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Urbanization

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Captain Vancouver View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05 Feb 2015 at 03:50
I've been speculating on the idea of urbanization of late. In our time, vast hordes are making their way to urban areas, most spectacularly in China, but also, quite significantly, in many other areas of the world. 

What does this mean for the future? It could be good, it could be disastrous. In your captain's formative years (when I suspect many here were not born, and perhaps not even an amorous look in their governor's eye), a short voyage to Chinatown was considered mildly exotic. Different foods, divergent ambiance. How times have changed. 

Today, your captain works in a microcosm of the UN, in which, for example, a silly, offhand comment about, let's say, New Caledonia, if one did not know this was a French  effort in latent and slipping colonialism would be considered a faux pas. Such is internationalism.

To put it another way, what is rampant urbanization going to do to us? Will it be our savior, in the sense of mixing humanity, and thereby proving to all the equality of race and freedom, or or will it be Alabama c.1890, don't show up if you are the wrong color boy, or, Damascus, 2015, don't show up boy, if you are the wrong sect/faction/militia/etc. 

This sort of crowding puts pressure on us, but also catalyzes growth. It's unlikely those boys back on the farm would have come up with Broadway shows, if they didn't live, well, somewhere near Broadway. Would Bill Gates done his thing if he lived in Na'account Tennessee, rather than urban, affluent, Seattle?

On the  other hand, we have big city boys who, on the face of it, ain't too bright. In Beijing, those in power there are now reveling in adolescent dreams about the S China Seas atolls and Islands, twisting arms in Hong Kong, and kicking dirt in the face of Taiwanese. Urban life, for some, it seems has not led to personal growth.

What do you think or our increasing urban milieu? 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2015 at 13:42
It's a typical human motive. IF you're poor in a rural setting the potential wealth creation must seem very tempting, and if the need to abandon traditional living reaches a certain pressure, it's going to happen.
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FGyula94 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Feb 2015 at 20:42
Life in rural area is harder, that's way people move in cities. Particularly young people
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Feb 2015 at 10:16
Not always. Many fall by the wayside in urban settings - it doesn't suit everyone. 
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Feb 2015 at 00:53
This link may indicate the future for a good many of the human race. Urban areas of tens or hundreds of millions (about 80 million speculated in the article).

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2015 at 11:56
Possibly. Truth is we'll reach a population level that is effectively unsupportable. The old 'Foxes and Rabbits' graph applies to us just as much as small furry mammals whether we like it or not. The world won't be a pretty place when that happens.
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2015 at 17:16
Many of the more developed parts of the world are now stabilizing, or even going into decline in some cases. The ugly bits are, at this stage, Africa,parts of the middle east and south Asia, and one or two others. Some of these may be OK if they can get their act together, possible although I wouldn't venture likely. 

An urban, low consumption life would surely take a lot of pressure off even the worst examples here. Leaving as much room for agriculture as possible, consolidating utilities, and foregoing all but public or human powered transit would allow for greater numbers than the traditional suburban lifestyle, or even small, inefficient farming, more than likely.

Of course, we can see examples of how this hasn't worked out too well- Karachi, Cairo, etc. If everyone insists on the California lifestyle, then trouble is indeed ahead.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2015 at 21:06
I have given this a lot of thought over the years and believe that there are clear advantages to concentrating people in urban areas.  I was reminded of  this when a friend asked me what the best thermal mass home would be.  The obvious answer is no home at all but a large multifamily structure due to the rule of surface area to volume.  There are many other advantages I won't go into but what I want to address is the resistance to this life style.

Communal living has often been tried and continually fails.  The better angels of our nature are not sufficient to produce a utopia.  With effort though I think we can learn to live happily together.

Simply living in close proximity to each other need not reduce our standard of living.  The secret is in forming social groups with a broader identity.  That said the obstacles to enjoying an urban life style is somewhat in our genes.  I found this quote in a paper I was reading.

"How can the cultural practice of bottle-feeding infants become so widely established, for example, when lactation has been the signature mammalian adaptation for nearly 200 million years? Part of the answer is that for virtually all of that time, female mammals had no alternative to breastfeeding and therefore no reason to evolve a preference for it compared with an alternative. Similarly, throughout their evolutionary history, humans had no alternative to living in small social groups and therefore did not necessarily evolve the instincts for creating them when alternatives became available."

