narrative, a vision of the city that includes everyone. The question is rarely asked, “Who is the city for?” but is seemingly a foregone conclusion and thus issues of trust, equality, equity and sustainability are forgotten in the process of extractive productivity.

Extractive systems beget socioeconomically depressed regions because they rely on inequality to function; the car vs the pedestrian, the rich vs the poor, the native vs the immigrant. Similarly, when a structure has been used to its capacity, many times it is abandoned and left to degrade. Sometimes it is repurposed into something similar but not regenerative to the organism, or the host, that is the city, because of the inherent restriction of extractive systems. The Commons, that is, public space, does not need to be privatised to be valuable to all. Social capital is what makes cities and cities ought to be built around people, not technology, because the former has a connection to the landscape and the latter can not measure this variable. Big data shows large swaths of numbers, while thick data shows a more qualitative analysis and this is what social urbaneering seeks to understand -- what is it these stories tell and how do we apply that data to livable cities?

It has been predicted through the usage of biophysics (e coli formulations in jars that represent said cities) that by 2050, the planet will have 11 billion inhabitants and most of those will be in the 25 super-metropolis areas which are, not surprisingly, located in Asia. It is time to reform our cities and our urban economies so that they regenerate life rather than extract from the population and the environment. In a future entry, I will shed more insight into what is available in regards to urban design. For more immediate info, watch this 90 minute presentation on the subject.

Anthropological insight into conflicts over urban space

An 18th Century Creature

Election season is winding down here in the States.

The Republican Party got trumped (again) because it has no intellectual philosophy of governance. It has a clot of negations of other people’s ideas. You can’t run a complex, multicultural, nuclear-weaponed nation-state with the gut feeling that government is bad, and so the less we have of it, the better off we will be. Thus, being against philosophies of governance, climate science and evolution in particular, and science in general, left the Republican Party without an intellectual immune system and the infection of nativism and white male anger took it over.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are a cursed party on their way to hell, who have betrayed their hope for reform, in the most brutal manner possible and sold their soul to the highest bidder, domestic and foreign. There are several people like the GB Labour Party's Corbyn in the Democratic Party, but they have been all but silenced. Bernie Sanders received the airtime he did because he was allowed to by the establishment on both sides of the aisle. Almost as an example to say, "We'll let you get some press time and then we'll crush you so others don't speak up in the future."

It's complicated because the US is a different society than its Western allies, but part of the answer is to be found in the way each party has treated "the communist and socialist left" since World War 2. Here, the Democrats participated in their suppression and have worked hard to prevent any resurgence, either in politics or in the unions. As a result, the Republican Party have had a resurgence in recent years, and really quite a good time of it since the mid 50's save for the Nixon era. (Ironically, the group who complain the most about "unfair media bias" are guessed it: the Republican Party.) The fact of the matter is that progress has been halted in this country because of the aforementioned suppression; one being intrinsic to Republican party principles, one being simple a form of Democrat NIMBYism. The anti-communist/socialist fervor which still has remnants today is an extension of the Alien and Sedition Act from 1800.

To that, I would add that the American constitutional design was explicitly intended to completely eliminate citisen participation in governing directly. (See federalist 63) This manifested in an amending article with enormous supermajorities required from governmental officials and Constitution-created entities — the states. The result has been the intended one, the prevention of political innovation. So in many ways the United States government, and the society it structures, is still a creature of the 18th century.


It's been about a week and a half since I arrived back in the States from México. I've had some time to process my thoughts, deal with reverse culture shock, and think about my next move(s).

Travel is a bit like a relationship. You water it a little each day and it grows. It gets inside of you, it changes you.

México was an adventure that ended rather prematurely for me, but no less made its mark. I journeyed there as a response to a private longing to return after being in Ensenada in the middle/late 2000s. Having accomplished this, I now know more about myself but also of my friends to the South. I'd like less to build a wall and more to build a bridge. México, in all its weird and shady history, in all of its varied landscapes, and its multitude of cultures, is an incredibly beautiful place that should be afforded a visit by all. That being said, I think it's time to hang up the hobo hat on the rack and put on another one with less plumage:

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” — Samuel Johnson

Part of my reason for travelling is a constant discontent with the States. I was born here but let's be honest -- not everyone adores where their parents conceived them. It happens to be a location on a piece of paper I have to show strange people in uniforms who want to touch me every so often when I cross an imaginary line. In the past, I've resigned the country to the following quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” — Isaac Asimov

But things have changed. Something happens, Samuel Johnson said, to people who travel.

Perhaps that something has happened to me. It's not that I've suddenly lost my wanderlust, or that I'll be canvassing the streets for voter registration or give two hoots about most news headlines. But I do see a need for real change, both in my trajectory, and in the country I was born in. So in that spirit, I've decided to return to the world of academia, and pursue a degree in Urban Design/Urbanism with a concentration on either Ethnography or Film Studies.

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