Canada’s fateful next step

October 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm | In canada, green, justice, politics, resources, scandal | Comments Off on Canada’s fateful next step

Canada’s government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is about to sign into law a new trade agreement with China. The agreement has had no public input by the Canadian people or their elected representatives. One can only suppose that it’s designed to enrich Canada’s corporate class. It certainly impoverishes Canada’s democracy.

As The Tyee, in an article entitled Chairman Harper put it:

By Nov. 1 three of China’s national oil companies will have more power to shape Canada’s energy markets as well as challenge the politics of this country than Canadians themselves. And you can thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for this economic treason. (source)

Read the article for more details, each of which is more stunning than the last. This agreement, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), marks “Canada’s formal entry into the ranks of dysfunctional petro states,” as The Tyee puts it.

If you’re concerned about this and you’re Canadian, please sign LeadNow’s petition, Stop the Sell-Out – Canada is NOT for Sale.

The following is the response I received from Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands:

Thank you for your interest in the Canada-China Investment Treaty. Although Stephen Harper prefers to keep Canadians in the dark about this Agreement’s grave implications for our sovereignty, security, and democracy, I am hopeful that we can force the issue into daylight. Your letter proves that you recognize the seriousness and urgency of what is about to take place behind our backs.

While the Canada-China Investment Treaty will likely be our most significant treaty since NAFTA, Stephen Harper plans to sign it into law as early as November 2nd, 2012, without any public consultation, any consultation with First Nations, any Parliamentary debate, or even a single vote in the House of Commons. I do not accept such blatant disrespect for either the will of Canadians or for our democratic institutions.

Sadly, in addition to the anti-democratic process to approve this Agreement, it is the actual content of this investment deal with which I am most concerned. For the first time in Canadian history, the Canada-China Investment Treaty will allow investors (including Chinese state-owned enterprises such as CNOOC or Sinopec), to claim damages against the Canadian government in secret, for decisions taken at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level that result in a reduction of their expectation of profits. Even decisions of Canadian courts can give rise to damages.

Realizing what the Conservatives were attempting to do, in secret and without debate, and realizing that we will be bound by this destructive Agreement for up to 31 years once it is ratified, on October 1st, 2012, I made a request in the House of Commons for an Emergency Debate to allow Canada’s democratically elected Members of Parliament to study the implications of the Canada-China Investment Treaty.

Although my request for an Emergency Debate was regrettably denied, we have not given up and are continuing to pursue all available options to stop the treaty’s approval. Given what is at stake, we hope that you will join us.

In addition to the tools found on our Canada-China Investment Treaty campaign site at, I urge you to push back against this sell-out of our sovereignty, security, and democracy, and help to educate Canadians by talking to your friends and neighbours, writing letters to the editor in local and national newspapers, calling in to talk radio shows, and filling up the comment boards of news website.

Crucially, this is not a partisan issue, and it is only by coming together to stand up for Canada that we will succeed in stopping this agreement.


Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

I am so glad that May and Canada’s Greens are paying attention, and that the NDP is now also on board with stopping this incredible sell-out of Canada and its resources. Canadians: hewers of wood and carriers of water forever, eh? In whose interest, exactly?


Plans for Salem’s Harbor Power Station: Realpolitik or Missed Opportunity?

July 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm | In cities, green, health, innovation, jane_jacobs, land_use, leadership, NIMBYism, politics, power_grid, real_estate, resources, silo_think | Comments Off on Plans for Salem’s Harbor Power Station: Realpolitik or Missed Opportunity?

Last year, when I was still in Victoria BC but considering a move back to Boston’s North Shore, I read about the impending closure of the Salem Harbor Power Station and immediately thought,”Wow, what a fantastic redevelopment opportunity!” Suffice to say that my optimism may have been premature.

Bedeviled by a Dirtball

The Salem Harbor Power Station is one of the region’s dirtiest coal- and oil-burning power generators. For six decades, the plant has occupied sixty-two acres of prime waterfront real estate, cutting residents off from all other historically and economically significant maritime uses on shore. Its hulking facility, topped by two smokestacks that pierce the skyline, has visually dominated the coastline not only for its Salem neighbors, but also for folks in Beverly and Marblehead.

