Came across this interesting graphic showing the spatial distribution of job creation and job loss over the past five years in the US. Watch as Katrina hits New Orleans, cities wax and wane, and red blossoms across the map in this latest financial downturn. It’s pretty powerful stuff, albeit—in my humble opinion— a bit alarmist. It makes me think the environmental movement would do well to create similar easily-understood graphics that show the magnitude of our environmental impacts as a way of inspiring cultural change. (Maybe something like this? A little hokey, but …)
May 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment
From the Inaugural Address of Charles William Eliot as President of Harvard College, Tuesday, October 19, 1869
Harvard needs poor students: “The poverty of scholars is of inestimable worth in this money-getting nation. It maintains the true standards of virtue and honor…The poor scholars and preachers of duty defend the modern community against its own material prosperity.”
But Harvard also needs rich students: “…this College owes much of its distinctive character to those who bringing hither from refined homes good breeding, gentle tastes, and a manly delicacy, add to them openness and activity of mind, intellectual interests, and a sense of public duty…To lose altogether the presence of those who in early life have enjoyed the domestic and social advantages of wealth would be as great a blow to the College as to lose the sons of the poor. The interests of the College and the country are identical in this regard. The country suffers when the rich are ignorant and unrefined. Inherited wealth is an unmitigated curse when divorced from culture. Harvard College is sometimes reproached for being aristocratic. If by aristocracy be meant a stupid and pretentious caste, founded on wealth, and birth, and an affectation of European manners, no charge could be more preposterous: the College is intensely American in affection, and intensely democratic in temper. But there is an aristocracy to which the sons of Harvard have belonged, and let us hope will ever aspire to belong,–the aristocracy which excels in manly sports, carries off the honors and prizes of the learned professions, and bears itself with distinction in all fields of intellectual labor and combat; the aristocracy which in peace stands firmest for the public honor and renown, and in war rides first into the murderous thickets.”
WHAT SAY YE?
March 23rd, 2009 | No Comments
And it was decreed that Web 2.0 would live first as farce, then as tragedy.
March 16th, 2009
The dream of a real, visible, or audible world arising from the words is over. The historical synchronicity of cinema, phonography, and typewriter separated the data flows of optics, acoustics, and writing and rendered them autonomous. The fact of this differentiation is not altered by the recent ability of electric or electronic media to bring them back together and combine them.
Friedrich Kittler, “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter,” October 41 (Summer, 1987):101-118.
March 14th, 2009
“There is a continuous dialectic interplay between the mind and its environment, and … our perceptions of objects and events are no less a part of consciousness than are our fantasies.”
Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2005), viii.
“You can boast your magnificent lawn and spacious rooms, but face it—you live in the Quad. You will psyche yourself out that it’s not so bad, but on that occasional night where you’re standing around freezing at 3:30am, you’ll think about the hundreds of hours you light on fire because of living in the Quad and you’ll shed a little tear for the cold arbitrariness of life.”
June Wu, FlyByBlog
Quad to the Science Center: 2689 ft.
Eliot to the Science Center: 2597 ft.
Mather to the Science Center: 3039 ft.
March 14th, 2009 | 3 Comments
March 14th, 2009
But at least the original had something approximating efficacy in mind—votes, after all, deciding the actual outcomes of elections, which in turn direct billions of dollars towards all the precious causes rattled out by the celebrities. By contrast, the logic of Senior Gift is impenetrable. Last year, they note, over 1,000 seniors contributed. That’s, like, almost as many people as showed up to Lamont that one time to get free snacks! But you only have to donate $10—something about the price of burgers or condoms or whatever. Let’s be charitable and assume some people donate more, and put the mean contribution at $20. So Senior Gift raises $20,000.
Which, apparently, is enough to somehow fund:
— Financial aid
—Renovations to the MAC, Hemingway, and QRAC
—Making Harvard accessible to anyone regardless of their economic background
—Improving art spaces
—Improve advising programs
—The Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub
—Online registration and the course shopping tool
Let’s break that down in $20,000 chunks:
—Tuition for a single student for less than 2/3 of a year
Eh, whoops, looks like we’re already out of money. Looks like we’ll have to forego such things as 1/1500th of the cost of renovating the MAC, the salary of twenty Peer Advising Fellows, one two people studying abroad for a summer, or all the other great things that should be important to me than burgers or condoms or whatever.
But, yeah, you know, give! Have at it!
March 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment
By building taller and taller buildings, the Once-ler was proving himself to be the real environmentalist.
All told, this is nothing more than a cute little nose-rub between Glaeser and the Times‘s urban identity caucus, along the lines of an article in Ebony on the dynamism of African-American culture or one in O about how taking kids to soccer practice is the bedrock of the American dream. It would be innocent fluff were it not taken seriously by a lot of people yoked into the gospel of New Urbanism.
There’s no disputing that city living, on the margin, demands less resource use than suburban or rural life. A lot of this, though, has to do with the way that cities are set up in relationship to the countryside. Farmers have to drive long distances and practice unsustainable industrial techniques because the city is far away and exacts huge commodity demands. And that’s always going to be the case given the globalized, neoliberal commodity production networks which high-density urban life dictates by its very nature. So while a single urban dweller may produce fewer emissions, the system which he props up produces a lot.
So we do need to think creatively about the way cities work in the national landscape. For the most part, though, New Urbanism is little more than a thinly-varnished attempt to backpedal on a lot of progressive urban democratization by turning the same corporate interests which created suburbs inwards and making them look different. Economically and socially, there’s not a lot of difference between Levittown and Celebration, one of the poster projects of New Urbanism. It astounds me that so many progressives have caught on with it—often, I think, because they live in cities and like to go to Starbucks and live what amounts to an upper-class bourgeois1 life. They’ve then backfilled quantitative analysis to justify this lifestyle. I don’t begrudge them the lifestyle they lead—which at its core is more about theaters and clubs and bars and museums than it is about sustainability—but when you’re talking national policy, you need to talk about what people are actually going to do. And regardless of whether it is a good or a bad thing, urban suspicion remains a deep current of American thought that has a centuries-long history. Rather than just wishing it away, we ought to turn our planning powers to ways of making non-urban places sustainable as well.
Also, whenever I read something like this …
many environmentalists will still prefer to take their cue from Henry David Thoreau, who advocated living alone in the woods.
… I know I’m reading something by somebody who’s never actually read Thoreau.
1 A word which, let’s not forget, means “city dweller.”
* Cf. title