Friday, August 28, 2009

Beautiful cities

Wild nature and human building construction. Soft and hard. Sky and skyline meet stones in different shapes.

Cities are beautiful, and if we are building in a right way it can almost be dreamlike.

Cars, cars, cars

It's easy to walk in San Francisco for sure, but the city is build for cars with straight roads (with an small exceptions of Lombart steet!) and highways in different levels (!) at entrences and exits from busy roads. Where does everyone goes? Where do they come from? Do they need to take their car?


If you take the bay bridge over to Oakland and later to Berkeley you will see the highways in different levels, and maybe you would think as me- "is that a bridge for a railway?" -"no it was for cars" ""is that a bridge for a railway?!" "-no its another for cars" "that one then?!!!" and you look again and you see a truck 50 meter up in the air.

An unsustainable situation

 Also.. when I walk here I see things that people in cars doesn't care of ( they should have their eyes on the road), and I just realised that many of both ugly buildings and spaces are just ugly cause noone (that any care about) walks there anyway. It's just the cars, everywhere, and they don't look.

Green and people friendly Göteborg, Sweden

3-dimentional Göteborg, Sweden

Parks, squares, plazas, fountains or just places to sit- benches. Göteborg is built on hills that give different levels and spots for walking, like stairs between the houses and where you can have a coffee one stair up.

With a climate that allow sitting in the sun outside in the city only half a year (and a lot of rainy days then) Göteborg have so many places for that purpose, which makes me wonder why other cities that have hot days with sun (more than three times a week, half a year) every week, year around doesn't have it.

And I guess it is because there is no space for it when the street for the cars have to be there.. no?

History and future of high big buildnings in Sweden

Common in Sweden and mostly parts in Europe is the high, big buildings, not sky scrapes but a big house to live in, its smart- it save space and give more space to green spots. A lot of them comes from 1965-75 when the Million Programme built one million apartments (25% of the apartments today) to save the housing situation in Sweden at that time. The main goal was to build (a lot of) equally high standard apartments for medium class people. And in the same time a lot of (smaller often in wood) historical houses was destroyed and made space for the new ones. Nice kitchen with refrigerator, bathrooms with water closet and baloneys in every apartment was luxury. Also closeness to schools, library, nurseries, playground and common spaces was one part of the plan.

The largest neighborhood with those kinds of houses lays outside the city center and are nowadays for the low income and with a high percentage of immigrants, specially in certain areas where almost everyone is an immigrant, what also make the situation worse with more and more crime and high racial segregation in the suburbs.
Many of the houses are now old, cheap to live in and not high status. They have to be rebuild which would give a great opportunity for jobs right now and also to fix some of the social problems that these neighborhoods have. In the same plan, they would plan for more common space, green areas and activities for the people.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sustainability is also about economy and social problems

When talking about sustainability, most often it is about the environment, or the ecological sustainability. But for reaching that you have to consider both economic sustainability and social sustainability in a close working network with the nature. The parts can't live alone.

Solving environmental problems must be the focus in a very close future, without a healthy surrounding mankind can't live. Environmental problems are, unfortunately, always abstract, huge and normally seen as luxury problems. Something that people with (time), money and new technology should work with. That is not the real picture.

Economy and ecology are often two opposites sides that with a first look seems to works against each other. It costs to invent green technology and clean emissions. And most of all, as an consequence of a capitalistic way of looking at the world, when resource are non-ending, a wealthy environment is nothing to even count on. This is exacly what the environmental problems is about!
If you then talk about a sustainable economy, that is something different. This will also think about the consequences of the environment or the ground base for everything; the sustaiable economy knows that resources are not never-ending, so if we want to have a stable economy, or a economy that don't have to move around in the world to find more resources, the only way would be to take care of the resources we already have in a good way! We don't have more than this earth to find our resources.
Resources can also be seen as the people in an society, that have a need for things and services. Therefore social sustainability have to been seen as an equally to the other two, and here you have something to work with.

Everything is very close connected to each other. A society have to take care of its residents to take care of the environment, and it can't be too expensive.
We have different solutions for different kind of people. Very wealthy people can do recycling and buy new cars or buy better houses, but how many in the world is that? Sweden and Scandinavia, Japan are maybe some. But even in these countries there are also a big portion of non-rich people that can't do anything at all for their situation. The environmental problems is not the biggest problem. That is to survive.
And even if you are wealthy you don't have to care about the environment, maybe you don't know or maybe you don't- what? Care? Have the energy? The knowledge? It's about a lot. Mostly, environmental problems lays in the environment close to you- if it's not an easy way bike or to take the bus or recycle you would not do it!
And if this is the problem even for wealthy people, how can we then tell people that don't have food for their day to be more environmental sustainable?

It's not fare to blame anyone in this situation. We have to build the right environment for people. So in the short run- we have to clean the environment to fix the social problems to even have an economy. So where should the money come from in the first place?

And WHO would fix it?

Curitiba (link to the right) is a good example of how to make things happen a bit faster and cheaper than in other cities. Because in Curitiba they had big problems with unhealthy people. And it's not only here we have to act right now, everything is connected in this world. There is no self-suficient societys left in the wealthy world, so if you can't see the environmental problems or the health problems or poor people that's because your goods are produced somewhere else.

A very good example of a solved environmental problem is the Mediterranean Sea. When tourists started to go here, the hotels had their sewer right to the ocean. This wasn't so clever, because the tourists came to swim in the sea and didn't want to swim in their feces, so problem was solved quite easy, beacause if they didn't have a nice ocean they didn't have any costumers and then no money.
This is how it's works and should work. Unfortunately a lot of people do swim in feces and also live in it, but noone cares because they are not costumers with money.

If you see as much to the social, economic and ecological side to archive the future for people, that is a future that will be a good solution in the long term; and that is what sustainability is about.

Back in San Francisco

Tool library, bicycle co-op, vegan cheese on your pizza, supermarkets with only organic vegetarian food. And in the same time; poverty. People living outdoors with theirs stuff in a shopping cart, people on the streets talking to them self, a barefooted man with an open wound, like a hole in his foot.

America is the country for both poverty and "new" thinking, as environmental correct food, "better" cars, sharing of thoughts, participation in decisions and a lot of organizations to make a different in all kind of things, like wealth, environment, art etc
-but really does it make a difference?

I come from a very calm country where almost everyone have a place to stay, where the government help people that needs help, and also where people have a medium sense of being environmentally correct. Where almost everything is "lagom" (just right, no more, no less). I see the things here in San Francisco as a bit confusing when people seems to work so hard but they have all theirs problem anyway. More confusing to see all this poor people that nobody even care to give some coins to when the normal thing is to see things in millions of dollars (not kronor... its like everything have to be 10 times more extreme all the time).

When I walk around here, I think about how easy it is to come from a wealthy country/city or even neighborhood and to say; it's just this we have to do; we have this good solution for how to make things better (e.g sustainable development). How easy it seems to be; "we just have to make this", we just have to cut the emissions here", or " if we just do like this".

BUT people, hey! Take the subway to West Oakland and see the empty streets there, and all the empty, dry backyards, or just take a round around the streets and SEE people. What in the world should we do to make things happen to these people?

Conclusion is; it's not about money at all, everything is just about will.