Monday, October 8, 2007

Maping as the key tool for change

Chapter 10 lays out a plan for gaining momentum in the ecocities movement. It challenges the reader to research the history of their city, not only the social history, but history of the land usages and that flows of the natural environment. This research is map #1, it maps out where all the streams are that may or may not have been buried, the historical use of that old building seemingly out in the middle of nowhere (the the wolf building) and gives you a foundation to redesign and rezone your city. You create the next map by defining with concentric circles the zones of activity. Then, you focus especially on the green belts and natural areas that exist or should exist. Map #3 is the rough draft of your argument for an ecocity. After you drew maps 1 and 2, you digested the information, toured your city and another city like it ( perhaps a place similar to the environment in which your city was located before it became a city), and used this comparison along with suggestions from others of like mind to put some final touches on map #3. Next, you go to your local representatives, planners, mayors, etc and convince them that an ecocity is appropriate and within reach. Maps #4 and 5 are variations on your plan which provide some flexibility to your scheme and allow others to adapt it to fit their vision. Zoning tools use to transform the city include Transfer of Development rights (TDRs), double TDRs, language in a general or comprehensive plan for the city and sprawl roll back campaigns ( inwhich the government buys sprawled out developments and restores these ares back to nature while discouraging sprawling development in the first place).

This mapping plan seems like a great idea. It combines research of all aspects of a city ( social, economic and natural) with visual plans for improvement. Critics might say that all cities are already planned, but this argues that planning is constantly evolving and so is a city, so we might as well evolve in the most environmentally sustainable way. I can relate to this chapter because I know that planners and municipal authorities will not accept just some pie in the sky proposal, they want research, maps and hard evidence that progress can be made. However, some of the zoning tools proposed in this chapter seem like something that people would find to be too communistic, or rather, involving too much governmental management. Honestly, in what world would we live in that the local government would buy back a McMansion, let alone an entire development of them, just to demolish them? Didn't the municipality allow this development in the first place to gain tax revenues? what is the government's incentive to tear them down? On top of that, think of all the resources going to waste from tearing down houses already constructed. I have often thought of this very idea myself, although the only context I can see this happening in would be during total anarchy, a Fight Club type of situation. To this I think Mr. Register would argue that the local government should function as a democracy and would do this because the people wanted it and because it was in the language of the re-zoning. Take a second, think about who lives in those McMansions, do they want their hard earned investment torn to the ground? Some of them probably ARE involved in the local government. The fight for regional sustainability and ecocities on the scale that Register proposes is a hard one that cannot only be approached with a really good map. People need to change their perspectives, the economy needs to market environmental responsibility.