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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: May 4, 2020
Posted: May 4, 2020 at 11:17 pm
Your Real Estate Interior: Noourbanographical Sample of the single bedroom/studio apartment. Source: http://www.flatchina.comShareShare
Can a collective agency, or mind, be traced across the urban condition? And how should we map its effects on the physical matter of our cities? A specific representation of a specific type of home is employed as an exercise in defining the impact of a logic of thinking that is both embodied and distributed, singular and collective. Hlne Frichots proposal for Noourbanographies was written as a response to the call for papers of the Eyes of the City, well before our domestic interiors became the new public. Looking at the distance between hegemonic collectives and ecologies of subjectivities as space for action, the essay opens up to an articulate range of issues that involve matters of care, diagrammatic thinking and spaces of control.
For the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture (UABB), titled "Urban Interactions," (21 December 2019-8 March 2020) ArchDaily is working with the curators of the "Eyes of the City" section to stimulate a discussion on how new technologies might impact architecture and urban life. The contribution below is part of a series of scientific essays selected through the Eyes of the City call for papers, launched in preparation of the exhibitions: international scholars were asked to send their reflection in reaction to the statement by the curators Carlo Ratti Associati, Politecnico di Torino and SCUT, which you can read here.
A New Community
Noopolitics, which could easily be mistaken for new politics depending on your pronunciation and who is listening to you, designates the politics of thinking at the scale of a population. The logic of thinking collectively, whether wittingly or unwittingly, is called noology, also defined as the logic of mind (noo designating nous, from the Greek for mind or intellect). Mind here must be imagined as scaled-up multiplicity. It must be understood less as an individuated, embodied attribute belonging to a specific, self-same, phenomenological subject than as a distributed effect. The effect of the collective process of thinking together, for instance, can express itself across a vast urban milieu. As you plunge into the seething data flows of advanced information societies your collaborative impact manifests as material admixtures across urban milieus from the container technologies of living apartments all the way to the character of neighbourhoods, as editorialized in the weekend papers, inflight magazines and on Trip Advisor. Amidst the flows and stoppages of information you are data augmented, you are a process of individuation and dividual both. You are rendered fleetingly sensible in relation to where you are, your environment-world. You participate in a new community. Effects, by their nature, are fleeting, an effect of the light, an after-effect, likewise, the effects of provisionally delimited processes of individuation rendered as emergent (post)human subjectivities. To map the collaborative, if unintentional, effects of thinking together, to glean the passage of effects, their concomitant spatialities and material relationalities, some kind of method is required, a method that allows you to slow down. To follow the material impact of thinking together across an urban milieu, noourbanography will be offered here as a method, or rather, an unruly, non-exhaustive diagrammatic attempt at surveying something that appears to unfurl at near infinite speeds.
Takes You Directly to Sea World
Sea World, Shenzhen is: An awesome place in China. There is a good place for relaxing and spending time on a holiday afternoon. The boat is actually a hotel and a bar. Theres a small fountain show every 30 minutes or so. Its [sic] good for family and couples . (Google Search)
The urban milieu in question is Shenzhen, a megalopolis, and this immediately presents innumerable problems because as a researcher I am located at a geopolitical and socio-cultural distance. But does it really matter anymore who or where I am? To take the brief of the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale at its word, with the information age, with networked societies, the anthropocentric perspective has become radically augmented if not rendered redundant. Rather than multiple human eyes trained on the street securing its safety and well-being (which sounds rather panoptically ominous), a posthuman condition prevails. The eyes of the city predominate as buildings and streets themselves observe and react to urban life as it unfolds, just in time for your daily occupations. At least this is how a near future is imagined. Machines watching over machines of loving grace, and in the interstices, plugged-in, human subjectivities. I want to take this reorientation seriously by turning to the urban interiors that are exposed as so many spatial products across Shenzhen, so many portals into a multiplicity of lives, human and non-human. Processes of subjectivation are exposed across these interiors as the bare life of data: square metres, location, aspect, access, view, cost per calendar month. We cannot humanize these spaces any longer under the anachronistic signifier home, they are merely the spaces through which humans and non-humans pass, each reciprocally shaping the other. And yet
This is not to assume that the human subject has been cast aside as so much unnecessary meat. Life, after all, is at least minimally facilitated here. In Signs and Machines, Maurizio Lazzarato explains the situation like this: Individuals and here it is important to register that individuals are processes rather than ready-made and stabilized units and dividuals a concept signed by Flix Guattari, work concurrently. Two entwined registers, individual and dividual: Where individuals are biopolitically organized or managed as populations according to their lives and their deaths, dividuals own a statistical existence.  Bound up in noology is the construction of subjectivity. Noology and biology, noopolitics and biopolitics, must be conceived in a continuous variation like the right and reverse side of the cloth of contemporary landscapes of digitalisation, informing a cognitive architecture.  The distinction Lazzarato makes between individuals and dividuals is presented in similar terms in Orit Halperns Beautiful Data, where she argues that networked communication from the postwar period onwards produces increasingly individuated (human) units. Space has become a new interface radically individuated and simultaneously networked.  The individual and dividual operate in what can be called disjunctive synthesis, differentiated as modes and yet developing in an intimate relay. What we have is the strange collaboration of networked dividuals and co-isolated individuals performing less according to imperatives of meaning and identity than process and environment, affect and behavior. 
It is worth returning to Lieven de Cauters eight concise laws of capsularization, where the apartment counts as an exemplary case. An inverse existential ratio takes hold, as described above: the more individuated, the more connected: Closed off and plugged in entities.  Or, to put it bluntly the degree of capsularization is directly proportional to the growth of networks.  What Cauter had to say fifteen years ago has only become more acute today. Peter Sloterdijk can be deployed to complement the analysis of capsular (non)relations, which he argues operate according to the paradoxical logic of co-isolation.  At least you share your cell wall. Pronouncing in his polemical style that the apartment and the stadium are the most successful architectural innovations of the twentieth century Sloterdijk asserts that the apartment can be situated as the individuated cell extraordinaire, supporting the creation of solitary dwellers via individuated housing and media techniques.  The spatial insistence of the cell or the capsule demonstrates that the disciplinary society is still at play amidst the newly emergent control society.  It is not as though you progress historically from one to the other. You share your cell walls and depend on their infrastructural interconnections. Even though you are bound up in your own ego-spherical containers, should the infrastructure fail you, you would be exposed to grave environmental peril.
In terms of what he identifies as the full-blown establishment of the capsular society Cauter proffers the extreme choice between Theme Park and Camp.  Your neighbourhood is prepared in advance of your arrival depending on the means available to you. 12.5% of spatial products available on one real estate website in October 2019 noted their proximity to Seaworld, either explicitly or in terms of access to the closest metro stop. Advertisements for rental apartments proclaiming the benefits of being in proximity to Seaworld speak of the allure of themed worlds within worlds. Enfolded hyperrealities. Not only do you live in a city whose population has expanded over 400 fold since the 1970s, but there are heterotopic zones within zones at work here expressing what Keller Easterling would call dispositions  that is to say, environmental encouragements to behave collectively in certain ways: Much as a ball rolls down an inclined plane, or a small child unselfconsciously expresses a happy or sad disposition.
This remote survey of Shenzhen residential real estate, undertaken in the month of October 2019 and reduced to that suite of products available to an Anglophone expatriate marketplace, will be necessarily partial, and certainly not impartial.
This means that warnings are required. There is the risk of imposing my western style on a non-western milieu in organizing the available data. How am I apt to categorize the interior motifs I deem worthy of remarking upon from the privilege of my provisional stand-point (more or less white, Euro-Australian itinerant, second-generation migrant, researcher, pedagogue, woman, mother)? What will I not see? You must assume that for the most part the situation will remain obscured. So it goes: the enduring ignorance of partial vision.
No agent fees!
