RECREATING OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRES

Back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the International Congress of Modern Architecture, guided by Le Corbusier, held a series of conferences ending in a cruise from Marseilles to Athens, which produced the legendary Athens Charter, inspired by Le Corbusier’s dream of ‘radiant cities’ with high-rise towers in vast urban parks, with elevated freeways and separate zones for living, recreation and work. Traditional streetscapes and architecture were eliminated to make way for standardized architecture and industrial technology. Out with the old ! In with the new ! The consequences were tragic, and even today, 40 years after the architectural world realized its error, we still live with the consequences. This May, the pendulum swung. Several hundred architects, developers and public officials met in Charleston, South Carolina for the fourth annual Congress of the New Urbanism, which ended in the adoption of a new Charter – the antithesis of the 1933 Athens Charter. It calls for a return to traditional urban centres and towns, reconfiguring the sprawling suburbs to make real neighbourhoods, creating communities designed for pedestrians, bicycles and transit, where streets, squares and greens have a real sense of place. Urban infill is seen as preferable to peripheral expansion, while non-contiguous growth outside urban boundaries should be in “towns and villages with their own urban edges, planned for a jobs/housing balance, not as bedroom suburbs”. Here on Vancouver Island, we live with many sprawling suburbs and car-dominated shopping malls. How do we begin to bring back a sense of place, community and charm ? In James Bay, the Five Corners shopping centre where Thrifty Foods is located is the natural heart of James Bay, a community of 12,000 people. Right now, it is completely dominated by cars, and people are really secondary. What would it take to redesign it to make it a people-friendly market square ? These are just ideas, but……Phase out most of the parking from in front of Thrifty’s, and close off Simcoe St where it comes in from the west, leaving a narrow route for emergency vehicles. This creates a large pedestrian urban square. Plant trees, install a bandstand, make space for dancing, and encourage cafes to spill out into the square. To create a sense of entry, build a large arch across Simcoe St to the west with residences built inside the arch above the street, to pay for construction. Build two more arches on Menzies, one to the north and one to the south, again with internal residences, and create raised bottleneck crosswalks to slow the traffic moving along Menzies and Toronto Streets. What about parking ? Thrifty’s already offers a home delivery service. Expand this by providing bicycle carts, enabling people to tow their shopping home (just started in Totnes, South Devon, UK). Parking could be metered to discourage lazy use, and phased out over five years as people adjusted to the new shopping habits. A community minibus circling the James Bay streets with space for groceries and supplies would help elderly people come to terms with the loss of parking. Create some new parking at the blocked off end of Simcoe St; there may be other parking spaces which a detailed walkabout would reveal. Yes, there would be initial inconvenience, as people adjusted to the new shopping habits. But there would also be a beautiful market square where people could gather, take coffee, listen to music, watch their children play, and enjoy open air art displays under the shade of the trees, and evening concerts. It is a vision we really have to hold onto, while we consider the loss of the parking. The biggest difficulty, apart from making the transition away from easy parking, would be getting all the owners, planners, engineers, councillors and community representatives around the same table to work out a joint agreement. There would be a hundred objections, any one of which could kill the idea if the larger vision was forgotten. Thrifty’s might be able to open up their fresh produce section to spill out into the market square. New retail shops might decide to fill in the spaces when they realized what a wonderful space for people, culture and happenings the whole place was becoming. It is such an enticing possibility. The next time you visit your corner store or neighbourhood centre, take a good look around. Could it be redesigned too, to make it a place for gathering, street markets and music ? And the suburbs – could neighbourhood centres be created out of nothing by choosing a location where the transit routes meet, narrowing the streets, rezoning the nearby properties for commercial and retail, and installing a village green, with trees and a pond ? It is all in the realm of the possible. Have a great summer !

Guy Dauncey

http://www.earthfuture.com/econews/back_issues/96-07.asp

A Practical Model:

Germany_Friburg_Vauban Quartier_Architect: Rolf Disch

Awaiting the Obama, Wen Climate Effect

Dozens of journalists, diplomats and other observers crowded the front of the Bella Center, awaiting the arrival of limos and Mercedes and vans bringing the U.S. president and other world leaders here. On TV panels around the center, people watched Air Force One touch down on Danish soil.

