The Urban Humanism Manifesto: Putting Communities First

By John Mirisch : newgeography – excerpt

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Construction comes with a high cost to residents’ health. All is not rosy for the residents of the new Mission Bay housing springing up along the San Francisco Bay who are getting a dose of dust and contaminants from the piles of excavated dirt blowing their way. Photo by zrants.

Urban planning exists to serve people and communities, not the other way around. Unfortunately, urban planners these days, perhaps under the influence of academic arrogance as well as the lure of developer dollars, seem to forget this simple truism.

A particularly invidious form of planning orthodoxy involves certain adherents of so-called “new urbanism,” which looks at density, more density and only density as the hallmark of the (for them) only acceptable form of urban living.

Without considering that people of all colors, stripes and ethnicities might like to have gardens, these urban planning densifiers support policies whose main aims are to eliminate low-density housing, without regard to preservation of the integrity of communities or without acknowledging that community character means anything.

The new urbanist density hawks also use other “arguments” apart from social justice to make their moral case for high-density, including, importantly, environmental considerations. Never mind the fact that even studies done by density advocates show that the supposed benefits of increased density on the environment would be marginal, at best. But that doesn’t dampen the rhetoric. Far from it. Some of the most strident density fetishists decry single-family neighborhoods as “the enemy” and proclaim homeowners to be nothing less than “zoo animals” and “bloodthirsty dinosaurs,” who are “angry, entitled, immoral, classist and racist.”… (more)

How livable are the new dense urban environments? How healthy are residents living in a perpetual construction zone?

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Bayer-Monsanto Merger and Stack and Pack housing Is Bad News for the Planet

Op-Ed by Zrants

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Grapes depend on birds and insects to reproduce. What will we use when the natural pollinators die off? Robotic insects? photo by zrants

Merging corporations are a huge threat to every industry, including food production. Ellen Brown generally writes about the economy and public banking. This article, The Bayer-Monsanto Merger Is Bad News for the Planet, goes back to her original focus on holistic heath solutions and deals with the problems that come from not upholding anti-trust laws. Too-big-to-fail banks are not our only problem. When you look at the issues raised over government involvement, or lack of oversight, in the global food industry in conjunction with government manipulations in the housing industry, the future does not look rosy.

Stack and pack development theories go beyond concerns over how to live independent lives. Sucking people into dense housing and work environments does nothing for the planet but it does force everyone to live in dependence of the government-sanctioned grids: electric, water, sewer, media, wifi, transit, and alt currency banking systems, to name a few. Landless Americans Are the New Serf Class, questions the legitimacy of the current development decisions by pointing out some of the major inconsistencies and problems with the way the government is directing us to live.

Our education system is turning out perfect on-demand consumers hooked on instant gratification, not independent thinkers capable of solving problems. Important jobs are unfilled because no one bothered to learn the skills. Do we know what we are losing or what kind of world we are building?

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Old and new versions of bus shelter designs photo by zrants

What kind of future are we designing and who is it for? We need designers who base design on science, not theory. Look at the new bus “shelters”, if you can call them that, for a perfect example of bad design. Whoever designed these non-shelter shelters should not be qualified to design anything. There is no utilitarian integrity in a bus shelter with less seats and no protection from the rain. The deal SFMTA cut for these non-shelters is indicative of what is wrong with the SFMTA and many government agencies. What did the public get put of the deal? a shelter that is not a shelter in exchange for ad space, that brings in less ad revenue.

We do not need an economy and society modeled on future projections on predictive behavior handed down to us from top level public-private entities that are more concerned with controlling public behavior than corporate behavior. What will it take for society to prioritize human development and creative thinking over financial growth?

please continue to support our efforts to control our land use and zoning by stopping bills like SB 827. Sign the petition and write your state reps.

 

Does Senate Bill-827 Even Make Sense

nine-county-coalition – excerpt

Killing the Bay Views One Stadium at a Time by zrants

By now most Bay Area residents know what California Senate Bill 827 is, and what its authors Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner say they want to accomplish.  Most residents are also aware that there is opposition to the draconian nature of this bill.

The purported objective of SB 827 is to force all cities and counties in California to build lots of housing along all transit routes.  Theoretically, the increased supply would bring prices down; while proximity to bus and rail routes would encourage residents to ride transit, not drive their cars.  Do these objectives ring true in the context of today’s California housing “market.”  Does proximity to transit translate into increased transit ridership?  Does SB 827 even make any sense?…

Would SB 827 bring housing prices down?
Would SB 827 get people to take public transit?
What is the elasticity of SB 827?
Would SB 827 work with flexible transit schedules?

SB 827 Flyer we hope you also find useful SB 827 Flyer… (more)

Disturbing before-and-after images show how Silicon Valley tech offices could be submerged by 2100

The world’s oceans are rapidly rising as waters warm and ice sheets melt. Coastal locations, like the San Francisco Bay Area, will be among the hardest hit by the rising tide.

Beyond sea level rise, San Francisco is slowly sinking at a rate of up to 10 millimeters per year in a process called subsidence.

