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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Links is a bit gloomy

+Follow-up to an earlier link: It's official! Wappinger Falls is going green!

+Could Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) help blighted areas?

+A "kludge" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose...a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem." The term comes out of the world of computer programming, where a kludge is an inelegant patch put in place to solve an unexpected problem and designed to be backward-compatible with the rest of an existing system. When you add up enough kludges, you get a very complicated program that has no clear organizing principle, is exceedingly difficult to understand, and is subject to crashes. Any user of Microsoft Windows will immediately grasp the concept. Kludgeocracy in America.

+In the light of such an absolute and irretrievable failure, I think we need to revise the slogan about it being easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. It’s as though we collectively were given a choice of which we would choose, and we chose to end the world. The decisive victory of liberal-democratic capitalism really was the end of history, just not in the sense intended. Adam Kotsko discusses how it became easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

+“When we contemplate ruins,” Christopher Woodward has said, “we contemplate our own future.” The apocalypse is thereby transformed into a memory, an event which is yet to come but which has also somehow, paradoxically, already happened. Behind the endless, neurotic rehearsal of the debate over whether or not climate change is “real” lurks the much more depressed sense that it doesn’t even matter either way—even in the increasingly unlikely event there’s time, we still won’t act to save ourselves. Three months after Hurricane Sandy, eight years after Hurricane Katrina, 25 years after James Hansen testified before Congress, 40 years after the development of a scientific consensus around global warming in the 1970s, 70 years after climate models in the 1950s first began to point to the problem, 107 years after Svante Arrhenius first modeled the greenhouse effect in 1896, we still sit and wait to see what happens. It’s as if we’ve been practicing the end of everything for so long we’re relieved, or even exhilarated, to see it finally become real. The market has spoken, and the media, and the voters: we’ll continue to do nothing, eagerly surrender to our collective death drive, freely author our own collapse. Perhaps Lear would have thought it all a bit too on-the-nose—but now our suicidal urges and our selfishness and our sickening disregard for the future come back to us as hurricanes and heat-waves. Let a thousand science fictional panoramas bloom: the Statue of Liberty frozen over, toppled in the sand, neck-deep in water. Hollywood on fire. Texas cracked with drought. Hundred-year storms every other year. Après nous, la glace, le feu, le désert, le déluge.

+“We’ve got to make a decision — either we’re going to be a region or we’re not,” he said at a packed news briefing the day after the Braves’ announcement. “It bothers me that we have not come far enough as a community that people feel that a team moving 12 miles is a loss to the city of Atlanta.” Mayor Reed is right in that Atlanta is a highly mobile city with very blurred geographic lines, but as last year's TSPLOST vote proved (and to a certain extent the Braves' move proves), this region is as divided as ever, and it will not work to save itself.

+In an effort to compensate for the failure of central governments to address the dangers of climate change with comprehensive national policies, cities, states and regions have developed their own strategies to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This is the heart of the matter: the highest levels of national and international governance are incapable of dealing with these problems, and so it falls on regions and cities to do their part to solve climate change.

+But there is a bright side to Climate Change.

+Huntsville, AL will develop a comprehensive Master Plan for the city.

+I've long held that one of the most obvious proofs of a desire for classical urbanism is that the richest American homes look like classical buildings. Unfortunately we set these homes in acres of lawn fronted by unnecessarily massive roads. Americans know what they want but they don't know how to articulate it. We desire community but we somehow believe we can create it without physical proximity to one another.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ecological Economics: Supply Side Solutions

If the primary goal of a steady-state economy is to shrink the economy so that it provides only what is needed for the current population, leaving large swaths of natural capital untouched, then one natural outgrowth of this would be full employment. One of the principal ways that companies produce “growth” is through efficiency by reducing the workforce and cutting costs, while simultaneously getting more out of that reduced workforce. This produces the illusion of economic growth, but it also continues the dramatic increase in resource use we’ve seen over the last 4 or 5 decades, and produces a systemic unemployment problem since all companies are using the same tactics to produce growth. Some companies may hire more workers in the future because the company is growing at too fast a clip, but the increase in workers rarely sops up the growing pool of unemployed, since other companies are off-loading workers are fast as the growing companies are picking them up.

One way to slow economic growth would be to simply re-introduce inefficiency back into the system by hiring back workers and making processes more labor intensive. Given that most workers are wasting a full 1/3 of their time at work, a company could hire twice and many workers and have them work 25 or 30 hour weeks. The key is that the company would still need to pay them for a full 40 hour week. This would, of course, increase costs, but since the goal is to decrease profits and slow the speed of resource consumption, this is precisely the goal.