(Photo, above, from Dominion’s website)

Zombie Infrastructure

And it has spewed tons of pollutants into the air. As the Denver Post put it in an article about these many long-in-the-tooth dirty power plants, “Utilities dragged feet”:

These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn’t happen.

Indeed. The Salem station was one of those zombie economy necessities that refused to die: a lot of people shrugged and accepted it as an unavoidable evil that had to be borne. After all, the region is famous for being bedeviled, right? The struggle to force either a clean-up or a closure of the Salem station was epic – but now it’s finally happening.

Or is it?

There’s a dearth of information about how the situation went from “the plant is closing” = “really new opportunities” to “the plant is dead” = “long live the plant,” but some weeks ago, the latter option grew in strength when the station’s current owner, Dominion, began negotiations to sell the property as-is to New Jersey-based startup Footprint Power. The latter wants to operate a natural gas-burning power plant at the site. Admittedly, natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil – but wait! There have been hints that the backup fuel could be …diesel oil. Because, you know, depending on the markets, natural gas might become too expensive and we’d have to go back to something a little dirtier.

It seems zombies are hard to kill dead.

Why has there been no recent public input on the plans?

On June 26, Andrea Fox of Green Drinks of Greater Salem moderated a discussion of current plans for the station. The three presenters – Healthlink‘s Jane Bright, State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, and attorney Jan Schlichtmann (whose work has often focused on environmental issues) – questioned the plans now on offer. Schlichtmann in particular pointed out that, while there was a surge of interest initially in what would happen to the site, the recent negotiations between Dominion, Footprint, and Massachusetts politicians have effectively put a kibosh on any further public input. The Green Drinks discussion was essentially meant to breathe some life into the conversation. It seems that as soon as the corporation(s) decided on a course of action, the people rolled over and went quiet.

The lone voice speaking in favor of Footprint Power’s plan was Shelley Alpern, a Salem resident and member of SAFE – the Salem Alliance for the Environment (but she made it clear that she wasn’t speaking on SAFE’s behalf). Alpern’s cred as an environmentalist goes way back, so it was surprising to hear her question the vision for a sustainable redeveloped waterfront site and instead pleading Footprint’s case.

The arguments at Green Drinks revolved around the following:

  • how much will it really cost to clean up the brownfield site? Some put the price tag at $75m, others argue that this number is inflated and meant to scare people into accepting Footprint’s option, lest the alternative be “the padlock” (meaning the site just gets shuttered and turns into a decaying eyesore versus a toxic waste spewing eyesore). See also Speaking alternatives to power
  • is the lifecycle of natural gas really that much better than coal or oil? Sure, it’s cleaner (somewhat) and currently cheaper (somewhat), but no one knows how the markets are going to shape prices in the future, near or far. And what about the externalities and costs consumer don’t directly see when the natural gas is extracted, such as the enormous environmental cost of fracking? What about the dangers of putting pipelines, which will inevitably break down and leak, through watershed areas? There are already pipelines running from Nova Scotia in Canada, through Beverly, and into Salem. What’s their “lifecycle”?
  • will Footprint Power keep its promises? Some stakeholders have been told by Footprint that a natural gas-burning plant might need to use diesel fuel as a back-up; some were told that the existing plant might have to stay on for some time (vs being dismantled). Other stakeholders have heard no such thing when they sat down with Footprint – but we’re dealing with corporations, and with energy corporations, to boot …not exactly always the white-hat guys.
  • what of the missed opportunities to develop something truly amazing?

That last point – missing opportunities because vision is lacking – strikes me as the most compelling. Rep. Ehrlich made the case in a Marblehead Reporter op-ed on May 14, 2012, Vision still lacking at Salem power-plant site (also available on her website, here). The column sparked a flaming letter-to-the-editor in response, Get over the aesthetics; think clean energy, whose author compared opposition to off-shore (and backyard) wind turbines to a kind of la-la-land NIMBYism that wants a “pretty” picture without facing the inescapable reality of our energy needs. His point was that Ehrlich and those who think like her are in la-la-land because we pussy-foot around the fact that we still need to get our energy from somewhere, while he is a realist who understands that Footprint’s proposal is the region’s best bet.

