Saturday, April 28, 2007
Inside the Vatican interviews Sr. Sara Butler of the International Theological Commission about its document on limbo.
I don't think the actual document is available online yet. From the interview, it seems that the document doesn't really say much that is new, nor does it rule out limbo as being a possible theological opinion that Catholics can hold. So... no real change at all, though we are encouraged once again to pray for those infants who die without baptism that they may, through the grace of Christ, see God.
New Urbanism and Transit Oriented Development are the Solution
to Global Warming and Peak Oil
The debate about Global Warming and Peak Oil are over. The latest UN report confirms Global Warming is happening now, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and urges serious and immediate action to prevent global catastrophe. The urgent message is that we need to reduce our oil consumption by 70-80% as quickly as possible.
Positive changes have begun!
Awareness of the seriousness of the problem has spread rapidly around the planet. Global Warming and oil supply problems are now urgent topics of daily concern all around the world. Business leaders are asking for changes and new regulation. Governments are seeking solutions and ideas. Citizens want to participate in the changes, and everyone wants a bright future for their children and grandchildren. In America alone, more than 60% of the voters, the Supreme Court, over 400 cities, the US National Academy of Sciences, and numerous major US corporations all want change.
The solutions for reducing oil consumption are all around us. The research is complete and the results are in – it’s now time to quickly put the right solutions into widespread use across America, and around the world. At the same time, we need to stop investing in the systems that are at the root of the problem (sprawl, roads, cars, aviation).
Oil Replacements Are Not Economically Feasible
Creating a replacement for oil and continuing 'business as usual' is not possible. Biofuels have a very limited prospect, and compete directly with food production. It is questionable if biofuels even produce any net energy when all inputs of energy are added up: growing the crops (such as corn), harvesting, transporting, processing, and delivery.
The Real Solution is to Reduce Oil Demand
We need a replacement for cars. The transition away from cars can be accomplished by halting the growth of sprawl and roads, and greatly increasing the supply of trains and walkable communities connected to the trains - where people can live comfortably without dependence on a car. Walking and riding trains and bicycles are the replacement for cars. Communities need to be reconfigured to the scale and comfort of the pedestrian.
Compared to Europeans, Americans use 8 times more energy per person, per day. It can be stated that Europeans actually have a higher standard of living because they are not forced to spend countless stressful hours stuck in traffic daily. Their cities are dense, walkable, and beautiful, and they have extensive, state-of-the-art train systems going everywhere. Americans use 8 times more energy than Europeans because 90% of American communities are not walkable (sprawl), and we have not invested in a world-class national rail network the way Europeans have been for many years. We have invested our wealth in roads, cars, and sprawl – all of which waste huge amounts of energy, and are unsustainable.
With our new knowledge of the problems and solutions, we must now act quickly, and on a grand scale to redesign our communities and transportation systems to greatly reduce the need for driving and cars.
Our 10 solutions below help point the way for a better future.
Here is our proposal for reducing our oil use, and dealing with this emergency:
We are facing the most serious environmental crises in the history of the planet:
> Global Warming and climate change threaten the survival of the human race
> Peak Oil - World oil supplies are running out while our oil use is increasing rapidly
> Energy Security - Increasing global conflicts over the remaining oil -- "It's a fight to the last drop"
> Traffic congestion is rapidly paralyzing America and the rest of the world while wasting
millions of gallons of gas daily
> Out of control sprawl is devouring prime farmlands and pristine wilderness areas, and
creating the massive traffic congestion
While these situations seem impossible to solve, these 10 solutions solve all these problems at once:
10 SOLUTIONS that are feasible, sustainable, safe, and healthy:
1. An immediate and permanent moratorium on all new major road construction and expansions. (Every additional dollar spent building and widening roads digs us deeper into our dangerous oil / auto addiction, and increases global warming)
2. A huge increase in funding for Amtrak, and the rapid construction of a new nationwide train network. This should connect every city, town, and neighborhood with an efficient, state-of-the-art electric train network comparable to what is currently operating all across Europe and Japan. This should be built to transport both passengers and all the cargo now moved by very inefficient trucks. Trains are by far the most energy efficient form of transportation that greatly reduces global warming, saves lives, and encourages compact, walkable communities.
3. An immediate moratorium on the building of any additional sprawl. Sprawl is probably the single largest contributor to oil addiction and global warming due to it's very design (or lack thereof). Sprawl forces everyone to drive many miles daily for everything, which in turn requires constant road expansions, encouraging more cars and driving, and more sprawl. Its a vicious cycle consuming ever more oil, and spewing out more pollution, making global warming continually worse.
4. A major focus of federal, state, and local governments on New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and Transit Oriented Development - the revitalization and densification of all existing cities and towns across America into walkable, mixed-use communities, with pedestrians and bicycles given top priority over automobiles, and a serious focus on bicycles and trains as the major forms of transportation. Included would be millions of affordable housing units and high quality neighborhood schools located so all children can walk or bike to them.
5. The rapid tripling of minimum vehicle miles per gallon standards for all vehicles produced in America - accomplished by a quick and complete conversion of all automobile manufacturing facilities to the building of only hybrid, solar, and fully electric vehicles.
Government car purchases made each year should be switched to buying only hybrids and fully electric cars. It is estimated that the entire U.S. government purchases well over a million new vehicles each year - the sum total of Federal, State, & Local Government agencies, municipalities, counties, highway patrol, sheriff, police and fire departments, etc.
The real solution is to eventually stop making cars altogether by a phased retooling of the auto industry into manufacturing trains (much like during the second world war when they switched to building military equipment).
6. An immediate and permanent moratorium on all new airport construction and expansions, as well as an end to all aviation subsidies.
7. An immediate moratorium on the construction of any new coal fired or nuclear power generating plants. Contrary to industry proponents who say nuclear is a "clean energy" solution to global warming - nuclear power is far from clean. The waste it produces is the most toxic substance known to humankind, remaining deadly radioactive for many thousands of years, with no safe way to store or dispose of it, and no way of preventing it from being made into weapons.
8. The rapid construction of massive new solar and wind power generating capacity all across America, from large-scale installations to smaller neighborhood and roof-top units. Also, the immediate installation of new hydropower generating capacity in the form of coastal wave and tidal energy capture.
9. The rapid installation of full roof solar panels on every building in America.
10. The installation of hundreds of acres of organic farms throughout every city and town in America. In addition to this, the planting of millions of trees across America.
(James Howard Kunstler is a vocal advocate of new urbanism as a solution to peak oil.)
CNU members ratified the Charter of the New Urbanism at CNU's fourth annual Congress in 1996. Applying valuable lessons from the past to the modern world, it outlines principles for building better communities, from the scale of the region down to the block.
The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society's built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.
We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.
We recognize that physical solutions by themselves will not solve social and economic problems, but neither can economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health be sustained without a coherent and supportive physical framework.
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.
We represent a broad-based citizenry, composed of public and private sector leaders, community activists, and multidisciplinary professionals. We are committed to reestablishing the relationship between the art of building and the making of community, through citizen-based participatory planning and design.
We dedicate ourselves to reclaiming our homes, blocks, streets, parks, neighborhoods, districts, towns, cities, regions, and environment.
We assert the following principles to guide public policy, development practice, urban planning, and design:
The region: Metropolis, city, and town
1. Metropolitan regions are finite places with geographic boundaries derived from topography, watersheds, coastlines, farmlands, regional parks, and river basins. The metropolis is made of multiple centers that are cities, towns, and villages, each with its own identifiable center and edges.
2. The metropolitan region is a fundamental economic unit of the contemporary world. Governmental cooperation, public policy, physical planning, and economic strategies must reflect this new reality.
3. The metropolis has a necessary and fragile relationship to its agrarian hinterland and natural landscapes. The relationship is environmental, economic, and cultural. Farmland and nature are as important to the metropolis as the garden is to the house.
4. Development patterns should not blur or eradicate the edges of the metropolis. Infill development within existing urban areas conserves environmental resources, economic investment, and social fabric, while reclaiming marginal and abandoned areas. Metropolitan regions should develop strategies to encourage such infill development over peripheral expansion.
5. Where appropriate, new development contiguous to urban boundaries should be organized as neighborhoods and districts, and be integrated with the existing urban pattern. Noncontiguous development should be organized as towns and villages with their own urban edges, and planned for a jobs/housing balance, not as bedroom suburbs.
6. The development and redevelopment of towns and cities should respect historical patterns, precedents, and boundaries.
7. Cities and towns should bring into proximity a broad spectrum of public and private uses to support a regional economy that benefits people of all incomes. Affordable housing should be distributed throughout the region to match job opportunities and to avoid concentrations of poverty.