We work with the newest technology to make the search and renting experience as seamless as possible.  Much as the city thinks itself in more-than-human ways, it would appear that the city also sells itself across a proliferation of web-based platforms promising the seamless enjoyment of the property.
Lazzarato argues that it is perhaps property rights that form the most successful individualizing apparatuses of subjectivation. He argues that Property is not only an apparatus for economic appropriation but also for the capture and exploitation of non-human subjectivities.  Here, beyond the human, or with consideration for the more-than-human, environmental relations must be considered. A logic of property rights radically transforms environmental ecologies (constructed and otherwise).
100% real picture! 100% real price!
A general statement can be ventured: The home is a spatial product mobilized en masse. This real estate product is manufactured and mass-customized, but according to a delimited set of parameters.
The ways in which the interior is composed according to an organisartorial  logic presents the conceit of individual taste, where in fact the dressing of the interior, once analyzed across a larger data set of products, reveals recurring motifs, spatial platitudes, comforting signifiers you are bound to recognize.
Everyone knows by now that the real estate image is stage-managed. This is a well established contemporary Image of Thought. Spatial products facilitate the departures and returns of the sedentary nomad  that you are. Wide-angle lens photography and off-white walls offer a sense of space, beds are mussed, cushions are thrown, just the right amount of things knick-knacks are casually composed. This is what Helen Runting and I have called white, wide, and scattered,  which in the end only produces a kind of derangement of the indebted subject. All the mussing in the world will not relieve the anxiety and anticipation that plague you when you go in search of a real estate commodity.  Could this be real? Could this be me? Immediately processes of subjectivity collapse into the arrangement of the interior as you attempt to project your life into the comforts of the container. Is it possible to see through the cell wall? Or are you cursed to receive continuously varied feedback of your ego-broadcasted self-image? How will this life tally with your monthly income? And what, finally, of the environment outside?
High Floor, Low Floor
Socio-economic hierarchies are an inevitable part of the real estate game. Where are you on the ladder? Early in your career, or well developed? The search criteria locate you in advance of yourself: single, couple, older, with family. Location, location, location! The cost per square meter nearly always corresponds to what you get. Sometimes, curious exceptions occur. The 1 bedroom apartment that boasts a magnificent view and a large floor area (over 100m2) or the 3 bedroom apartment that is filled with someone elses dirty laundry.
Of the 96 spatial products available in October 2019 on flatinchina.com, 39 were located in the proximity of the Dongjiaotou Metro, begging the question: Whats happening there? A stub on Wikipedia explains that Dongjiatou was formerly an industrial area and is now largely residential. It can be found between Shekou (a free trade zone) and Houhai. Where Trip Advisor suggests there are at least 97 things you can do in Houhai, in Dongjiatou there are at least 144 things you can do, including visiting Seaworld, which is about 2km away.
Nice, nice, nice
Real Estate arouses a collective affect. The mood of the market not only influences the circulation of spatial products, but where affect is defined as capacity the market affectively enables some and disables others. While the logic of the real estate interior would appear to follow the inexorable drive toward keener individuation and co-isolation, at the same time when you multiply these units, affective effects a capacity to affect and to be affected are produced across the urban milieu. The interior, even if seemingly hermetically sealed off, produces a material impact on its surroundings, and the relationship is reciprocal. The material semiotics of the situation must be acknowledged. Donna Haraway explains that material semiotics is always situated, someplace and not noplace, entangled and worldly.  Even though it is tempting to survey these serial real estate images as disembodied effects, they are pegged to the mundane realities of daily life, alerting you to complex support systems, of which you too often remain ignorant.
The adjective nice plays a crucial role in the noourbanographical sample survey undertaken, numbering 96 apartments available in October 2019. Nice apartment, nice view, nice furniture. While etymologies are an old academic game, a sleight of hand even, when it comes to the anodyne word nice etymological play is irresistible: Nice reveals an Old French root as simple, foolish, ignorant and a Latin forbear in ignorant, not knowing.
Photographs of the one-bedroom apartments sometimes appear as though they have been taken with a mobile phone. The compositional framing is off-kilter, extraneous details come into focus, the lighting is murky. Also, beds are stripped of their dressing. Out of necessity refrigerators are positioned beside couches. At the same time, much is shared with the 2 and 3 bedroom apartments with respect to the interior accouterments. Pillows are thrown, potted plants and flowers are arranged.
Once you arrive at the three-bedroom apartments the recurrence of designer and faux designer furniture pieces is worth remarking upon. Feature ceiling lights. Brand name kitchen fittings. There are signs of more concerted and declarative styling. The apartments not only promise a nice view but visibly display an outside framed for landscape consumption. Mountains visible here, the sea there.
A survey of 2 and 3 bedroom apartments reveals a proliferation of black patches on living room walls. Flat screen televisual devices where the nice view flickers when you channel surf. Co-isolated, plugged-in.
The nice view can be further categorized under sea or garden view. In most cases the view is simply nice, but on rare occasions, it is wonderful, as in, a wonderful sea view. And on one occasion, at least, the quality of the view is rated as fantastic.
It is nearly twenty years ago now that Zoe Sofia (aka Sofoulis) published her essay Container Technologies in the feminist theory journal Hypatia, named for an ancient Greek philosopher, a woman who dared to think. She tells the story of the technologically augmented human expectation of endless supply, smoothly delivered amidst facilitating environments.  Her aim is to realign habitual associations of technology with what Cauter calls hot machines , projectile, fast, destructive. Instead, she draws attention to the container, the bowl, the preservative jar, the gunny sack, and relates containment to supply. Containment and supply provide support to (human) organisms, because: The organism cannot be considered apart from the habitat that houses it.  Drawing on the cyberneticist Gregory Bateson, and framing a noological thesis of her own, Sofia argues that the mind is immanent both to the body and to the ecological pathways and messages circulating outside the body. Individual minds collaborate forming a larger Mind or system, drawing attention to the fundamental role of the environmental milieu.
The nice view assumes a point of view on things, on a landscape, on what can be called a posthuman landscape of things.  This is not to assume the passing away of the human species (even though this is a highly likely future scenario) but the technological augmentation of the human subject as enfolded process of subjectification plugged into urbanized milieu.
Your point of view is your opinion, and when we survey you, when a poll of a body politic is taken (like taking its temperature), we secure a read-out on a noopolitical situation: Populism, the rise of the right, terrorism, insecurity, interleaved with daily bouts of voracious consumption-production. Individuation processes spell out the collapse of social relationalities. Experiments in participatory forms only prove how incompetent you have become at getting along with each other.
This noourbanographical survey is but a sample, an irrational section cut  through an immediate present. Each empty apartment awaits its next subject; they are capture devices that captivate and yet en masse they provide the necessary support systems for the endurance of a life. Noopolitics manifests as the bare life of data in the unholy hybrid of individual and dividual hooked into a reticulated network of stoppages and flows. The network obscures the capsuleWe dont live in the network, we live in capsules.  And yet, can it be stated with such ease where life is supposed to be located? Is it not rather more distributed? Container technologies speak to the reticulated distribution of life, any life whatever, both containment and supply.
In closing, it is crucial to acknowledge a debt to other noourbanographical experiments. I also note in passing by way of explanatory remark that I have deliberately deployed the singular/plural personal pronoun you, for it carves out a vacated subject position. Who are you?
First, I acknowledge what I have learnt from the work of Helen Runting, also with the design studio Secretary International (Karin Matz, Rutger Sjgrim, Helen Runting). The critical design experiments they have been undertaking include the compilation of architectural data to make an account, for instance, of the continuous surface of the welfare state.  and before that in an earlier studio formation called Svensk Standard a cross-section through plans for multi-residential high-rise developments in Stockholm, Sweden in the year 2014. In Bygglovsboken the Svenk Standard team compiled what they call an uncurated catalogue of Unfiltered raw data, cross-sectional expos  revealing the organization of the life of the interior. They construct architectural data-bases to render evident the outcomes of collective thinking at the scale of a local population. In such undertakings, including my own, the challenge of how best to follow the material is a crucial consideration.
