Monday, March 11, 2013

Quoted: on 'resilience' as emerging consensus

Good-bye Sustainability, Hello Resilience | Conservation Magazine

"Yet today, precisely because the world is so increasingly out of balance, the sustainability regime is being quietly challenged, not from without but from within. Among a growing number of scientists, social innovators, community leaders, NGOs, philanthropies, governments, and corporations, a new, complementary dialogue is emerging around a new idea—resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations, and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions.

"Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage an imbalanced world.It’s a broad-spectrum agenda which at one end seeks to imbue our communities, institutions, and infrastructure with greater flexibility, intelligence, and responsiveness to extreme events, and at the other centers on bolstering people’s psychological and physiological capacity to deal with high-stress circumstances."


Sunday, March 10, 2013

AA School of Architecture - Exhibitions: DOGMA 11 Works

Projects and drawings from 2002–12 by the architecture and research studio led by Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara.
For the past ten years Dogma has focused almost exclusively on large-scale projects such as citywide interventions. These projects venture beyond physical size to expand conceptual frameworks that radically rethink architecture. The exhibition explores 11 works developed since 2002 that collectively present the Dogma ethos: to see the urban project as a comprehensive domain in which architectural form, the political and the city are reclaimed as one ‘field’.
Via @posconflictolab

Friday, March 8, 2013

Avatars, design, research, cities

I have a recent article in Plat, Rice University's journal of architecture. I hope this article sparks some interest among climate urbanism readers, even those not closely following architecture debates. The article, to be brief, examines the nature of research in architecture studios and practices. I argue that the scope and scale of research in architecture, often with seductive allusions to environmental conditions, has supplanted theorization. "Design as research" has also excised human bodies from environmental representation, among other symptoms. Please check it out and tell me what you think.

Architecture's avatars: Closely related to the previous item, and also a result, more or less, of the same body of research, I published a very short piece in the Architectural Association's Fulcrum pamphlet. This piece loops together the blockbuster film Avatar with the technological detachment of environmental research in architecture, arguing that the fantasy of technological penetration of the digital is aided by militarization. 

For the past couple of months, I've been traveling frequently and swamped with the first segment of the Spring semester, which has consequently kept me off of these notes. But in the meantime, I've tagged a bunch of tweets as #climateurbanism, and some nice people have also done the same. Thanks to everyone who's tagged material, @namhenderson, @freeasocdesign, @brian_mount, @citynaturelab, @pruned, and @rwpickard.

How to Talk About the Weather, an interview with Ursula Heise | TNI:
It’s important to understand the narrative and the literary genres that often underwrite our ideas about nature.
How NASA scientists are turning LA into one big climate change lab | California Watch
Urban areas and their enabling power plants are thought to pump out about 70 percent of humankind’s total fossil-fuel emissions.

NJ's biggest utility outlines plans to stormproof
New Jersey's largest utility company wants to spend nearly $4 billion over the next decade to stormproof its electric and gas system after Superstorm Sandy's high winds and devastating surge knocked out power to nearly all its customers last October.
Climate Violence Now – Christian Parenti (abstract) 
Climate change is unleashing cascades of extreme weather which directly and indirectly fuel unrest and violence across ever-larger parts of the world. Drawing on his recently published book Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, Christian Parenti (Professor at the School for International Training Graduate Institute) will show how environmental crisis is already converging with, and exacerbating, the socially destabilizing legacies of Cold War militarism and neoliberal economic restructuring to fuel violence in the Global South. At the same time, many governments and militaries in the Global North are preparing for the political effects of climate change, domestically, with more surveillance and police power and, internationally, with programs of permanent, open-ended counterinsurgency and intervention.

NYT: Gardeners Fight With Neighbors: "a broader "war on gardens.""

Adaptation: Rising San Francisco Bay threatens the Silicon Valley high-tech mecca

facebook site "is pretty much surrounded by tidal waters"

Taking the climate fight to the table | Center for Investigative Reporting
MT @CIRonline: food sys isn’t just challengd by climate chg; also 1 of biggest sources of emissions 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

NYTIMES: vulture burials!