8. The physical organization of the region should be supported by a framework of transportation alternatives. Transit, pedestrian, and bicycle systems should maximize access and mobility throughout the region while reducing dependence upon the automobile.
9. Revenues and resources can be shared more cooperatively among the municipalities and centers within regions to avoid destructive competition for tax base and to promote rational coordination of transportation, recreation, public services, housing, and community institutions.
The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor
1. The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor are the essential elements of development and redevelopment in the metropolis. They form identifiable areas that encourage citizens to take responsibility for their maintenance and evolution.
2. Neighborhoods should be compact, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use. Districts generally emphasize a special single use, and should follow the principles of neighborhood design when possible. Corridors are regional connectors of neighborhoods and districts; they range from boulevards and rail lines to rivers and parkways.
3. Many activities of daily living should occur within walking distance, allowing independence to those who do not drive, especially the elderly and the young. Interconnected networks of streets should be designed to encourage walking, reduce the number and length of automobile trips, and conserve energy.
4. Within neighborhoods, a broad range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races, and incomes into daily interaction, strengthening the personal and civic bonds essential to an authentic community.
5. Transit corridors, when properly planned and coordinated, can help organize metropolitan structure and revitalize urban centers. In contrast, highway corridors should not displace investment from existing centers.
6. Appropriate building densities and land uses should be within walking distance of transit stops, permitting public transit to become a viable alternative to the automobile.
7. Concentrations of civic, institutional, and commercial activity should be embedded in neighborhoods and districts, not isolated in remote, single-use complexes. Schools should be sized and located to enable children to walk or bicycle to them.
8. The economic health and harmonious evolution of neighborhoods, districts, and corridors can be improved through graphic urban design codes that serve as predictable guides for change.
9. A range of parks, from tot-lots and village greens to ballfields and community gardens, should be distributed within neighborhoods. Conservation areas and open lands should be used to define and connect different neighborhoods and districts.
The block, the street, and the building
1. A primary task of all urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets and public spaces as places of shared use.
2. Individual architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings. This issue transcends style.
3. The revitalization of urban places depends on safety and security. The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, but not at the expense of accessibility and openness.
4. In the contemporary metropolis, development must adequately accommodate automobiles. It should do so in ways that respect the pedestrian and the form of public space.
5. Streets and squares should be safe, comfortable, and interesting to the pedestrian. Properly configured, they encourage walking and enable neighbors to know each other and protect their communities.
6. Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history, and building practice.
7. Civic buildings and public gathering places require important sites to reinforce community identity and the culture of democracy. They deserve distinctive form, because their role is different from that of other buildings and places that constitute the fabric of the city.
8. All buildings should provide their inhabitants with a clear sense of location, weather and time. Natural methods of heating and cooling can be more resource-efficient than mechanical systems.
9. Preservation and renewal of historic buildings, districts, and landscapes affirm the continuity and evolution of urban society.
Congress for the New Urbanism
Charter of the New Urbanism (alternate site)
Amazon.com: Charter of The New Urbanism: Books: Congress for the ...
The City and the Good Life
by Philip Bess
Philip Bess is a professor of architecture at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and the principal of Thursday Architects in Chicago. This article appeared in The Christian Century, April 19, 2003, pp. 20-23, & 26-29. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Western ideas about good cities descend from Athens, Jerusalem and Rome. From Athens we inherit two seminal ideas: that the good life is the life of moral and intellectual excellence, and that the good city is one that makes this good life possible for its citizens. From Jerusalem comes a third idea: that a city’s excellence is also measured by the care it exhibits for its weakest members. And from Rome we inherit the idea that a city’s beauty is warranted by and represents its greatness. This ancient view of cities, though it acknowledged the central role of commerce, was essentially moral and aesthetic.
Today’s common wisdom is different. It views the city as governed by impersonal market forces, and devotes little thought to the good life or to the relation cities might have to the good life.
The city is a central metaphor and theme in Christianity. Christian scripture depicts the end of the human pilgrimage as a heavenly city, the New Jerusalem; and the relationship between this world and the next was articulated paradigmatically for Christians in the fifth century in St. Augustine’s classic The City of God.
Systematic philosophical thinking about urbanism antedates Christianity, going back to Aristotle, who wrote some four centuries before Christ that the best life for human beings is lived in community with others, and most particularly in a polis. This "city-state" was typically small in scale, with flexible but definite physical and geographic characteristics, It happened also to approximate the size of subsequent historic towns and urban neighborhoods -- and for an obvious reason: it is an area that can be comfortably walked. Its size fit the embodied nature of the human person. Of the polis Aristotle wrote that it is a community of communities, "the highest of all, embracing all the rest . . . [aiming] at the highest good: the well-being of all its citizens."
The Christian might say that Aristotle is not quite right on this point. The church is the highest of all communities, for it aims at the truly highest good: people’s eternal wellbeing. Augustine addresses this tension in a way that became definitive for Christians. He contended that in its life on earth, the church is but a single member of and participant in that community of communities which is the earthly city. With respect to its divine vocation, however, the church represents and to some extent embodies the heavenly city. Pace Aristotle, the highest of all communities therefore is indeed a city: it is the City of God, of which the church is its earthly herald, symbol and sacramental anticipation. Christians recognize that on earth we have no lasting city but seek the city that is to come. Christians therefore possess a dual citizenship.
Aristotle argued that human beings are by nature social animals that thrive in cities. Historically, Christians have agreed, but maintain that human sociability reflects the inherent sociability of the one triune God. It is important therefore not to regard Augustine’s use of the term city as mere metaphor. Both Alasdair MacIntyre and Peter Brown (writing about the classical polis and Augustine respectively) have emphasized that in the premodern world human identity was bound up with particular communities and particular places. (This indeed was essential to the appeal of Augustine’s thesis: Christians belong to a city, a heavenly city -- God’s city.)
And it is worth noting that the modern disintegration of the traditional city, which I will shortly describe, coincides with the (now disintegrating) modern notion of the self as disembodied and ahistorical. We might recall that the frequently used metaphor "the church in the public square" derives from the historic presence of real churches on real public squares. The power of this metaphor diminishes as we lose and forget how to make real public squares fronted by real churches.
Urban social life as both reality and ideal became problematic with the rise of the industrial city. As recently as the 18th century Samuel Johnson could say of London: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the urban setting became known as the site of disease, pollution, crime, squalor and ugliness. William Blake wrote of England’s "dark satanic mills," and Charles Dickens’s novel Hard Times describes the prototypical industrial city of Coke-town in terms more hellish than heavenly.
Every urban reform movement of the past 200 years -- from England’s Hygiene Acts to America’s City Beautiful Movement to modern zoning laws to modernist architecture to the creation of public housing and the rise of environmentalism and historic preservation -- has been a response to the social and cultural problems created by industrialism.
Several of these reform movements -- such as the 19th-century urban parks movement, without which contemporary big-city life would be almost unlivable -- have made permanent contributions to our experience and understanding of good city life. Others have been more problematic.
Americans have largely succeeded in one area of reform: we have separated the noxious aspects of industrial production from city life, exporting them to regions outside the city or to other countries. But this has not meant that America has been making or promoting good cities. Since World War lithe U.S. has excelled chiefly at creating a pattern of development known as suburban sprawl.
The ubiquity of suburban sprawl has come to constitute a serious physical, intellectual and cultural problem of its own. This problem today is engendered and sustained by virtually every institution responsible for the creation of the built environment: the real estate development industry; the construction industry; federal, state and local regulatory agencies; the rule-of-thumb manuals of transportation engineers; the lending policies of banks; the professions of architecture and planning; the patrons of architecture; and above all the zoning ordinances that regulate where and how buildings get built.
What exactly is the problem with suburban sprawl? The Congress for New Urbanism has identified a set of interconnected problems, all related to the physical characteristics of sprawl. Suburban sprawl fosters disinvestment in historic city centers; excessive separation of people by age, race and income; extreme inequality of educational opportunity; pollution and the loss of agricultural lands and wilderness; record rates of obesity; and sheer ugliness.
New Urbanists are not environmental determinists; they are not arguing that suburban sprawl creates these problems all by itself. They do argue that there is a reciprocal relationship between the built environment on the one hand and people’s character and social relations on the other. As the charter of the New Urbanism says: "Physical solutions by themselves will not solve social and economic problems, but neither can economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health be sustained without a coherent and supportive physical framework."
