California has enough water—that's not the problem, says Terry Tamminen. So here's how you solve the drought crisis.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
California has enough water—that's not the problem, says Terry Tamminen. So here's how you solve the drought crisis.
There is no easy fix to a complex problem such as the water shortage in California. Some coastal cities are considering desalinization projects while others want to reduce environmental regulations that protect wetland ecosystems to harness all of the freshwater available. One of the issues is that most of California's precipitation occurs during a very short time frame. Before the water crisis, these potential flood waters were diverted into concrete management canals but this article advocates to build more underground cisterns to capture excess rainfall before it flows to the ocean.
"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." ~Benjamin Franklin
"To get to the bottom of what qualifies as 'badly designed,' we picked the brains of several urban planners to highlight the flaws of some of the world's biggest cities. In the end, that birthed a list of nine cities that, for various reasons, are gigantic messes in some way or another."
On the list: Jakarta, Dubai, Atlanta, Naypyidaw, São Paulo, Boston, Brasilia, Missoula and Dhaka.
Not everyone is a fan of Paris, but the author of this article feels that tourism can be seen as helpful proxy variable for what the general public perceives as good urbanism that makes for beautiful cities. The six main points of this article are:
The teeming, maddening, and indescribably charming city of Cairo has served as Egypt's capital for 1,000 years. When it emerged it was perhaps the most important cultural center in the Arab world.
But the city's days as Egypt's capital could be numbered. On Friday, the Egyptian government announced that the country will build a new capital from scratch, carving out a piece of the desert between Cairo and the Suez Canal. The project, which is being dubbed "the Capital Cairo," is slated to cost an estimated $45 billion and host Egypt's sprawling government bureaucracy, universities, tourism facilities, hospitals, and a new international airport.
The Egyptian government has announced plans to replace Cairo as the capital city with a new city built to its east--this article argues that the money would be better spent elsewhere. This is a good case-study to use when discussing forward capitals, but I think that Egyptian officials need to seriously consider the example of the manufactured capital city of Naypyidaw in Burma before building this forward capital.
In strictly economic terms, sprawl is inefficient. Spread people out, and it takes them longer to drive where they need to go, and it costs them more in gas money to get there. Disperse a few people over a lot of land, and that land is used inefficiently, too. Then give those people roads and sewers — you’d need a lot more of both to serve 20 households living over a square mile than 20 on the same block. And that's to say nothing of the costs of fire and police service when people live far apart.
These costs add up, in both private budgets and public ones. It’s a messy thought exercise to contemplate tallying them, akin to trying to calculate the productivity America wastes by sitting in traffic every year. How do you measure, for instance, the saved health care costs in a community where many people walk for transportation every day? How do you quantify the pleasure gained from a big yard that offsets any of these costs?
"Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations…"
Geography explores more than just what countries control a certain territory and what landforms are there. Geography explores the spatial manifestations of power and how place is crafted to fit a particular vision. Homeless people are essentially always 'out of place.' These articles from the Society Pages, the Atlantic and this one from the Guardian share similar things: that urban planners actively design places that will discourage loitering which is undesirable to local businesses. This gallery shows various defensive architectural tactics to make certain people feel 'out of place.' Just to show that not all urban designs are anti-homeless, this bench is one that is designed to help the homeless (and here is an ingenious plan to curb public urination).
The need for speed devours huge chunks of American cities and leaves the edges of the expressways worthless. Busy streets, for almost all of human history, created the greatest real estate value because they delivered customers and clients to the businesses operating there. This in turn cultivated the highest tax revenues in town, both from higher property taxes and from elevated sales taxes. But you can't set up shop on the side of an expressway. How can cities afford to spend so much to create thoroughfares with no adjoining property value?
Austin's Mueller neighborhood is a new-urbanist dream, designed to be convivial, walkable and energy-efficient. Every house has a porch or stoop, and all the cars are hidden away.
After moving here, respondents said, they spend an average of 90 fewer minutes a week in the car, and most reported higher levels of physical activity. The poll results seem to validate new-urbanist gospel: good design, like sidewalks, street lighting, extensive trails and parkland, can improve social and physical health. Part II: A Texas Community Takes on Racial Tensions Once Hidden Under The Surface.