NYT: Cultivating Vultures to Restor

Vultures are making a comeback in Mumbai and so is funereal architecture for Zoroastrian traditions, in a fascinating loop between living and dead, animal and human, architectural and spiritual...

Via @wayneandwax

Friday, December 14, 2012

Climate Studies as More Than Urban Studies

In a really interesting post called Whither Urban Studies?, Andy Merrifield ruminates on the state of urban theory with some insightful remarks. He looks at the proliferation, once again, of empiricism in urban studies:
The point here is that philosophy, the city, and political engagement went together. Within the field of urban geography, particularly in UK urban geography, there are certain things that today militate against this noble philosophical tradition. One is the dominance of the positivist-empiricist tradition. Why so? The reason may be obvious in our age of “experts” and “technocrats,” in this era some describe as “post-political”: positivism has always tried to rid itself of politics behind the shield of quantification and “objectivity.” In that sense, positivism/empiricism is a convenient methodology for technocrats trying to find consensus without conflict. After all, their opinions are neutral and expert; their knowledge isn’t value-laden, right? Yours, if it’s critical and theoretically partisan, is warped, ideological. 
The second reason for the prioritization of empirical data — which ties in neatly with the first reason — is that it can raise money for the corporate university, can more easily capture grant money, more easily produce a “knowledge commodity,” a knowledge that may be calculated and evaluated in an institution’s competitive yearnings and chart-topping desires. Very little money, if any, is doled out to work on theory, therefore theory/philosophy is unimportant because it is financially unimportant. To be sure, it is extremely difficult to evaluate and judge its “impact” on any spreadsheet.
And he states something that's actually rather obvious. Namely, that urban studies remains stuck in superimposed borders often passed down from the development "experts," the demographers, the economists, and so on. Yet this bears repeating:
Still, a reloaded urban studies doesn’t mean middle-ground: it suggests a thorough reframing of the urban question, of dealing adequately with the ontological question, that of being in the world, of being in an urban world. Within this conceptualization we need to dispense with all the old chestnuts between North and South, between developed and underdeveloped worlds, between urban and rural, between urban and regional, between city and suburb, and so forth. (Just as we need to dispense with the old distinctions between public and private, state and economy, politics and technocracy.) From this standpoint, frontier lines don’t pass between any North-South or urban-rural divide but reside “within the phenomenon of the urban itself,” as Lefebvre says in The Urban Revolution. Hence the need to conceptualize and politicize how the globe is no longer demarcated through definitive splits between strict opposites: all demarcations and frontier lines are immanent within urban society, between dominated peripheries and dominating centers that exist all over the planet. 
He reminds us, instead, that the "city"is nothing but a fetish—an apparition—that is only the capstone or a fuse of a much larger and planetary urban society. The city is celebrated in newspapers, books, and media as some kind of environmental benefit, contrasted against other forms of spatial waste or development. But the city constitutes instead a partial calcification in an artery (pardon the biological metaphor), and quite connected, in fact, to profitting from all the destruction which happens beyond its borders. He says: "Neo-Haussmannization tears into the entire planetary urban fabric, and fronts the progressive production of core and periphery, of centers of power and wealth and of spaces of dispossession and marginalization; and this everywhere, with little concern for either city or countryside." And in this condition, we find ourselves somewhat suspended in an ether, unable to identify the source of rule or power. Merrifield adds, tantalizingly putting his finger on the present moment:
Urban society will somehow be a “post-work” society in the sense that Marx hinted at in the Grundrisse, when we all eventually get “suspended” from the “immediate form of production,” giving rise to a latent political constituency whose only real terrain left for struggle won’t be the workplace but the urban itself.
And I might take this even a step further, to think if the terrain for struggle isn't only the urban, but something that's literally so diffuse and expansive as the climate itself. In the latent terrain of #climateurbanism, we might begin to think about the work of entire atmosphere, fluids, winds, as well as streets, squares, and workplaces as sites to jam the form of production.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drift & drive

Student Works: The Petropolis of Tomorrow: Drift & Drive | Features | Archinect

Saving this FFR: A project awarded as "sustainable", and that promises to make oil extraction more... communal? Less energy intensive in itself? IDK, certainly eye-catching. (Was already familiar with this Petropolis direction, but some of the images are NTM. Via @namhenderson.