The very physical structure of suburban sprawl makes it virtually impossible for people of different generations and different incomes to live in close proximity to one another -- and not only live close together but also work, shop, play, learn and worship in the same neighborhood. The automobile-dependent suburb effectively demobilizes and disenfranchises those without cars and those unable to drive, notably children (whose parents must become chauffeurs) and the elderly.
To live in suburbia has become an American ideal; but it is a contradictory ideal, for suburban sprawl voraciously consumes the landscape that is the very substance of its promise. The suburban ideal simply cannot deliver on its promise of convenience, mobility, natural beauty, individual freedom and well-being for all. Its self-contradictory dynamic is evident in the way those who have most recently arrived in suburbia are often the people most vociferously opposed to its extension (the political phenomenon that has come to be known as NIM BY-ism -- "Not In My Back Yard").
The cultural ideal and reality of suburban sprawl are perhaps most insidious in the way they undermine the formal and cultural patterns -- the urban patterns -- by means of which human beings have traditionally sought to achieve the good life. The postwar suburban ideal caters to the illusion that unpleasantness in life can be avoided. Christians especially should understand that unpleasantness in life cannot be avoided.
In contrast to suburbia, the traditional city is a complex institution designed to address and transform the unpleasant aspects of human life by means of community, culture and civil society. To live in a civitas is to be civilized. To live in a polis one must learn to be polite, perhaps even to acquire some polish. Urbanites sometimes become urbane.
I am contrasting two formal paradigms of human settlement: the traditional town or traditional urban neighborhood and the post-1945 automobile-dependent suburb. My division of history at the year 1945 may seem extravagant or simplistic, but that year effectively represents the temporal demarcation between the routine creation of walkable human settlements and the creation of those that require mechanical transportation to perform the majority of life’s daily tasks,
With other members of the Congress for New Urbanism, I contend that the mixed-use walkable neighborhood is the sine qua non of urban design and that it ought to be a focus of both public policy and urban planning, whether such neighborhoods are considered in isolation or in relation to other neighborhoods. A neighborhood standing alone in the landscape is a village; several neighborhoods in the landscape constitute a town; many contiguous neighborhoods in the landscape together constitute a city or a metropolis. To make traditional villages, towns, neighborhoods and cities today -- like the places we love to visit (villages and towns like Cooperstown and Key West; small cities like Annapolis, Savannah and Santa Barbara; and big cities with distinctive neighborhoods like Boston, New York and Chicago) -- requires a conscious and conscientious rejection of the way we’ve been making human settlements since 1945.
We can identify at least four kinds of order in a good city: an ecological order: an economic order, a moral order and a formal order. A good city clearly is part of an ecological order -- it is a means by which humans live over an extended period in the natural landscape. If the city is made well, both the human animal and the ecological order of which it is part will thrive. If the city is not made well, both humans and the ecological order will eventually suffer.
The economic order of a good city is characterized by marketplace diversity and entrepreneurial freedom. Its purpose is twofold: to create and distribute the material goods and services necessary to the material wellbeing of the populace, and to create the surplus wealth, and hence the leisure, necessary for the various kinds of cultural endeavors -- music, art, scholarship, sport -- that are the hallmarks of civilization.
Just as important, however, is the moral order. The marks of this order are the existence of various religious, civic and political institutions that shape and restrain individual behavior. Such institutions seek to educate individuals in a variety of moral and intellectual virtues, and to promote regard for the common good. If these institutions are healthy, they promote and sustain a shared sense that the city is not only a marketplace but also a moral community, and that the market exists for the community not the community for the market.
The formal order of the city is what architects typically think about when they think about the city -- the pattern of buildings, squares, streets and sidewalks. Most people intuitively understand the relationship between the formal order of a city and its economic order, because they know it requires economic power to build significant buildings. The relationship between the formal order of a city and its moral order may be less obvious but is no less significant, for every formal order reflects and embodies some moral order (whether it’s admirable or decadent).
The traditional view of the good life in the West is that it is lived in community. In the traditional city, that moral view is embodied in its formal order. A counterpoint to that view is evident in the formal order of the automobile-dependent suburb.
European architect Leon Krier, the most influential traditional urbanist of our time, has compared the traditional urban neighborhood to a slice of pizza. A neighborhood is to the larger city what a slice of the pizza is to the whole pie: the part contains within itself the essential qualifies and elements of the whole.
In the case of a city made of neighborhoods, this means that a neighborhood contains within walkable proximity to one another places to live, work, play, learn and worship. Within the legal boundaries of a postwar suburb, by contrast, the elements of the "pizza" are physically separated and at some distance from one another -- as if the crust is here, the sauce over there, the cheese someplace else and the pepperoni way out yonder. A suburb may have places to live, work, play, learn and worship, but these activities are confined to single-use zones that are typically distant from one another and require access by car through a pedestrian-hostile environment. By analogy, a postwar suburb has all the ingredients (in Aristotelian terms, the material cause) of a pizza, but it is not a pizza precisely because it does not have the form of a pizza. A postwar suburb may contain the ingredients of a city, but it is not a city precisely because it lacks the physical and the social form (the formal cause) of a city.
What are some of the key features of the formal order of traditional towns and cities amid the neighborhoods of which they are constituted? Cities are composed of a private-economic realm and a public-civic realm which are distinguishable but mixed together in close proximity.
City form is made out of blocks of buildings that define a public realm of streets, along with plazas or squares typically fronted by civic buildings or focused on a centralized monument (Figure 3). Plazas are hard-surfaced, while squares are usually green spaces. Plazas are more common in European cities, squares in Anglo-American cities. Neither are common in those parts of America built since 1945.
Virtually all urban streets connect; cul de sacs are rare. Although there is a recognizable hierarchy of streets according to traffic capacity (and hence size), urban streets always accommodate pedestrians. American towns and cities often line their streets with trees; European cities tend to limit trees to boulevards and avenues.
Primary urban streets carry large volumes of car traffic, but unlike suburban arterial streets they have on-street parking, which protects pedestrians, and wide sidewalks, which safely and comfortably accommodate people on foot (Figure 4).
Secondary urban streets are narrow, and usually permit parking on one or both sides (Figure 5). They allow traffic to connect to major streets, but their narrow width requires cars to move slowly, creating an inherently safer pedestrian environment. Lanes or alleys constitute a third kind of street, essentially a service street for garage access, utilities and trash collection.
Private buildings relate to the street in a consistent and disciplined manner (see Figures 4-5), and are used primarily for commerce and for dwelling. Such buildings front and give spatial definition to streets, and often shelter a mix of uses. Buildings used primarily for commerce may also have residences above the ground floor, and buildings primarily intended as residences may also shelter small offices or businesses.
Good towns and city neighborhoods provide a variety of housing types, often (unlike suburbs) on the same block. In addition to various kinds of detached single-family houses, there may be row houses, apartment buildings, coach houses, and apartments located above stores. The consequence of this concentrated mix of housing is that the young and the old, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy, can all find places to live within the neighborhood. Think of the low-rise, high-density character of neighborhoods in Paris, London or Charleston, or any pre-1945 American town or city neighborhood, which are characterized above all by a beautiful, walkable, convenient public realm that more than compensates for their small building parcels. Small ancillary buildings are typically permitted and encouraged within the backyard of each lot. This small building maybe used as a rental unit of housing or as a place to work; it may also be properly regarded as an example of private sector affordable housing.
Schools are within walking distance of the homes of students and teachers.
Good cities provide parks of various sizes throughout neighborhoods for both passive and active recreation.
Prominent sites are reserved for civic buildings and community monuments. Buildings for education, religion, culture, sport and government are sited either at the end of important street vistas or fronting squares or plazas.
Civic, commercial, residential and recreational buildings and uses are located within pedestrian proximity of one another -- typically a five-to-ten-minute (one-quarter-to-one-half-mile) walk, This is the historic physical and anthropological measure of good urban culture. This rule does not presume that everyone who lives in the neighborhood necessarily works in the neighborhood. Nor does it mean that people will or should cease to have cars. It does mean that a significant reduction in car travel is possible, and that residents who are too young, too old, too poor or too infirm to drive a car remain able to live independently within the community.
The formal characteristics of traditional towns and urban neighborhoods are easily learned by attending carefully to the most beloved cities and neighborhoods in the world. Nevertheless, making such neighborhoods today is very hard, not only because we have largely lost the requisite cultural and social habits, but also because in most places zoning laws (which mandate segregated uses) and street design regulations (which are crafted exclusively to make streets efficient for cars rather than also safe for pedestrians) make it literally illegal to build such environments.
