Shrinking Cities


One of the biggest challenges for the world this century is how to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who will flock to cities, especially in emerging economies. Coping with this human torrent will be fearsomely difficult but at least the problem is widely acknowledged. That is not true of another pressing urban dilemma: what to do with cities that are losing people.They are hardly unusual. Almost one in ten American cities is shrinking. So are more than a third of German ones and the number is growing. Although Japan’s biggest cities are thriving, large numbers of its smaller ones are collapsing. Several South Korean cities have begun to decline a trend that will speed up unless couples can somehow be persuaded to have more babies. Next will come China, where the force of rapid urbanisation will eventually be overwhelmed by the greater power of demographic contraction. China’s total urban population is expected to peak by mid-century; older industrial boom towns are already on a downward slope.

An abandoned street containing a rotting nursery or primary school is a sad sight. And declining cities have more than visual problems. Disused buildings deter investors and attract criminals; superfluous infrastructure is costly to maintain; ambitious workers may refuse to move to places where the potential clientele is shrinking. Where cities are economically self-sufficient, a smaller working population means a fragile base on which to balance hefty pension obligations. That is why Detroit went bust. So it is unsurprising that governments often try to shore up their crumbling smaller cities. Japan recently announced tax cuts for firms that are willing to move their headquarters out of thriving Tokyo. Office parks, art museums and tram lines have been built in troubled American and European cities, on the assumption that if you build it, people will come. For the most part, they will not. Worse, the attempt to draw workers back to shrinking cities is misconceived. People move from smaller to larger cities in countries like Germany and Japan because the biggest conurbations have stronger economies, with a greater variety of better-paying jobs. The technological revolution, which was once expected to overturn the tyranny of distance, has in fact encouraged workers to cluster together and share clever ideas. Britain’s productivity is pitiful these days (see article) but it is almost one-third higher in London than elsewhere.  Policies meant to counteract the dominance of big cities are not just doomed to fail but can actually be counter-productive. The most successful metropolises should be encouraged to expand by stripping away planning restrictions. If housing were more plentiful in the bigger conurbations it would be cheaper, and the residents of declining cities, who often have little housing equity, would find it easier to move to them. Rent controls and rules that give local people priority in public housing should go, too: they harm the poor by locking them into unproductive places.

A new kind of garden city

Even so, many people will stay stuck in shrinking cities, which will grow steadily older. Better transport links to big cities will help some. But a great many cannot be revived. In such cases the best policy is to acquire empty offices and homes, knock them down and return the land to nature—something that has worked in the east German city of Dessau-Rosslau and in Pittsburgh in America. That will require money and new habits of mind. Planners are expert at making cities work better as they grow. Keeping them healthy as they shrink is just as noble.

In the US at least, cities house poor people, often racial minorities or from lower classes, who global capitalism no longer wants to employ. The excesses of finance with harmful if not predatory mortgages, ended up kicking people out their houses, which become vacant and vandalized, driving people away from cities. Who will pay to restore or repair them? Excessive wealth inequality may favor a few high lifestyle metros, but also prevent capital from investing in places where the those who control capital seek only to exploit. Growing populations may keep property values inflated, but low and stagnant wages will not make cities liveable. Our biggest crisis is how to employ everyone, or if that is becoming more obsolete, to ensure that the productivity of the society is widely shared. Whether that happens in large metros, smaller cities or even repopulated and renewed farmlands is less important than that it happens at all.

Cities rise and fall. Take the former City States of Rome and Venice as two significant examples. This pattern will continue and the global pattern of key cities will also shift. Cities with strong economic drivers will prevail. Cities with attractive natural qualities will prevail. Cities which are well marketed and offer a better quality of life will prevail. Cities in countries whose governments offer significant financial and taxation advantages will prevail. Competition will always prevail at the Local, Regional, State, National and International level. Larger cities with characteristics such as those above will continue to prosper provided they can compete. Smaller centres located within short travel times to such cities will also benefit and transport technology here can play a large role. In addition locations with good cyber connections to people in such centres also have potential. The urban settlements patterns of the past and today will be quite different to those of tomorrow. Government will always have a regulatory role in ensuring that citizens are safe and prosperous and make a fair contribution to society. People will migrate to seek a better life. Those people captive to their own predicament and their country’s policies will be unable to move and policies of countries may restrict immigration. Humanity adapts.