I think it’s a false choice.

Macro / Micro

Consider for a moment perspective. What the critics, especially Ehrlich and Schlichtmann, have is a fine-grained, close-view perspective. It reminds me of Jane Jacobs‘s analysis of neighborhoods at the street level. She looked at the details and decoded what she termed a street ballet, understanding that how people use a thing (a street) – and how they are able to use it – determines the whole, irrespective of how much planning-from-above tries to predict outcomes. This was pretty much in opposition (at the time) to the thinking of professional planners, who believed that streets must be rationally planned (preferably according to the needs of the automobile) and that buildings, placed according to mostly “ideal” reasons, would determine uses. If Jacobs had a micro view, the planners of the day had the macro view.

It strikes me as ironic that the micro-view is actually the Big Picture “vision” view, and that the macro approach, which tries to account for a larger perspective, has a blind spot about the “users” or people on the ground. The Realpolitik view defaults to the macro – and I count Alpern’s approach here. Expert knowledge about hydro-fracking regulations in Bulgaria and Pennsylvania is good to have, but it’s not enough to impel local people to act differently. Local inertia is a strong force, and if you build another power plant, you will have another power plant. For another sixty years. But if you give the people who actually want change the power to control their destinies, they can move the rest of us out of our inertia. That’s the claim mocked by the letter writer who thinks a power plant alternative is la-la-land thinking – but what is the alternative? Another planned-from-above mega-project that repeats many of the same patterns established by the old project?

Deep waters, old uses

Schlichtmann made the truly relevant point that Salem’s history was built on maritime industry. The current site of the Salem Harbor Power Station is Salem’s only deep-water port – what passes for the city’s tourist harbor is a shallow pond, incapable of harboring bigger vessels. The original coal-burning plant was built on that prime spot because of the deep harbor, which allowed ships to offload coal. It’s an incredibly shortsighted move willfully to dismiss an opportunity to reclaim that harbor for what it represents (Salem’s fantastic seafaring history). All around the industrialized world, cities are reclaiming waterfront that was savaged by mono-uses (waterfront freeways, power plants, factories, etc.), and reintegrating them into a more sustainable urban fabric. Why should Salem shut itself out from that renaissance?

Well, because we need energy. But consider this: ISO New England has said that there’s no longer any need for a power plant in Salem. As Ehrlich noted in her column, “The old plant is barely running, and ISO, the region’s reliability-cautious grid operator, said that power production on that site is no longer needed. Why such an enormous plant?”

More references

For more images of the Salem Harbor Power Station, see Healthlink‘s photostream, here.

For an informative PDF, see Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities.

Sierra Club, Victory! Salem Coal Plant Announces Closing.

ArchBOSTON forum discussion (brief) here.

Despoliation of the environment, high finance, mountain top removal

December 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm | In green, land_use, nature, politics, resources, scandal | Comments Off on Despoliation of the environment, high finance, mountain top removal

Two articles that need your attention: one, in the Wall Street Journal, Trader Holds $3 Billion of Copper in London, which describes how some trader is sitting on 80-90% of circa 50% of the world’s exchange-registered copper stockpile, squirreled away in a London warehouse. We don’t think a lot about where those metals come from.

Which brings me to the second article, in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Obama-Effekt erreicht Bergbau und Banken. The article looks at the involvement of Swiss banks in financing companies like Massey Energy – companies engaged in environmental despoliation of a scale that’s hard to imagine. It’s called “mountain top removal”…



Watch iLoveMountains‘ video, above. Check out their website.

This is where (and how) we get our resources.

There’s got to be a better way.

