As a response to Accel Rose’s post on the future of cities by
Stewart Brand, I thought I would pass this along as a supplement.
It’s a one-hour presentation on the “City-Planet”, a long-term
trend barely noticed by anyone.
According to Brand, “The massive urbanization of the world now
going on is changing everything, affecting economics, the
environment, and global population—- most of it, in surprising
ways, for the better. The more I delve into the subject, the more I
find it packed with news which is not being widely reported or
This is one of a monthly series of Seminars About Long-term
Thinking, given every second Friday in San Francisco, CA, organized
by The Long Now
As the human population grows, people are either forced to live
further and further from the workplace, or to pay a handsome price
for the luxury of location. The resulting sprawl has had a
devastating effect on the landscape and eco-systems. Pollution
associated with requisite transportation is destroying the
environment. Rising energy costs are driving up the cost of living.
Longer commutes lessen the hours in a day we can allocate to
productivity or leisure.
How can we create cities and towns that can accommodate a
community’s economic needs, while improving the general quality of
life? This is a question that urban planners, like Michael E. Arth,
must ask and answer to the best of their abilities when designing
or retrofitting cities to best suit our changing lifestyles.
We spoke with Arth, founder of the urban planning theory of
Pedestrianism, about what the city of the future might look
like. His theory, a spinoff of New Urbanism,
addresses the social and environmental problems associated with
suburban sprawl by creating an urban design plan that places
sustainability, beauty, and functionality at its forefront.
“New Pedestrianism is an urban design movement that is a more
ecological and pedestrian-oriented branch of New Urbanism. New
Urbanism revives and expands upon the old urbanism that was common
before WWII, while New Pedestrianism is a
reiteration of experiments with more pedestrian-oriented towns and
neighborhoods that have been tried over the years,” explained Arth,
“In new and old urbanism you have streets in front and an alley in
the rear. With New Pedestrianism the alley is replaced with an
attractive tree lined street and the street in front is replaced
with a car free pedestrian/bike lane. A mixed-use village or
neighborhood center is within walking distance with higher density
toward the center. Aesthetics and quality of life are very
Futurist Stewart Brand
explains that the global rise of squatter cities is a good thing
because it enables people to connect with others and gain access to
education. He points out that unemployment in squatter cities is
generally near zero.
Check out his short and sweet presentation at TED:
Brand projects that the number of people living in squatter
cities will grow three-fold to $3 billion over the coming decades.
Makes me wonder if these regions will become the new hot-beds of
innovation as technology rapidly lifts their inhabitants up the
hierarchy of needs, provides cheaper connectivity and better
The US Navy recently spent 7.5 million dollars on developing an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) generator. The by-product of a nuclear blast, an EMP fries anything electronic within its reach. In a worse-case scenario, a massive nuclear bomb could be detonated over the Atlantic seaboard, knocking out electricity in cities like New York, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia. This could be used as a pre-emptive strike for an invasion, to blind radar to incoming missiles or for some other nefarious purpose. Knocking out electronics for a few weeks might just be enough to send our culture into complete chaos. In effect, we’re hard at work building such a weapon to test its effects on potential military and civilian targets so as to better prepare in case of attack.
Our culture has become incredibly dependent on electronic gadgets and information networks. Land-lines have been replaced by cellphones, the postal system by email and social network websites. Is there any doubt that even just ten years down the line our dependence will grow even more? Our reliance on electronics certainly isn’t going to diminish, it’s going to increase exponentially. With that in mind, how much damage could an EMP do in the near future?
In its effort to catalog and effectively share the world’s
information, Google continues to improve its dynamic representation
of earth and has now extended its reach to cities and towns.
The first time I experienced Google Earth, I was pretty
impressed. Accessing satellite information, I was able to navigate
most any location on the planet that I was interested in, from a
bird’s eye view. Of course the first thing I did was check out my
street, the homes of my past, and landmarks around my town.
Next I was introduced to Street View, a
visualization composed of photos taken from automobiles that allows
full 3D street navigation. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when
Street View was at last integrated with Google Maps, that I could
travel down my street take a glance at my house and my car parked
neatly on the curb. That was really cool to me. I found myself
wondering where I was the time the photos was taken, and being
thankful they hadn’t caught me outside my
house in an early morning stupor.
After some light research I found that Google isn’t just
concerned with satisfying my curiosity. It has found ways to make
money with this technology while expanding its functionality for
important, decision-making parties.
Google introducing advanced versions of the platform with
Pro ($400/year), a collaborative tool for commercial and
professional use and Google Earth
Plus ($20/year) for everyday map enthusiasts. It also provides
non-profit organizations with Earth Outreach, a
program that allows organizations to map their projects to help
In March 2008, Google Earth introduced Cities in 3D which is
unsurprisingly a complete 3D visualization of numerous cities. To
contribute to this effort, users can submit and share renditions of
structures and buildings using Google’s SketchUp. The program
primarily relies on city governments to submit their 3D information
electronically (for free) and invites them to review the
The benefits for local governments seem rather extensive. They
include: engaging the public in planning, fostering economic
development, boosting tourism, simplifying navigation analysis,
enhancing facilities management, supporting security and crime
prevention, and facilitating emergency management.