Evolving the future: toward a science of intentional change.



The paper itself is an interesting read but personally I'm leary of this kind of social engineering.  That said I think it requires conscious effort to have a high quality of life.  We have not evolved to live happily together and when given the opportunity to separate ourselves and live private lives we tend to do so.  While it is certain that we have evolved "natural" altruism and empathy applying these qualities effectively to more than a few relatives or close friends is something we need to consciously learn and teach.  It is not so much that we have not evolved to cooperate but that we have not evolved to do so happily.  In this sense happiness is skill that must be learned.

I think one areas that is really impedes are ability to live together happily today is the lack of "good" manners.  Most other social animals have strict rules of behavior the nuances of which many human dismiss as mindless instinct.  Social harmony however is not just objective driven but incompasses the full range of positive emotion we can experience.   Good manners are contagious and positively reinforce social bonds.  Good manners also require discipline and improves are acceptance of the rational morality and obligations that protect our individual rights.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2015 at 22:09
Well stated wolfhnd. Perhaps that's why the biggest, and one of the safest and most orderly city in the world is Tokyo, Japan. By world standards the Japanese have a rather strict and comprehensive style of social interaction, one lacking in our increasingly self-centered western culture.

We don't seem to be moving in that direction any time soon. Generation Xers in this part of the world will buy a downtown condo, and then expect a parking spot for their SUV, and forbearance from their neighbors for their 100 watt sound system.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2015 at 23:32
I have a dream of us humans retreating underground when we are technologically advanced enough to have miniature suns and an endless food supply based on chemistry.   The planet can then be one big park for us to enjoy.  Of course we would also have to figure out a low impact eco tourism system.  

Maybe we would just live in space and visit the planet when we wanted.  Either way we just have to make sure that we don't destroy it before we get advanced enough to save it.  What I can't figure out is how do you stop massive volcanic disruptions and ice ages?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Mar 2015 at 23:37
Originally posted by Captain Vancouver Captain Vancouver wrote:

This link may indicate the future for a good many of the human race. Urban areas of tens or hundreds of millions (about 80 million speculated in the article).


I increasing see the orient as the greatest cultures in the future.  I'm often wrong of course Wink 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Mar 2015 at 01:52
Originally posted by wolfhnd wolfhnd wrote:

Originally posted by Captain Vancouver Captain Vancouver wrote:

This link may indicate the future for a good many of the human race. Urban areas of tens or hundreds of millions (about 80 million speculated in the article).


I increasing see the orient as the greatest cultures in the future.  I'm often wrong of course Wink 

Quite possibly, but it can be a bit of an odd dichotomy, can't it? In Japan, and other places in that region, we have safe cities, polite interchange, industriousness, hard work, organization........and yet. We also have those scratching their heads over why there should be green space in an urban environment, what that might look like exactly, whether there should be spaces for people to walk, or not, debate over if  people should keep smoking in hospitals and schools, if women should stay at home or get a job.....hmmm.

Maybe what we need is a melding of ideas from both east and west.....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Mar 2015 at 14:35
I tend to agree that the East is headed toward troubled times as individual rights come into conflict with the traditional sense of obligations.  There also is something to be said for being non conformist and creative.  It's not so much that the East lacks creative genius but that the energy of genius is somewhat suppressed by a need for harmony.

The West has the opposite problem of people demanding their right to government handouts and freedoms of individual initiative without any sense of obligation to contribute to society as a whole.  I heard an Islamic extremist in England say that accepting welfare was an attack on the evil non Islamic government.  Then I watch a investment banker gleefully explaining how he had been clever enough to exploit the housing crisis to make hundreds of millions of dollars.  He finished up by saying why not take advantage of the government's willingness to guarantee the stability of financial institutions.  

It's not so much a small world but a insane world and I fear the forces that love chaos are gathering strength.  It reminds me of an evolutionary process where the mutation rate increases when organisms are stressed.  Once the high mutation rate and necessarily less robust organism are dominant it takes several generation of a less stressful environment for the more robust and well adapted individuals to reemerge by selection.
 