Another scrum of reporters was focused on the central convention offices, where the Danish delegation was holding court, coordinating the drafting of a political text for leaders to agree on as the outcome for the climate conference.

US President Barack Obama arrives at Copenhagen Airport for the climate conference Friday. (AP Photo/Jens Dige/POLFOTO)

A coughing and weary Connie Hedegaard, the former Danish climate minister who was convention president and is leading informal talks, swept past reporters on the way in and later toward arriving delegations. The formal plenary was just about to begin…

Now, the conference is in the hands of President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and a handful of other heads of state who have been trying to hammer out the broad outlines of a global climate rescue plan.

“Most of the leaders are still working out to produce a meaningful agreement to be adopted,” Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama told reporters this morning. He said Japan still hopes for an agreement that would include specific greenhouse gas cuts “by all major countries,” but Japan’s commitment is conditional — dependent upon fair, ambitious and comprehensive terms for the post-2012 Kyoto Protocol framework.

Observers tell us the leaders are trying to put together a collective goal for the major industrial nations that gets carbon emissions reduction targets to 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 — the level that the U.N. expert scientific panel has said is necessary to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said progress was being held back by China.

As of 2007 they stood only 4 percent below 1990 levels, and the rest of the world continued pumping out more heat-trapping gases mainly from fossil fuels. Global emissions have grown 23 percent this decade. In 2008 almost three-quarters of the increase came from China. Other big contributors were India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Iran and Mexico.

Right now the 40 industrialized nations have pledged cuts totaling somewhere in the mid-teens, but that assumes the best-case scenarios and no loopholes. A leaked U.N. document Thursday said the total of those pledges will probably not prevent warming of 3 degrees Celsius.

It’s not earth-shattering progress, but better than a total collapse of the talks, observers say.

John Heilprin covers the United Nations and has reported on climate for AP since January 2001.

Allarme rosso : il ghiaccio fonde!

THE ICE IS MELTING – TURN ON YOUR RED LIGHT

Alerte Rouge – La glace fond

SevenMeters.net est une manifestation qui utilise une lumière clignotante rouge , pour symboliser le fait que nous allons au devant d’une catastrophe climatique. Ainsi que nos politiciens ( et ceux qui les élysent ) ne font pas le nécessaire pour respecter les traités sur le réchauffement climatique.

7 Mètres (seven meters) est la hauteur à laquelle montera l’eau si la totalité de la banquise du Groenland fond.

24 kilometres de lumières clignotante rouges seront fixées à 7mètres de hauteur dans les rues de Copenhague pendant le sommet climatique de l’ONU en décembre 2009 qui se déroulera à Copenhague, nous voulons ainsi envoyer un message visuel concernant les consequences énormes que nos actions auront à long terme

Pour connaitre plus : http://sevenmeters.net

Land Art Generator

Tre mappe-studio come rappresentazione delle problematiche e delle possibili strategie di soluzione per limare la dipendenza da fonti di energia fossili e le loro conseguenti emissioni in anidride carbonica. Un buon esercizio di quantificazione, ma resta come questione sospesa l’indubbia necessità di ridurre i consumi a livello globale.

| landartgenerator.org |
| landartgenerator.org |
| landartgenerator.org |

Il sole e i fiumi dell’Africa aiuteranno l’Europa?

Nelle scorse settimane sono stati lanciati due grandi progetti per la produzione di energia. Uno si propone di creare la più grande azienda al mondo per produzione di energia solare, l’altra vuole creare la più grande diga del pianeta per l’energia idroelettrica. Sebbene entrambi i progetti siano collocati in Africa, il loro obiettivo è esportare energia elettrica in Europa. L’Independent valuta i pro e i contro dei due ambiziosi progetti che, secondo molti critici, rievocano i furti di risorse di stampo coloniale.

Dove?
Desertec, il progetto di energia solare, è studiato per catturare il sole in Marocco e/o nel Sahara algerino, mentre il piano idroelettrico è basato sulla costruzione di una diga sul fiume Congo. L’elemento che hanno in comune i due progetti è l’intenzione di esportare la maggior parte dell’energia prodotta in questi paesi poveri verso economie più sviluppate. Nel caso del Sahara verso l’Europa meridionale, mentre per la centrale in Congo verso il Sudafrica, nella regione mineraria della Repubblica democratica del Congo (Rdc) e, ancora un volta, in Europa.