By Naved Jafry

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Tragedy Of The Homeless 



Every year over 70 million rural migrats are moving into urban centers around the world. Unfortunately most of them land up  into the slums of their new cities.  In such a situation can the buy-one-give-one model work for housing? Imagine if every slumdweller or homeless family on earth had their fully paid home. Thanks to our new social concious buyers Many such projects and proposals are well under way to make that a reality. Buy A Luxury Condo or home, Give A Slum Dweller A New Home is a reality and is launched one of the first partnership in the U.S. and India. Buy a new luxury condo in San Diego, and you can help build a home for a family currently living in a slum in Manila or Mumbai. The philosophy and the social impact behind this has inspired many developers a one-for-one real estate gifting model,” says Pete Dupuis, who co-founded World Housing with his business partner Sid Landolt in 2013, beginning with a development in Vancouver.

  

The business model is simple in theory: Real estate developers donate a portion of their marketing budget to the nonprofit, and then the nonprofit creates local factories that build low-cost homes in the developing world. Each home, which can cost about $5,000 in a place like Manila or Mumbai, is part of a bigger neighborhood with a playground, community garden, and other common areas. “Our mission at World Housing is to create social change by connecting the world to be a better community, so the idea of ‘community’ is foundational to how we think, design, and create our homes,” says Dupuis. In Cambodia, where the nonprofit has been building homes for the last two years, they’ve partnered with Cambodia Children’s Fund to help provide services like health care, nutrition, and education for residents.The team’s new project in Manila was inspired in part by a trip Dupuis took to a slum called Smokey Mountain, where about 300,000 people live in shacks in a landfill. “The abject poverty has left a lasting impression on how I saw the world,” he says. “However, the one thing I discovered was the welcoming and hopeful nature of the people there. One of my best memories was playing a game of pool in the middle of a slum, on a table reconstructed from garbage. The people made me feel like part of their family and I made a promise to myself that when World Housing opened we would return to help the people there.”

In India, anyone who buys a condo or house at any of its new developments in and near Mumbai, Houston and Tanzania called micro Cities will help change the lives of a family locally. The Bosa condo development in San Diego will fund 64 homes in Manila, housing 300 people.
The condos, which will be available in 2017, are polar opposites of the simple houses under construction in Manila, with amenities like ocean views, a pool and sauna, and even potentially an indoor dog run. But the developer thinks that buyers will respond to the idea of doing good as an added perk. “We hope to set a new norm in residential development and inspire buyers, who will be the driving force in building this community,” says Nat Bosa, president of Bosa Development, the company behind Pacific Gate. Companies such as Zeons Realty which builds off the grid Micro-Cities also donates to the local community in which it starts any project.  “We believe it will attract domestic and international buyers, so it is a natural progression for the company to expand its philanthropic footprint within the community it does business,” Garson Silvers says CEO for Zeons. World Housing has housed 2,000 people so far, and hopes to reach 30,000 by 2020. Bosa believes the model may start to spread in the development community. “As the industry continues to grow we believe this model of giving will also grow,” he says. “There’s nothing more powerful than having owners and developers see the physical impact they are having on a global scale. They are affecting lives in the most profound way.”

By Naved Jafry

Reference : A. Peters

Wisdom Of The Week – LIVE THE QUESTIONS

  
In 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke (December 4, 1875–December 29, 1926) began corresponding with a 19-year-old cadet and budding poet named Franz Xaver Kappus. Later published as Letters to a Young Poet (public library), Rilke’s missives address such enduring questions as what it really means to love, how great sadnesses bring us closer to ourselves, and what reading does for the human spirit.

In one of the most potent letters, he writes: I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Wisdom Of The Week – PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORLD

  
In a terrific 1992 lecture, Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933–December 28, 2004) asserted that “a writer is someone who pays attention to the world — a writer is a professional observer.” But this observant attentiveness to the world, Sontag believed, is as vital to being a good writer as it is to being a good human being something she addresses in one of the many rewarding pieces collected in the posthumous anthology At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (public library), which also gave us Sontag on beauty vs. interestingness, courage and resistance, and literature and freedom. Reflecting on a question she is frequently asked to distill her essential advice on writing Sontag offers: I’m often asked if there is something I think writers ought to do, and recently in an interview I heard myself say: “Several things. Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.” Needless to say, no sooner had these perky phrases fallen out of my mouth than I thought of some more recipes for writer’s virtue. For instance: “Be serious.” By which I meant: Never be cynical. And which doesn’t preclude being funny. But these tenets of storytelling, Sontag argues, aren’t just writerly virtues — they are a framework for human virtues: To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path. To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention. When we make moral judgments, we are not just saying that this is better than that. Even more fundamentally, we are saying that this is more important than that. It is to order the overwhelming spread and simultaneity of everything, at the price of ignoring or turning our backs on most of what is happening in the world. The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched. But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one’s head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding which is also the understanding of the novelist to take this in. 