Can the art of traditional urban design be renewed? And can we learn once again to be happy in traditional towns and cities -- not only as a moral antidote to individualism, inequality and the misuse of environmental resources, and not only as an aesthetic antidote to suburban sprawl, but also for the sake of the genuine goods and pleasures (including both communal belonging and individual freedom) of traditional urban life? These are the questions that have been taken up over the past ten years by the Congress for New Urbanism.
The CNU includes architects, planners, developers, engineers, government officials and ordinary citizens committed to revitalizing and promoting traditional urbanism. As New Urbanists came to realize that existing zoning ordinances, street design manuals and housing industry practices were all impediments to making traditional towns and neighborhoods, they began developing new kinds of zoning ordinances; found sympathetic traffic engineers to help write a different set of street design standards; renewed the practice of creating high-quality pattern books to guide home-builders; and learned how to persuade lending institutions of the economic advantages of financing traditional neighborhoods. The result is that there are now more than 200 New Urbanist mixed-use projects under construction in the U.S. and throughout the world, and hundreds more being planned (though this remains but a fraction of new construction taking place).
New Urbanism has aroused vocal opposition from both the political left and the political right. For the left, New Urbanists are too closely involved with the marketplace and too content with "conventional" aesthetics. New Urbanism is alleged to be just a prettier version of suburban exclusivity ("Disneyesque" is the preferred term of opprobrium), and out of step with the ironic postmodern zeitgeist. For the right, in particular the libertarians, New Urbanists are too closely allied with government regulatory control.
These criticisms are category mistakes. The fact that both opposition to and support for New Urbanism come from across the political spectrum suggests that current political categories may not apply. New Urbanism is arguably nothing so much as a classic Tocquevillian democratic "association" active primarily at local levels of community and government. New Urbanists work both substantively and procedurally to fight precisely those tendencies toward individualism that Tocqueville recognized as the most serious threat to the culture of democracy, for which free associations of citizens were the primary remedy and of which suburban sprawl is arguably our culture’s foremost physical embodiment.
If the New Urbanism has an Achilles’ heel, it is that its projects do not yet measure up to its own professed objectives. New Urbanist "greenfield" projects in particular -- mixed-use developments built on previously undeveloped land -- for the most part have yet to coalesce into genuine towns and neighborhoods (though given their physical infrastructure and the passage of time they probably will do so, unlike their sprawl counterparts). Moreover, because New Urbanist developments remain rare, and because they have undeniable market appeal, they tend to be expensive.
This discrepancy between the ideals and the reality of New Urbanism is due in part to the fact that New Urbanist proposals to date are mostly being pitched to and driven by the housing market. While it is impossible for New Urbanist projects to succeed outside the market, it is clear -- even to New Urbanists -- that the ideal of mixed-use, walkable and above all economically and generationally diverse human settlements will not be realized solely by market forces.
Since good towns and cities manifest and promote a moral order as well as an economic order, churches obviously have an interest in the form of cities and a potentially important role to play in the revival of traditional urbanism. It is worth noting that that New Urbanists derive their ideas about public space and formal order in large part from traditional cities in which churches and their ancillary institutions have been key players. Church communities continue to erect buildings -- for worship, for education, for health care, for dwelling -- that are potentially important components of traditional neighborhoods. Moreover, churches are a kind of community in which at least in principle (unlike in suburbia) membership is not primarily a function of class or age. The church therefore would seem to have much to offer the New Urbanist enterprise out of its own long intellectual and spiritual traditions -- not least a serious and sophisticated view of human nature and human community, a pastoral mandate to serve rich and poor, and a long history of urban and architectural patronage.
At the same time, the lessons about place and character that the New Urbanists are relearning are lessons that churches also need to relearn. All too often churches unthinkingly comply with the cultural presuppositions of suburban sprawl. This compliance is evident in new church buildings located in the midst of large surface parking lots; in the frequent attempts by older neighborhood churches to tear down adjacent buildings to provide parking for a suburban constituency; in well-meaning but misconceived programs that create housing for the elderly or low-income persons as concentrated enclaves rather than components of walkable mixed-use neighborhoods; and in their almost complete indifference to the aesthetics of a shared public realm.
What can churches do both to save and be saved, urban-istically speaking? Churches could assume a more significant role in neighborhood building by rethinking church development procedures in at least two areas. The first has to do with the size of new churches. Many new evangelical megachurches and Roman Catholic parish churches are so big as to be intrinsically anti-urban. A new church building required to seat more than about 700 people will almost inevitably be situated in a parking lot rather then amid a walkable neighborhood -- and that’s a problem for urbanism.
The second, related area has to do with land use. A new suburban church complex typically occupies six to 15 acres on which will be located a church building, perhaps an associated school and a surface parking lot -- and that’s it! In contrast, my own Chicago parish church and elementary school are located on two city blocks that together take up ten acres, but those blocks include -- in addition to the church and school -- over 100 dwelling units in a variety of buildings two-to-three stories tall, more than 15 businesses, and nearly 200 on- and off-street parking spaces for the public. My parish church is a genuine neighborhood center, in contrast to new suburban churches, which function (in terms of formal order) as the center of parking lots.
Of course, new suburban churches don’t have to promote densities at the scale of a Chicago neighborhood in order to promote better human settlements. Figure 6 shows how a 700-seat church and a 400 student elementary school (with a gym) could occupy a ten-acre parcel of land that could also accommodate some small-town-sized single-family building lots, a block of row houses fronting a plaza and a public square, and a short block of mixed-use buildings fronting the square. With accessory buildings (coach houses with garages below and a small living or work space above) permitted on the single-family house lots, this design makes room for 41 private development parcels, allowing up to 70 dwelling units and four ground-floor shops; off-street parking for 82 cars; on-street and plaza public parking for 216 cars; and additional Sunday parking available for up to 90 more cars on the perimeter lanes of the property. The parcel is also laid out to allow street connections to future development adjacent to the property.
A development approach such as this also has the potential to help congregations finance their building projects by forming partnerships with developers to build the non-church portion. (It is also likely to require a change in the local zoning ordinance -- but there are plenty of good New Urbanist designers around to assist congregations and parishes in this endeavor.)
For such a project a congregation need not presume that all members will live in the adjacent homes, or that everyone who lives in the adjacent units will be a member of the church. Nor would such a development in any way constitute a complete neighborhood. But it could be the nucleus of a complete neighborhood, one which has a church community at its enter, and the potential to promote growth in an urban rather than suburban sprawl pattern (much as the most beautiful parts of contemporary London grew in the 17th and 18th centuries around small residential-square developments). This model is only suggestive, of course; there are many legitimate strategies for how church communities might come to promote and reclaim a better physical presence in the earthly city.
I have been arguing that good cities are an essential component of the good life for human beings, who are made in the image of God, and that urbanism -- for good reason -- is a privileged symbol in the Christian imagination. Post-World War II suburban sprawl is the antithesis of good urbanism. To the extent that we Christians simply accept the premises of suburban culture, we compromise both the substance of our faith and the effectiveness of our evangelical efforts. Churches will better contribute both to the good of the City of Man and to our witness to the City of God by promoting the formal order of traditional urbanism.
Professor of Architecture
The New Urbanism:From Aristotle and God to Baseball
Local Liberty interviewed architect and author Philip Bess on the moral, aesthetic, and political significance of the new urbanist movement. Bess is author of Inland Architecture: Subterranean Essays on Moral Order and Formal Order in Chicago and City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks. He teaches at Andrews University; his Chicago architecture firm is Thursday Architects.
LL: Why has the New Urbanism—please define this movement—been so attractive to a fairly broad spectrum of people? What does this say about the failure of the prevalent urban architecture and planning?
PB: This is not an entirely uncontroversial definition, but New Urbanism is really nothing more than traditional urbanism advocated and pursued in the legal and cultural context of post-WWII sprawl. The essence of traditional urbanism—and inter alia, of New Urbanism—is entirely Aristotelian (in reality if not necessarily theory): the city [polis] is a community of communities that exists to promote the best life possible for its citizens, both individually and collectively. Hence, this view of cities assumes that the best human life necessarily entails both individual freedom and communal belonging and obligation, and recognizes both of these as goods necessary for the good life for human beings. Nevertheless, it has also been
recognized that these goods also exist in tension, and each is subject to corruption: freedom can become license; communal belonging and obligation can become tyranny. So the first point about New Urbanism (in contrast to the view that has grown since the rise of the Industrial City from the mid-18th century and now prevails in much of contemporary culture) is that it views urbanism positively, as something that human beings will naturally do in order to live a good life.