Come funzioneranno?
Gli ideatori del progetto Desertec mettono in evidenza che l’energia solare che interessa il Sahara nell’arco di sei ore potrebbe soddisfare il fabbisogno energetico annuo dell’Europa. Ma la difficoltà nel catturare, immagazzinare e trasferire questa elettricità rende più ipotizzabile un progetto in grado di fornire il 15 per cento delle necessità energetiche europee. Il progetto della diga Inga nella Rdc prevede di produrre 40mila Mw, cioè il doppio della capacità della centrale idroelettrica cinese delle Tre gole, e più dell’energia prodotta dall’intero Sudafrica. Nel Sahara tutto ciò sarà fatto attraverso una nuova tecnologia (concentrated solar power – Csp), rappresentata da un gran numero di specchi che raccoglieranno il calore necessario a riscaldare l’acqua e a far girare le turbine. L’elettricità prodotta sarà trasportata attraverso dei cavi sul fondo del Mediterraneo in direzione dell’Europa. Nel caso del Congo, il progetto prevede la possibilità di utilizzare la grande forza generata dalle cascate Inga. Anche in questo caso, dei cavi porteranno l’elettricità in Sudafrica, in Nigeria, in Egitto e nell’Europa meridionale.

Quanto costeranno?
Il progetto Desertec costerà 400 miliardi di euro, mentre la spesa per la centrale Inga dovrebbe essere intorno agli 80 miliardi di dollari – sempre che i progetti rispettino i budget iniziali previsti. I principali finanziatori del progetto nel Sahara sono una dozzina di imprese finanziarie e industriali, in particolar modo tedesche come la Siemens. Il progetto presenta molti rischi, che vanno dai fattori politici all’instabilità del Maghreb o al conflitto nella Rdc. A questi fattori si devono poi aggiungere le tempeste del deserto e il costo per l’acqua necessaria a pulire i pannelli solari e per il funzionamento delle turbine.

Perché economie sviluppate comprano energia nel terzo mondo?
La ragione più semplice è che in Europa non ci sono equivalenti dell’energia solare del Sahara o delle acque tumultuose delle cascate Inga. Un altro aspetto è la difficoltà dei governi e degli imprenditori privati nel creare dei grandi progetti di energia rinnovabile in Europa. Alcuni paesi, come il Portogallo, hanno fatto progressi nella costruzione di turbine eoliche, ma altri come il Regno Unito si scontrano con la resistenza locale ai grandi progetti. Il Sahara invece offre il vantaggio di essere una regione piuttosto vicina all’Europa, con una scarsa popolazione e con una forte esposizione solare.

Quali saranno i vantaggi per l’Europa?
In Europa il problema energetico è di importanza strategica. Molti governi stanno cercando i modi per ridurre la loro dipendenza dal gas russo, che secondo alcuni fornisce troppo potere a Mosca. Molte amministrazioni stanno perseguendo la strada del nucleare, ma spesso senza una chiara definizione dei tempi necessari – ci vorranno almeno 20 anni prima del lancio della nuova generazione di reattori. Nel frattempo l’obiettivo a lungo termine è ridurre entro il 2050 i gas a effetto serra dell’80 per cento rispetto al 1995.

Quali saranno i vantaggi per l’Africa?
Secondo la banca mondiale, il progetto Grande Inga porterà energia elettrica a 500 milioni di famiglie in Africa; risolverà la cronica mancanza di elettricità del Sudafrica, che attualmente costringe la principale economia del continente a black-out di diversi giorni. Il progetto inoltre potrebbe risolvere le necessità del settore minerario del Katanga, della Namibia e della Nigeria. Una rapida occhiata alle immagini della Terra vista di notte, mostra la situazione dell’Africa da un punto di vista elettrico: meno del 30 per cento delle famiglie africane hanno accesso all’elettricità, e in molti paesi questa percentuale scende al 10 per cento.