Below, image of a landscape wrecked by copper mining, via Wall Street Journal article:

The Book of Firsts: A great “firsts” book for history buffs

July 26, 2010 at 10:23 pm | In education, resources | 2 Comments

The next time someone says to you, “I’d like to study history, but I don’t know where to start,” tell them to pick up a copy of The Book of Firsts: 150 World-Changing People and Events from Caesar Augustus to the Internet. Written mostly by Peter D’Epiro, with numerous contributions by eight other scholars, The Book of Firsts covers the last twenty centuries. On average, the authors address seven to eight “firsts” in each century for a total of 150 entries. Each entry’s title is posed as a question, which the entry then answers and discusses in lively detail.

Lively: that’s the key word – anyone who wants to “study history” runs at some point into the “history is dead (not lively)” problem. For the beginner, the study of history can present significant threshold resistance – until, that is, the would-be history student at last discovers the special field that fires his or her imagination, which allows research – learning about a topic for the love of it – to become possible. Until then, the road to study is littered with corpses (text books) cluttering up the outer, shallower edges of possible topics: very difficult to step across indeed.

Not so the Book of Firsts, which regales by going very short but fairly deep, chronological only by century but not by a strict time-line or geographic boundary. It thereby entertains the reader while letting her get an idea of where-o-where, across a very broad spectrum of time, she might want, really, to “study history.” Once a topic actually piques her interest, The Book of Firsts gives readers a handy bibliography matched to the questions raised in each of the centuries. In other words, now that you know where to start, you can …well, start!

The prod that sends the student into deeper exploration might be morbid – a detail about one depraved emperor’s murder of his wife (he locked her in the steam bath): has cruelty always ruled the day? – or philosophical (reading a snippet of Li Po’s missive to the “Idlers of the Bamboo Valley”: “When the hunter sets traps only for rabbits, / Tigers and dragons are left uncaught” …true, that) – or political (why the statement “Fuck the Draft” on a t-shirt worn in a courtroom in 1971 became a test-case for the 1791 First Amendment to the US Constitution).

The Book of Firsts starts in the First Century with the entry, “Who was the first Roman emperor?” and moves from there across the globe. But it also ranges into specific subject areas – language, music, science, technology. It ends in the Twentieth Century with the question, “What was the first internet?” Inbetween those two questions, there is definitely an answer for anyone who has ever wondered where to start his or her study of history.

I enjoyed the writing of all the entries (most of which were written by D’Epiro), and I especially liked Nancy Walsh’s essays. And of course I loved Tom Matrullo‘s contributions (which have an astonishing range, from the tenth through the twentieth centuries, with specific stops in the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and nineteenth centuries inbetween – wow!).  Tom made sure I got a copy of The Book of Firsts, and I  thank him for it. No small feat to cover 20 centuries and make it look nearly effortless!

Serendipitous visual learning: forests and trees

July 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm | In education, nature, resources | Comments Off on Serendipitous visual learning: forests and trees

Amazing things crop up on the internet, sometimes found serendipitously – with nary a memory of how they were stumbled in the first place.

For example, I came across a useful page from British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range, specifically the Forest Practices Branch: check out the Visual Landscape Design – Interactive Multimedia Training Access Page, where (if you give them your name, real or not) you will gain access to 22 online mini-lessons on visual design. It’s an excellent tutorial on how to design forest harvesting practices that leave the landscape looking good, rather than bad.

IOW, it’s about how to cut trees without making the landscape look like a cat’s breakfast. And while some tree-preservationists might blanch at the suggestion of making clear-cuts look pretty, it’s a heck of a better strategy than leaving them ugly. (That said, I’m not endorsing destructive clear-cutting, and I want to see old-growth forests protected absolutely, but this government-produced tutorial is gold – and its lessons are transferable to many design questions.)

