April 29th, 2009

Ann Vole

sustainability is...

I am watching a PBS documentary series called e-squared. It is all about the various sustainable building ideas. At first I was skeptical that it was anything more then a bunch of visionary architects showing off impractical buildings. Disk 2 has an episode on the mayor of Bogota Bolivia (South America). It ends with what I think is one of the key elements to sustainable design: "giving priority to people". People are going to be using the building or infrastructure so the needs and wants of people are the most important aspect of to design for. One of the biggest things people want are low bills so they can spend their money on other things or spend their time on other things then work to make enough to pay bills. A building is useless if nobody wants it so you need to also think of what people want in 50 or 100 or even 500 years. Buildings can be made to last 500 years but they will only be in use for 500 years if they continue to be useful for that 500 years. Not only are energy efficiency and local materials good ideas but more importantly the question needs to be how good is the lives of the people living in that building. The episode I was mentioning was about this mayor's decision to make Bogota cater to the people who did not have a vehicle with public areas, pedestrian-only and bicycle-only transportation networks and public transportation that is safe and cheap. Humans are made to walk (or use their legs such as bicycling) so that needs to be an important part of daily life. Mixed-use and community design needs to be priority too for the same reason... so you can walk to anything you need. New York City was (partially) the subject of the first episode: per-capita, New-Yorkers have the lowest environmental impact of most people in the world. Yes New York pumps out loads of pollution and sucks a lot of resources... but with so many people together on one place and making walking, public transit and even taxis to keep the environmental cost of transportation to be minimal. The key is not to get rid of cities but to get rid of the need for transportation by meeting the needs of people where the people are. Green roof systems (growing stuff on roofs) has dozens of great advantages and none of the ones mentioned was to actually make food for cities... which makes so much sense from a sustainable standpoint.
Ann Vole

anarchistic democracy

Socialist democracy is trying to make everyone the same but anarchistic democracy is trying to let everyone retain their uniqueness yet still have control over their own life. One of the sustainability aspects they kept mentioning in that e-squared documentary series was trying to get rich and poor people to interact or live in the same building. This was making each living space different both in price and in size. This is very much different then making every suite the same size and price. At first I did not really see why that was so important to sustainability to have mixed income housing but there are four aspects that have become clear why it is important:

People need to see movement in their life... a goal, a path... and that movement needs to be one that stays in the community rather then people longing to move to a different community which breaks their love and ownership to their current community

People need both jobs and workers. By bringing different social classes together, progress can be made in one community.

People need dignity. If living on the "wrong side of the tracks" means you are assumed to be poor, you will not feel that you have worth by living there. At the same time, rich people need to interact with others without being snubbed for their economic advantage. If they are part of the same community, they can be "normal" and treated the same no matter what their economic position. This includes people who may have lost their wealth too... they can just move to a nearby suite/house and keep their membership to the community intact.

People in power need to know what it is like to live as people who lack power and since wealth is usually tied to power, then mixed income communities will have the conditions and features that the powerful desire but for the benefit of all social classes that live there.