Perché la questione è controversa?
Secondo un recente rapporto di Usaid, in Africa vivono nove miliardi di persone. Ma nonostante l’urbanizzazione, la maggior parte della popolazione vive in campagna o non ha accesso ai servizi di base. In queste condizioni esportare l’energia africana in Europa ha qualcosa di grottesco. Un libero mercato dell’energia vedrebbe l’Africa fare concorrenza ai più ricchi europei per l’energia prodotta con le proprie risorse naturali. Considerati gli scarsi benefici che la popolazione ha tratto dalle altre materie prime come il petrolio e i minerali, questi progetti possono essere considerati come una vera e propria sottrazione di energia. Inoltre bisogna tenere conto del cambiamento climatico al quale l’Africa contribuisce meno degli altri continenti, ma dal quale ne subisce le conseguenze peggiori. I critici di questi megaprogetti ritengono che questi miliardi sarebbero spesi meglio in altri progetti, piuttosto che in sussidi indiretti alle multinazionali occidentali sotto forma di aiuti all’Africa.

| Presseurop | the Indipendent

Survival of the Fattest

’Survival of the Fattest’ a work of Jens Galschiot

Photo By Louise Weiss

The sculpture ’Survival of the Fattest’ is a symbol of the rich world’s (i.e. the fat woman, Justitia) self-complacent ‘righteousness’. With a pair of scales in her hand she sits on the back of starved African man (i.e. the third world), while pretending to do what is best for him.

Climate changes are caused by the western world, but the consequences hit the third world hardest. Even so, we are not willing to give up our way of life or make real changes. The poor countries are willing to do, comparatively, far more to lower CO2 emission than the western world. Still, the west all too often argues that they will have admissions and promises of further CO2 reductions from China, India, Russia and other countries that emit (and always have emitted) far less than the western world.

The little Mermaid is a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen and one of the most important symbols in Denmark. It is a part of the Danish idea of themselves as a small, cosy nation where the living is good, but where we are also doing our bit to help the world that surrounds us. This is, of course, only a fairytale.

The western world and the Danes sit like the mermaid on the rock or like the fat lady in a safe distance from the water level. Happy and assured that they have the capital it takes to prevent that the climate changes hit us. Meanwhile, island states around the world are being flushed away, while hurricanes, drought and hunger hit the rest of the world, especially Africa. But, we continue to sit on our rocks convinced that the 200 million climate refugees the UN foresee in 40 years will not affect us.

Survival of the Fattest is a part of SevenMeters.net. The aim of the initiative is to put focus on the consequences of global warming through various art installations, which will highlight the climate change from different angles.

to read full programme:

http://sevenmeters.net

Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after ‘Danish text’ leak

Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images.The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents.

Danish text: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/08/copenhagen-climate-change

The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.

The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” – but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.

The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol’s principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol – the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.

The document was described last night by one senior diplomat as “a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations. It is to be superimposed without discussion on the talks”.

A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries also seen by the Guardian shows deep unease over details of the text. In particular, it is understood to:

• Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;

• Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called “the most vulnerable”;

• Weaken the UN’s role in handling climate finance;

• Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

Developing countries that have seen the text are understood to be furious that it is being promoted by rich countries without their knowledge and without discussion in the negotiations.

“It is being done in secret. Clearly the intention is to get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle it through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of the UN process,” said one diplomat, who asked to remain nameless.

Antonio Hill, climate policy adviser for Oxfam International, said: “This is only a draft but it highlights the risk that when the big countries come together, the small ones get hurting. On every count the emission cuts need to be scaled up. It allows too many loopholes and does not suggest anything like the 40% cuts that science is saying is needed.”

Hill continued: “It proposes a green fund to be run by a board but the big risk is that it will run by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility [a partnership of 10 agencies including the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme] and not the UN. That would be a step backwards, and it tries to put constraints on developing countries when none were negotiated in earlier UN climate talks.”

The text was intended by Denmark and rich countries to be a working framework, which would be adapted by countries over the next week. It is particularly inflammatory because it sidelines the UN negotiating process and suggests that rich countries are desperate for world leaders to have a text to work from when they arrive next week.

Few numbers or figures are included in the text because these would be filled in later by world leaders. However, it seeks to hold temperature rises to 2C and mentions the sum of $10bn a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change from 2012-15.