Drexel University is taking a hands-on approach to redeveloping one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods with a new center designed to serve not just students but mainly local residents.
This NPR podcast shows a good example of an urban revitalization project that is actively trying to avoid following the gentrification path. Growing colleges can unintentionally displace longtime residents, but this project is about preserving the cultural fabric of the neighborhood and building good will in the community.
In James Howard Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about.
Kunstler passionately argues that American architecture and urban planning are not creating public places that encourage interaction and communal engagement. We should create more distinct places that foster a sense of place that is 'worth fighting for,' as opposed to suburbia which he sees as emblematic of these problems.
Question to Ponder: How should we design cities to create a strong sense of place? What elements are necessary? Warning: He uses some strong language.
"60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed. We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century. In this post, we look at Midwestern cities such as [pictured above] Cincinnati, Ohio."
It's ironic that I feel more accustomed to exploring Cincinnati, OH on foot than I do Providence, RI. Although I drive in downtown Providence regularly, I seldom have a reason to walk and explore it. In my yearly visits to Cincinnati to score the AP Human Geography exams, I'm outside my hometown and away from my typical routine. That helps me feel more like a flâneur, to stroll the streets and explore the urban landscape. This set of 7 before and after images shows Midwestern cities (Cincinnati, Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Columbus) lets you digitally analyze the last 70 years of urban morphology. Click here for a gallery 7 of cities in Texas and Oklahoma.
Questions to Ponder: What are the biggest changes you see for the 1950 to today? How are the land uses difference? Has the density changed? Do any of urban models help us understand these cities?
"Physicist Geoffrey West has found that simple, mathematical laws govern the properties of cities — that wealth, crime rate, walking speed and many other aspects of a city can be deduced from a single number: the city's population. In this mind-bending talk from TEDGlobal he shows how it works and how similar laws hold for organisms and corporations."
While corporations rise and fall, it is quite rare for a city to entirely fail as an economic system. Huge cities have some negative consequences, but the networks that operate in the city function more efficiently on economies of scale in a way that offsets the negatives. Increasing a city's population will continue to improve the economies of scale (larger cities have higher wages per capita, more creative employment per capita, etc.). However, this growth requires major technological innovations to sustain long-term growth.
"Each student should have a large piece of butcher block paper (15x20). They should use a pencil for this activity (color pencils are optional). Using the template provided, each student should make their own template. It is crucial that size for each of the 'characters' in the city be the same. As you read each of the Rounds, your pace should increase so that by Round 15 the students will only have a short time to draw their buildings."
In this game, you simulate the industrial revolution and have your students design a village that, after 20 rounds of the simulation, will grow to a full-fledged city. Various teachers have adapted the rules for this game and here are some variants that are saved as a standard webpage, Microsoft Word file, PDF, Powerpoint and Prezi formats.
How lopsided the the proportions of an urban street corner really are.
Most roads in the US are built for cars, not for pedestrians. Whether we're happy or unhappy with this, most of us are aware of it.
But this brilliant illustration, made by Swedish artist Karl Jilg and commissioned by the Swedish Road Administration, shows just how extreme the situation truly is — even in an urban business district that's designed with pedestrians in mind.
For those brief moments that you happen to be in a bike lane, biking in the city is wonderful. But it always seems that bike lanes end before they even begin, just like a summer romance or a slice ...
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
In the most innovative incubators of urban research, the lessons of Jane Jacobs are more vital than ever.
In the past few years, a remarkable body of scientific research has begun to shed new light on the dynamic behavior of cities, carrying important implications for city-makers. Researchers at cutting-edge hubs of urban theory like the University College London and the Santa Fe Institute have been homing in on some key properties of urban systems—and contradicting much of today's orthodoxy. Their findings have begun to feed into recent and upcoming gatherings on the future of cities—including lead-in events for the U.N.'s big 2016 Habitat III conference on sustainable development—and arming leaders in the field with new ammunition in the global battle against sprawl.
Authorities use Google Earth to crack down on illegal activities.
