Sunday, January 28, 2018

Travels in South and East Asia

Recently returned from travels in East and South East Asia. Visited Borneo, Philippines and Hong Kong. Here are some photos that capture some off the places visited.

Manila, Philippines

Hong Kong on rainy morning

View from Jockey Club Tower, University of Hong Kong

Street scene in Mong Kok. Hong Kong

Baka National Park, Sarawak Malaysia

Borneo rainforest

Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Friday, September 15, 2017

Olympic Crisis

Paris and Los Angles will be the hosts of the Summer Games in 2024 and 2028 respectively. The recent announcement marks a crisis for the International  Olympic Committee because it highlights the narrowing of cities willing and able to host the sports extravaganza. I discuss this issue in a recent Conversation piece

Monday, July 10, 2017

Trump Fatigue Syndrome

I have just been diagnosed with an illness, TFS. It is injurious to long-term health but perhaps too early to say whether it is fatal.

TFS stand for Trump Fatigue Syndrome. It is caused by overexposure to coverage of President Donald Trump. Its symptoms include a depressing sense of watching the same drama over and over again. And just like being stuck in a movie theater watching a badly scripted and poorly produced B movie, it begins with feelings of exhaustion then panic with the realization that it may never end.

All diseases have vectors; the carriers of this disease are the mass media of both left and right political persuasion. They cover Trump endlessly became it generates more viewers and listeners. The presentations are suitably tailored to appeal to their respective audiences. Trump the hero of the forgotten Americans on Fox News; Trump the political incompetent on CNN. Trump generates money for the networks whatever their position. He makes news and attracts viewers through constant controversies. The President provides all the tweets, images, talking points, controversies and mayhem: all the media have to do is to roll the camera and queue the talking head panels. For the mass media Trump is the equivalent of easy money; for the audience the equivalent of empty sugar calories that produce a buzz but not much substance. In an age of Trump Fascination no need to send reporters on overseas missions, or deep reporting about what ails the Republic and its peoples. The cheap and easy coverage of Trump allows us to imagine that we are engaged in political debate or critical analysis while in reality we are party to a flim flam show masquerading as the US presidency.

All diseases have symptoms. For those on the left there is a rising sense of exasperation about what the President does and says. A sense of outrage is continually aroused leading to exhaustion. For those more to the right there is a feeling of resentment against the antipathy to their President in the deep state, Democrats and fake news. Again, a sense of outrage is continually aroused leading to exhaustion.

Most diseases have cures. We should begin our diagnosis with the realization that we no longer inhabit a Republic of political debate but a squalid banality of neo-reality television. This fever of constant outrage will have to be purged or it may kill us all.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

John Rennie Short in U.S. and international press

The public relations/news department in my university just published this:

 Many thanks to Sarah Hansen for the piece:

John Rennie Short, an expert on globalization, urban and environmental issues, and political geography, recently shared his research and perspective on current global trends in several U.S. and international publications. Most recently, the professor of public policy has commented on topics from shifting political parties to the rapid growth of cities and their roles in society.
In Christian Science Monitor, Short addressed recent seismic shifts in global politics. In this spring’s French election, neither one of the two traditionally-dominant parties’ presidential candidates advanced to the second round of voting, demonstrating “a rupture of the traditional political establishment,” Short said, and reflecting a larger trend in politics seen in Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory.
Short added that “we are in a new political era,” where leaders who hope to preserve Western values must address voters’ very real “economic pain, their cultural uncertainty, and their political anger at the system” and be “aware of the new sensibilities that have been brought to the surface.”
On Radio SputnikShort discussed another course change in politics. The Philippine president announced that the Filipino military would begin to occupy certain islands in the South China Sea, an area to which China lays claim. “This is very strange, because [President] Duterte had spent the last few months encouraging closer ties with China,” Short said, adding that the action was a “provocative move” that would label the Philippines an unpredictable ally for China.
In Smithsonian MagazineShort addressed a historical issue in political geography, commenting on the construction of early maps of North America, where trade priorities could supersede political considerations. In these early maps, “the coastlines were accurate, but they weren’t as concerned about the interiors,” says Short. The attitude was, “as long as you keep bringing the beavers, we don’t care.”
Short has also produced several new publications related to contemporary urbanism, including A Research Agenda for Cities. This volume, which he edited, features case studies from around the world addressing topics such as gentrification, gender, creative economies, and sustainability.
In a piece for the Elgar blog, Short says it’s crucial to research cities because “we are living in an urban moment. The majority of people now lives in cities. Cities are at the very heart of transformations of political economy, civil society and governmentality. They are the setting for progressive politics and the context for new human–nature relations.”
Short also explores how cities can illuminate broader global shifts as “nodes in a global network of flows of people, ideas and practices.” Cities are highly fluid places, Short suggests, constantly “learning from each other and testing policies, with the more successful ones diffused, adopted, and adapted around the global network.”
In Global Citizen, Short adds, “Technology is transferrable, knowledge is transferrable, consultants move around, there’s a global circulation.” That’s part of the reason he believes cities have a major role to play in combating climate change, the focus of the Global Citizen piece. The other reason is much more practical: “Emotionally you can think of the polar bears and the warming Arctic, but when push comes to shove it still seems a bit distant,” he says. “But the air quality in your city is definitely a real issue,” and, he suggests, it can motivate cities to take action to curb pollution.
Short also addresses reasons that public transportation in U.S. cities lags far behind our European counterparts on The Academic Minute. He suggests the relevant factors include an American “love affair with the automobile,” suburban sprawl, and a large-scale dismantling of privately-owned mass transportation companies in the 1950s. However, he also sees younger Americans as more interested than previous generations in accessing public transit options, and less interested in owning cars, which he suggests could soon cause a sea change in U.S. transportation trends and investments. The interview followed up on a previous article Short wrote for The Conversation (“Why is the U.S. unwilling to pay for good public transportation?”), which was republished by Business Insider, Quartz, Slate, Newsweek, and others, and has been read nearly 300,000 times worldwide.

Reaching this kind of a broad public audience is a commitment Short considers central to his work as university researcher and educator. “Research and knowledge needs to be circulated widely and freely available to as many people as possible. If it is just for a small privileged elite it loses its moral center and social purpose,” he suggests. “Those of us lucky to teach in the academy have the responsibility and obligation where, when, and how we can to advance civic debates and enlightened discourse.”

Friday, March 31, 2017

Informal economy and street vendors in Cali, Colombia

New article just published on informal economy in Cali Colombia. Based on survey of street vendors in the downtown area. It was cowritten with colleagues at the urban observatory POLIS  at ICESI University,  Dr.  Lina Martinez and Daniela Estrada.

You can access it for free  here

The informal economy is an important part of urban economies in the global South. Almost half of Colombia's working population relies on the informal economy to obtain income. This study examined street vendors in downtown Cali, Colombia. A recent survey of 527 street vendors provides the basis for a detailed analysis of who works as street vendors, how much they earn, aspirations and perceptions of their work, and how closely they resemble the rest of the working population. The presented data also show the links between this sector and the formal economy. Connections between people working in this sector and the State were also examined, and welfare payment flows from the State to the sector were revealed. This study shows how the informal sector is closely tied to the formal economy and the State's welfare functions.


Informal economy; Street vendors; Formal economy; Cali; Colombia

Street vendors in Cali Colombia (©John Rennie Short)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Research Agenda for Cities

New book just published: A Research Agenda for Cities. Twenty chapters by leading academics. Access it from publisher here or from Amazon here