Kristof on illiteracy profiteers?

NYT: Profiting From a Child's Illit

There's a big dangerous crime being committed and it's poor people choosing to stock their pantries, I suppose, than to bring up literate kids. And Nick Kristof is on it.

Thanks Nick for not letting this one pass. Sorry, had to post this one, even if I'm not sure how climate-related it is.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Off to Buffalo...`

I'm going to SUNY Buffalo for architecture final reviews. Might post quick links or items while on the road, or not... More stuff to discuss after next week, although probably posting infrequently over the holidays as well. Also want to get back to maybe some thoughts about disasters and the "pop-up city, and more..

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

basket of assorted #climateurbanism-related tweets & links

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the Oysterati

Full disclosure: I love oysters, and I love to go eat them right out of the water at the Point Reyes peninsula, a part of the National Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. My love for oysters might cloud my vision and my brain, but I don't think I'm hallucinating when I conclude that historian Richard White is incorrect to declare the Drake's Bay Oyster Company out of bounds.

The pending demise of Drake's Bay Oyster Co. has been almost a forgone conclusion in the San Francisco Bay Area, with their lease expiring at the end of this month and the site of their oyster farm slated to become restored as "wilderness." There's a sliver of hope that the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will intercede to preserve the farm. I won't rehearse the entire back-and-forth — the latest is available from the Chronicle — but I had a few conversations "off to the side" with some environment-minded friends about this.

On the one hand, one can't argue with White. Aside from being an expert Western and environmental historian, he has the law on his side. The Wilderness Act is clear; the oyster farm is incompatible. But what part of all this #climateurbanism is completely clear and legible? Almost none of it! Here we have a working oyster farm in what is, basically, San Francisco's patchwork greenbelt. And it's wonderful in that cultural and ecological hybridity. It could even be much better, sure, but evicting the farm is actually the wrong way to go — the exact opposite of what to do.

Besides, look around the San Francisco Bay Area, the American West, or any other American city, for that matter. Do you see the Wilderness Act being upheld? No. In fact, we as a society make gaping, enormous exceptions to some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world. These are exceptions that we literally drive oil tankers through. Exceptions that fell the forests. Or worst of all, we make, frankly, ridiculous exceptions —exceptions that are so non-exceptional that they are the real norm— for the Pentagon. The military tests its weapons and sails its submarines through veritable whale sanctuaries.

In other words, what Richard White says is that we should make an example of the oyster farm by evicting it. The result would be a pyrrhic victory. Wilderness instead of wildness. Drake's is a landscape that humans have come to treasure, one where a person can have an interesting and complex relationship with nature. Such a vital interplay would be lost for the most minor and symbolic of ecological gains, while the rest of wilderness destruction continues — business as usual.

Back to the Wild in Point Reyes (h/t to @the_wrangler)


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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Paying for Future Catastrophes -

Those who live in nonrisky areas are subsidizing the choices of others. Take residential flood insurance. Most insurers refuse to cover the risk, so the National Flood Insurance Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was established in 1968 with subsidized rates for those then living in flood-prone areas.
Paying for Future Catastrophes - NYTimes: An opinion on how the insurance industry and governments should enforce individual responsibility in those who select (as they would have it) to live in what are or become high-risk areas.

tweet round-up

A late climate

What is "climate urbanism"? I don't know. It's certainly happening all around, but it doesn't have a cohesive theory yet (if it even should). One can count many strains and traditions, as I'd like to work on, little by little, but I think a small clarification is in order:

The gurgling idea of climate urbanism is, from one angle, a critique — a form of historically-informed inquiry of revanchist bourgeois values and ideas about monopolizing (and monetizing) so-called environmental services.

In this first sense, climate urbanism can question the ways in which human-driven environmental change is represented, and I'm especially interested in those forms of representation (be they aesthetic, spatial, formal, or otherwise mediatic). Climate urbanism, for me, explores how these are used in favor of new forms of accumulation.

