Friday, February 26, 2016

Urban productivity is key to economic growth

Want the economy to grow? In a recent article I argue that making cities more efficient is a key to stimulating growth and achieving greater social justice. You can access it here. It is published in The Conversation.

Traffic jams reduce productivity: Bangkok, Thailand (Photo: © John Rennie Short)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vulnerability of the power grid

New article, on the vulnerability of the grid to power failure due to climate change and corporate cost-cutting just published. You can access it here. Here is the first paragraph:

The lights went out. In the late evening of Friday June 29, 2012 electric power went out all over the Washington metro area. As the power failed television screens went blank, email links were lost, air conditioning units simply stopped and traffic lights ceased to function.  More than 1.4 million people lost power, some of them for almost a full week, in the oppressive humidity of midsummer. Without power the area was no longer a functioning modern city. The anonymous reliability of modernity was replaced by the improvisation and inventiveness of individuals, family support systems, neighborhood alliances and community connections. The vital necessity of readily available power that defines contemporary urban living was made acute by its absence. The lack of power highlighted the dependence on it. The taken for granted was revealed as the absolutely essential and the urban fragility of modernity was brutally exposed. Critical infrastructure is only experienced as vital when it fails.

Derecho storm downs power lines in Washington metro, 2012

Thursday, February 18, 2016

World Travels: 10 Hong Kong

Sailed into Hong Kong; so got the full, dramatic effect of the urban skyline against the water’s edge. I gave a seminar to the Urban Research Group at the City University of Hong Kong.

The city's layout and form is dominated by the designs of a few huge developers. They want to maximize retail space so every public building is encased in a mall. The result is a dense city that is neither legible nor walkable, except by navigating miles of commercial space designed to encapture rather than enrapture. Little room for flanerie in Hong Kong.

High density but pedestrian unfriendly (Photo:© John Rennie Short)

Hong Kong skyline (Photo:© John Rennie Short)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

World Travels 9: Vietnam

Spent some time in Vietnam traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Hoi Na and Haiphong. The economic reforms, known as doi moi, are having an influence. The country is recording rates of growth similar to China did twenty years ago; and there is a palpable economic dynamism to the place. Young people do not remember the 'American War'.

New investment in Ho Chi Minh City  (© John Rennie Short)

Traffic jam in Ho Chi Ming City (© John Rennie Short)

Market in Hoi Na (© John Rennie Short)

Fishing boats in Danang (© John Rennie Short)