The second point is that traditional urbanism has recognizable formal characteristics that are directly related to the physiology and comfort of the human person, viz.: a mix of uses—housing, commercial, civic, recreational—arranged within easy walking distance (about a half-mile diameter,which translates as a ten-minute walk from edge to edge, and a five-minute walk from center to edge) in networks of streets and blocks that form a public realm of squares, streets, and civic buildings, and a private realm of houses and commercial buildings (and frequently buildings that combine both of these private functions in one, on different floors). Such a formal environment—approximately 150 acres—is about the size of the smallest communities that Aristotle would have recognized as a polis; and is the size both of what we would recognize as a small town or an urban quarter or neighborhood, larger towns and cities being made up of lesser or greater accumulations of these mixed-use neighborhoods. This is the pattern of all great cities and small towns in Europe and the United States; and has its analogues in non-Western cultures as well.
New Urbanists view modern transportation technologies as extenders of the freedom of human beings, but not as replacements for the traditional mixed-use formal order of town/neighborhood/city. Now the reality of post-WWII sprawl culture is this: that it has through its zoning ordinances and street design regulations made illegal the creation of mixeduse traditional urban environments that before 1945 were both legally and culturally normative. Thus what is new about New Urbanism is its promotion of traditional urbanism—not uninformed by the positive technological achievements of modern society—in the legal and cultural context of sprawl.
Why is this so attractive to so many people? There are no doubt many reasons; but I will suggest it is due in no small part to the fact that good traditional urban neighborhoods are both convenient and beautiful, whereas sprawl suburbs (as opposed to, say, 19th century railroad suburbs, which are formally just another version of traditional small towns) are typically both inconvenient and ugly; and that traditional urban neighborhoods really are conducive to common life and the common good, while at the same time affording individuals as much privacy and even anonymity as they like. It is freeing (and even more importantly, good) to be able to perform daily tasks in a beautiful environment that can be traversed without the necessity of an automobile for each of those separate tasks. And there is a reason why words like "civility," "polite," "polished," and "urbane" are all derived from root words meaning "city," which is that for most people throughout most of human history urban life really has been and is the way of life most conducive to human well-being.
As to what this says about the failure of modern planning: it has to be understood that modern planning is first of all a reflection of the positivist and Cartesian bureaucratic sensibilities that characterize the modern world; and second of all that it has been implemented not by market forces alone (or even primarily) but rather by post-war governmental housing and transportation policies that favored sprawl development over traditional urban development.
That said, it is undeniable that these policies had and continue to have significant popular (and hence political) appeal; and I attribute this to one of the darker cultural tendencies of the general good of democratic politics, which is that democracies of their very nature tend to encourage what Tocqueville famously identified as "individualism" (of which sprawl is precisely the physical embodiment), which he correctly recognized as a corrosive threat to democracy itself; and about which I will say a little more below.
LL: Is there something peculiarly American about the New Urbanism, and how would you relate it to American political and social traditions? We certainly see architectural and design atrocities abroad—what about good ideas for us?
PB: There is in my opinion something peculiarly American indeed about New Urbanism; and it goes directly back to Tocqueville's observations about American tendencies to individualism and how Americans tend to pursue matters of the common good and in the process fight this individualist tendency: through free associations.The CNU is derided by critics from the left as tools of market interests, and by critics from the right as harbingers of Big Government; but New Urbanists are nothing if not a classic Tocquevillian association formed and impressively organized to promote the virtues of traditional urbanism. Jennifer Hurley, a fellow New Urbanist private sector planner from Philadelphia, recently described succinctly and eloquently the way that New Urbanists work:
New Urbanists have developed a methodology for dealing with obstacles: co-opt specialized fields, look to history, and develop new solutions....
When New Urbanists had trouble getting good places built because of rules by traffic
engineers, they learned basic traffic engineering, found sympathetic traffic engineers to become New Urban road design experts, and re-wrote the standards. When New Urbanists were disappointed in the quality of built places, they looked to history and renewed the practice of using pattern books to guide builders. When municipal officials refused to approve new urban developments because they did not meet zoning codes, New Urbanists developed entirely new kinds of codes.
And sociologist David Brain notes another feature of the practical consequences of New Urbanist efforts to build community consensus by means of the intensive public design workshops known among New Urbanists as "charrettes":
[T]he New Urbanism represents a fascinating and pragmatic effort...to re-build the
public sphere by way of re-creating the techniques of place-making. It's actually a perfect reversal of the trajectory of technical specialization, bureaucratization, and modernist statebuilding that has taken place since the Progressive era, quite in line...with the contemporary convergence between certain left wing political theory and the revival of interest in civic republicanism. [Of interest to the social theorist] is that New Urbanist practice represents a tangible and practical manifestation of what have been little more than broad notions and wishful thinking among some political theorists.
This convergence across political lines occasions interesting methodological debates
among New Urbanists; but is in fact a good and salutary thing in that it underscores how New Urbanists themselves embody one of the essential features of traditional urban life, viz.: the city as a community that embraces debate about its common life as essential to the vitality to the community itself. Critics may deride New Urbanists as just another "special interest group;" but the New Urbanist point is that the city is precisely that larger community that embraces all "special interests" and attempts (literally) to civilize them.
As to "architectural and design atrocities abroad": the culture of modern architecture is largely in intellectual, academic, and professional disarray on both sides of the Atlantic; and sprawl is not one of our better American cultural exports. As a largely but not exclusively American phenomenon, New Urbanists tend to take as our preferred models for American contexts the best cities and small towns of America: Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Charleston, Savannah, Annapolis, Cooperstown, Nantucket, Key West, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, etc.—though I would hasten to add that virtually any place in America that has an intact pre-1945 neighborhood or town center could serve as such a model. But the issues at stake with regard to American cultural exports (including sprawl) include not only
political freedom—a great good—but also the goods (including communal goods) toward and in service to which that political freedom is to be directed. Many Americans cease our philosophical commitments with the advocacy of freedom, but we shouldn't stop there. New Urbanists are pressing the question about what really are the best ways to order the public realm; and are doing so as responsible citizens in the context of democratic political processes of self-government.
LL: What are the principal promises and pitfalls you see in the New Urbanism? Does it necessarily require more or less government regulation? What are their best ideas, their worst?
PB: The principal promise of New Urbanism is that it will succeed in helping to create a cultural (and following that a political and legal) climate for traditional urbanism in the United States.The principal pitfall is if New Urbanists think that this goal will be accomplished quickly; or if they think it can be achieved simply by making better physical environments (and a legal environment in which they are permitted), which is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for good urbanism. The danger is if New Urbanism is satisfied simply to occupy a specific market niche—which I suspect a refined and sophisticated real estate market would be only too happy to supply—and becomes just another aesthetic choice for that class of people that can afford to buy a living environment as art.This would be tantamount to a retreat from the issues of communitybuilding and justice and environmental responsibility that are so prominent in the New Urbanists' own founding Charter.
The reality is that there is a reciprocal relationship between cultural character and the physical environment. "We shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us," said Winston Churchill famously; and, I might add, vice versa. Sprawl is a (perhaps unintended) flower of a long modernizing cultural process that has produced great goods for the United States and the world; but a process that has also produced a kind of therapeutic individualism that formidable and sympathetic (and culturally conservative) contemporary thinkers like Philip Rieff, Alasdair MacIntyre, Christopher Lasch, Daniel Bell, and others have aptly characterized as an impossible and incoherent culture. There's no reason I can see to think that a revival of communal sensibility—and eo ipso, of urban culture—is not a long term cultural
project that will require both all the communal cultural resources at our disposal (especially Tocquevillian/American free associations, including churches: see below) and careful attention to that balance between communal obligation and individual freedom that has always been the ideal of the mainstream Western political tradition.
Regarding the need for more or less government regulation: the paradox of the New Urbanist political agenda—and given our current cultural situation, it's a necessary paradox—is that the urban and architectural order of the great cities of the past was largely a consequence of shared cultural habits of city-building. There were laws and codes; but these tended to be minimal. Those traditional city-building cultural habits have been lost, and replaced by a modernist/positivist/ bureaucratic structure of law that over the past two-to-three generations itself has engendered a new set of cultural habits. The paradox of New Urbanism is that what it seeks is to relearn and restore the habits of good urbanism; but that in order to do that, it must first change the legal environment to make traditional urbanism even possible. (Again, changing
the current legal environment is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good urbanism.) So the New Urbanists of necessity DO stress the need to establish a regulatory environment conducive to good urbanism. But the way that New Urbanists in fact press this agenda is not in the "top down" manner that its critics claim, but in fact is exactly the opposite.
