Friday, July 9, 2010

So THAT is Why Jane Lived for So Long

A recent published report getting a lot of play in scientific circles is about recent studies showing that highly stimulating, interesting, social environments reduces the incidents of cancer in mice.

Animal lovers proceed at your own risk:
Mice raised in a complex environment providing social interactions, opportunities to learn and increased physical activity are less likely to get cancer, and better at fighting it when they do, a new study suggests. A mild boost in stress hormones seems to be what keeps the cancer at bay by switching on a molecular pathway that restrains tumour growth.

Researchers from the United States and New Zealand injected mice with melanoma cells — the deadliest form of skin cancer. After six weeks, mice raised in an enriched environment — extra-large cages housing 20 individuals with running wheels and other toys — had tumours that were almost 80% smaller than those in mice raised in standard housing — five animals to a cage with no additional stimulation.
Once finished with their studies, each of the scientists removed their lab coats, grabbed their keys, found and started their Excursions in the amply provided parking area, and drove home to Shady Acres gated community.

I made that part up.

Rats in a cage, we are. Time to start burrowing an escape route.

But this does point to an interesting lesson. Jane Jacobs instinctively understood the importance of complexity in cities and the critical nature in confronting the nerve gas of modernist planning and engineering. That highly engineered solutions, aka those arrived at during the industrial and post-industrial eras, were perfectly fine for erecting buildings, bridging streams, constructing aqueducts, but they should not and must not interfere with the complexity of social structures, cities.

In many ways, Jacobs was Janine Benyus before Janine Benyus was Janine Benyus, just with regard to human civilization and habitat.

Driving highways through the middle of highly evolved, complex cities is the equivalent of trying to fly with birds like this:

I've said for years that the 21st century will be the biological century and that there is far more to learn from natural sciences with regard to cities than anything modern planners, engineers, and architects could ever theorize or imagine.

In other news, we get a mindless ranking of top 100 "green" architecture firms that reads more like 'last surviving architecture firms' or those having not been fully wiped out by global economic repurposing. None of the top 10+ really do any kind of planning or understand the intricacies of buildings within their neighborhoods, with the exception of AECom which has swallowed up every planning, landscape, and engineering company they can get their hands on. Truly green indeed.

On the other hand, here is the neighborhood Jacobs lived in for many years and wrote about during Life and Death:

And here is the city as logically defined by the assembly line, what we have successfully replaced complexity, vitality, and interconnectivity with in many cases, Dallas included:

Up on the conveyor belt, every morning, noon, and night:

And this one is in Texas. Gotta make that median nice and wide so we can expand lanes. And fill'er with rocks cuz ain't nobody gonna go in there.

And since we included the link to top 100 "green" firms, let's be sure not to leave those who draw up the deserts of the mind and body.

Enjoy your cancer. At least it will lead to growth in the health care we have that going for us. Yay GDP!