L[i/o]ving cities

Posts tagged ‘sustainability’

THE HISTORY OF THE DUTCH BICYCLE SUCCESS

Here there is a video in which we can see the construction process of the Dutch bicycle infrastructure. The video is fine to see what different happenings are in the core of the urbanization processes that happen in our cities, you can see them in the video.

Besides of the historical resume of the process, it is really important to see that there are critical situations in which we have to change our ways of doing. The key for the Dutch bicycles were the amount of car deaths, the first oil crisis and a past history of bicycle use.

Nowadays we are having some of these critical situations as the second oil crisis, the congestion of our cities, the lack of public resources, etc. I think that all these facts are not a threat; I think that they are warnings that are telling us that our way of doing things is becoming obsolete. So we have to be conscious about the challenges that mobility has to face and, fortunately, we also have the key to go in a success direction as the Dutch did, or not.

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SOCIAL OR ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCTION

Hello Cityliners, it´s been a long time since the last City Lines post, but holidays is not the best time for writing, although it is a great time for thinking. Formerly, we have written about the planned obsolescence and we have made some criticising about the usual means of production and sale. Now we want to go beyond that post with some more reflections about the implications of the planned obsolescence.

One of the things that could be surprising about planned obsolescence is the first time that it was mentioned. It is a concept that was formulated in 1932, when Bernard London wrote, “Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence”, in which he blamed the Great Depression on consumers who use “their old cars, their old radios and their old clothing much longer than statisticians had expected”.

So, we can assume that planned obsolescence was some kind of countercyclical measure expressed during the great depression to promote more employment. The lack of it was the real consequence of the 1929 crash, and some of these economic measures and a world war made possible to get a lot of people employed during the next years.

Nowadays, we are suffering some kind of similar situation as the one in the early 30s. But, in contrast, we have the problem that we are using a lot more amounts of natural resources than before, so it seems to be difficult to go beyond in this “planned obsolescence” tactic. Therefore, it also seems that we have to reduce our natural resources spending for a more cohesive world.

All this argumentation suggests that, on the one hand, the “planned obsolescence” tactic can promote more employment but, environmentally, the consequences are terrible. On the other hand, although resigning the “planned obsolescence” tactic will improve our environment, it will have really bad consequences upon employment and social cohesion.

Summarizing, we can see how we have not reached the equation that links environment and employment in a sustainable way. I expect that we will be able to find more technical solutions that approximate both variables, because otherwise we will have to choose between a social and an environmental production. I really expect that technical solutions…

THE UN-SUSTAINABILITY SPIRAL

In former posts of City Lines, I have focused my point of view on the different criteria that have to be considered for a correct planning of cities and territories. In these posts, I concluded that the main criteria to consider were social, environmental, and economic. Well, I still agree with this arguing and I would like to explain the Un-Sustainability Spiral that, nowadays, is happening under these three criteria.

I think I can start to explain this spiral with this Bible passage, Genesis 1-27, “God created man… and, then, the Spiral began. So, the first element to point out is “man” or humanity as the central element of social criteria. These social criteria basically lead us to try to have a higher life quality. Fortunately, we have been very successful in this issue during the last 10,000 years because we have been able to improve technologies that let us live three or four times more than 2,000 years ago.

Here comes the second of the criteria, the economic criterion related with technology. We can match technology and economy, because the knowledge of more technologies is the main reason that provides some nations with differential welfare to others and allow them to have better life conditions. So a modus operandi of our societies is gathering technologies as an equivalent to improving life quality.

Finally, the third criterion comes up, the environmental one, because going on gathering technologies needs natural resources. So commodities are essential to support these technologies that allow us to improve our life quality.

If we reread the thread of the argumentation we can find the Un-Sustainability Spiral. We want higher levels of life quality, so we improve our technologies and, for that, we consume more commodities. This spiral could be virtuous if commodities were infinite, which is not real, or if our new technologies were able to produce more with fewer natural resources, which nowadays is not happening, or if we wanted to have lower levels of life quality, which is definitely far from our thoughts.

In all this arguing there is only one thing that is a fact and that we cannot change, natural resources are limited on Earth. So, we have to work hard to improve technologies, otherwise we will have to fight to keep life quality, and in this war we can only aim to lose as little as possible.

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