The New Urbanists, primarily through the charrette process, seek above all to build local consensus in specific places on behalf of good urbanism; and then to fight the larger existing prohibitive legal structure with specific alternatives for which there exists a significant political constituency—i.e., New Urbanism is arguably democracy in action! And if New Urbanists also succeed in getting some larger regulatory framework changed to become more sympathetic to traditional urbanism?
Well, that too seems to me part of the workings of democracy, and consistent with the recognition that what new Urbanists are trying to change is the culture.
As to the best ideas of New Urbanism? Well, as a traditional urbanist (and looking at the CNU Charter), I have yet to see the CNU as an organization officially embrace a bad idea; and they have a very good track record of either fashioning good responses to the arguments of their critics, or of embracing those arguments and incorporating them into their own critique of the culture of sprawl. As to the worst of their ideas? There is a kind of default secularist liberalism evident among some my urbanist confreres; but this seems to me more attributable to the mental habits common to those on the left than to anything inherent in New Urbanism itself.
LL: What should be the place of churches and other religious institutions in New Urbanist thinking?
PB: I think religious institutions should be of great importance to New Urbanism as part of a vital civic realm.The formal order of towns and cities also manifest and promote both a moral order and an economic order, so churches clearly have an interest in the form of cities and a potentially important role to play in the revival of traditional urbanism. It is worth noting that that New Urbanists derive their ideas about public space and formal order in large part from traditional cities in which churches and their ancillary institutions have been key players. Church communities continue to erect buildings—for worship, for education, for health care, for dwelling—that are potentially important components of traditional neighborhoods. Moreover, churches are a kind of community in which at least in principle (unlike suburbia) membership is not primarily a function of class or age. Religious communities therefore would seem to have much to offer the New Urbanist enterprise out of their own specific intellectual and spiritual traditions—not least (in the case of Judaism and Christianity) a serious and sophisticated view of human nature and human community, a pastoral mandate to rich and poor, and (in the case of Christianity) a long history of urban and architectural patronage.
At the same time, the lessons about place and character that the New Urbanists are relearning are lessons that many religious communities also need to relearn. All too often religious communities unthinkingly comply with the cultural presuppositions of suburban sprawl.This compliance is evident in new religious buildings located in the midst of large surface parking lots; in the frequent attempts by older neighborhood churches or synagogues to tear down adjacent buildings to provide parking for a suburban constituency; in well-meaning but misconceived programs that create housing for elderly or low-income persons as concentrated enclaves rather than components of walkable mixed-use neighborhoods; and in their almost complete indifference to the aesthetics of a shared public realm.
The First Amendment guarantees of nonestablishment and free exercise have historically provided ample room for physical expressions of religious faith in the civic realm; and to the extent that New Urbanists are serious about the trans-generational and inclusive character of cities as an ideal, religious institutions should be seen and should see themselves as allies.
LL: The EPA has an office of "Smart Growth." Good or bad idea?
PB: This is a tough one. Why the EPA rather than the Department of the Interior or HUD? The Charter for the New Urbanism in its first article says that "The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society's built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge."
So implicit in the New Urbanist view of things is that the bureaucratic division of these issues is an inadequate response to the inherent inter-related complexity of the problems. That said, I think New Urbanists are generally happy to leverage whatever kind of political influence they can in order to forward their agenda.
I am not enough of a scientist or ecologist to claim competence on issues such as "environmental protection" or the virtues of biodiversity. New Urbanists are adamant in opposing radical environmentalist suggestions or claims that all species have rights except human beings. But although New Urbanists are interested above all in creating human habitats, they recognize that human beings have an interest in not fouling the natural environment; an interest in environmental "sustainability' if you will. And there is a clear potential convergence of Conservationist and New Urbanist agendas in this respect: preservation of the natural and/or agricultural landscape is better promoted by compact human settlements with distinct boundaries between the settlement and the landscape (i.e., by traditional towns and cities) than by suburban sprawl; and the former are also both more convenient for their inhabitants and generally more attractive places to live. This raises the issue of to what extent it should be public policy to promote traditional urbanism in lieu of sprawl (and vice versa); and at what levels of government such public policy should be pursued.
At present, it would be a major achievement for the New Urbanists to be able to compete on a level legal playing field; and most New Urbanist objectives are pursued at local rather than state or federal levels of government. But there are major issues—open land conservation and transportation (whether cars or alternatives such as rail) in particular—that are at least regional and arguably national in scope. I am as occasionally frustrated by bureaucratic administration as anybody; and I'm willing to entertain alternative suggestions for addressing at regional and national levels issues pertaining to the common good. But there are issues—and land use issues are among them—that do pertain to "the general welfare," and that therefore need to be identified and addressed as such. Should that be done through the EPA? I don't know....
LL: Philip, you have written quite a bit about baseball stadiums. Is the desire for old-style baseball parks (Jacobs Field, Coors Field, and Camden Yards, for example) related to New Urbanism?
PB: I think so, but only indirectly. I've tried for almost twenty years (and with only varying degrees of success) to use baseball parks to make an argument on behalf of architecture and urbanism. The argument goes something like this: the primary symbolic import of architecture is not as an emblem of its "age" or its structural "honesty," but rather as a symbol of its commissioning institution; and ultimately, of the legitimate authority of the community represented by that institution. I've chosen to focus upon ballparks as an example of this once intuitively understood but now largely forgotten sensibility because there truly is a "community of baseball" of which baseball parks are and remain tangible architectural symbols. Nevertheless, the community of professional baseball is now in my opinion every bit as disarrayed as the community of architecture; and stadiums have become weapons wielded by the professional sports industry to extort public monies that are justified by both the sports industry and public agencies by appeals to what remains of this communal sensibility about and affection for baseball and other sports.
That's my one-paragraph critique of the stadium boom of the fifteen years. To the extent that stadiums such as Camden Yards, Jacobs Field, and Coors Field are located in urban rather than suburban locations, I think this is an improvement over the generation of stadia that were built in the 1960s and 70s. But there are two huge differences between the former and the ballparks such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park that they are supposedly emulating. First,Wrigley and Fenway are both much smaller in scale (and hence more intimate) than the newest generation of urban stadia. Second (and more importantly),Wrigley and Fenway are located in traditional mixed-use neighborhoods, whereas the new downtown stadia are located where they are to be a destination component of a downtown "entertainment zone." In other words, the former were (and are) components of traditional urban neighborhoods. The latter still reflect the suburban cultural bias that cities are good places in which to be entertained, but only poor people and chumps would actually live there. But I take it as evidence of the truth of the New Urbanist thesis that 1) Wrigley and Fenway arguably remain the two most popular venues not only in baseball but in all of professional sports; and 2) the value of residential and commercial real estate in their neighborhoods is very high and continues to appreciate. Good urban neighborhoods are expensive; and the reason is because people like living in them. The way to make traditional urbanism less expensive is to make it less rare.
LL: Thanks very much, we look forward to future contributions to Local Liberty.
Two responses at the Claremont Institute: 1, 2
Campus Magazine review of his book Till We Have Built Jerusalem.
Cathedrals for a New Century: Church Architecture at the Beginning of the Third Millennium
New Urbanism and Communities of Faith
Professor of Architecture, Andrews University and
Principal of Thursday Architects in Chicago, Illinois
Feeding the world sustainably
Gar Lipow, Gristmill
I'm going to suggest reasons to go beyond plain old organic farming in a moment.
But it turns out that even conventional organic farming could feed more people
than our current industrial system. Normally, when people measure land use for organic
farming they look at the rich nations, and note that rich nations on average can
grow less per acre via organic means than with conventional ones. (It turns out
that the difference is smaller than we thought, though -- about 20 percent.)
Oddly enough, the author does not discuss the dependence of the industrial system on oil, and whether an organic alternative would really be able to yield as much world-wide. Check out his "Super Adobe."
Self-sufficiency on a balcony
Jackie French, Sydney Morning Herald
Jakub Olesiak, WorldChanging
Experts may have found what's bugging the bees
Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II, LA Times
A fungus that hit hives in Europe and Asia may be partly to blame for wiping out colonies across the U.S
A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday.
Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.
But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."
Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country - as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.
N. ceranae is "one of many pathogens" in the bees, said entomologist Diana Cox-Foster of Pennsylvania State University. "By itself, it is probably not the culprit … but it may be one of the key players."