All this incoming water will have devastating consequences for the area, where pricey real estate developments and clusters of billion-dollar tech companies may be forced to relocate… (more)

 

Point Reyes lawsuit settlement harms dairies, climate change fight

By Albert Straus : sfchronicle – excerpt

Photos of Marin Seashore by zrants

The Point Reyes National Seashore is at a turning point. The settlement agreement in U.S. District Court pits environmentalists and farmers against one another by requiring the national park to consider reducing or eliminating the historic ranches that have been on the land for more than 100 years.

As the son of farmers and environmentalists who helped create the park, I believe that this divide is misguided. Eliminating the park’s cattle ranches and dairies would remove six out of 25 organic dairy operations in Marin County. As a lifelong dairyman, I have spent the past four decades building a successful model for organic and sustainable dairy production. In fact, organic farming and ranching, combined with carbon farming practices, are a critical step in the urgent fight against climate change…

UC Berkeley scientists have spent a decade on a large-scale research project here in Marin County. They found that if one-quarter inch of compost were applied over just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture the equivalent of a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries…(more)

Why would anyone want to remove working family farms that produce the high value quality food California residents like to eat? What do they have in mind for this land that is not near any city jobs and is a tourist favorite? Is someone planning to construct a “transit rich” development project here? Fog Tower at the beach?

Billionaire petitions US Supreme Court to keep people off beach

By : curbed – excerpt

Vinod Khoslas, the billionaire founder of Sun Microsystems, is trying to take his ten-year battle to get exclusive access to one of the Bay Area’s most beautiful and coveted public beaches all the way to the US Supreme Court.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday that Khosla has appealed a unanimous ruling of the First District Court of Appeals against him last August, which held that Khosla has habitually violated California law by trying to bar the only gate to Martins Beach in San Mateo County… (more)

When someone buys property under certain conditions do they have the right to sue to change those condiitions?

Fragranced products to blame for smog as much as cars, study finds

The study, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and UC Davis, establishes a stronger link than ever before between air pollution and the lotions, perfumes, hair sprays, and other grooming and cleaning products that Bay Area residents use every day…(more)

I am posting this for my friends who are particularly sensitive to anything scented. Cigarettes were early targets but, now scientists are reporting problems with many household products. Construction dust and cleaning supplies are huge contributors to the particulate matter in the air.

Half of California’s Vegetation at ‘High Risk’ from Warming Climate, UC Scientist Says

by Lisa Meadows : KQED – excerpt (includes video and map)

SACRAMENTO (KPIX/KOVR) — Devastation plagued California last year as the worst wildfire season on record ravaged the state.

Scott McLean, with Cal Fire, knows the grim statistics all too well…(more)

Study: Pollution Kills More People Than War, Smoking, Hunger, and Other Causes of Death

jonathanturle – excerpt

We have previously discussed how environmental dangers remain something of an abstraction for most people who fail to recognize that changes in air or water pollution standards results in high and quantifiable rises in death rates.  Even changes in areas like shipping fuels can translate to thousands of deaths.

However, since these deaths are not immediate and borne privately, the true costs of pollution are often dismissed.  I have been highly critical of the environmental record of the Trump Administration for this reason in rolling back on protections in a variety of areas as well as appointing regulators with anti-environmental records.

Now a new major study has found that environmental pollution kills more people every year that all of the wars.  It exceeds the death tolls for smoking, hunger or natural disasters combined. It kills more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Yet, unlike these causes of death, pollution remains a policy concern that is often pushed to the side for more immediate goals like job creation.

This is not to say that environmental protection would trump all other concerns but rather the real costs of such pollution are rarely discussed in real terms of premature deaths by politicians.

The study in the respected Lancet medical journal found that one out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 was caused by toxic exposure.  That amounts to 9 million people who died prematurely due to pollution.  The study also found that the cost of the resulting illnesses and deaths amounted to some $4.6 trillion in annual losses.

Worse yet, the 9 million deaths from pollution appears a highly conservative estimate since it relied on only limited data on specific measurable cases of deaths and illnesses. The actual number is likely much higher. Moreover, only half of the 5000 news chemicals introduced since 1950 have actually been fully tested for their toxicity.

Obviously, the rate of death is higher in developing countries, though we are now experiencing heavy pollution migration from Asia.  In India, an astonishing one out of every four deaths are attributed to pollution. In China, there is a term for “cancer villages” in which a huge percentage of the citizens are developing cancers due to horrific environmental conditions. In China, one out of every five deaths are attributed to pollution with 1.8 million premature deaths a year…(more)

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

By : theguardian – excerpt (includes graph)

Tap-Water

Tap water photo by zrants

Exclusive: Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted

We are living on a plastic planet. What does it mean for our health?

Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health.

Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.

The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates…

How microplastics end up in drinking water is for now a mystery, but the atmosphere is one obvious source, with fibres shed by the everyday wear and tear of clothes and carpets. Tumble dryers are another potential source, with almost 80% of US households having dryers that usually vent to the open air…

Current standard water treatment systems do not filter out all of the microplastics, Mahon said: “There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.”…(more)