Photograph: PETER DEJONG/AP.The Survival of the Fattest, a sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot, is seen in the harbour of Copenhagen. The sculpture represents an overweight Lady Justice figurine, symbolising the rich industrialised world, sitting on the back of a thin African man

Programma bioeconomico minimale

“… Dovremmo liberarci dalla “sindrome Circolare del rasoio elettrico”

Nicholas Georgescu-Reogen

Programma bioeconomico minimale sviluppato da Nicholas Georgescu-Reogen

“…Sarebbe stupido proporre la rinuncia completa al comfort industriale dell’evoluzione  esosomatica. L’umanità non tornerà nelle caverne, o, piuttosto, agli alberi. Ma vi sono alcuni punti che potrebbero essere inclusi in un “programma bioeconomico minimale “:

  • La produzione di tutti gli strumenti di guerra, non solo la guerra stessa, dovrebbe essere proibita completamente
  • Grazie all’uso di queste forze produttive, e per mezzo di misure aggiuntive ben pianificate e oneste, bisogna aiutare le nazioni in via di sviluppo a raggiungere il più rapidamente possibile un tenore di vita buono (non lussuoso)…
  • Il genere umano dovrebbe gradualmente ridurre la sua popolazione fino ad un livello in cui l’alimentazione possa essere adeguatamente fornita dalla sola agricoltura organica
  • Fino a che non sia diventato comune l’uso diretto di energia solare o sia ottenuta la fusione controllata, ogni spreco di energia per surriscaldamento, superraffreddamento, superaccelerazione, superilluminazione, ecc. – dovrebbe essere attentamente evitato e, se necessario, rigidamente regolamentato.
  • Dobbiamo curarci dalla passione morbosa per i congegni stravaganti, splendidamente illustrata da un oggetto contradditorio come l’automobilina per il golf, e per splendori pachidermici come le automobili che non entrano nei garage. Se ci riusciremo, i produttori smetteranno di produrre simili “beni“.
  • Dobbiamo liberarci anche della moda, quella “malattia mentale umana”, come la chiamò l’abate Fernando Galliani nel suo celebre Della Moneta (1750). E’ veramente una malattia della mente gettar via una giacca o un mobile quando possono ancora servire al loro scopo specifico. Comprare un’automobile “nuova” ogni anno e arredare la casa ogni due è un crimine bioeconomico. E’ stato già proposto di fabbricare gli oggetti in modo che durino più a lungo. Ma è ancor più importante che i consumatori si rieduchino da sè così da disprezzare la moda. I produttori dovranno allora concentrarsi sulla durabilità.
  • e strettamente legato al precedente, è la necessità che i beni devono essere resi più durevoli tramite una progettazione che consenta poi di ripararli.
  • Dovremmo liberarci dalla “sindrome circolare del rasoio elettrico”, che consiste nel radersi più in fretta per avere più tempo per lavorare ad un rasoio che permetta di radersi più rapidamente ancora, in maniera da avere ancora più tempo per progettare un rasoio ancora più veloce, e così via all’infinito. Questo cambiamento richiederà una buona dose di autocritica e un gran numero di ripudi da parte di tutti quegli ambienti professionali che hanno attirato l’uomo in questa vuota regressione senza limiti. Dobbiamo renderci conto che un prerequisito importante per una buona vita è una quantità considerevole di tempo libero trascorso in modo intelligente…”

Tratto da: Bioeconomia. Verso un’altra economia ecologicamente e socialmente sostenibile. A cura di Mauro Bonaiuti. Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2003

Sustainable mobility #1: think more, move less

An extract from Baraka

What’s in store for the future of individual mobility?

