By Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects
21st century courtyard building.
By Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects
21st century courtyard building.
"There were only 9 electric street railways operating in the American cities in 1885 but 789 by 1890, 982 by 1902, and 1,260 by 1912"
"Most public space is used for recreational purposes most of the time, and who uses various kinds of public space how much for these and other purposes is an important research topic. Whether and how people use parks, playgrounds, pools, and beaches is not only relevant to the sociology of leisure but it is also of importance to government, particularly since budgets for such spaces are usually the first to be cut when tax receipts decline. In low density communities, the major users of public recreational space are probably people who cannot afford to buy or rent homes with private outdoor space."
"I wasn’t against communism, but i can’t say i was for it either. At first, i viewed it suspiciously, as some kind of white man’s concoction, until i read works by African revolutionaries and studied the African liberation movements. Revolutionaries in Africa understood that the question of African liberation was not just a question of race, that even if they managed to get rid of the white colonialists, if they didn’t rid themselves of the capitalistic economic structure, the white colonialists would simply be replaced by Black neocolonialists. There was not a single liberation movement in Africa that was not fighting for socialism. In fact, there was not a single liberation movement in the whole world that was fighting for capitalism. The whole thing boiled down to a simple equation: anything that has any kind of value is made, mined, grown, produced, and processed by working people. So why shouldn’t working people collectively own that wealth? Why shouldn’t working people own and control their own resources? Capitalism meant that rich businessmen owned the wealth, while socialism meant that the people who made the wealth owned it."
"Civilizations and governments rise and fall; traditions, values, and policies change; but the natural environment of each city remains an enduring framework within which the human community builds. A city’s natural environment and its urban form, taken together, comprise a record of the interaction between natural processes and human purpose over time. Together, they contribute to each city’s identity."
For the past few years as I’ve taught my Technology & Global Society class, I’ve done a entire lecture on the importance of science fiction in the development of technological innovation and how humans come to grips with these newfound capabilities. Since humans are in fact defined as social animals, it is our ability to tell stories and use narratives to make sense of the world around us that is one of our central characteristics, and the development and growth of science fiction as a genre since the transformative period of the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions illustrates this perfectly. We use sci-fi, in all of its forms, formats and typologies, to showcase present problems in unique ways (ie: the original Star Trek episodes which dealt, ostensibly, with racism, and the spate of recent movies focusing on income inequality through dystopian futures), as well as to help play out potential future scenarios and alternate timelines, so that we can more or less deal with those problems as they present themselves.
Perhaps the biggest and yet more overlooked example of these dual roles is Gojira, or in the Americanized vernacular, Godzilla. I say biggest because we all know Godzilla, and yet, the form of Godzilla that we know is that of tacky B-movies with men in monster suits fighting other men in monster suits. But I was explaining to my class this year that the original Godzilla, the 1954 version released in Japan before the American recut appeared in 1956, was anything but tacky or enjoyable. Indeed, the original Godzilla was terrifying because he was meant to be something that was still very much in the memory of Japanese people: the awesome and horrific force of the atomic bomb.
When you watch Gojira, the camera lingers on scenes of buildings in ruins, and on shots of ‘flash shadows’ of families burned into the walls behind them by Gojira’s ‘atomic breath.’ Indeed, there is almost no respite for the viewer, as this is presented for minutes on end to a viewership that lived amongst those ruins and for whom the photos of flash shadows from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were burned into their very memories. In the film, humans are powerless before this monster that they in fact created, and only the most unthinkable weapon is capable of destroying him in the end. In this film, Godzilla is not the monster; we are the monster, for we have unleashed a new and unstoppable force upon the world, with no hope of controlling it and the only endpoint for humanity lying in the use of an even greater force that spells the end of all mankind.
It is in this historical context that I believe the 2014 remake of Godzilla to be one of the most important sci-fi and environmental films of recent years. Not because it’s a good film in its own right (movie critics far more qualified than me can speak to that), but because it presents one very clear and inescapable message: that nature doesn’t care about us.
Let me explain. As an environmental sociologist, I often encounter a lot of environmentalists who talk about the need to ‘save the earth’ and protect natural ecosystems from human activities. While eminent ecologists do believe that we now live in a ‘anthropocene’ period in which humans are exerting an outsized effect on the global ecosystem, we humans still, collectively, do not begin to outweigh the combined mass of ants, let alone bacteria, and birds and mammals and other living organisms on the earth, nor are we in any sort of critical juncture of the food chain or ecosystem functions (ie: the famous passage, attributed to Einstein, about the importance of honeybees and the unimportance of humans to the existence of all life on earth). Over billions of years, natural systems have played out an evolutionary game that we are still wrapping our minds around, and that game will continue far after we’ve gone, whether it’s by nuclear annihilation, climate change, resource depletion, etc. Nature, in its might, majesty and apathy, does not care about the existence of any one species, but instead, in as far as it has a ‘direction’ or ‘goal’, cares only about the continuance of the system.