Second, in their recent critical design experiment commissioned for the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture, Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg, and Ani Vihervaa speculate on views of the distinctly Swiss unfurnished interior, which they artfully mash together in a multi-scalar fun-house spatial collage. The popular and award-winning Svizzera 240: House Tour project includes in its documentation an index of interior images, a database compiling a cross-section through the unfurnished interiors of the Swiss context. Ceiling heights range around a 240cm average, hence the title of their project, with two exceptions to prove the rule, ceilings of 360cm and 544cm. Drawing on amassed data their approach is one of critical demonstration. With this data, as they explain, instead of representing building, they build representations.  Beyond visualizing they manufacture spatio-material condensation machines of the contemporary (Swiss) interior. In the database of images of the unfurnished interiors, from which their spatial collage is derived, there is expressed a predominance of white walls, low ceilings, and a resounding emptiness. These qualities present the conceit of a blank canvas upon which to compose your life. But the key observation concerns the homogenous consistency, and the prevalence of the 240cm ceiling height: what sort of norms, of preconceived ideas and feelings, are such images intended to convey?  Less than any intention, there is simply effect produced, the unwitting spatial thinking-together of a localized population.
Even if adopted with regional variations, you can assume that such effects are globally multiplied. They are effects we are now obliged to environmentally contend with. Philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers often repeats the Deleuzian imperative: You must think by the milieu.  But what happens when the milieu begins to think you? Stengers warns of a coming barbarism in terms of our unthinking together.  Against this tide counter-moves are required that are environmental as well as cognitive: Think we must!
About the Author:
Architectural theorist and philosopher, writer and critic, Professor Hlne Frichot (PhD) is the Director of Critical Studies in Architecture, School of Architecture, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) Stockholm, Sweden. Her research examines the transdisciplinary field between architecture and philosophy, with an emphasis on feminist theories and practices. In 2020 she joins the Faculty of Architecture, Construction and Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia as Professor of Architecture and Philosophy. She is the author of Creative Ecologies: Theorizing the Practice of Architecture (Bloomsbury 2018) and How to Make Yourself a Feminist Design Power Tool (AADR 2016).
"Urban Interactions": Bi-City Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture (Shenzhen) - 8th edition. Shenzhen, China
Opening in December, 2019 in Shenzhen, China, "Urban Interactions" is the 8th edition of the Bi-City Biennale of UrbanismArchitecture (UABB). The exhibition consists of two sections, namely Eyes of the City and Ascending City, which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. The Eyes of the City" section features MIT professor and architect Carlo Ratti as Chief Curator and Politecnico di Torino-South China University of Technology as Academic Curator. The "Ascending City" section features Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci as Chief Curators.
"Eyes of The City" section
Chief Curator:Carlo Ratti.
Academic Curator: South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino - Michele Bonino; South China University of Technology - Sun Yimin)
Executive Curators:Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao
Curator of the GBA Academy:Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)
"Ascending City" section
Chief Curators:Meng Jianmin, Fabio Cavallucci
Co-Curator:Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (Wu Yan)
Executive Curators:Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Zhang Li
Posted: at 11:14 pm
Think the circular economy is a novel idea thats just come into fashion? Think again.
Theres evidence that the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle has its origins with the Romans, Greeks or even in the Bronze Age. A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems, according to one of its key proponents, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which also says the idea isnt new.
Modern recycling systems actually have their roots in ancient history.
Image: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The idea of feedback, of cycles in real-world systems, is ancient and has echoes in various schools of philosophy, the Foundation says.
The global population is expected to reach close to 9 billion people by 2030 inclusive of 3 billion new middle-class consumers.This places unprecedented pressure on natural resources to meet future consumer demand.
A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.
Nothing that is made in a circular economy becomes waste, moving away from our current linear take-make-dispose economy. The circular economys potential for innovation, job creation and economic development is huge: estimates indicate a trillion-dollar opportunity.
The World Economic Forum has collaborated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for a number of years to accelerate the Circular Economy transition through Project MainStream - a CEO-led initiative that helps to scale business driven circular economy innovations.
Join our project, part of the World Economic Forums Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security System Initiative, by contacting us to become a member or partner.
Here are three examples of how the ancient world embraced the circular economy:
1. Broken ceramics in Dubai 3,000 years ago
Polish scientists found tools in Dubai made from copper, bronze and iron refashioned from broken ceramic vessels. Broken ceramic vessels were not thrown away, the researchers told Science in Poland, instead they were modified and used as tools.
2. Sorting out the trash in Pompeii
The Romans also recycled, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper. Mounds of rubbish preserved after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD were staging grounds for cycles of use and reuse, says Professor Allison Emmerson, an American academic who works in Pompeii.
3. Glass recycling in Byzantine times
Archeologists working at the ancient city of Sagalassos, now part of Turkey, found glass chunks, fuel ash slag and kiln fragments, that indicate glass recycling, according to a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Even so, we should be careful not to overstate past populations commitment to recycling, argues Maikel Kuijpers, an assistant professor at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, on digital news site The Conversation.
Our ancestors were no ecological saints, he said. They polluted their surroundings through mining, burned down entire forests, and they too created massive amounts of waste.
And those themes are still relevant today.
A circular economy could result in as much as $4.5 trillion in economic benefits to 2030, according to the World Economic Forum. Just 8.6% of the world is currently circular, and the Forums work seeks to foster collaboration between private, public, civil society and expert stakeholders to accelerate the circular economy transition.
The current system is no longer working for businesses, people or the environment, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says. We must transform all the elements of the take-make-waste system: how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards. Only then can we create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet.
License and Republishing
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
RELEASE: New Estimates Show That No States Meet Incidence and Testing Thresholds Necessary To Stave Off Future Outbreaks and Lockdowns – Center For…
Posted: at 11:14 pm
Washington, D.C. Today, the Center for American Progress released a new column identifying key evidence-based thresholds that states should meet before reopening their economies. The estimates arefor both COVID-19 incidence levelsor the rate of occurrence of new casesand testing thresholdsfor all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They were generated using South Korea as a model, as it is the only sizable country in the world that has been able to control transmission without a lockdown.
The analysis finds that no state currently meets both the incidence and testing thresholdsestimated for their state; only eightstates Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia meet the incidence threshold; and only Rhode Island meets the testing threshold. The estimates are particularly significant given that31 states have begun to partially reopen.
The only way to break the paralysis for the long term is for states to have sufficient strategies and resources needed tocontain the spread of COVID-19, saidTopher Spiro, vice president for Health Policy at CAP. These estimates suggest that, across the board, states decisions to relax stay-at-home efforts are premature and risk a substantial second wave and corresponding economic shutdown. Whether or not a states economy is legally open, the public will not engage with it unless and until the virus is contained.
Please click here to read Evidence-Based Thresholds States Must Meet To Control Coronavirus Spread and Safely Reopen Their Economies by Topher Spiro and Emily Gee.
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at gro.ssergorpnacirema@regrebeesc or 202-741-6292.
To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit ourcoronavirus resource page.
Posted: at 11:14 pm
In June, the United States and Iraq will launch a strategic dialogue that is supposed to address all issues in their bilateral relationship, including the presence of U.S. forces. With Iraq now serving as ground zero in the escalating confrontation between the United States and Iran, its hard not to feel like the U.S.-Iraqi relationship might be coming to a head. That is a good thing, and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump should make sure that it does.
Its high time that Washington reassessed its Iraq policy. Over the past year, the relationship has grown increasingly dysfunctional from the standpoint of U.S. interests. Iraqi security services have brutally killed hundreds of innocent civilians for peacefully protesting the governments rampant failings. Iran has systematically exploited the Iraqi economy to circumvent U.S. sanctions. Worst of all, Iranian-backed militiassome sanctioned by the United States, most on Baghdads payrollhave conducted several rocket attacks against U.S. troops, diplomats, and private-sector actors, with the Iraqi government holding no one to account.