(26 April 2007)
by Robert Zubrin
Alas, what does he advocate instead? Ethanol and methanol.
Also from the current issue of The New Atlantis:
THE LANGUAGE OF NATURE
by Steve Talbott
Modern science strives to explain the world by draining it of qualities and context, and so risks denying human experience and consciousness, and offering us only grammar and no meaning. But we cannot have a purely grammatical understanding of anything; we cannot have explanation without a content that somehow speaks. Steve Talbott argues that the only adequate science is inescapably a science of the Word.
by Philip J. Overby
Paul McHugh helped psychiatry shrug off Freudian psychoanalysis, and worked to integrate the findings of neuroscience with psychiatry—carving out a discipline that attempts to account for both mind and brain. Philip J. Overby considers the great psychiatrist’s career, his beliefs, and his humanism.
Jeff Culbreath posts a documentary of the monastery
Excavations at St Nicholas Chapel, Papa Stronsay, Orkney: an internet diary
I don't think they are in full communion with Rome, they are supposedly affiliated with the SSPX, but I can't find any information that would answer this question at their main website.
Jesus in Golgotha
Theophanes the Cretan (Kris)
Icon, Middle of the 16th century
Archbishop Chaput on the Common Good
"More Than a Political Slogan"
WYNNEWOOD, Pennsylvania, APRIL 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the lecture presented April 21 by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver at the conference "Promoting and Protecting the Common Good."
The conference was held at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, and organized by the John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology. It is printed here with the permission of the Krol Chair.
The speech was also published on the Web site of First Things.
* * *
Religion and the Common Good
Sooner or later, every teacher hears the same old joke about the philosophy student and his dad.
The dad asks, "Son, what are you going to do with that goofy degree?" And the son says, "I'm going to open a philosophy shop and make big money selling ideas." I smile every time I hear it, because nobody yet has figured out how to get rich off the Sartre or Kierkegaard or Friedrich Nietzsche franchise. Or that's what I thought until a couple of weeks ago, when a friend of mine came back from a local bookstore with a bag full of Nietzsche's Will to Power Bars.
You'll remember that Nietzsche first claimed that God was dead. Then he went insane. Then he argued that he was God himself. Now he has his own candy bar. In fact, the wrapper not only claims to be filled with "chocolaty goodness," but also to be "the official nutritional supplement of the superman." Unfortunately, the wrapper also urges us to "think beyond good and evil," so I'm not sure it's telling the truth.
The company that makes these candy bars is the Unemployed Philosophers Guild. It was started by a couple of academics who couldn't get a job. The guild also makes a Franz Kafka finger puppet and a "Here's Looking at Euclid" T-shirt. It also makes the Karl Marx Little Thinker beanie doll, and Impeachmints, the anti-George Bush breath sweetener. In the words of the company founders, "It turned out that making smart, funny things proved to be almost as satisfying as probing eternal questions.... [And] although we still contemplate truth and justice, it is our enduring goal to fulfill the materialistic desires of the funny and sophisticated everywhere."
I don't know if Nietzsche himself would endorse these bars. Given his mental state at the end of his life, I'm not sure he'd care. But he did have a ruthless sense of humor. Nietzsche might enjoy the fact that he's exactly the kind of thinker young college men now quote to impress young college women. He has some of the same rebel appeal that Milton gave to Lucifer and Goethe gave to Mephistopheles. He's bold. He's radical. And the fact that he also went mad adds just the right touch of drama. In other words, he makes a great cultural icon for Americans to eat as a candy bar, because most Americans will never read a word of what he actually said.
The trouble is, once upon a time, some people in Germany did read him. And they did take him seriously. And they acted on what he said. Ideas have consequences. When Nietzsche asks us on the back of a Will to Power candy bar, "Is man merely a mistake of God's, or God merely a mistake of man?" we Americans can swallow our chocolate along with our Starbuck's and grin at the irony from the comfort of 2007. Sixty years ago, no one would have gotten the joke. There was nothing funny about the Holocaust. Ideas have consequences.
That brings us to our topic. When Cardinal Justin Rigali first invited me to talk about religion and the common good some months ago, I accepted for two simple reasons. First, I'm tired of the Church and her people being told to be quiet on public issues that urgently concern us. And second, I'm tired of Catholics themselves being silent because of some misguided sense of good manners. Self-censorship is an even bigger sin than allowing ourselves to be bullied by outsiders.
Only one question really matters. Does God exist or not? If he does, that has implications for every aspect of our personal and public behavior: all of our actions, all of our choices, all of our decisions. If God exists, denying him in our public life -- whether we do it explicitly like Nietzsche or implicitly by our silence -- cannot serve the common good because it amounts to worshiping the unreal in the place of the real.
Religious believers built this country. Christians played a leading role in that work. This is a fact, not an opinion. Our entire framework of human rights is based on a religious understanding of the dignity of the human person as a child of his or her Creator. Nietzsche once said that "convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies." But that's false. Not even he believed that, or he couldn't have written a single book.
In fact, the opposite is often true. Convictions can be the seeds of truth incarnated in a person's individual will. The right kinds of convictions guide us forward. They give us meaning. Not acting on our convictions is cowardice. As Catholics we need to live our convictions in the public square with charity and respect for others, but also firmly, with courage and without apology. Anything less is a form of theft from the moral witness we owe to the public discussion of issues. We can never serve the common good by betraying who we are as believers or compromising away what we hold to be true.
Unfortunately, I think the current American debate over religion and the public square has much deeper roots than the 2006 or 2004 elections, or even John Kennedy or the Second Vatican Council. A crisis of faith and action for Christians has been growing for many years in Western society. It's taken longer to have an impact here in the United States because we're younger as a nation than the countries in Europe, and we've escaped some of Europe's wars and worst social and religious struggles.
But Americans now face the same growing spiritual illness that Tolkien, Chesterton, Christopher Dawson, Romano Guardini and C.S. Lewis all wrote about in the last century. It's a loss of hope and purpose that comes from the loss of an interior life and a living faith. It's a loss that we can only make bearable by creating a culture of material comfort that feeds -- and feeds off of -- personal selfishness. And no one understood this better than Georges Bernanos.
Most of us remember Bernanos for his novels, especially "The Diary of a Country Priest" and "Under Satan's Sun." Some of us may remember that he was one of the major European Catholic writers to reject the Franco uprising in Spain. He spent the Second World War in South America out of disgust with European politics, both right and left. He didn't have a sentimental bone in his body. He criticized Catholic politicians, Church leaders and average Catholics in the pew with the same and sometimes very funny relish. But he loved the Church, and he believed in Jesus Christ. And exactly 60 years ago, in 1946 and 1947, he gave a final series of lectures that predicted where our civilization would end up today with complete clarity. Regnery published the lectures in English in 1955 as "The Last Essays of Georges Bernanos." I hope you'll read them for yourselves. They're outstanding.
Bernanos had an unblinkered vision of the "signs of the times." Remember that just after the Second World War, France had a revival of Catholicism. Recovering from a global conflict and the Holocaust, the world in general and France in particular seemed to turn back -- briefly -- to essentials. It was during that hopeful season that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council gave us "Gaudium et Spes."
But Bernanos always saw the problems beneath the veneer. He wasn't fooled by the apparent revival of Catholic France. And so his work is a great corrective to the myth that our moral confusion started in the 1960s. As Bernanos makes clear, our problems began with the machine age -- the industrial revolution -- but not simply because of machines. They were the fruit of a "de-spiritualization" that had been going on for some time.
Bernanos argues that the optimism of the modern West is a kind of whistling past the graveyard. The Christian virtue of hope, he reminds us, is a hard and strong thing that disciplines and "perfects" human appetites. It has nothing to do with mere optimism. Real Christian hope comes into play as the obstacles to human happiness seem to grow higher.
Bernanos takes it upon himself to show us just how high the obstacles to real human freedom have become, even in liberal democracies. He argues that our modern optimism is a veneer over a despair bred by our greed and materialism. We try to fool ourselves that everything will turn out for the best, despite all the evidence to the contrary -- crime, terrorism, disease, poverty -- and we even concoct a myth of inevitable progress to shore up our optimism. American optimism in particular -- Bernanos refers to the United States bitterly as "the Rome, the Mecca, the holiest sanctuary of this civilization" -- is really only the eager restlessness of unsatisfied appetites.
Two themes dominate these last essays by Bernanos. The first is man's eagerness to abolish, forget or rewrite his own history in favor of determinisms like liberal capitalism, which makes society nothing more than a market system, and Marxism. For Bernanos, the attack on human memory and history is a primary mark of the antichrist.
