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UG#544 - Living Arrangements Beyond Nation States

Robin Upton | 20.04.2011 10:00 | Analysis | Energy Crisis | Free Spaces | Sheffield | World

We look at the past present and future of the US city, against a backdrop of peak oil. We begin with an interview with James Howard Kunstler on the development of urban design in the 20th century. Then Jeff Tomlin speaks on Alive Transportation, Fitness, Safety, Community and Trust. We conclude with Jeff Vail on transitioning away from hierarchies such as nation states towards "scale free self-sufficiency".

ug544-hour1mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

ug544-hour2mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

We start with a 2010 interview with James Howard Kunstler. He answers the question "If you could travel back in time to 1946 in USA and speak to a population about to embark upon the grand experiment of suburbia, what would you say?" He reviews the roles of cheap available energy and profiteering in the development of the suburban dream, and reviews its real consequences for the present day USA. He opines that while some cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas will wither and die in a low energy future, most will repeating their earlier pattern by contracting and become more like European cities, with a dense core.

Our first hour closes with the first half of a 20 minute talk by Jeff Tomlin. His talk, Alive Transportation, Fitness, Safety, Community and Trust, was given to the Cities Conference in Vancouver, October 2010. He highlights the fact that transport policy of cities currently maximizes vehicle throughput rather than looking at human well-being. He concludes that urban planners must think a more deeply about the connections between cities, trust and community, and that materialistic goals such as throughput of vehicles must take second place to other measurables more closely associated with human well-being. This talk concludes in the second hour.

Our main presentation in the second hour is an interview with Jeff Vail entitled Mean and Median on Preparing for the Collapse of Hierarchy. He speaks on what he calls the 'diagonal economy', which is a compromise between the nation state and scale free self-sufficiency. He rejects an alternative vision of the market state, and explains his vision of an atrophying state which has lost the social acceptance is requires to thrive. He sees its gradual replacement by grassroots networks - what he refers to as scale free self-sufficiency, preventing the need for the hierarchical relationships which have characterized the large organizations of the last few millennia. The transitional mode between top-down vertical hierarchies and flat, peer-to-peer social organization that Jeff Vail refers to as the 'Diagonal Economy'.

Robin Upton
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