Anyway the original topic is interesting enough without the diversions Smile




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Mar 2015 at 01:50
Quite agree, Mr W., that our "me first" culture is at least somewhat ominous for future welfare. This may change, and indeed may have to change.

I have some hope for the future urban landscape however. If Phoenix, Arizona, that quintessential sprawl city (not really city, but collection of strip malls and freeways) can consider a pedestrian aesthetic, then there is hope for us all:


There are dinosaurs out there still, that feel it is foolish and dangerous to get out of one's car, except in an emergency, and foot traffic will inevitably attract riff-raff to an area, and so keep pouring concrete, and damn global warming. Hopefully they will (like their metaphorical cousins) have an extinction event.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Mar 2015 at 12:07
Interesting piece of architecture.



Edited by wolfhnd - 03 Mar 2015 at 12:37
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Mar 2015 at 12:37
Originally posted by Captain Vancouver Captain Vancouver wrote:

Quite agree, Mr W., that our "me first" culture is at least somewhat ominous for future welfare. This may change, and indeed may have to change.

I have some hope for the future urban landscape however. If Phoenix, Arizona, that quintessential sprawl city (not really city, but collection of strip malls and freeways) can consider a pedestrian aesthetic, then there is hope for us all:


I'm a retired highway designer so I have some experience with livable cities and accessibility.  When the mandate to build sidewalks with every highway project came down from the federal government there was very little resistance.  If you compare that to the resistance to the clean water act within my discipline I think you can conclude that people are actually more concerned about their environment than the "natural" environment.  If you build it right they will come.  

The tragedy of urban sprawl is what people were fleeing.  In the case of my city it was racial integration.  While poor minorities can be a challenge at time to live with (I live in the inner city) I have had less problems with minorities than poor whites.  Poor white people are just criminally impudent in general in my neighborhood.

I have a recurring impression that it is this sense of entitlement that is a major part of our problem.  If everyone thinks they are entitled to 10 acres and a horse or two then you end up with a city like mine that has claimed 7,952 sq. mi.  260.0 people /sq. mi.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Mar 2015 at 18:25
Some places are making progress, I'd say. In Vancouver, considerable development now focuses around the hubs of mass transit, creating mini-city centers that are connected with each other. In your captain's smaller nearby community, residential units are being built over top of commercial space in downtown areas. Small steps, but they help move us away from the rather odd '50s concept of living on an ocean of concrete and asphalt, as tied to our cars as boaters in their vessels. 

But old habits are hard to break. Some still scream agony at the loss of a roadway or parking space.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wolfhnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Mar 2015 at 19:23
I saw a bumper sticker once that said "split wood not atoms" which to me reflects a rejection of technology by a large portion of the "green" community.  There is a natural appeal to self sufficiency and it seems to appeal to opposite ends of the political spectrum equally.  The irony is of course that people flocked to the city to escape subsistence farming in the past.  I'm not sure how the allure of the city life got so trampled on in wealthy countries like the US.  Fear of crime is certainly a major factor but I think the dream of the simple country life has replaced the fear of race and crime.  Some cities however seem to still have an appeal beyond any identifiable physical characteristic.  I would offer Paris and San Francisco as examples. 

I have been to Paris and I kind of like the lifestyle but honestly it isn't the place that is appealing it's the attitude.  Paris as a romantic city is more in peoples heads than it's physical characteristics.  Why shouldn't every city have a "romantic" appeal?  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2015 at 15:55
The original idea of escape from the city was rooted in the Dickensian conditions that persisted in some places well into the suburban age. But as you say, today ironies abound.

In our crowded world, "country" life is rarely the ideal of popular imagination any more. It more often means life in suburbia, the edge city, freeway centered strip development, factory farm, or other car dependent and busy milieu. One can often find more peace and spiritual uplift in the more enlightened cities of the world these days. There one often finds greenspace and pedestrian neighbourhoods. 

Perhaps the romantic appeal of a city comes from those that can fulfill access to uplifting environments: complex and interesting spaces, closeness to nature, the ability to move around unhindered. Areas that keep the senses occupied, and also help to reproduce (at least a sense of) our evolutionary environment are, I'd say, those that often get desirable rating, whereas the opposite produces displeasure. Berlin with it's parks and public transit may be entered into the former category, for example, while LA, with its freeways and concrete grid, into the latter. 
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