This situation is not sustainable. Since 2003, year in and year out, the United States has provided Iraq with hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military assistance, as well as crucial diplomatic backing. That support was premised on the assumption that Iraq would emerge over time as a key partner in preserving stability and security in the Middle East. Instead, the Iraqi government today is headed increasingly in the opposite direction, visiting horrific levels of violence on its own people, while standing aside as its territory, institutions, and economy are subverted by the United States most dangerous foe in the region, Iran.
The upcoming strategic dialogue offers what could be the last chance to reverse this destructive trajectory and salvage a viable long-term U.S. partnership with Iraq. This opportunity should not be squandered.
At the heart of the Trump administrations approach should be the introduction of much stricter conditionality of U.S. support. This is a matter of necessity as much as choice. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout will put unprecedented strains on the U.S. budget for years to come. Going forward, there will be no tolerance for foreign assistance programs that fail to pay visible dividends for U.S. interestslet alone those which appear to be strengthening enemies such as Iran. The time has come for some hard choices to be put before the Iraqi government. It needs to be brought to the full realization of how much it has to lose if it doesnt begin demonstrating at least some minimal resolve to resist Iranian imperialism and fight for Iraqi sovereignty.
The Trump administration is seeking more than $600 million this fiscal year to help train and equip Iraqi security forces in the ongoing fight against the remnants of the Islamic State. Thats on top of the critical contributions that the U.S. military provides to Iraqi counterterrorism operations in terms of logistics, intelligence, and combat air power. The administration is also requesting more than $120 million to support the Iraqi economy and for other programs, including land mine removal. In addition, the United States has long served as Iraqs key advocate in gaining access to billions of dollars of economic assistance from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Perhaps most important, however, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York maintains a dollar account for Iraqi foreign reserves and annually ships the country billions of dollars worth of $100 bills to keep its cash-based economy afloat and functioning.
Needless to say, much of this assistance would be irreplaceable. Iran is certainly in no position to supply it. Absent U.S. support, Iraqs economic and security situation, already dire, would slide ever closer to disaster. Especially in the context of the current collapse in world oil prices (the source of 90 percent of Iraqs government revenues), the last thing Iraq can afford to lose is the political, economic, and military backing of its most powerful international benefactor.
That constitutes significant leverage for the U.S. going into the June discussionsif its prepared to use it. That leverage would be even higher if Washington let Baghdad know that its growing acquiescence to Iranian hegemony could increasingly put Iraq in the crosshairs of more punitive U.S. measuresfrom travel bans and asset freezes against senior political leaders to targeted strikes against sanctioned militia commanders. Even restrictions on Iraqs ability to sell oil, similar to the sanctions against Iran, could be credibly put on the table, especially at a moment when global markets are massively oversupplied by as much as 20 million barrels of oil per day.
To further bolster the U.S. bargaining position, a serious contingency plan should also be developed to consolidate all U.S. forces in Iraq to the relative safety of the countrys semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. Unlike the Iraqi political elite, the Kurdish government and security forces are universally supportive of the United States military presence and have gone out of their way to combat threats to U.S. troops and diplomats they host. From a secure foothold in a pro-U.S. Kurdistan, the United States would still be able to conduct essential counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State, including in Syria, but without the severe force protection concerns that currently constrain its operations elsewhere in Iraq. Having significantly reduced the vulnerability of its troops, the United States would arguably also have greater flexibility to take action, as needed, against the continued threat posed by Iran and its militia proxies.
In exchange for its continued support, the United States should keep its demands of the Iraqi government limited and realistic. No matter how much pressure Washington might apply, Iraq will not go to war with Iran. Nor will it act to eradicate militias overnight. But the administration can legitimately insist that the Iraqi government start taking meaningful, but realistic steps that, first and foremost, stand up for Iraqs sovereignty, while simultaneously addressing several core U.S. concerns.
Politically, the violent repression of peaceful protests should end. Elements of the security services and militias responsible for the worst atrocities must be held to account through a credible process of investigation, prosecution, and punishment. A serious national dialogue with the protest movement should be established.
Economically, the government needs to partner with the United States to choke off Irans most egregious sanctions-busting schemes in Iraq, particularly the export of Iranian oil and Irans access to U.S. dollars via Iraqactivities that put Iraqs own economy at serious risk of U.S. secondary sanctions.
Militarily, the United States needs to see evidence that the Iraqi government is making a concerted effort to end the attacks against U.S. military and diplomatic personneleven if it doesnt end them completely. That not only means unequivocally condemning them as unlawful, but assertively deploying Iraqs intelligence and security services to deter, disrupt, and punish attacks, including by cutting off government salaries to militia members. While the United States will never forgo its right to act unilaterally to defend its personnel, its also true that the more Iraq does, the less U.S. forces will need to do on their own.
The resource demands on the United States during and after the coronavirus pandemic will be staggering. Maintaining support for Iraq would be an uphill battle in the best of circumstances. But it will be an impossible mission in an environment where the Iraqi government increasingly appears more invested in being an Iranian satrapy than a U.S. partner. Time is rapidly running out for the Iraqi government to alter that perception by demonstrating that its at least as committed to defending Iraqs sovereignty as the United States has been for the past 17 years.
Thats the stark reality that the Trump administration needs to drive home to Iraqi leaders in the upcoming strategic dialogue. For better or worse, this difficult, tortured, but important relationship is now almost certainly hurtling toward a fateful inflection point. While the stakes are no doubt important for U.S. interests, they could well be existential for Iraq. The government in Baghdad needs to be disabused of any illusions to the contrary.
Posted: at 11:14 pm
But to change the paradigm, to reset the system, we would have to give up too many things. Even if now, physically and psychologically damaged by the effects of the pandemic, we declare that we are willing to do so, as soon as normality returns our beloved capitalism of consumption, leisure, and perpetual mobility will return. And so will inequality. And then, anxious to "reincorporate", to "reopen", we will have forgotten our promises and vows, made in a moment of weakness when we were forced to reflect, because we were afraid of dying.
Changing the paradigm would mean, among other things, stopping the growth rate, so destructive for the climate and the biosphere, and entering a degrowth process, as many sociologists and economists already claim. This would mean changing the industrial model and minimizing the consumption of the unnecessary, of the dispensable, and ending the abuses of the financial economy, starting with tax havens. And at the same time, it would mean ending the tremendous inequalities, not only raising the standard of those who have nothing, but significantly reducing the standard of those who have a lot.
Since the evidence of the catastrophic scale of climate change has become undeniable, some timid model transition programmes have been launched, with the intention of progressively abandoning greenhouse gas emissions and moving towards non-resource-based growth, such as the European Green Deal.
But up until the beginning of March, billions of vehicles with combustion engines were still on the road. Tens of thousands of planes were still flying around the planet. In 2019, 90.3 million new cars were sold worldwide, even though it was 4% less than in 2018, at 94.4 million. On the morning of November 20, 2019, for example, there were 11,500 planes flying simultaneously around the world. What is the point of having an average of 154 daily flights between Sydney and Melbourne, according to 2017 data? And what is the logic behind the fact that 83.7 million tourists arrived in Spain in 2019, more than 80% of them on board aircraft? Aren't the 65.7 million tourists who visited New York in 2018 far too many? And what about the dozens of new airports, the countless kilometres of motorways, the billions of animals slaughtered, the endless hectares of forest deforested?
Although these figures should cause vertigo, they are generally assumed to be "normal", and it is to this "normality" that we aspire to return, the sooner the better.
Because: who, among the rich and the middle classes, is going to suddenly give up flying in airplanes, their second homes, their swimming pools, their cruise ships? And who, among the underprivileged, is going to stop dreaming of achieving one day, for himself or for his family, some of these privileges that the system promises, even though it almost never fulfils them?
