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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday Links Gets its News From Philosophers

+One of my favorite living philosophers, Alain de Botton, has started a truly amazing project called The Philosophers Mail, a take on Britain's Daily Mail. The hook is that all the articles are written by philosophers. Read this article about Millionairess Tamara Ecclestone "reforming" capitalism and tell me this isn't the funniest, smartest, most relevant take on the news you've ever read.

+The BBC has an article on the last place on Earth without human sound. This reminds me of a film that came out a few years ago about light pollution and its psychological and emotional affects on the human population. The take-away is that nature matters, and humans disconnected from nature are rudderless, soulless creatures bent on their own destruction.

+The inherently chaotic, crisis-prone nature of capitalism was a key part of Marx's writings. He argued that the relentless drive for profits would lead companies to mechanize their workplaces, producing more and more goods while squeezing workers' wages until they could no longer purchase the products they created. Sure enough, modern historical events from the Great Depression to the dot-com bubble can be traced back to what Marx termed "fictitious capital" – financial instruments like stocks and credit-default swaps. We produce and produce until there is simply no one left to purchase our goods, no new markets, no new debts. The cycle is still playing out before our eyes: Broadly speaking, it's what made the housing market crash in 2008. Decades of deepening inequality reduced incomes, which led more and more Americans to take on debt. When there were no subprime borrows left to scheme, the whole fa├žade fell apart, just as Marx knew it would. Marx is the gift that keeps on giving.

+Here's a couple about solving the issue of "food deserts." From Social Worker Helper and a discussion of how to make convenience stores better.

+GA Republican introduces bill to widen solar use in GA...you read that right.

+Speaking of Georgia, Ryan Gravel says what just about every urbanist was saying in the wake of the great Atlanta snowbacle of 2014. We built a car-dependent region because that’s what we wanted, and what happened on Tuesday simply underscores the inherent consequences of that decision. In the parts of the region that have access to transit and live more compactly in walkable areas, people fared reasonably well. They should – they’ve been investing in transit for over forty years. I spent my evening sledding with my kids on the Atlanta Beltline. But if we’re honest, the car-dependent areas of the region also fared well under the circumstances. It’s not like anybody died. What if we had also lost power? Imagine the mayhem – both intown and in outlying areas – if it had been two feet snow, or a chemical spill, or an airborne infectious disease, or a terrorist attack. What if we had to go for weeks without driving? The distances that most people live from where they need to go, and the disconnected nature of our roadway network, would leave most of the region stranded. The consequences of our car-dependency would have been much more dramatic. Our economy and our way of life depends on people being able to get around, and in most areas of our region, we rely exclusively on an infrastructure that gets jammed up in any emergency.

+We know that in Britain – and particularly in England – we have to build many more new homes to meet housing need. However, the question is not just whether we build, but whether we have the determination to ensure that we build high-quality communities that will stand the test of time. This doesn't just apply to Britain--it's even more important in the US, where 85% of our urban places are literal junk piles within 25 years. We have to start thinking in the long term about everything we do, especially when it comes to building places for people to live.

+Brian Czech delivers a high-velocity shot across the bow of mainstream environmentalists by suggesting that Climate Change is not the problem we should be focusing on...or rather than Climate Change is actually a symptom of a problem that may be easier to solve: economic growth.