This is an old clip, but a useful platform to discuss the ethics involved in using geospatial technologies, the expectations of privacy and issues of governance. This could also be used to discuss urban political geography and principles of planning. What are the limits to the legal and ethical uses of technologies?
"Although we seldom think about them this way, most American communities as they exist today were built for the spry and mobile. We've constructed millions of multi-story, single-family homes where the master bedroom is on the second floor, where the lawn outside requires weekly upkeep, where the mailbox is a stroll away. We've designed neighborhoods where everyday errands require a driver's license. We've planned whole cities where, if you don't have a car, it's not particularly easy to walk anywhere — especially not if you move gingerly.
This reality has been a fine one for a younger country. Those multi-story, single-family homes with broad lawns were great for Baby Boomers when they had young families. And car-dependent suburbs have been fine for residents with the means and mobility to drive everywhere. But as the Baby Boomers whose preferences drove a lot of these trends continue to age, it's becoming increasingly clear that the housing and communities we've built won't work very well for the old."
Population change is frequently a concern of city planners at the local level. This article shows that major demographic shifts are going to mean major changes in our patterns in our cities as we become a 'greying' society.
"Facing a mounting housing shortage, squatters have transformed an abandoned skyscraper in downtown Caracas into a makeshift home for more than 2,500 people."
This video is one of my favorites in my placed-based geography videos collection. This skyscraper was once a symbol of wealth, and in an incredible paradigm shift, it has now become is occupied by squatters. The lack of a vibrant formal economy and more formal housing leads to a lack of suitable options for many urban residents--especially with problems in the rural countryside. A complex web of geographic factors needs to be explained to understand this most fascinating situation. This NY Times article from 2011 still shows some great concepts on why informal housing develops and this PRI podcast gives us a 2014 update--that the Venezuelan government plans to clear the Tower of its residents.
"The episode begins with Stephen Dubner talking to parking guru Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of the landmark book The High Cost of Free Parking. In a famous Times op-ed, Shoup argued that as much as one-third of urban congestion is caused by people cruising for curb parking. But, as Shoup tells Dubner, there ain’t no such thing as a free parking spot."
Everyone searching for a parking space has at one time felt that there are not enough spaces where and when you need them...did you know that their are at least 3 surface lot parking spaces for every car in the United States (not including garages, driveways, etc)? With 250 million passenger vehicles for 316 million people, that means there are 800 million surface lot parking spaces (that account for only 60-70% of our parking needs). Parking then is a much bigger issue that we want to believe; this is one of the reasons why IKEA is starting to rethinking their construction model that historically has been designed around huge parking lots.
|Suggested by Thomas Schmeling|
"Amsterdam City Dashboard presents the city of Amsterdam through the lens of data, including demographic statistics, traffic reports, noise readings or political messages.
The small collection of information graphics are divided in distinct domains, such as transport, environment, statistics, economy, social, cultural and security. All data is shown in near real-time, based on blocks of 24 hours. Larger dots and darker colors symbolize higher values, whereas an interactive map provides a geographic reference."
Geography explores more than just what countries control a certain territory and what landforms are there. Geography explores the spatial manifestations of power and how place is crafted to fit a particular vision. Homeless people are essentially always 'out of place.' This article from the Atlantic and this one from the Guardian share similar things: that urban planners actively design places that will discourage loitering which is undesirable to local businesses. This gallery shows various defensive architectural tactics to make certain people feel 'out of place.' Just to show that not all urban designs are anti-homeless, this bench is one that is designed to help the homeless.
As the sprawling Zaatari camp evolves into an informal city — with an economy and even gentrification — aid workers say camps can be potential urban incubators that benefit host countries like Jordan.
This is an intriguing article that explores the difficulties of forced migrations that arise from civil war, but it also looks at city planning as refugee camps are established to make homes for the displaced. These camps have become into de-facto cities. The maps, videos and photographs embedded in the article show the rapid development of these insta-cities which organically have evolved to fit the needs of incoming refugees. Size not investing in permanent infrastructure has some serious social, sanitation and financial cost, there are some efforts to add structure to the chaos, to formalize the informal. Truly this is a fascinating case study of in urban geography as we are increasingly living on what Mike Davis refers to as a "Planet of Slums."