Our system is full of contradictions, but Schumpeter has already said that the nature of capitalism is its creative destruction. Perhaps many will have taken advantage of the quarantine to ask themselves profound questions, although I don't think that the Covid-19 is strong enough to be a true game changer. More than one person will have to make a proposal for amendments, and I hope that this will have some influence on their future political behaviour. For example, in our democracies, where we will see whether those who are seriously committed to a change of model will win, or the nationalists and populists who are committed to deepening what we have, trusting in God and borders, will eventualluy win, and that they really do not care about the others .
What is almost certain is that, as soon as it leaves us, as many of us as possible will go back to normal, back to the beach. After all, we are members of an orchestra that will continue to play while the ship is sinking. But after the coronavirus catastrophe, one can honestly ask: will the new normality be business as usual or an opportunity to start changing, seriously, the paradigm of our civilization?
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Posted: at 11:14 pm
MAY 5, 2020 Updated 9 hours ago
Dr Caroline Miller is a former planning practitioner and now Associate Professor in the Resource & Environmental Planning Programme at Massey University.
Fast-tracking major projects under Muldoon didn't work out well for the economy and this Government needs to learn the lessons of history, writes Dr Caroline Miller
As a mature former planner and researcher on the history of planning in New Zealand,the announcement by the Economic Development Minister of new and accelerated Resource Management Act processesraises some immediate questions.
I'm old enough to remember the National Development Act (NDA) which was brought in to facilitate economic growth in a period of economic stagnation, albeit not as bad as our present situation. The NDA was used to consent the Muldoon Governments Think Big Projects, by offering an accelerated and truncated planning processes for selected projects. Some Think Big Projects such as the electrification of the main trunk rail line were worthybut others were less successful in producing the much-vaunted growth in jobs. That demonstrates the potential pitfalls of picking winners in an attempt to shore up an economy.
It was the failure of this economic strategy which plunged New Zealand into the neo-liberalreforms and restructuring of the Rogernomics period, reforms that inevitably destroyed more jobs than Think Big ever created. Rogernomics also, almost bizarrely, created the RMA to address the planning and consenting issues the NDA was designed to overcome. Given the legion of RMA critics and its almost constant amendment that was another less than successful project.
So, what can we learn from this history to help us decide on the likely success of these new proposals? Well, first, it is clear we are very poor at predicting the future with any accuracy. While many of the shovel ready projects may yield environmental and community benefits, many, particularly roading projects, will just cement in old thinking and old approaches.
Perhaps the issue is summed up in the use of shovel ready to describe the projects. Surely a 19th Century metaphor which is unsuited to a 21st Century New Zealand. Logically we would be better focused on projects addressing the impacts of climate change. Building more roads to address traffic congestion seems an attractive solution but does little to address our carbon emission from transport.
Matching new work opportunities to where those who are seeking work are located may be more challenging than it might first appear. I have some difficult in seeing how displaced workers from the tourism and service sectors can be transferred seamlessly to these new projects given the inevitable skills disjuncture.
Equally, enthusiasm for these reforms as a solution to the RMA seems to involve several leaps of faith. We do not know who will be part of the elite expert panel. Will panelists bedrawn only from experts who have been part of the RMA decision-making processes through the commissioner system? Few local authorities rely exclusively on councillors as RMA decision makers, so if the critics are right, then the commissioners/potential panelists are already part of the RMAs problems. If delays stem from the level of information required, then surely that will remain unchanged if the projects are to be speedily assessed? A comprehensive knowledge of a project is even more essential in such a decision making process.
The most sustained criticism of the RMA comes from its consultation and submission provisions. Those participating are usually portrayed as vexatious or displaying NIMBYist tendencies in trying to delay worthy projects. The effective removal of these voices leaves the expert panel with the challenging role of not only assessing the impact of the proposal on the natural and physical environment but also determining community impact. Most submissions come from affected residents, residents who have to live the rest of their liveswith the changes brought about by the proposal.
We are also being invited to believethe environment itself will be safeguarded in this process. The environment is always the silent party in any hearing and depends on the community and those assessing any proposal to have its voice heard. There has been the suggestion that environmental organisations will be allowed to submit, presumably to provide that environmental voice. Who will be selected remains a very important issue. For instance the Environmental Defence Society, on the surface a broadly based environmental organisation, has an immediate conflict of interest given the advice on RMA reform that it has been contracted to supply to the Ministry for the Environment.Equally, is one environmental organisation able to provide useful advice on all issues or is there room for regionally based groups?
One of the central features of New Zealands planning system has been an equitable and open process. Given the minister has said there will be a high level of certainty that the resource consent will be granted, there seems real doubtthis will be equitable. Rather, it suggests it will be a process tipped in favour of the development, subject only to a speedy and very basic assessment process. That could encourage development proponents to see it as the proverbial rubber-stamping process, rather than a way of improving their proposal. Submitters' views can and do improve proposals, just as a planners and other experts assessment may highlight areas where the predicted outcomes are unlikely or where adverse effects have been overlooked.
Having the expert panel as effective judge and jury with limited appeals only on matters of law further cements in place the legalisation of the planning system, a hallmark of the RMA. Id suggest it is this emphasis on legal issues that has help to ramp-up the cost associated with the RMA. When I started work as a planner in the early 1980s, planning(later RMA) lawyers, were a rarity and only sighted when an issue got to appeal. Now they are an integral part of the process from first lodgement to final appeal, and yet we still have complaints about RMA outcomes. This perhaps signals a time to stop demonising planners as the central problem with the RMA and instead start to look in more detail at the monolith that is now the RMA system. If we cannot identify all the causes of the problem then we are unlikely to find any useful solutions.
The questions are never-ending and we are in the early stages of developing this fast track legislation. All I am suggesting is that before we pick winners, something which has never been successful in the past, we learn a little from history. Most importantly we confront the contradiction at the heart of the RMA how to create a speedy responsive development orientated consent system which also achieves environmentally focused sustainable management of natural and physical resources. If that conundrum is solved, then we may really be onto an RMA winner.
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Posted: at 11:14 pm
How do allies plan for war when they have different visions of how or with whom it might be fought? Strategic success is as much about adaptability as it is about plans. From Clausewitz to Yogi Berra, strategists know that prediction is a losing game, and that fog and friction will arise in unexpected ways. Alliances in a fog of peace have an added challenge: Their adaptations to external developments must themselves be adapted to the domestic politics of each of their members.
In a fog of peace, domestic political economy considerations are decisive. In the context of NATO and the European Union, strategic and operational planning, capabilities development, threat assessments, and burden-sharing initiatives will all be subordinate to domestic and European Union-level political economy factors, like fiscal, industrial, and labor policy. Policy-makers seeking to improve transatlantic burden-sharing and improve the set of capabilities available for conflict should therefore align such domestic and European Union-level factors with their desired defense outcomes. In short, they should focus on constraints in policy areas that they can affect, and that shape defense investment choices. These areas include mitigating the effects of E.U. fiscal rules and austerity on defense spending, rationalizing transatlantic markets for defense articles, and addressing the effects of labor markets on defense capabilities.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and its strategic consequences, uncertainty was becoming the primary characteristic of the international system. While great-power rivalry appears to be the order of the day, there is no consensus on what such rivalry means for existing security institutions. Questions abound, from whether or how to preserve or reform these institutions to how regional security arrangements might be realigned. This strain is apparent in the transatlantic community from Brexit for the European Union to brain-death for NATO, and COVID-19 for both. The only certainty is uncertainty. In a lengthier piece, we identified quantitative and qualitative evidence of increasing uncertainty: an unmistakable trend toward greater diversity in allies perceptions of threats. Figure 1 visualizes that trend.
Figure 1: Standard Deviation in Threat Perceptions as Expressed in National Security Strategies, NATO and E.U. Members
Source: Graphic by Jordan Becker.
