Tag Archives: environment

Beautiful News from the Guardian UK

I don’t know why this all happened at once, but I came across 2 really dope articles, that give me heart that the world isn’t totally awful:

US Agency Posts ‘Most Wanted’ List for Eco Crimes – Now, normally I would expect that this list would be of so called ‘eco terrorists’, with associated absurd rhetoric.  However, the list is actually of polluters who have dodged their fines or punishment.  Quite novel considering the overblown fanaticism that is the Green Scare.

No new coal – the calling card of the ‘green Banksy’ who breached fortress Kingsnorth – Someone just walked into a giant coal-fired power plant and turned it off.  Seriously, that simple.  They didn’t climb anything, no drama, just found their way in, and jammed a turbine, and left a message why.  Really dope.  Part of the message seemed to include a statistic claiming shutting the turbine reduced UK CO2 emissions by 2%, which points out how easy it could be to target a select number of companies/producers and vastly reduce carbon footprints.

Livable Streets as Class War?

social control?

social control?

Streetsblog posted its own call to action about today’s hearing on remodeling Chatham Square which, when read in the context of CCRC’s much more detailed analysis, just seems a little flimsy, and flippant at that – Streetsblog groups local response under generic ‘opposition’, and pushes for the present plan as handed down by NYC DoT and friends, despite the fact that the main opposition seems to be from folks who don’t oppose the project, but rather oppose doing it NOW.

This case, and the recent rise of anti-bike lane activism in Brooklyn reveals how certain ‘green’ policies can work as a kind of class warfare, with the New Urbanist trend being only the latest of many architectural salvos for the city delivered from on-high by city administrators to the unwashed/ignorant residents, unable to see the social benefits of a overhaul of their street life.  Honestly, I’m not even totally convinced of the utility of green streets – transportation is a sizable but not immense part of CO2 emissions, and the green-streets improvements feel increasingly like a form of social control purpetuated by New York’s ascendent young, mobile and wealthy urban class with its ‘green’ mores (notably different from a serious environmentalism).

Not to say that ‘livable streets’ policies won’t work, but rather to say that they’ll work better if done in collaboration with the residents of those streets.  Instead of putting out calls for ‘advocates’ to descend on hearings to support “green here, green now.”

Clean Air, Unclean Bodies

Living in New York affords me the luxury of never needing to drive a car, but even when I lived in the South, I pretty much rode my bike everywhere. There are two main impediments to riding in the South: shitty bike infrastructure (generally, this is the land of the suburban boom-town and the epicenter of sprawl, but Austin def. provides in some cases), and a love of air conditioning inculcated from birth.

Seriously: AC in cars, AC in businesses, AC in homes, all the time. My dad told me stories about the introduction of AC in Dallas, when AC made or broke businesses – those that had it attracted crowds, those that didn’t fell behind. No doubt the same is true today – anyone without the air commits social suicide. Aside from the energy-electricity impacts of AC-ing the world, the social function of cool air effects the environment as well.

I’m talking about sweat. And the stigma against it. Sweat comes from human-propelled transportation, an kind of energy that American infrastructure was designed to eliminate. Now that global warming forces us to reconsider how we get around, we need to reconsider how we smell. Because of AC, the option to climate control our entire lives, the stigma against sweat worsened, encouraging the use of energy or transport that minimized human exertion. Even in New York during the summer, I know folks who live their lives with the unreasonable expectation (considering they don’t have or need cars) that they will remain unsweaty throughout the day.

The point is this: the environmental crisis has taught us that many of our modern conveniences present losing propositions in the long run. AC is one example – the heat it eliminates indoors only gets pumped outdoors (creating urban heat islands, which suck – last May in Athens, GA, it rained every afternoon for 15 minutes due to the Atlanta heat island, which has become its own meteorological force); the energy we use to power AC units creates its own heating problems, too extensive to go over here. We need to learn to accept sweat now, so we don’t overheat in the long run.

edit: jesus, I didn’t realize just how naked the people in that picture were… changed to a new pic.

TimeOut NY Wants You to Change New York – But Not Too Much

image from TimeOut New York's latest issue.

image from TimeOut New York's latest issue.

TimeOut New York took an admirable jab at getting New Yorkers into some activism with their latest issue – decked out in red tinted activist-y decoupage, of course – but misses (more than) a few points. Summary:

GOOD: Critical Mass! An actual endorsement for almost direct action!
BAD: No other mention of direct action. A friend of mine might describe much of their suggestions as ‘Liberal Bullshit.’ There was way too much discussion of calling legislators and asking nicely. Concerned about housing prices? Squat! Food going to waste? Dumpster it! (The ‘food is wasted’ section really needed to talk about Food Not Bombs) Take to the streets, but realize that moral persuasion only goes so far in getting the change you want – at some point you have to pose a risk to the interests and goals of the people you wish to persuade, and phonecalls just won’t do the trick.

GOOD: Acknowledgment of the housing crisis! A two part-er – New York homelessness continues to a be a problem, as does gentrification, which creates vulnerability to homelessness.
BAD: Umm, connecting the dots anyone? Homelessness and lack of affordable housing are the same issue, and parsing out ‘homelessness’ as a problem turns homelessness into a pathology rather than the result of systemic violence. Homelessness happens because of the cost of housing, not a lack of ‘job skills’ or ‘training.’ Too many people conflate homelessness with unemployment, but someone can go homeless while employed because of rent increases, spouses leaving – any number of sudden reasons.
Another problem: what the fuck is ‘overdevelopment‘? And what does it mean to ‘kill a neighborhood’? TimeOut devotes a whole section to this, and all it talked about was preserving buildings and shit. I don’t think you can talk about ‘killing a neighborhood’ unless you talk about what that means materially for the people that live there. This is not a legitimate issue until you connect it to the actual struggle of people to make do in capitalism, instead of merely protecting the interests of the already-established.

GOOD: Acknowledging environmental catastrophe!
BAD: Pretending it’s consumer’s fault! TimeOut gives some useful tips on cleaning up riverfront trash, reducing air emissions, etc. – but doesn’t ask who produced that trash, the cars creating air pollution, and totally ignores ConEd when talking about ‘deadly air.’ Also, dirty air doesn’t just happen everywhere – New York has a history of locating environmental contaminants in and around poor neighborhoods. Why is the Cross-Bronx Expressway not the Cross SoHo Expressway? Where are the power plants (and landfills) in New York? Seriously: coal/gas power plants hurt people, and ConEd placed its New York plants in places where people wouldn’t complain, or if residents did ignore, they could be ignored with limited political fallout.

GOOD: Talking about unions! Organize!
BAD: TimeOut doesn’t actually suggest anyone form or join one. Instead, they suggest wearing pro-union clothes and singing songs. Uhhh…

BAD: Misplaced priorities. The topics for the issue were selected by ‘reader poll,’ which means that the population of prisons and other marginalized groups probably didn’t have much say. That’s a serious oversight – NYPD has more than its share of issues, NYC Department of Corrections has similar or more problems. I also would have liked to see a discussion of the privatization/elimination of public space, and a discussion of AIDS, particularly in connection to the bit on homelessness. I don’t think TO NY had many homeless people asking about how to get into a home, they had housed people asking about how to get homeless folks out of their neighborhood.

Also, shoutout to Nina, now on the blogroll…

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