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# Transition Towns

I started a page

Transition Towns

While this is political in some sense, it seems that something like this needs to be done, so I think a page on this is a good thing.

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1.
edited November 2010

This is only loosely related: The population of East Germany has been shrinking for 20 years now (the reunion was 1990), so that several cities face the challenge to manage a controlled dismantling of infrastructure. For example, sewage systems tend to get plugged up if underused, so that a major of a shrinking city told his fellow citizens to flush their WC twice after each use. The alternative would be to move people closer to the center and destruct obsolete sewers, which is very expensive.

Anyway, as it turns out, no one has ever thought about these kinds of problems before :-)

Unfortunately, a decrease of population seems to decrease the attractiveness of the place as well and tends to increase the emigration.

Comment Source:This is only loosely related: The population of East Germany has been shrinking for 20 years now (the reunion was 1990), so that several cities face the challenge to manage a controlled dismantling of infrastructure. For example, sewage systems tend to get plugged up if underused, so that a major of a shrinking city told his fellow citizens to flush their WC twice after each use. The alternative would be to move people closer to the center and destruct obsolete sewers, which is very expensive. Anyway, as it turns out, no one has ever thought about these kinds of problems before :-) Unfortunately, a decrease of population seems to decrease the attractiveness of the place as well and tends to increase the emigration.
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2.

When it comes to shrinking and decaying cities, I highly recommend this video about Detroit, and the artwork of Marchand and Meffre, and this article in the Telegraph:

The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature. Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint. Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr. Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr. Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes. Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis. In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink — we're all shrinking — but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr. Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America. "Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000. Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000. The exodus — particularly of young people — coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

In the city centre, the once grand Durant Hotel — named after William Durant, GM's founder — is a symbol of the city's decline, said Mr. Kildee. The large building has been empty since 1973, roughly when Flint's decline began.

Regarded as a model city in the motor industry's boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons.

But Mr. Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that "big is good" and that cities should sprawl. Flint covers 34 square miles. He said: "The obsession with growth is sadly a very American thing. Across the US, there's an assumption that all development is good, that if communities are growing they are successful. If they're shrinking, they're failing."

But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said.

If the city didn't downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added.

Flint's recovery efforts have been helped by a new state law passed a few years ago which allowed local governments to buy up empty properties very cheaply. They could then knock them down or sell them on to owners who will occupy them. The city wants to specialise in health and education services, both areas which cannot easily be relocated abroad.

The local authority has restored the city's attractive but formerly deserted centre but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas. Mr. Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same.

Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there.

If you're a devoted reader of my diary, you already know this stuff! But I was reminded of some people in the video when I read about "Transition Towns" in the United States.

Comment Source:When it comes to shrinking and decaying cities, I highly recommend <a href = "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OpXhd7iau8">this video about Detroit</a>, and the artwork of <a href = "http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/">Marchand and Meffre</a>, and <a href = "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/5516536/US-cities-may-have-to-be-bulldozed-in-order-to-survive.html">this article in the <i>Telegraph</i></a>: >The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature. Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area. >The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint. Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr. Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country. >Mr. Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes. Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis. In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside. >"The real question is not whether these cities shrink — we're all shrinking — but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr. Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity." >Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America. "Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said. >Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000. Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000. The exodus — particularly of young people — coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned. >In the city centre, the once grand Durant Hotel — named after William Durant, GM's founder — is a symbol of the city's decline, said Mr. Kildee. The large building has been empty since 1973, roughly when Flint's decline began. >Regarded as a model city in the motor industry's boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons. >But Mr. Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that "big is good" and that cities should sprawl. Flint covers 34 square miles. He said: "The obsession with growth is sadly a very American thing. Across the US, there's an assumption that all development is good, that if communities are growing they are successful. If they're shrinking, they're failing." >But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said. >If the city didn't downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added. >Flint's recovery efforts have been helped by a new state law passed a few years ago which allowed local governments to buy up empty properties very cheaply. They could then knock them down or sell them on to owners who will occupy them. The city wants to specialise in health and education services, both areas which cannot easily be relocated abroad. >The local authority has restored the city's attractive but formerly deserted centre but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas. Mr. Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same. >Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there. If you're a devoted reader of my diary, you already know this stuff! But I was reminded of some people in the video when I read about "Transition Towns" in the United States.
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3.

Yes I know - it is a similar situation. And Michael Moore mentioned Flint in several of his movies, if I remeber correctly. One difference is that most East German cities and towns have been renovated and look very nice now, not like Detroit, much nicer than they did back in 1990. But the economy never recovered from the severe blow of the unification.

Comment Source:Yes I know - it is a similar situation. And Michael Moore mentioned Flint in several of his movies, if I remeber correctly. One difference is that most East German cities and towns have been renovated and look very nice now, not like Detroit, much nicer than they did back in 1990. But the economy never recovered from the severe blow of the unification.
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4.

You may find The World Without Us by Alan Weisman of interest. I'll post it on the recommended list when I get a moment.

Comment Source:You may find [_The World Without Us_](http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Without-Us-Alan-Weisman/dp/0753513579/) by Alan Weisman of interest. I'll post it on the recommended list when I get a moment.
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5.

I added it, under the heading "History and Archeology" - for the lack of a better idea :-)

In a certain sense it is co-archeology.

(I also added two books about climate modelling).

Comment Source:I added it, under the heading "History and Archeology" - for the lack of a better idea :-) In a certain sense it is co-archeology. (I also added two books about climate modelling).
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6.

People who give recommended reading, please give little summaries! That way someday I can do a "recommended reading" article on the blog, and have something to say about everything we recommend. The idea is to make the forum and the blog into a self-reinforcing feedback loop...