We once hoped that the Internet would replace trips to the mall; that air travel would give way to teleconferencing; and that digital transmission would replace the physical delivery of books and videos. In the event, technology has indeed enabled some of these new kinds of mobility – but in addition to, not as replacements for, the old kinds. Roads built to relieve congestion increase total traffic, and the Internet has increased transport intensity in the economy as a whole. The rhetoric of a “weightless” economy, the “death of distance”, and the “displacement of matter by mind” sound ridiculous, in retrospect. The fundamental problem with the car and the plane is not that they burn too much of the wrong kind of fuel. The problem is that they enable, and perpetuate, patterns of land use, transport intensity, and the separation of functions in space and time, that render the whole way we live unsupportable. Rather than tinkering with symptoms – such as inventing hydrogen-powered vehicles, or turning gas stations into battery stations – the more interesting design task is to re-think the way we use time and space. Distributed computing is an inspiration, I believe, because it’s the information equivalent of sending the acorn, not the tree. There is an alternative way: reduce the movement of matter – whether goods or people – by changing the word faster, to closer. The speed-obsessed computer world, in which network designers rail against delays measured in milliseconds, are years ahead of the rest of us in rethinking space-time issues. They can teach us how to rethink relationships between place and time in the real world, too. Embedded on microchips, computer operations entail carefully accounting for the speed of light. The problem geeks struggle constantly with is called latency – the delay caused by the time it takes for a remote request to be serviced, or for a message to travel between two processing nodes. Another key word, attenuation, describes the loss of transmitted signal strength as a result of interference – a weakening of the signal as it travels further from its source – much as the taste of strawberries grown in Spain weakens as they are trucked to faraway places. The brick walls of latency and attenuation prompt computer designers to talk of a “light-speed crisis” in microprocessor design. The clever design solution to the light-speed crisis is to move processors closer to the data. In ecological terms, to re-localise the economy. Network designers, striving to reduce geodesic distance, have developed the so-called storewidth paradigm or “cache and carry”. They focus on copying, replicating and storing Web pages as close as possible to their final destination, at content access points. Thus, if you go online to retrieve a large software update from an online file library, you are often given a choice of countries from which to download it. This technique is called “load balancing” – even though the loads in question, packets of information, don’t actually weigh anything in real-world terms. Cacheand- carry companies maintain tens of thousand of such caches around the world. By monitoring demand for each item downloaded and making more copies available in its caches when demand rises, and fewer when demand falls, operators can help to smooth out huge fluctuations in traffic. Other companies combine the cache-andcarry approach with smart file sharing, or “portable shared memory parallel programming”. Users’ own computers, anywhere on the Internet, are used as shared memory systems so that recently accessed content can be delivered quickly when needed to other users nearby on the network.

The law of locality
My favourite example of decentralisation of production concerns drinks. The weight of beer and other drinks, especially mineral water, trucked from one rich nation to another is a large component of the freight flood that threatens to overwhelm us. But first Coca-Cola, and now a boom in microbreweries, demonstrate a radically lighter approach: export the recipe, and sometimes the production equipment, but source raw material and distribute locally. People and information want to be closer. When planning where to put capacity, network designers are guided by the law of locality; this law states that network traffic is at least 80 per cent local, 95 per cent continental, and only 5 per cent intercontinental. This is not the “death of distance” once promised by Internet pioneers. Communication network designers use another rule that we can learn from in the analogue world: “The less the space, the more the room.” In silicon, the trade-off between speed and heat generated improves dramatically as size diminishes: Small transistors run faster, cooler and cheaper. Hence the development of the socalled processor-in-memory (PIM) – an integrated circuit that contains both memory and logic on the same chip. So, too, in the analogue world: radically decentralised architectures of production and distribution can radically reduce the material costs of production. We need to build systems that take advantage of the power of networks – but that do so in ways that optimise local-ness. This design principle – “the less the space, the more the room” – is nowhere better demonstrated than in the human brain. The brain, in Edward O. Wilson’s words, is “like one hundred billion squids linked together…” An intricately wired system of a nerve cells, each a few millionths of a metre wide, that are connected to other nerve cells by hundreds of thousands of endings. Information transfer in brains is improved when neuron circuits, fulfilling specialised functions, are placed together in clusters. Neurobiologists have discovered an extraordinary array of such functions: sensory relay stations, integrative centres, memory modules, emotional control centres, among others. The ideal brain case is spherical, or close to it, Wilson observes, because a sphere has the smallest surface relative to volume of any geometric form. A sphere also allows more circuits to be placed close together; the average length of circuits can thus be minimised, which raises the speed of transmission while lowering the energy cost for their construction and maintenance. The mobility dilemma is not as hard as it looks. I have tried here to look at the issue through a fresh lens and to borrow from other domains such microprocessor design, network topography and the geodesy of the human brain. The biosphere itself is the result of 3.8 billion years of iterative, trial-and-error design – so we can safely assume it’s an optimised solution. As J anine Benyus explains in her wonderful book Biomimicry, biological communities, by and large, are localised or relatively closely connected in time and space. Their energy flux is low, distances covered are proximate. With the exception of a few high-flying species, in other words, “nature does not commute to work”.

| John Thackara, Domus 928 |

Traffic Congestion en Ciudad de Mexico