Here’s what you get on the Visual Landscape Design – Interactive Multimedia Training Access Page. The following lessons (each just a couple of minutes long) make up the “interactive multimedia” section:

Section 1 Introduction
1.01 Landscape Design and Why it is important

Section 2 Design Concepts and Principles
2.01 Basic Elements
2.02 Variable Elements
2.03 Organizing Principles
2.04 Spatial Cues
2.05 Challenge Questions

Section 3 Landscape Character Analysis
3.01 Landform Analysis
3.01b Marvinas Bay Landform Analysis
3.02 Feature Analysis
3.02b Midway Feature Analysis

Section 4 Design Applications
4.01 Design of Harvest Units
4.01b Nootka Island Harvest Unit
4.02 Design of Edges
4.03 Silvicultural Systems
4.04 Complete Pattern of Shapes
4.05 Challenge Questions
4.06 Design of Foreground Areas
4.07 Special Design Considerations
4.08a Visual Rehabilitation Harvesting
4.08b Visual Rehabilitation Reclamation
4.09 Challenge Questions

Section 5 Integrated Visual Design
5.01 Integrated Visual Design
Closing Remarks

In addition, the page lets you access a PDF library for downloading; it includes the following titles:

Visual Landscape Design Training Manual (170 pages)
Bear Lake Integrated Visual Design Plan (42 pages)
Economic Benefits of Managing Forestry and Tourism at Nimmo Bay (A Public Perception Study and Economic Analysis) (67 pages)
Visually Effective Greenup in British Columbia (A Public Perception Study) (61 pages)
Clearcutting and Visual Quality (A Public Perception Study) (37 pages)
Visual Impacts of Partial Cutting (Summary Report) (62 pages)
Predicting the Visual Impacts of Retention Cutting (3 pages)

Some of the documents are dated (mid- to late-90s). Since I haven’t read them, I can’t guarantee that they’re untainted by industry bull and/or greenwash, but I appreciate that the docs are available: they provide insight into how Forestry is being handled in BC. As for the design tutorial: it’s definitely worth studying – I’m viewing the 3rd Section now, and what it has to teach looks very transferable.

Better gold through green

May 20, 2009 at 11:20 pm | In architecture, cities, green, innovation, land_use, leadership, real_estate, resources, urbanism, victoria | 4 Comments

It seems everyone is going green, or will be. Today I went to Victoria’s UDI (Urban Development Institute) luncheon to hear Terasen Energy Services‘ Gareth Jones present “All About Geo-Thermal: Learning from Local Projects.”

Some basic take-away points: unless I severely misheard, British Columbia prices for energy (or electricity) will rise 80% in the next 10 years; the best place to make inroads in meeting the very ambitious greenhouse gas reductions (which are nearly as ambitious as Europe’s) set by the BC Liberal Party is in communities/ municipalities; and the best places to get the best bang for the buck in alternative energy is in dense settlements, whether multi-family complexes (including highrises and townhouse developments) or densely settled neighborhoods.

Other points: we in BC often think that we get most of our energy/ electricity “from hydro” (i.e., from hydroelectric power projects, therefore from “clean” water-driven sources), but we actually import 15% of our electricity from out-of-province, and those imports are “dirty” (typically derived from coal-fired plants). In addition to that little wrinkle, only 21% of our total energy needs in BC are met by electricity in the first place (and of that 21%, remember that 15% aren’t “clean”). The remaining 79% are met by natural gas (another 21%), other fossil fuels (can’t remember the exact number – I think it was around 20%?), wood (another 16%), and other sources. Alternate sources are at present but a small, very small piece of the pie.

There was more, and it all deserves a longer blog post or article, for which I’ll have to dig out my notes and do some research. What struck me today was the sense of urgency that came across in Jones’s presentation: that we really don’t have a lot of time to sit on our hands in pursuing alternative energy – not least because an 80% rise in costs will really do a number on the economy. It would probably make the current recession look like a walk in the park.
Energy System plant

Jones encouraged all the developers, builders, and planners and politicians at the luncheon to explore the myriad ways that the provincial government and Terasen Energy Services are trying to make alternative energy production (and consumption) more commonplace.