Order, Alliances, and Strategic Planning
How do states plan for war in such a strategic environment? Strategic planning is often neither threat based nor capabilities based, but resource-based, and rightly grounded in politics. While great powers may devise strategies based on structural factors like the distribution of relative power in such environments, national and regional political economies weigh heavily in shaping strategy and resource allocation, particularly among the small and mid-sized powers that comprise the system of alliances on which Americas strategic approach centers.
Defense planning, or the practice of military strategy in grand strategy, converts political will and community resources into defense capabilities, which planners think will bring strategic effects. Even assuming that states are rational, unitary actors, such planning lacks focus in the absence of a clearly identified and singular rival or threat. NATO is a multinational security community whose membership spans three continents and whose members adjoin not just the Atlantic Ocean, but also the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean Seas, as well as Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. A multiplicity of interests whether conceived through the logic of consequences or that of appropriateness should therefore be considered a driving feature of the network of alliances in Americas security portfolio.
How, then, does the transatlantic security community prepare for war in these conditions? With the return of great-power rivalry, how do the United States and its allies seek to enhance deterrence and defense postures in multiple regions? Planning, resourcing, and developing the forces that strategists think will have the strategic effects needed to address these challenges is a long-term process, requiring institutionalized systems.
The multilateral structures of the European Union, and particularly of NATO, represent the most developed form of such systems. How does this institutionalization function? First NATO, and more recently the European Union, have sought to institutionalize defense planning with routinized processes. Updated and outlined for the public in 2009, NATOs Defence Planning Process provides a framework within which national and Alliance defence planning activities can be harmonised to enable Allies to provide the required forces and capabilities in the most effective way. While the European Union does not have a single process analogous to NATOs, its Coordinated Annual Review on Defence aims to foster capability development addressing shortfalls, deepen defence cooperation and ensure more optimal use, including coherence, of defence spending plans, and its Capability Development Plan defines future capability needs from the short to longer term.
Edward Luttwak explains the necessity of such processes: the development and production of sophisticated modern weapons takes years, requiring states to devise peacetime force development strategies that economically build forces for wars they can only anticipate. Figure 2 visualizes the challenge of devising such force development strategies in the multilateral security communities that anchor the current American-led order. National strategies only partially overlap with collective strategies, and processes like the NATO Defense Planning Process and the E.U.s Coordinated Annual Review on Defense do not affect the entirety of members national strategies strategy ultimately remains a sovereign matter for nations.
Figure 2: Strategy in a Security Community
Source: Graphic by Jordan Becker.
Nonetheless, NATOs Defense Planning Process at least has a reasonable record of influencing allies defense planning choices. Allies accepted and agreed on, for example, all new capability targets at their June 2017 defense ministerial meeting. In fact, the Defense Planning Process is unique in consensus-based NATO in that allies can override a veto, imposing a capability target on a nation over its objection if all other nations agree that it should accept the target a system known as consensus minus one.
The Limits of Institutions
Yet there inevitably are areas of national strategy that a process alone cannot shape. We maintain that national strategic cultures, national political economies, and E.U. macroeconomic and fiscal policy decisively influence how countries allocate resources to defense before NATO and E.U. planning processes take place. Specifically, the more Atlanticist (a preference for a transatlantic approach to European security, in which the United States role is central) a countrys national security strategy was, the more it contributed to shared operational priorities during NATOs out of area period (from 2000 to 2012). As European states experience increased unemployment, they slightly decrease top-line defense spending in response to unemployment, while shifting much more substantial amounts within defense budgets out of equipment and into personnel. E.U. members respond similarly to supranational (E.U.) fiscal constraints agreed to by heads of state and government as part of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union, and monitored (enforced) by the European Commission.
Processes cannot address these tough choices, which amount to rival claims on strategic resources, but politico-strategic dialogue may. For example, when NATO allies agreed to a pledge on defense investment at their 2014 Wales Summit, their heads of state and government gave broad but clear guidance not only to defense ministries to meet capability priorities, but also to finance ministries to reverse the trend of declining defense budgets. Two years later, E.U. heads of state and government formally adopted the NATO goals of moving toward spending two percent of GDP on defense and 20 percent of defense spending on equipment modernization. Early indications are that these political agreements are having some effect on resource allocation, as Figure 3 shows. European allies defense spending increased by $87 billion from 2014 to 2018. That this would occur in spite of disagreements regarding threats, economic fragmentation within Europe and the broader transatlantic community, and fiscal austerity in the European Union, points to the importance of cultural factors like Atlanticism. However, as Figure 3 also shows, increases may be stalling a transatlantic divide may harm burden-sharing and, perhaps paradoxically, weaken Europe as a strategic actor.
Figure 3: Annual Real Change in Defense Spending, NATO Europe and Canada
Source: NATO, Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2013-2019), 2020.
NATO and European Union agreement on exigent defense investment guidelines, as well as the downstream effects on coordinated capability development, point toward other opportunities for the two organizations to cooperate strategically. This is especially true given the tight interconnection between the economic strength of the transatlantic community and its military strength. For example, NATO and the European Union could build on current cooperation proposals to include the grand strategic area of resource allocation, ensuring that NATO and E.U. defense spending goals are not in competition with E.U. fiscal rules for scarce resources. Italys 2015 defense White Paper, for example, suggests the possibility that some defense spending could be excluded from the thresholds of the Stability and Growth Pact.
Trouble Behind, Trouble Ahead
At some level, all states must prepare for war. Robert Osgood called alliances latent war communities they are designed for that purpose. Indeed, Bear Braumoellers recent work extends Charles Tillys insight that war made the state and the state made war to international orders, which he argues prevent war among their members but are dangerous to non-members. Processes like those that NATO and the European Union have developed during the last eight decades of relative calm and prosperity are central to the transatlantic communitys ability to prepare for, and perhaps forestall, future wars. They are the best tools its members have to convert political will into capabilities that they believe will have strategic effects, like deterring adversaries or, if necessary, defending national territory and shared interests.
Processes are, however, no substitute for grand strategic vision. Such vision animated the creation of both NATO and the European Union. There is now a strong case for a bolder vision of transatlantic cooperation in defense planning and grand strategy to keep the fog of peace from turning into the fog of war.
What might such a vision look like? Some scholars have proposed to address the fog of peace by rediscovering geography to regionalize NATO defense planning, enabling allies to focus on capabilities that are most directly relevant to their own strategic priorities. Others have argued that it is time for Europe to seek and achieve true strategic autonomy, either by Europeanizing NATO (whereby the United States would reduce its footprint in the alliance and concentrate on its strategic challenges elsewhere), or by subsuming NATO into a broader European political-security framework. Even the possibility of extending Frances nuclear deterrent to its European allies has been raised, first by French scholars discussing nuclear solidarity, and then by President Emmanuel Macron, who invited European partners to be associated with the exercises of French deterrence forces in the interest of a true strategic culture among Europeans. Macron further clarified his intent in an interview with Wolfgang Ischinger at the 2020 Munich Security Conference, pointing to an unprecedented dialogue on nuclear deterrence among Europeans.
Challenges abound. First, transatlantic discord creates challenges for European Atlanticists, making it more difficult to align national strategies, and may even incentivize countries to curb defense spending to appeal to domestic electorates that bristle at external pressure. Second, the combination of economic recession and fiscal austerity that plagued Europe during the 2008 crisis appears likely to return in a more virulent form, which is almost certain to dampen defense investment.
Taking Europes destiny in its own hands is easier said than done. Years of low defense investment, the complicating effects of Brexit, the rise of populist politics across Europe, and uncertainties about Turkey, among other issues, cloud prospects for greater European defense autonomy. While retaining the transatlantic bond, in an era of great-power competition when conflict would almost certainly not be confined to one operational theater, it may be wise to encourage allies to concentrate on those tasks for which they are most geographically suited. For example, Baltic Sea states could focus on defending their territory from Russian aggression, while states along the Mediterranean could focus on combatting terrorism and building partner capacity each without fear of being criticized for inadequately supporting allies. Doing so would help link operational and strategic planning to threat assessments, while also helping to blunt conflict among allies about defining the array of threats, risks, and challenges that characterize the emerging security environment. It would enable the transatlantic security community to incentivize and leverage the national defense planning efforts of its members. Specializing like this would enable institutional work to focus on harmonizing, which encourages burden-sharing, as opposed to dominating, which incentivizes free-riding. But such specialization demands trust, which is currently in short supply in the transatlantic community and beyond.