By the way, if anyone wants to do a blog entry, let me know. Right now the blog is all "me", but that's not what I really want.

Comment Source:People who give recommended reading, please give little summaries! That way someday I can do a "recommended reading" article on the blog, and have something to say about everything we recommend. The idea is to make the forum and the blog into a self-reinforcing feedback loop... By the way, if anyone wants to do a blog entry, let me know. Right now the blog is all "me", but that's not what I really want.
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7.

There are of course summaries on amazon, for example, for every book mentioned...

By the way, if anyone wants to do a blog entry, let me know.

Are there any specific topics you'd like to see addressed?

Comment Source:There are of course summaries on amazon, for example, for every book mentioned... <blockquote> <p> By the way, if anyone wants to do a blog entry, let me know. </p> </blockquote> Are there any specific topics you'd like to see addressed?
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edited November 2010

Tim wrote:

Are there any specific topics you'd like to see addressed?

Dozens! I'll try to make up a few that you might like:

• An overview of Desertec, describing the project, with links, and raising whatever questions deserve to be raised.

• The same for Alpha Ventus and/or other German wind farms.

• An overview of the history and status of nuclear power in Germany.

• The story of a German software engineer who decided to look for online climate modelling software: what he found, what he wishes he could find, etc.

If anyone else wants a personalized list like this, just let me know!

Comment Source:Tim wrote: > Are there any specific topics you'd like to see addressed? Dozens! I'll try to make up a few that _you_ might like: * An overview of [[Desertec]], describing the project, with links, and raising whatever questions deserve to be raised. * The same for Alpha Ventus and/or other German [[wind farms]]. * An overview of the history and status of [[nuclear power]] in Germany. * The story of a German software engineer who decided to look for online [[climate modelling]] software: what he found, what he wishes he could find, etc. If anyone else wants a personalized list like this, just let me know!
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9.

Ok, I did not expect a personalized list :-)

Desertec and Alpha Ventus: Of course I could try to analyse the information that is available online, but what would be really interesting is talking to the leading scientists. But: Those people talk to collegues or journalists only, and the latter don't write about scientific aspects, either because they don't understand them themselves or because they have to assume that most of their readers don't. So I don't know how I could get to the really interesting parts of the story...

Nuclear power: There is a long political story about who decided and planned what and how people reacted to it. There isn't much science to it, at least not as far as I know. BTW I once glanced into a reactor core at the institute Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, and it glowed blue, not green.

Climate modelling: I did not get far enough to write anything interesting, the main observation of mine is that there is a dangerous gap between how people in climate modelling manage their software and how this would be done by software engineers...

Overall I'm not convinced that I could write anything of interest...

Technical question: Would I email you the test or would I post it myself and is there a chance to get a preview and check the post?

Comment Source:Ok, I did not expect a personalized list :-) Desertec and Alpha Ventus: Of course I could try to analyse the information that is available online, but what would be really interesting is talking to the leading scientists. But: Those people talk to collegues or journalists only, and the latter don't write about scientific aspects, either because they don't understand them themselves or because they have to assume that most of their readers don't. So I don't know how I could get to the really interesting parts of the story... Nuclear power: There is a long <i>political</i> story about who decided and planned what and how people reacted to it. There isn't much science to it, at least not as far as I know. BTW I once glanced into a reactor core at the institute Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, and it glowed blue, not green. Climate modelling: I did not get far enough to write anything interesting, the main observation of mine is that there is a dangerous gap between how people in climate modelling manage their software and how this would be done by software engineers... Overall I'm not convinced that I could write anything of interest... Technical question: Would I email you the test or would I post it myself and is there a chance to get a preview and check the post?
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edited November 2010

Technical answer: there is a preview system on Wordpress blogs, but I'd need to figure out a good way for you to peek at the preview.

I guess one key to success in blogging is feeling confident that what you write will be interesting to people. For example: I tend to believe that everything I say is fascinating. This perhaps unjustified belief gives me enough confidence to talk endlessly about a wide variety of subjects, and over the years some people have started listening to me, which reinforces my confidence.

You may lack this key to success - or maybe I just chose the wrong list of topics. If there are other topics you feel you have something interesting to say about, try one of those!

Comment Source:Technical answer: there is a preview system on Wordpress blogs, but I'd need to figure out a good way for you to peek at the preview. I guess one key to success in blogging is feeling confident that what you write will be interesting to people. For example: I tend to believe that everything I say is fascinating. This perhaps unjustified belief gives me enough confidence to talk endlessly about a wide variety of subjects, and over the years some people have started listening to me, which reinforces my confidence. You may lack this key to success - or maybe I just chose the wrong list of topics. If there are other topics you feel you have something interesting to say about, try one of those!
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11.

You may lack this key to success - or maybe I just chose the wrong list of topics. If there are other topics you feel you have something interesting to say about, try one of those!

Thanks for your advice and encouragmenent. I'll think about it.

Meanwhile I contacted the press offices of Desertec and Alpha Ventus, the Desertec people have sent me some links to several papers etc. I'll have a look at what it's all about.

Comment Source:<blockquote> <p> You may lack this key to success - or maybe I just chose the wrong list of topics. If there are other topics you feel you have something interesting to say about, try one of those! </p> </blockquote> Thanks for your advice and encouragmenent. I'll think about it. Meanwhile I contacted the press offices of Desertec and Alpha Ventus, the Desertec people have sent me some links to several papers etc. I'll have a look at what it's all about.
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Comment Source:<img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/emoticons/thumbsup.gif" alt = ""/>