From another angle, climate urbanism is itself a practice of urban design, many times marching in lock-step with dominant players — a new form of redlining (or greenlining?) that is already taking place. But it could also be affiliated with spatial practices of creating environmental politics, deviating from formal norms.

From a third angle, even, climate urbanism is also what Louis Wirth said about plain, old urbanism: "a way of life" (pdf). Climate urbanism might be, in this Wirthian sense, an emerging mode (or many modes) of life that navigate the changing environment.

To some extent, everyone on the planet is inventing these new modes of life, creating new meanings and new strategies to cope in this changing weather pattern.

Surely, we have countless historical precedents in terms of these human-environment interactions, but the scope and scale of phenomena like global warming are arguably new, or were only imagined under scenarios such as global nuclear apocalypse during the Cold War.

I'm interested in the interplay of the three.

Carbon enclosures

Article in Yes! magazine frames some eye-catching remappings taking place around climate responses and the power of subnational governments. In this case, for example, California directly dealing with communities in the Global South to purchase forests as climate offsets for California's CO2 emitters. For Chiapas, the plan already looks like a historical land grab pattern:
Such an agreement among subnational governments is unprecedented, and California officials view it as an important way for the world’s eighth largest economy to help the developing world. But judging from the reaction on the streets of San Cristóbal, Mexican peasants see it differently. The lush, mountainous state of Chiapas has a long history of human rights abuses, and the Mexican government has forcibly evicted indigenous families from their lands in the name of environmental protection. To indigenous peasants in the Lacandon jungle, the pending agreement has all the hallmarks of a land grab.
Should Chiapas Farmers Suffer for California’s Carbon? (via)

Why a climate urbanism?

I aim to study, broadly speaking, human responses to climate change in urban and urbanizing contexts, especially focused, though not exclusively, on the various disciplines of urban planning, policy, landscape and design in general. Some of this research might become an opinion piece, a research paper, or maybe a longer work.

Processes like global warming and sea-level rise represent just about the total urbanization of the planet, as Lefebvre anticipated. But I am interested a bit less in the science behind global warming (even while I try to understand it), and more in the human actors that scramble to respond—or to gain advantage from—a changing nature.

I began this informal gathering process because I want to learn more about the ways in which established cities become territories of new forms of accumulation, displacement, and re-development based upon notions of catastrophe and climate disaster. This research begins from a growing angst, for me, that the quickening pace of unpredictable super-climate is not only real, but all-too real for those who have the least political capital and social agency to make do with what I see as emergent climate Enclosures.

For example, to put it in the words of Michael Kimmelman, the New York Times architecture critic, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: "more difficult still will be staring down the pain, dislocation and inequity that promise to upend lives, undo communities and shake assumptions about city life and society."

As Kimmelman lays it out quite clearly in that instantly historic opinion piece, the burden of climate adaptation must be carried by the nameless "communities" that are construed, in common discourses, as "at risk" or "vulnerable," and thereby too expensive to save. (And yet one never sees, say, any of New York City's banks deemed too risky for themselves or too costly for the planet to occupy urban land). Their resistance to change must be, in his exact words, stared down. In the same article, Kimmelman becomes nostalgic for the meat axe approach of infamous planner Robert Moses:
The defeat of Westway, a Moses-scale proposal during the 1980s to bury the West Side Highway and cover it with parkland and new development, in a sense became the public’s epitaph for Moses. Whether that defeat was bad for the city is a question for another time. But New York became more attuned to community-based initiatives, to preservation, environmentalism and circumspection, all good things in ordinary circumstances. 
At the same time it lost something of its nerve.
Lost something of its nerve. It is precisely my interest in this blog to speculate and explore how urban alliances, coalitions, and governments muster that so-called nerve, and decide what to do with it. Who carries the burden of transformations to the planet? How; where? 

Finally, I hope to find other alternatives—other visions—that are not as limited in their pragmatism of the city that is possible, and that are more radical in their sensibility to the ultimate culprits. What theoretical approaches can be advanced to dissect what climate change even is? What would be a critical and political memory of how we got here, how we constructed vulnerability, and how we imagine a space to facilitate a democratic environmental politics?

This blog is a notepad for now, and any non-spammy and non-trolly comments are welcome.

More to come...