Densification & Urban Planning
AND THE SEASONS
THEY GO ROUND AND ROUND
AND THE PAINTED PONIES
THEY GO UP AND DOWN!
Singer Joni Mitchell suggests in her classic Circle Game song, that we’re all captives together on a carousel of time. Yet another tiny vein of this circle game is revealed in an article by Jon Ferry (Neighbourhoods be damned; High-density rules, 9th July, 2012, (http://www.theprovince.com/technology/Neighbourhoods+damned+High+density+rules/6903654/story.). Ferry’s account of the plight of local neighbourhoods in Vancouver, could just as easily depict the similar plight of all the neighbourhoods and citizenry on the North Shore, the Lower Mainland, the province of British Columbia, country of Canada and indeed the entire world itself. The issues and arguments that engulf them all: one and the same.
The underlying cause of this universal plight, and the runaway high-density frenzy that is driving it, is not due to some lofty, yet misguided belief in eco-density, sustainable growth or some otherwise commendable desire to create an eco-friendly, lower carbon footprint on the earth. These are but the latest buzzwords used by today’s politicians, planners and developers to disguise what constantly fuels the same ol’, same ol’ human greed and obsessive-compulsive urge to constantly make everything bigger or grander and feed the self-interests that goad these urges ever onward.
The primary or primal intent of these motives have nothing really to do with “Saving the planet from global warming”, “protecting the natural environment”, “providing affordable homes and housing for young families, the youth and the needy”, “getting people out of vehicles and onto public transport or bikes”, “Creating healthy, liveable communities” or “protecting and preserving heritage and character.” These, in the main, are but the ploys and ruses used to con the unaware, unthinking, indifferent public to get them on-side.
Philosophically, whether all the obfuscation of the densification argument ends up being developer-directed or planner-directed, there never is any essential difference, no significant paradigm shift between them in terms of ultimate outcome. Both pander to, or accommodate, the two ever-present monster elephants in the room: Unbridled Population Explosion & Perpetual Economic Growth. Those citizen-residents who buy into all the pandering and accommodating can always readily gain the ears of the developers and politicians. But the elitist developer-planner model casts a deaf ear towards whatever democratic, grass-root’s, people-directed model is opposed to their plans. Any alternative model that even remotely proposes the need for a paradigm shift away from all the constant genuflections to these two monster elephants, is dismissed, out-of-hand, as nothing more than an unrealistic, messy, make-work project or the ravings of heretics and lunatics.
Local resident associations and concerned citizen groups everywhere in the world can point to high-density projects in their area that not only totally ignore the will of the local populace, but, once the original development proposal is put forth, then attempt to make the original proposal that much higher or greater in volume and mass.
These who know how to game the system ask for an inch and then constantly take a mile because they know they can. They care not a whit: how liveable or humanistic it may be to ultimately stuff human beings in the tiny, cramped, hard-edged, polluted, unhealthy spaces they propose; how their ever-expanding high-density schemes will create ever greater traffic volumes of grid-lock proportions that will require the removal of yet more and more green spaces, local community services or neighbourhood settings to accommodate this expansion; or how the existing roads, public transport systems and supporting infrastructure in whatever municipality don’t exist and never will keep pace with the unending growth of their massive schemes. No collapse of whatever crooked bank, investment house or financial system will dissuade them from their course until the very end when everything finally hits the proverbial wall. Meanwhile, the brainwashed masses will continue to everywhere chant on cue, in unison, the blind, mindless mantra, “Single Family Neighbourhoods Be Damned!”
As Jon Ferry points out in his aptly-named article, it doesn’t really matter what local neighbourhoods may want to protect or preserve because this mantra, and all those who serve as its cheer leader-devotees, run the show like authoritarian bullies and dictatorial thugs. In a very real sense, they know they will ultimately have their way because they know they are doing the bidding of the silent, indifferent majority in society who will always want their cake and eat it too.
The general populace might talk a good game of lofty “eco or human friendly” desires and intentions but, when push comes to shove, they also want all the goodies that an ever-expanding, ruthless consumer capitalism can offer them. So they are willing, at the drop of a hat, to cast a blind’s eye towards whatever densification scam, and all its unpleasant fall-outs, that the high-density proponents are intent upon doing in their name. In the end, everyone goes along to get along! Otherwise, if they didn’t, and realized where all this, ultimately, will lead the world’s civilizations of tomorrow, they would have to tar and feather all these bullies and thugs, and then run them out of town on a rail.
Yet if any tar and feathering is ever to occur it will never be initiated by the already hopelessly corrupt and corrupting bullies and thugs of whatever large corporation or government of a country, province or state. They are too cumbersome, compromised and beholden to too many vested special interests to ever become the authors of the radical sea change that is needed. So if there is anyone left who is capable of pointing the way towards a fundamental paradigm shift that will create a truly life-affirming and sustainable way of life, it must fall at the feet of those bold and courageous local municipalities, influenced and inspired by visionary activist citizen groups, who are prepared to go against the grain and dare to declare that the emperor wears no clothes. Such a modest proposal, though, as any modern-day Jonathan Swift already knows, will always immediately elicit the disparaging comment, “Yeah, in your dreams!”
But what’s there to ever get one’s knickers in a knot about? What will be, will be! One can only do as much as one can do to morally and ethically try to make things right! Beyond that, one has to know when it’s time to just dangle one’s toes in a cool river, climb a magnificent mountain, share the simple joys of this life with intimates and friends, or listen to a favourite song and singer!
In the meantime, the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies, they go up and down in a circle game that, for better or worse, we’re all captives of on the same carousel of time!