Wednesday, June 6, 2012


First things, first: an announcement.

GOOD Ideas for Cities is presenting their ideas on three separate neighborhood topics tonight.  Link and RSVP info aqui.  GOOD worked with locals to address TOD, neighborhood commercial center revitalization, and hike/bike trails.
Matt Yglesias has a piece on the inefficiencies of rural living at Slate.  The money quote:

Living in a truly rural area brings with it a number of advantages, most of them related to the existence of wide open spaces.
But these same wide open spaces carry with them major disadvantages for a would-be participant in a modern economy. Something like high-speed broadband internet access is extremely inefficient to provide at a very low population density. The same is also true of packages and brick-and-mortar mail. One of the main policy goals served by the US Postal Service is to overcharge metropolitan America for mail delivery in order to create a cross-subsidy to provide discount mail to rural America.

Let's not stop at USPS.  Nor think solely about urban rural divide.  Virtually all of our institutions were built on some sort of rational financial methodology based on urban agglomeration and what, in effect, is commonwealth.  Dwellers of density pool money and share costs to take advantage of the opportunities and amenities of being in cities while offsetting the negative externalities, which aren't necessarily so much city driven as human-driven.  Just city amplified (for better or worse).

Today however, urban and rural has been smeared together into the far more homogeneous, broadly termed, sprawl.  The entirely different living form doesn't work with the old financial models.  When it comes to police, postal service, schools, etc., we're simply spread too thin for those institutions to function efficiently.  In the end, we end up with something far more Darwinian.  Where only those of means can afford those amenities of private services.
Lastly, the great (?) state of Alabama has passed anti-agenda 21 legislation.  If you're unaware, agenda 21 is the basic principle established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stating broadly that the actions of one generation shouldn't adversely affect future generations.  And really, isn't that the purpose of life?  To leave it a better place than we found it, following the basic human impulse for improved quality of life.

Unfortunately, hard times tend to make people crazy and the world a little more volatile.  Those hard times being driven by the 1) unwinding of all of those institutions I mentioned with regard to the Yglesias piece and 2) the psychological dislocation inherent in the loss of those entitlements.  Therein lies the illogical nature of the types of people who associate all things under some Orwellian notion of what agenda 21 is (though, they could have named it somewhat less subservient to the rhetorical needs of the crazies).

The entitlement part is key.  Especially for the tea party types who, and I quote:
Agenda 21 takes away private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership, individual travel choices, and privately owned farms.
"Take away."  That's the key line.  People are trying to take away those free goods they've felt entitled to being American or some such divine right.  No, instead those same inefficiencies will take them away as we try to alleviate the subsidization of an unsustainable living arrangement.

Post Script.  I love that they truly believe agenda 21 is trying to take away travel choice.  Is there much travel choice in Alabama.  How's walkability in Alabama?  Is there much transit?  Yeah, transportation choice alright.