Meanwhile, there’s more to research and think about: Living buildings and how they’re cost-effective, for example.
Living Building diagram
Next week, there are two events scheduled in Victoria – first, at the University of Victoria on June 3, Jason McLennan, CEO, Cascadia Region Green Building Council will speak on The True Costs of Living Buildings, and the next evening (June 4), a less formal event showcasing some examples will take place at the Burnside-Gorge Community Centre. (I have to admit that after hearing Gareth Jones explain the benefits of density when it comes to installing alternative energy both for new and retrofitted buildings, Jason McLennan’s homepage photo disturbs me. It’s of an isolated single home – a converted church even? – in the middle of nowhere, which is probably the most large-footprint lifestyle, in environmental terms, that privileged westerners can choose. Perhaps his home is environmentally sustainable, but it’s still not a great model in the sense that it’s not anything we should strive for. Ok, end of sour aside.)  (Update, 5/27: If readers click through to the comments on this post, they’ll see Eden’s comment, which corrects my assumption about the photo. It’s actually not a private home, but the barn of a sheep farm. That’s really good to know, because the myth of the self-sufficient yet large single-family family home on a large property – a “green” variant of the suburban lifestyle – exerts a strong and unsustainable pull, which I prefer not to see strengthened. Thanks, Eden, for the additional info!)

And since it pours when it rains, there’s an out-of-town event I’d love to be able to go to: The Seattle Architecture Foundation will lead a tour through South Lake Union, called LEED: It’s Not Just for Buildings Anymore:

SLU’s close proximity to donwtown’s and existing transportation lines are the foundation for a successful sustainable neighborhood. Community design focusing on adaptive building re-use, alternative transportation, storm water management and other sustainability techniques is revitalizing the neighborhood adjacent to Seattle’s urban core.

SLU was accepted into the USGBC’s LEED-ND Pilot (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development) program, and is one of the first existing neighborhoods anticipated to receive LEED certification.

Catherine Benotto and Ginger Garff from Weber Thompson and Katherine Cornwell and Jim Holmes from the City of Seattle will explain how great neighborhoods are created. Highlights of the tour include the Terry Thomas Building, the redesign of Cascade Park, the street car maintenance facility and an exploration of the master plan for Terry Avenue.

Seems to me that the South Lake Union walking tour would be a perfect complement to Gareth Jones’s presentation, but then again, Jason McLennan’s presentation is a lot closer to home…

Diigo V3 now live: check it out

March 20, 2008 at 5:39 pm | In resources, web | 2 Comments

As any regular reader has noticed by now, I often have entries entitled “Daily Diigo Public Link,” followed by that day’s date. These are generated automatically when I use Diigo to bookmark items that I choose to make public. I have found Diigo to be the best bookmarking tool on the web, hands-down, and have been lucky enough to be a “preview” user / tester for the version that launched publicly today. Some of you may have used previous incarnations of Diigo, and maybe you didn’t continue using it — but believe me, you have to give this new version a whirl, especially if you do any sort of collaborative work or if you blog or if you’re a researcher.

For a great overview, see Social Bookmarking 2.0 — Diigo sets the standard for others to follow ( That entry gives you the nuts-and-bolts of what Diigo does.

An aspect I really appreciate (which isn’t stressed in the article) is the control users have over whether or not to make a bookmark public, keep it private, or share it with others to a group. Another great feature is that users can make their annotations (the “sticky” notes) public, private, or shared to a group — and these settings are easy to change within a single bookmark, too.

Diigo is quite simply fantastic! Congratulations to the whole team for bringing this to the web.

Hand-made links (for a change)

January 26, 2008 at 12:03 am | In cities, free_press, ideas, innovation, links, newspapers, resources, social_critique, urbanism, web | Comments Off on Hand-made links (for a change)

Why is it that some of the most salient material presents itself — and in the greatest quantities — when one already has a mountain of mental meal on one’s plate, with nary a cranial cranny remaining into which the new material may be stuffed?

I’m at the point where even bookmarking to Diigo isn’t good enough, because I can’t summon the energy to write a cogent annotation!

Therefore, in no particular order, some links of prime importance (in my world, anyway):
Regine at We Make Money Not Art posts two entries (Part I and Part II) on the DLD (Digital, Life, Design) conference held last month in Munich. Not only that, she includes specific references to other bloggers (Ulrike Reinhard, for example) who have posted more information (more than what’s already on DLD’s websites? Muss das sein?! …sigh…) and projects (like 192021) that I definitely need to follow up.