This is where the new Godzilla comes into the picture. Since it’s been out for a few months now, I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything to say that Godzilla is not fighting humans, but is instead awakened to fight other pre-historic monsters. Godzilla, in the words of the requisite movie scientist (side note: Ken Watanabe was criminally underused in this role and with that dialogue), is an apex predator, and comes out of the ocean to restore the balance by (awesomely) fighting these creatures in the middle of two American cities. Godzilla is considered a target by the US military, which hopes to take him out along with the MUTOs with a nuclear warhead (ignoring the fact that the atomic bomb tests failed to damage him and may have even made him stronger), but during the fights, you realize that Godzilla is not going out of his way to kill humans; if he wanted to, he surely could’ve sunk the carrier battle group that followed him to the American mainland, or laid waste to all of San Francisco with his atomic breath. He does not do that, instead focusing his energy on the creatures, and upon finishing them off, collapses of exhaustion in the middle of the city. The humans on hand think that he is dead, but at the finale of the film, he rises up, unleashes his classic shriek, manuevers around the buildings that remain standing, and swims back out into the ocean.
But one cannot forget that during his fights, Godzilla is almost surely responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The flood in Honolulu alone as he comes ashore was reminiscent of the tsunamis of years past, and stomping around and crashing into buildings would also have resulted in many people dying. Godzilla is not purposefully trying to kill humans, but he’s not going to save them or go out of his way to avoid killing them either; in this way, Godzilla is nature incarnate, seeking to restore balance to the system, regardless of whichever individual species happens to get in the way.
I believe this is a powerful and essential message for modern environmentalism, as the fact that nature always has the last word, and that unintended consequences will always ripple out from our actions, is critical for understanding our place in the larger ecosystem. As we speak, there are people around the world trying to ‘geoengineer’ the planet in response to climate change, such as dumping iron sulfate into the oceans or seeding the atmosphere with molecules to reflect the sun’s heat back out into space. We cannot possibly hope to understand the full effects of such actions because we cannot understand how the dynamic ecosystem will respond to them; we invite rebound effects back onto us through our arrogance and limited knowledge. Nature knows better than us, and while it is not trying to kill us, it won’t save us either. We will kill ourselves, and only we can save ourselves.
These vegetated surfaces don’t just look pretty. They have other benefits as well, including cooling city blocks, reducing loud noises, and improving a building’s energy efficiency.What’s more, a recent modeling study shows that green walls can potentially reduce large amounts of air pollution in what’s called a “street canyon,” or the corridor between tall buildings.
For the study, Thomas Pugh, a biogeochemist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and his colleagues created a computer model of a green wall with generic vegetation in a Western European city. Then they recorded chemical reactions based on a variety of factors, such as wind speed and building placement.
The simulation revealed a clear pattern: A green wall in a street canyon trapped or absorbed large amounts of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter—both pollutants harmful to people, said Pugh. Compared with reducing emissions from cars, little attention has been focused on how to trap or take up more of the pollutants, added Pugh, whose study was published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
That’s why the green-wall study is “putting forward an alternative solution that might allow [governments] to improve air quality in these problem hot spots,” he said.Compared with reducing emissions from cars, little attention has been focused on how to trap or take up more of the pollutants, added Pugh, whose study was published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
That’s why the green-wall study is “putting forward an alternative solution that might allow [governments] to improve air quality in these problem hot spots,” he said.
"Consequently, under contemporary circumstances, the urban can no longer be viewed as a distinct, relatively bounded site; it has
instead become a generalized, planetary condition in and through which the accumulation of capital, the regulation of political-economic life, the reproduction of everyday social relations and the contestation of the earth and humanity’s possible futures are simultaneously organized and fought out."
"The few studies that look at specific violations have found that people on bikes do roll through stop signs about 15% more than drivers do (at least in Oregon), but also that drivers roll through them almost 80% of the time, suggesting this is more of a human fault than a cyclist one."
"If you build a city that is great for an eight-year-old and for an 80-year-old, then you build a city that is going to be great for everybody. They’re like an indicator species. We need to stop building cities as if everybody in them is 30 years old and athletic."