Jordan Beckerwas Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the Institute for European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel during this research. He is currently the U.S. Liaison to the French Joint Staff, and an associate researcher at the Institut de Recherche Stratgique de lEcole Militaire (IRSEM) and Sciences Pos Center for International Studies (CERI). He completed his PhD at Kings College London in 2017, and he is a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army. He previously served as defense policy adviser to the U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and as Military Assistant and Speechwriter to the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee (International Military Staff). He is solely responsible for his research, which does not reflect any official U.S. government position.
Robert Bell is CEO of National Security Council (NSC), a Limited Liability Corporation consulting firm, and Distinguished Professor of Practice at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. He is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the Fletcher School at TuftsUniversity. He previously served as Senior Civilian Representative of the Secretary of Defense inEurope and the Defense Adviser to the U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic TreatyOrganization, as well as Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment on NATOsInternational Staff. From 1993 to 1999, he was President Bill Clintons NSC Senior Director forDefense Policy and Arms Control.
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Keys to ‘Inclusive Economic Recovery’ in New York City Include Investments in CUNY and Workforce Development, Experts Say – Gotham Gazette
Posted: at 11:14 pm
Considering an inclusive recovery in New York City (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)
As the COVID-19 public health and economic crises continue, so does the conversation about recovery. This past week, the Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a nonprofit think tank focused on economic opportunity and equitable growth, hosted a digital discussion, Ensuring an Inclusive Economic Recovery in NYC, featuring several public policy experts.
Jonathon Bowles, the executive director of CUF, opened the discussion saying the immediate priorities are clear: keep people safe, get people back to work, and help our small businesses survive. He then posed the question to the panelists to kick start the conversation, asking if there is an opportunity in this crisis to build a more inclusive economy.
The panelists were Maria Torres-Springer, Vice President for US programs at the Ford Foundation and formerly Commissioner of three different New York City government agencies for housing, economic development, and small businesses; Maya Wiley, professor at the New School and former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio; Harry Holzer of the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University; David Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York; and Joey Ortiz, Jr., executive director of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition.
One of the broad themes in the panelists responses was that this situation offers an opportunity to do things differently and fundamentally change how New York thinks about economic recovery. On tangible ways to spur economic growth and improve equitable access for all New Yorkers going forward, two focus areas emerged: the roles of education and job training.
Torres-Springer said New Yorkers must first identify and be real about who has suffered the most and the fact that the community-level impacts of a disaster, like food insecurity, afflict marginalized populations on a daily basis.
She added that everyone must resist the temptation to make false choices. False choices between equity and growth, between public health and individual civil liberties, between fiscal prudence and strengthening, for instance, the not-for-profit sector, and instead take this opportunity and turn this crisis into a time when we can identify the types of strategies that strike a better balance and bend towards better outcomes.
Panelists agreed that economic growth should not be considered in a siloed way, but must be embedded into a conversation that encompasses public transportation, affordable housing, food security, workforce development, and how each impacts the economy. The pandemic disproportionately affects black and Hispanic communities and low-wage workers, Torres-Springer said. Holzer agreed, and said, first we learn, do no harm. But there is a lot of harm out there, and Maria is right, it falls, and especially in New York City, very heavily on people of color, disadvantaged workers, low-wage workers.
Jones, who is also on the MTA Board that oversees the citys massive public transit system, pointed out that black and Hispanic populations are suffering a higher COVID-19 death rate and that the hospitals serving communities of color in the city lack resources.
The pandemic has really exposed entrenched inequalities but it has laid bare the interdependence and interconnectedness, Torres-Springer said. And really shown us we are only as safe as the least protected among us.
To do recovery the right way, Ortiz said the city needs to bring people in from the most impacted communities, and ensure that they are part of the planning.
I think what often happens in any of these discussions is we bring incredible people together to talk about the challenges without the perspective of who may be living it on a day-to-day basis, he said. Its important for us to be empathetic, its important for us to understand and care very deeply about the communities we serve, but we need to invite them into this discussion in a very active way.
Jones described the interruption of education, especially for those who were only marginally involved in the system an unmitigated disaster, adding that we already knew we were having trouble in terms of retaining kids of color from poor communities in K-12, but weve done reports that show that the community college system in the State of New York cant be considered a great provider of job skills yet, and the assumptions that the community college system would be a feeder to the four-year system doesn't happen in New York.
Wiley agreed, pointing to how essential educational opportunity is for people of color and low-income communities and saying that, historically, city investment has been lacking. Limited funding for education, along with public transportation, technology, and job training -- which impact an individuals ability to access education -- are historic failures we keep reinforcing, Wiley said.
Its a combination of multiple pieces here, Ortiz said. The pieces that were raised before, in terms of K-12, and certainly the higher education CUNY system is essential here, but I think there is also meeting folks in between, the workforce development system, and smaller community-based organizations have done an incredible job of supporting people here in New York City.
Jones likened the CUNY system to apartheid, saying New York has an overwhelming number of black and Latino students concentrated in two-year schools. Its resource allocation, were not really adequately resourcing our community college system. I do think its a potential springboard. But we have to be serious, he said. We have to think more holistically and make community college perhaps a centrepiece.
Holzer agreed that community colleges are a key piece. I do think there is lots of good training at the community college level that does lead to good-paying jobs, some of them involve associates degrees, especially associates in science, he said. Some of them are good certificate programs and people have a greater likelihood of completing, but again its hard to build up capacity in these programs without money.
Education is directly related to access to the job market, of course, and over the last decade, there was huge growth in both low-wage industries and jobs for college educated individuals. Holzer said that jobs that used to only require a high school diploma now often require some kind of post-secondary education, and employers have a harder time filling certain gaps. To address this problem and increase access to the labor market, all the panelists agreed there are two main strategies: building the skill-building sector, and working with employers to create better quality jobs that can lead to a career.
Wiley cited three legs of a stool, with the need for a stronger education pipeline, better quality jobs, and especially more affordable housing, saying unless were addressing the affordability problem then we are not going to be doing enough just to be doing jobs or just to be doing education, we need the three legs of that stool.
It requires a vision that says a New York that we all want to live in, a diverse New York that has all of us in it. We can become San Francisco and watch people of color get pushed out and still be unaffordable for a white middle class, that doesn't help any of us, Wiley said.
The citys plan for addressing recovery is also dependent on the level of funding support that might be offered from the federal government. The point of this particular crisis is, is the federal government going to step in and provide more resources or not those two scenarios create different opportunities, Wiley said.
New York State and City face many billions in lower-than-expected tax revenue given the economic shutdown and recession brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, and are seeking bailouts from the federal level.
The services they end up cutting back on most severely are those that are trying to help those at the bottom who dont have political clout, who arent considered economically viable, Jones said of likely city budget cuts, some of which the mayor has already outlined for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. And if we persist in that kind of behavior we are going to have the inequality system that we have now just explode.
One program that the mayor has put on the chopping block is the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which seeks to connect NYC youth between the ages of 14 and 24 with career exploration opportunities and paid work experience each summer, according to the SYEP website.
Summer youth is a good example of when something is hard, lets just scrap it rather than say lets try to find the best possible plan to keep our young people safe, Ortiz argued. This was an incredible opportunity for them to develop the technological infrastructure that was required to learning or investing in the system from a distance. And now we have a situation where, during a health crisis, 100,000 young people wont have anything to do. These types of moments are when we need to take our big ideas and apply them so we can move forward in a really positive way.