 

Wisdom Of The Week : MASTERING THE ART OF LOVING

  
Our cultural mythology depicts love as something that happens to us something we fall into, something that strikes us arrow like, in which we are so passive as to be either lucky or unlucky. Such framing obscures the fact that loving the practice of love is a skill attained through the same deliberate effort as any other pursuit of human excellence. Long before the Zen sage Thich Nhat Hahn admonished that “to love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” the great German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and philosopher Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) addressed this neglected skillfulness aspect of love in his 1956 classic The Art of Loving (public library) — a case for love as a skill to be honed the way artists apprentice themselves to the work on the way to mastery, demanding of its practitioner both knowledge and effort.

  
Fromm writes:

Love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him… [All] attempts for love are bound to fail, unless [one] tries most actively to develop [one’s] total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; …satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare achievement. There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love. The only way to abate this track record of failure, Fromm argues, is to examine the underlying reasons for the disconnect between our beliefs about love and its actual machinery which must include a recognition of love as an informed practice rather than an unmerited grace: The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering. What are the necessary steps in learning any art? The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into two parts: one, the mastery of the theory; the other, the mastery of the practice. If I want to learn the art of medicine, I must first know the facts about the human body, and about various diseases. When I have all this theoretical knowledge, I am by no means competent in the art of medicine. I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art. But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern; there must be nothing else in the world more important than the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for carpentry and for love. And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving. 

 

Wisdom Of The Week : UNDERSTANDING TRUE FRIENDSHIP & LOVE

  It’s been argued that friendship is a greater gift than romantic love (though it’s not uncommon for one to turn abruptly into the other), but whatever the case, friendship is certainly one of the most rewarding fruits of life from the sweetness of childhood friendships to the trickiness of workplace ones. This delicate dance has been examined by thinkers from Aristotle to Francis Bacon to Thoreau, but none more thoughtfully than by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In an essay on the subject, found in his altogether soul-expanding Essays and Lectures (public library; free download), Emerson considers the intricate dynamics of friendship, beginning with our often underutilized innate capacities: We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. Barring all the selfishness that chills like east winds the world, the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether… The emotions of benevolence … from the highest degree of passionate love, to the lowest degree of good will, they make the sweetness of life. What is so delicious as a just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling? How beautiful, on their approach to this beating heart, the steps and forms of the gifted and the true! The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed; there is no winter, and no night; all tragedies, all ennuis vanish; all duties even; nothing fills the proceeding eternity but the forms all radiant of beloved persons. Let the soul be assured that somewhere in the universe it should rejoin its friend, and it would be content and cheerful alone for a thousand years. Emerson goes on to consider the two essential conditions of friendship: There are two elements that go to the composition of friendship, each so sovereign, that I can detect no superiority in either, no reason why either should be first named. One is Truth. A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which one chemical atom meets another. Sincerity is the luxury allowed, but diadems and authority, only to the highest rank, that being permitted to speak truth as having none above it to court or conform unto. Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins… We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. The other element of friendship is tenderness. We are holden to men by every sort of tie, by blood, by pride, by fear, by hope, by lucre, by lust, by hate, by admiration, by every circumstance and badge and trifle, but we can scarce believe that so much character can subsist in another as to draw us by love. Can another be so blessed, and we so pure, that we can offer him tenderness? When a man becomes dear to me, I have touched the goal of fortune.

Wisdom Of The Week – RESIST ABSENTMINDED BUSYNESS

  
Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855), considered the first true existentialist philosopher, remains a source of enduring wisdom on everything from the psychology of bullying to the vital role of boredom to why we conform. In a chapter of the altogether indispensable 1843 treatise Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (public library), thirty-year-old Kierkegaard writes: Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work. In a latter chapter, titled “The Unhappiest Man,” he considers how we grow unhappy by fleeing from presence and busying ourselves with the constant pursuit of some as-yet unattained external goal: The unhappy person is one who has his ideal, the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in some manner outside of himself. The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself. But one can be absent, obviously, either in the past or in the future. This adequately circumscribes the entire territory of the unhappy consciousness. The unhappy one is absent… It is only the person who is present to himself that is happy.