Sunday, September 30, 2007

Week 9/30

Register Chapter 10: Tools to Fit the Task

In this chapter Register fleshes out some ideas on how to go from imagination to reality with regard to ecocities. The main tools discussed are ecocity zoning, transfer of development rights, an ecological general plan, and the International Ecological Rebuilding Program. The ecocity zoning map creation necessitates a complete rewriting of the future, a move away from the current zoning practices of separating uses to layering uses one on top of the other in a wonderful jumble of existence, much like the ecology of nature. Building upon the use of the ecocity zoning would be the ecological general plan, which would essentially be the master plan for a community, just with a different focus. The ecological general plan would incorporate ecological health as one of its imperatives, to stand along side the imperative for the health and safety of its people: essentially, taking a whole systems approach to planning.

A tool to achieve the goals of the ecocity zoning and the ecological general plan is Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). Currently in use, TDR allows for sending zones and receiving zones, whereby land can be permanently divested of the right to build upon it. TDR represents a unique and forward thinking way to guide development.

On a broader scale, the International Ecological Rebuilding Program aims to place at the fore a whole system approach to world development. It requires cooperation of world nations, as well as investment in a long-term future rather than short-term returns.

The tools of Register’s ecological city seem grounded in existing frameworks. Zoning, general plans, TDR, and world imperatives all currently exist in today’s world. Register hopes to tweak their uses to better suit his agenda, and he is successful in explaining their relevance to creating ecocities. But it seems as though Register breaks down when it comes to explaining how and why an ecocities future will be adopted. This chapter helped solidify a truth that Register holds self-evident:

“With an ecocity zoning map in hand, supplemented by descriptive explanations, you don’t need to worry about whether anyone supports you initially. What you are saying makes sense.” (259)

Does it? To whom? And for what reason? Register explains: “…you have the logic of the human body’s needs and dimensions and the logic of ecology on your side” (259). It seems like Register is creating an ideology of the ecocity, and that everyone should eventually come around to your (his) way of thinking because it is clearly a superior interpretation of reality. I am a bit concerned by the lack of logic exhibited by Register. Though his ideas are timely and, well, good, I don’t think I could create an ecocities zoning map, present it to a group of concerned community members, and have my argument boil down to “it makes sense because its ecologically logical, you see.” Maybe I am distilling his reasoning too much, oversimplifying the nuances of text, but nuances fall by the wayside in movements much less radical than Register’s.

Despite such a hiccup, Register has inspired in me a path to ecocity-dom. Though change will come slowly, unevenly across the globe, in fits and starts, the major ecological disasters(?) that will undoubtedly transpire in the next +-100 years may do more to force this radical change than the most concerted efforts in the calm before the storm. It may just be human nature to not fix something until it is unquestionably, unavoidably – and most of all annoyingly – broken. I don’t think we are at that point yet.

In the community
I spent the brunt of last semester thinking about the Southwest Area and its future existence. It was a love/hate relationship, one that still lingers in my memory when I look out over Libe slope, drive by on Route 13, or even visit the nearby retail (Lowes, not Wal-Mart). I soon realized, working in the trenches running numbers and facing reality, that the hopes and dreams of ecocities are not easily transferred from paper to product. I think of the decision the city made to move forward with Lowes and Wal-Mart, to effectively cut off the southwest area from true integration with the city, and lament the lost opportunity to create a much better designed segment of Ithaca.

1 comment:

banana said...

I could not agree with you more about Register's ideology.

I also agree with your comments about the southwest area of the city.