August 1, 2014

Rhetorical Dichotomies and Urbanism

I’m finding the process of writing a script for a documentary film especially interesting in regard to the canon of invention. Much of the advice I’ve been reading — because I’m a total newb at this — says the most you can do early in the process (the research/pre-production phase) is create a general outline. Invention comes before outline. I’ve been doing research, i.e. reading to focus my idea. Previously described:

The Baby Boomers were children of the post-war suburbs and raised their own children in the sprawling communities at the edges of American cities. Owning an individual home outside of a city has long been an essential part of the American Dream. That dream is changing. The Millennial generation is changing it. Young people today are showing a strong preference for living in dense, walkable urban communities. And an increasing number of their empty-nest parents are following them.

I’m finding Charles Montgomery’s Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design to be especially helpful because I’ve created two useful dichotomies. “Useful” means rhetorically useful i.e. helping me say, persuasively, what it is I want to say. In an early chapter about the history of suburbia, he identifies two philosophies driving suburban sprawl.

  1. The school of separation: The good life can only be achieved by separating the functions of the city so people can avoid “the worst of its toxicity.”
  2. The school of speed: Freedom is a “matter of velocity — the idea being that the faster you can get away from the city , the freer you will become.”

So I am asserting two (kinda) opposite schools that appear to be guiding a return to cities.

  1. The school of mixed use: This is one of the guiding ideas of the Congress for the New Urbanism. The good life can be achieved by living in areas where many uses intermingle.
  2. The school of proximity: It is better to walk, ride a bicycle, or take public transit to nearby places in a mixed-use urban area.

The whole point of what I’ll call a “rhetorical dichotomy” is to create a model by which you can compare things. In this case, the things are various issues of urbanism and suburbanism. A rhetorical dichotomy ought not, it seems to me, be used to over-simplify an issue. I’ll try not to. The three issues I’ll be examining (until I change my mind) are:

  1. Energy use: How much energy does one consume to live a suburban lifestyle versus an urban lifestyle.
  2. Commute: How much time and expense is involved in commuting to work or traveling to other important destinations?
  3. Infrastructure support: What needs to be built, and what needs to be maintained, to support new urbanism versus suburbanism?

There are, of course, many more issues from which to choose. These interest me now. More to come…

[Cross-posted on Carbon Trace]

Technorati Tags: , , ,

November 20, 2011

The Party Is Over

The painful reality of resource (oil, water, revenue, capital) limits:

Nearly a third of all homes are in foreclosure. The houses that are occupied are worth less than half of what they were two years ago. But people here still focus on what it could have been and maybe, just maybe, what it could still be.

This year, the city was facing a $9 million deficit and the prospect that it might not be able to make payroll. State officials began murmuring that they could move to take over the municipality if it became fiscally insolvent. One official said that unless the city “hit the jackpot,” bankruptcy was imminent. This fall, the city reached a deal with unions to delay cost-of-living raises, averting a crisis for now.

But the future is still grim — the city’s bond rating was downgraded again last month, and officials acknowledge that they could be in the same precarious position next year, when the city faces a $15.5 million budget gap. They hope that a new veterans’ hospital and an outpost of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will help the economy, but they know those additions will not provide the same kind of quick cash that property taxes once did.

Technorati Tags: , ,

November 15, 2011

Clean Tech Problem

Not to mention the oil problem that all technologies have:

This isn’t exactly a new issue to the green movement, but it’s an under-examined one nonetheless: Rare earths like neodymium are integral to a number of cleantech innovations that are changing the way that we produce energy, drive, and so on. But they’re also, well, rare.

This Mother Jones report does a good job of giving an overview of how their scarcity presents a number of problems to revving the clean energy economy up to full speed. Read the whole thing, but here are the bullet points:

-First, as of now, China produces almost all of the world’s rare earth metals. But as its own domestic industry has boomed, it has kept more and more to itself, and costs have spiked as a result.
-Second, mining for rare earths is tricky, and dangerous. It has been known to create dreadful contamination — rare earths, as MoJo reports,”occur naturally with the radioactive elements thorium and uranium, which, if not stored securely, can leach into groundwater or escape into the air as dust.”
-Finally, improper mining procedures have led to birth defects and health woes in nearby communities.

Technorati Tags: ,

November 12, 2011

You Could Be Like Us

But that would be bad if China and India tried to be us:

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,