Part II includes way too much stuff for me to process right now — just this little picture/ diagram from one of the pages she references has me spinning:

Alert, alert: I’m thinking local local local, which starts to sound like “loco loco loco” after a while….

…Gawd, and don’t even get me started on Regine’s references to Patrick Schumacher (just a taste from WMMNA:

Patrik Schumacher mentioned that the challenge today for architects is to be able to comprehend and reflect in their work the increase in society complexity. Order and lack of complexity bring disorientation. A quick look at the way urban areas were built in the 50s brought us makes the case clearer.

“Order and lack of complexity bring disorientation.” Vraiment! It’s fatal to confuse order with “un-complex” organization. What our brains want is “ordered complexity” or “complex order,” which appeals to every person’s innate sense of pattern recognition (which, pace, is more than only “a subtopic of machine learning”).

…All this, and I haven’t even touched on several entries that rocked my world yesterday —‘s announcement of a brilliant win-win deal with the Washington Post, or their VC’s most interesting blog post, Rethinking The Local Paper

…All this, and this being the mere tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget the links my husband sends — he tells me I have to watch Paulo Coelho (brilliant, from what I’ve heard, absolutely paradigm shifting) as well as Edward Tufte (ditto), and more… My inbox is overflowing…

Social networking, version 2.0?

July 31, 2007 at 10:58 pm | In guerilla_politics, links, resources, social_networking, virtually | 2 Comments

Something to explore in greater depth over the coming days: via Cool Hunting, a post by Tim Yu about Social Networking for a Cause. Yu writes:

From corporate-sponsored “Cool Apps” to niche spin-offs like Bakespace, Virb and I’m In Like With You, online communities are still largely about socializing and/or wasting time. Their potential as powerful tools for the greater good—beyond finding out where the party’s at—has been largely untapped, but we managed to find a few. The following are some of the latest and best sites where social networking meets social change.

Yikes, I’ve never even heard of Bakespace, Virb, or I’m In Like With You. After these references to “communities” that are “still largely about socializing and/or wasting time” (um, that sounds familiar…), Yu goes on to list additional sites I’ve also never heard of, but which have a “networking for a cause” spin:

  • Friction TV, described as “a YouTube for social activists, it features largely uncensored content aiming to exercise freedom of speech and catalyze online debate in a social forum”…
  • Nabuur, which “connect(s) experts to people seeking advice from all over the world. From construction workers to math teachers and MBAs, online volunteers from different continents help individuals develop business ideas and finish projects. Projects like building schools and health clinics get a boost from direct assistance via the internet.”
  • HumaniNet: helps solve humanitarian & social problems by sharing GIS “to better map rural locations in need of relief. By sharing GIS developments online, experts and users can implement the latest technologies, which makes getting around uncharted territories to reach people in need a whole lot easier.”
  • Get Miro, an “open-source software for online video. Like Firefox, Miro is developed by a nonprofit organization and driven by the social mission to make it easy for anyone to subscribe and view free internet video on any topic.”
  • H.E.L.P., stands for “Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness”; this is “a telemedicine-based online community of physicians and financial donors bringing advanced medical assistance to disaster zones and areas of humanitarian need around the world.”
  • Kiva, which builds on “Muhammad Yunus’ Nobel prize-winning efforts at pioneering a new category of banking known as micro-loans”; Kiva “connects the world’s poorer populations looking to develop unique business ideas to people with disposable incomes while providing a transparent lending platform. Donate as little as $25 dollars to help start a business or simply buy a goat and get repaid.”
  • MAPLight: “highlight(s) the connection between money and politics as a way to promote reform”; by linking campaign contributions and votes, it creates transparency “so that journalists and citizens can hold legislators accountable, customized widgets further enhance functions and research on any issue.”
  • and of course Freecycle (the last one — and only one I had actually heard of before): a “cyber curbside” where you can recycle your stuff and create an online gift economy.

Lots to explore here… My cynical/overly-critical side wonders whether the flip side of obsessive narcissism (exemplified by the old style “social networking” sites) might be the guilt trip (“Do good! Now!”).

Of course, at the end of the day does it matter, if something good did indeed come out of it all?

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