The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

by Yule Heibel on January 22, 2012

  • Not as powerful, perhaps, as photos of Detroit’s ruins, these aerial shots of nature overtaking formerly built-up urban areas is startling in its own way:
    As with many industrial cities in America at the time, post-war St. Louis experienced a rapid decline of its inner city. Desperately seeking solutions before the decay could absorb downtown, local planners and politicians saw slum clearance as the best option.

    Decades later, the results are nothing to celebrate. An aggressive demolition policy failed to create a better neighborhood. Instead, it led to a different kind of stigmatized inner city. The chaotic, dirty and declining urban condition of the mid-20th century gave way to the urban prairie of the 21st.

    tags: atlantic_cities st_louis slums urban_renewal urban_forest

  • On retooling old expressways in urban cores:
    The hearings and the public process on these three interventions have revealed a cultural clash: old vs. young, bicyclists vs. solo drivers, yuppies vs. townies, and so on. The fight is in the trenches, in long discussions and blog posts on traffic counts, state modeling and projections, and the methodology of license plate surveys. Everyone’s voice must be heard, a legacy of the exclusion of citizens in the original construction of the roadways, but seemingly a guarantee of paralysis when it comes to repairing the damage they have caused.

    tags: anthony_flint atlantic_cities transportation highways traffic

  • On the question of earth’s changing tilt as a contributor to climate change, don’t discount CO2 yet:
    Though his [Peter Huybers] work suggests that orbital configuration contributes to the loss of glacial ice, Huybers was quick to emphasize that it is only one factor among many.

    “It could also be that orbital forcing causes a rise is atmospheric CO2, and that it’s the increased CO2 that drives the loss of ice sheets,” he said. “In all likelihood, both CO2 and increased summer radiation contribute to deglaciation. They’re both expected to push the climate system toward less ice.

    “Another important aspect to consider is that the orbital configuration we now have is almost exactly where it was 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum, but this time we’re near a glacial minimum,” he said. “If you think about what the difference is between then and now, it’s not the orbital configuration, it’s the CO2. I think that’s important to keep in mind, because it shows that glacial changes are not a simple function of the orbital configuration.”

    tags: harvard_gazette climate_change glaciers peter_huybers ice_age

  • Looking forward to reading Susan Cain’s forthcoming book. Signed, An Introvert.
    The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has “a room of one’s own.” During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

    Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink. Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.
    If you’re not mouthing a silent “ugh!” at that last paragraph, you’re not one of us!
    Check out her remarks on the internet:
    The one important exception to this dismal record [of brainstorming’s failures] is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

    tags: introverts susan_cain nyt psychology groupthink

  • Fascinating article on Robert Hughes’s take on Rome. The closing section deals with the negative effects of mass tourism.
    But the threats to Rome’s survival did not slink away with the Nazis. Two ruthless forces menace the city today, and Hughes is fierce in attacking them both. One is mass tourism, by now such a significant force in the Roman economy that it seems unlikely to come under control. The other is mass indifference, brought on by the distractions of contemporary life. Indifference is hardly a modern invention. Alaric and the Visigoths rampaged through Rome in 410 without giving a care to its beauties or its cultural significance. The German Landesknecht mercenaries who sacked the city in 1527 occasionally thought of themselves as religious crusaders, but any motives other than bloodlust and greed were really afterthoughts. Steve Jobs and Silvio Berlusconi have taken different tacks; but they, too, are old news in Rome. The ancients were also obsessed with decorative gadgetry, and perhaps an outmoded clepsydra, or water clock, looked as sad to them as an outmoded Mac today. As for Berlusconi’s bimbos, the ancient playwright Terence complained already in the first century BCE about losing his audience to the rope dancer in the theater next door.

    tags: ingrid_rowland nyrb robert_hughes rome tourism arthistory

  • Brilliant explanation of just how bad SOPA and PIPA are.

    tags: video khan_academy sopa pipa government internet

  • Great insights from Adam Gopnik. Loved these passages, near the end of the article, especially regarding a technology’s descent from omnipresence to …just something:
    Now television [once the object of jeremiads about the disintegration of modern life] is the harmless little fireplace over in the corner, where the family gathers to watch “Entourage.” TV isn’t just docile; it’s positively benevolent. This makes you think that what made television so evil back when it was evil was not its essence but its omnipresence. Once it is not everything, it can be merely something. The real demon in the machine is the tirelessness of the user. A meatless Monday has advantages over enforced vegetarianism, because it helps release the pressure on the food system without making undue demands on the eaters. In the same way, an unplugged Sunday is a better idea than turning off the Internet completely, since it demonstrates that we can get along just fine without the screens, if only for a day.
    And: “Thoughts are bigger than the things that deliver them.” Truer words (etc etc)…

    tags: adam_gopnik newyorker internet socialcritique

  • Illuminating article on how the phrase “one nation under God” snuck its way back onto dollars…

    Atheism looks better every day… I mean, “Christian Libertarianism”? The implied concept of submission reminds me of *other* religious fundamentalisms, none of which are any good.
    Christianity, in Mr. Fifield’s interpretation, closely resembled capitalism, as both were systems in which individuals rose or fell on their own. The welfare state, meanwhile, violated most of the Ten Commandments. It made a “false idol” of the federal government, encouraged Americans to covet their neighbors’ possessions, stole from the wealthy and, ultimately, bore false witness by promising what it could never deliver.

    Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. Fifield and his allies advanced a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.”

    tags: nyt socialcritique kevin_kruse religion libertarianism

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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