As Bernanos explains it, big ideological systems "mechanize" history with high-sounding language like progress and dialectics. But in doing so, they wipe out the importance of both the past -- which they describe as primitive, unenlightened or counterrevolutionary -- and the present, which is not yet the paradise of tomorrow. The future is where salvation is to be found for every ideology that tries to eliminate God, whether it's explicitly atheistic or pays lip service to religious values. Of course, this future never arrives, because progress never stops and the dialectic never ends.
Christianity and Judaism see life very differently. For both of them, history is a place of human decision. At every moment of our lives, we're asked to choose for good or for evil. Therefore, time has weight. It has meaning. The present is vitally important as the instant that will never come again; the moment where we are not determined by outside forces but self-determined by our free will. Our past actions make us who we are today. But each "today" also offers us another chance to change our developing history. The future is the fruit of our past and present choices, but it's always unknown, because each successive moment presents us with a new possibility.
Time and freedom are the raw material of life because time is the realm of human choice. Bernanos reminds us that the antichrist wants us to think that freedom really doesn't exist because when we fail to choose, when we slide through life, we in effect choose for him. Time is the Devil's enemy. He lives neither in the eternity of God nor the realm of man. Satan has made his choice against God and he is forever fixed in that choice. But as long as man lives in time, which is the realm of change, man may still choose in favor of God. And of course, God is always offering the help of his grace to do just that. If the Devil can sell us the idea that history is a single, determined mechanism, if humanity's freedom of will can be forgotten or denied, then man will drift, and the antichrist will win.
Incidentally, if he were alive today, Bernanos might throw an interesting light on the language of the abortion debate. When we examine "pro-choice" vocabulary, it really isn't about choice at all. Instead, it's phrased in terms of "what choice did I have?" "I couldn't choose not to have sex." "I couldn't choose not to kill the child." "You have no right to expect more from me; I had to have an abortion, and so I had a right to do it." In the abortion debate, pro-choice means agreeing to the fiction that nobody really had a choice. As for the Devil, rapid technological change very much serves his purposes in any bioethical debate by helping us believe that only the future matters and that there isn't time to consider fundamental questions.
Just a hundred years ago our material lives were not all that different from what they had been a thousand years before. Men walked and rode and tilled and sold. Suddenly, things have changed more in 100 years than they had in the previous 5,000. And we expect things to be different tomorrow from what they are today. What Bernanos says in his essays about the atomic bomb, we could say today about the technological tsunami that engulfs and submerges our lives. To a consumer culture that says we're essentially animals and smart monkeys incapable of restraint, technology has now given the most dangerous machines. Can they have come from God? Bernanos doesn't seem to think so.
One of my favorite passages from Frank Sheed is this:
"It's incredible how long science has succeeded in keeping men's minds off their fundamental unhappiness and its own very limited power to remedy their fundamental unhappiness. One marvel follows another -- electric light, phonograph, motor car, telephone, radio, airplane, television. It's a curious list, and very pathetic. The soul of man is crying for hope of purpose or meaning; and the scientist says, 'Here is a telephone' or 'Look, television!' -- exactly as one tries to distract a baby crying for its mother by offering it sugar sticks and making funny faces."
The tidal wave of our toys, from iPods to the internet, is equally effective in getting us to ignore history and ignore our own emptiness.
The struggle for real human freedom depends upon the struggle for human history. Unlike the ideologies that deny the importance of the past and the present and focus on the illusions of a perfect future, Christianity sees the most important moments of the human story to be the past event of the Incarnation and the present moment of my individual opportunity to love.
The Catholic faith is grounded in what God has done. Our love is what we choose to do now, and our hope is founded in God's past acts of love and our present ones. Without history, there is no Christianity. So the fundamental question, for Bernanos, is "whether history is the story of mankind or merely of technology." Modern man must be convinced again that he is free, that he can really choose in this moment of time between very different paths to very different futures. In the act of choosing, we regain history as our own.
But part of the reasoning needed to convince man of his freedom must include reaffirming sacred history. And that must include remembering and retelling the fundamental choices made by Adam and Eve and Mary and Jesus and all the intermediate choices for or against God in that history. In hearing our Catholic faith narrated, it becomes recognizable as a history of choice, leading us to the present moment of choice, right here and right now. So the first requirement in regaining human freedom is to regain human history, to tell the human story as a chronicle of free will.
For Bernanos, the act of remembering the love of God and the history of our salvation begins the only kind of revolution that matters. In the words of Bernanos, "It is a question of starting tomorrow, or even today, a revolution of liberty which will essentially also be an explosion of spiritual forces in the world, comparable to the one that occurred 2,000 years ago -- in fact, the same."
That revolution, the same revolution that "occurred 2,000 years ago" is already underway in every Catholic believer who confesses passionately and unapologetically -- in his private life and in her public witness -- that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God, the messiah of Israel and the only savior of the world.
Every other lens we use for understanding the human story, whether we choose economics or gender or Darwin or race or something else, will ultimately lie to us about who we are. And of course, we also lie to ourselves. In her short story "Greenleaf," Flannery O'Connor once wrote about a widow called Mrs. May, who owned a large dairy farm and who thought faith should be a very private matter. O'Connor described her this way:
"Mrs. May winced. She thought the word, Jesus, should be kept inside the church building like other words inside the bedroom. She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true."
If Mrs. May sounds familiar from daily life, she should. The deepest tragedy of our age is how many of our own Catholic people who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, really don't prove it in the way they live their lives -- and don't like the inconvenience of being asked to prove it.
The "common good" is more than a political slogan. It's more than what most people think they want right now. It's not a matter of popular consensus or majority opinion. It can't be reduced to economic justice or social equality or better laws or civil rights, although all these things are vitally important to a healthy society.
The common good is what best serves human happiness in the light of what is real and true. That's the heart of the matter: What is real and true? If God exists, then the more man flees from God, the less true and real man becomes. If God exists, then a society that refuses to acknowledge or publicly talk about God is suffering from a peculiar kind of insanity.
What can the "common good" mean in the context of Nietzsche's Superman or Marx or Freud or Darwin? These men became the architects of our age. But they were also just the latest expressions of a much deeper and more familiar temptation to human pride. We want to be gods, but we're not. When we try to be, we diminish ourselves.
That's our dilemma. That's the punishment we create for ourselves. There's a terrible humor in a man who claims that God is dead, then starts believing he's Dionysius or Jesus Christ, and then ends up on a candy bar made by out-of-work philosophers for middle-class consumers who just want some "chocolaty goodness."
Humility is the beginning of sanity. We can't love anyone else until we can see past ourselves. And man can't even be man without God. The humility to recognize who we are as creatures, who God is as our Father, what God asks from each of us, and the reality of God's love for other human persons as well as ourselves -- this is the necessary foundation that religion brings to every discussion of free will, justice and truth, and to every conversation about "the common good." Sirach and Psalms and the Gospel of Luke and the Letter of James -- these Scriptures move the human heart not because they're beautiful writings. They're beautiful writings because they spring from what we know in our hearts to be true.
Bernanos once said that, "the world will be saved only by free men. We must make a world for free men." He also said that prudence -- or rather, the kind of caution and fear that too often pose as prudence -- is the one piece of advice he never followed. "When trouble is looking for you," he said, "it's primarily a question of facing it, since it would be still more dangerous to turn your back on it. In that case, prudence is only the alibity of the cowardly."
Brothers, we most truly serve the common good by having the courage to be disciples of Jesus Christ. God gave us a free will, but we need to use it. Discipleship has a cost. Jesus never said that we didn't need a spine. The world doesn't need affirmation. It needs conversion. It doesn't need the approval of Catholics. It needs their witness. And that work needs to begin with us. Bernanos said that the "scandal of Creation [isn't] suffering but freedom." He said that "moralists like to regard sanctity as a luxury; actually it is a necessity." He also said that "one may believe that this isn't the era of the saints; that the era of the saints has passed. [But] it is always the era of the saints."
The only thing that matters is to be a saint. At least we can try. And if we do, God will take care of the rest.
Alas, he doesn't really give an in-depth explanation of what the common good is, though he does say this:
"The common good is what best serves human happiness in the light of what is real and true."
Perhaps he is using the same notion of the common good as an instrumental good that has risen to prominence since John XXIII and is cited by the Second Vatican Council and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. (Which is not necessarily problematic, if the human good to which it is ordered is understood as being a social good as well, this being the common good as it is understood in Aquinas and the medievals.)