We cant have young people who are already marginally connected to the economy with no summer plan, no school, Jones said. You cant do that. You can reconfigure it to have social distancing but weve got to get young people in these communities engaged and some income coming in for them and their family and some hope they can participate in the economy going forward.
Holzer added that a program like SYEP has strong evidence it actually helps students graduate from high school, it reduces engagement in crime, it reduces incarceration, violence and homicides and things of that nature, as an example. Its such a short-term mistake to not fund those types of things.
Torres-Springer pointed out that how New York recovers is uncertain because the city is still very much in the midst of the crisis. She added that there are a number of policies that are emergency measures, such as direct cash and paid sick leave, that months ago would have been unthinkable, but a key question is the transition from the short-term triage to the long-term policies.
We need to make sure peoples lives are secure and people have good wages, have a dignified and rising standards of living, Torres-Springer said. We cant fool ourselves that this is the job only of local and state policy-makers. We cannot let Washington walk away from their obligations.
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Posted: at 11:14 pm
Decentralised infrastructure and services provide a range of benefits for all stakeholders
Urban areas are right at the front of a public health emergency, as the world grapples with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Cities across the world consist of high-density settlements, with high mobility and interactions between people.
India is under a national lockdown confining citizens to their homes and eliminating their mobility that has slowed the growth rate of infections, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
The lockdown slowed the infection growth rate to doubling every 7.2 days, from doubling every 3 days (prior to lockdown), the ministry said. Essential services during the lockdown including basic services like water and sanitation guided by urban planning become crucial.
Urban planning processes and systems need to strengthen themselves and build resilience to minimise the spread of disease outbreaks and address other grappling issues related to equitable resource management, quality of life and environmental sustainability.
Urban planning as a process, in fact, came into being as a response to public health crises: A trade-off of the industrial revolution. It gave significance to sanitary issues and overall quality of life.
Concepts of garden cities, infrastructure networks and services and habitable spaces are attributed to the revolution in urban planning more than 300 years ago.
As we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, what can we learn to make our cities more resilient for public health emergencies? Let us look at the following aspects of urban planning that can be mainstreamed.
Decentralisation of urban services
Urban planning and delivery of services presently follow a centralised top-down model in India, which is a linear approach. We seldom witness local area plans prepared by urban local bodies (ULBs) and miss out the paybacks by creating circular economy.
A decentralised approach is critical in times of a public health emergency. Such a model is based on an equitable distribution of land and resources in cities. This model limits mobility and provides space for healthy interaction in smaller scales.
A decentralised planning approach also provides opportunities and benefits of distributing health and water infrastructure across the city. In most cities across India, secondary and tertiary health care units are concentrated, negatively impacting the timely delivery of health services.
At the same time, the primary health infrastructure in cities is not in a state to cater to the demand of neighbourhoods.
Decentralised infrastructure and services provide a range of benefits for all stakeholders. From the users point of view, decentralised systems are more economical: They reduce dependency on the central system, provide the opportunity for resource recovery and can be planned and modified according to the requirement of the users. From the authorities point of view, these systems reduce their overall load, and help in better resource management.
Source: Shivali Jainer,Dhruv Pasricha
Cities with decentralised systems in place for provision of these services have been able to keep up with the provision of essential services to all citizens during lockdown measures and have also ensured that the chain of transmission is broken, resulting in the flattening of the curve.
With water supply becoming more evident in the battle against the pandemic, a family of five would need 100 to 200 litres of water per day only to wash hands. It is important to introduce the concept of circular economy of water, by reusing wastewater.
In Singapore, 40 per cent of the water demand of citizens is met through reclaimed wastewater. Decentralised solutions for water supply and wastewater treatment focussing on circular economy will ensure citizens have access to safe water.
Similarly, decentralised municipal waste management holds key in trying to limit to transmission of the virus through movement of waste collected vehicles. Sanitisation drives and solid waste management are interlinked.
Cities like Mysore in Karnataka, Panaji in Goa and Alleppey in Kerala are considered one of the best cities in waste segregation and recycling, according to Not in My Backyard, research conducted by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment.
These cities have a strong system of decentralised waste management. In Alleppey, for example, the municipality does not collect waste and residents have to segregate and reuse waste as compost or biogas.
In Panaji, the municipality collects biodegradable waste every day and non-biodegradable waste twice a week, which promotes community compost. This reduces mobility and improves the health of hygiene of citizens: Crucial to contain the spread of disease outbreaks.
In terms of health infrastructure, the coverage of primary health infrastructure in Kerala through a robust public health system has the stat flatten the curve. It is estimated that more than 85 per cent of beneficiaries in Kerala have access to primary care through Accredited Social Health Activists.
This coverage of public health programmes has led to effective contact tracing and quarantine, without any negative impact on the delivery of essential services. In addition to this, the state also set up 1,255 community kitchens that prepare 280,000 food packets of the citizens. Such services are crucial when a lockdown is enforced in order to break the chain of transmission.
Decentralised planning with focus on resource recovery and equitable distribution of resources is key for the effective delivery of services.
A collateral advantage of decentralised planning is the strengthening of local institutions and ULBs that are involved in the delivery of critical services like sanitation, waste management, healthcare and public hygiene. This helps in building resilience at the local level.
What scale of decentralisation?
As mentioned in the 2014 guidelines of the Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI), the thrust of microplanning should shift to local area plans to encourage decentralisation and improve implementation of development plans.
Planning decision and implementation of plans should be disaggregated in order to bring the process closer to the local people, according to the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment acts.
They are, unfortunately, rarely implemented, as major conventional proposals and provisions point only to centralisation of services.
Ward-level local area plans (LAPs) stated as the lowest scale of hierarchy in URDPFI guidelines are supposed to be prepared by the ward committee in consultation with the community.
The scale of these plans is appropriate for decentralised planning, with the delivery of services at community level being more economical and sustainable.
The detailed project reports (DPRs) within these LPAs can be implemented at various scales ranging from an individual household to a larger community.
For example, in case of decentralised waste management project, the criteria for classification of scale is the amount of wastewater generated, which in turn is dependent on the number of user population, area and land use.
According to URDPFI guidelines, LAPs should be prepared to direct the development or redevelopment of land to enhance health and safety of the residents to support economic development, enhance the quality of living and for area specific regulatory parameters for the area covered.
LAPs also provide a basis of identification of vulnerable areas in a ward. These are areas where essential services like water supply, sanitation, drainage, health infrastructure, etc is lacking. It is to be noted that these areas are generally informal settlements, where a cluster of COVID-19 cases are observed.
Decentralised planning can help with the efficient delivery of services by decentralisation of powers and resources.
They also provide a feedback mechanism for preparation of city level masterplans and zonal plans, etc reducing the overall burden on city-level infrastructure and at the same time providing robust and sustainable systems to fight sudden public health emergencies.
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As Kamloops Council approves mill rates, the Mayor says there’s issue with the cost for major industry – radionl.com
Posted: at 11:14 pm
Kamloops City Council has approved the 2020mill rates which determine what each tax class will contribute to the tax base.
Mayor Ken Christian says it was approved fairly quickly which is a reflection of the finance committee spending a lot of time on it over the winter.
He says we do have an issue with respect to the rate for major industry. That really only affects Domtar and Tolco. And its a remnant of a kinder and gentler time when Weyerhauser was the only show in town and they were paying a lot of the freight. And now Domtar is left and theyre paying just over $5.5 million a year in their tax bill.
Christian says it is working to try and make that more fair but it needs other industries and utilities to help spread that tax burden.
Major industry will be taxed $68.30 per $1000 of assessed value. Ken Christian says the tax burden is slowly shifting more onto home owners.
There was a time when this was a resource based town and those resource industries were right in town, we used to have a sawmill right down here and that kind of thing. That has changed. And certainly we have got a lot more of our taxes from the residential tax base as we shift to a knowledge based economy.
Christian says the tax structure was still sort of camped in the 70s and council has been active in trying to modernize it.