Archive for September, 2009

Malthusian Delusions

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Monbiot is one of those rare writers who sees right through to the truth, every time. His latest diatribehis diatribes being always enjoyable, and always backed up with irrefutable data–assails the rich for blaming the poor for all of our environmental ills.

This is the exact same argument I’ve had with well-meaning enviros time & again. Their belief: that overpopulation is the root of all of our environmental ills. As Monbiot points out with data, the overarching generator of greenhouse gases is rich countries. Poor countries, including the most procreative, barely register. Thus, the root of our environmental problems is gluttony, not population. But the the 70s-era enviros cling to their Malthusian delusions, even as they jet about the world, spewing filth out into every corner of the globe….

True Bike Stories

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Here’s the NYT’s book review on David Byrne’s musings on all things bicycling in Bicycle Diaries. Looks to be a fun read.

From Wasted Spaces to People Places

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I very much enjoy Allison Arieff’s By Design column in the NYT. She is one of the most insightful observers of ‘place’ in the country right now–definitely the heiress to Jane Jacobs!

Her latest post, “Pavement to Parks,” discusses landbanking underutilized land for fun, but temporary, purposes. What a great way to get us through this real estate recession.

Locally, a citizen group is toying with new ideas for the dead-in-the-water Union Corners site.

Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be an Xtreme Oil Junkie

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009


Syntropic Stump Fun

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Jonathan, Phoenix & the Stump in progress

This just in from Julie Spears, eastside spark plug extraordinaire! What an imaginative way to enjoy a dead old tree!


Friends & neighbors,

In somewhat of a planned coincidence with Fall Gallery Night on Fri., Oct. 2, the members of Syntropy Co-op invite you to stop by for our unveiling of….

The Stump at Syntropy

Syntropy Co-op

812 Jenifer St.

5:30 – 8:30 pm

Since Syntropy Co-op lost its backyard tree to a storm over two years ago, Eastside artist Jonathon Bedford has spent countless hours turning this 10-foot stump into a work of functional art. Affectionately known as The Stump, the massive art piece pays tribute to co-op life while providing a magical throne upon which to sit. Come stop by to see for this transformation for yourself and celebrate its completion!

Many of you may remember when Jonathon had a few dozen of his woodcarvings and stained glass pieces on display at the Social Justice Center Gallery and Tenant Resource Center windows in 2006. In fact, his copper cattails remain in the back hallway on long-term loan from Marquette neighbor Ted Voth, Jr.

Jonathon generously donated his time, tools and materials to make this project come to life. He is currently is the process of gathering materials for his new studio and a new genre. Syntropy Co-op will be accepting donations. We hope to present the artist with a mere sliver of the actual value of the piece and acknowledge its immeasurable contribution to our house and neighborhood. If you can’t make this event, but would like to make a donation, please contact Julie Spears at 234-0908. Thanks and see you next Friday!

ps sneak preview in photo attached by gabriel heck

Please forward widely.

Health Farce: Why Places that Don’t Suck Are Necessary for Health

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

So why would a blog dedicated to Places for People concern itself with health care? Well, let’s start from the beginning with a few basic questions:

Q1: What is the # 1 cause of  death for all people ages four to forty-four?

A: Das Deathmobile

Q2: How many people are permanently maimed each year due to car crashes?

A) 10,000

B) 50,000

C) 120,000

D) 400,000

(Hint: If you chose D, you would be correct! DING! DING! DING! DING!)

Q3: What are the # 1 and #2 causes of chronic disease for all people of all ages in the United States?

A: Sedentary lifestyle (enabled by–you guessed it!–das deathmobile, and enforced by poor land use & transportation policies),


B: Poor food choices (again, enforced by bad federal agriculture/food policies)

(In no particular order, btw, since the two seem to mutually reinforce one another.)

Unfortunately, our decisionmakers have yet to make these connections. For instance, I’m represented by a congresswoman who has made health care the top issue of her tenure as a politician. Over the years (going back to when she was my county supervisor in the early 90s) I have tried to communicate to her that the priority should be health. That access to health care is a component of health, but it should not be the overriding goal. That it is a means to an end: the goal being health. Unfortunately, she confuses means with ends and continues to equate health care with health. Frankly, I’d rather not have to go see a doctor. Routine check ups are fine, but in the end, the best way toward a healthful life is access to good food, safe public spaces & places for those of us who get around under our own power (i.e., exercise as part of our daily lives), clean air and clean water. But she continues to deny the link between these environmental factors and health.  She continually votes for more pavement (paving under prime farmland, trashing our air & water, creating unsafe conditions for pedestrians & bicyclists, etc.) and does nothing to re-orient our current government health care programs (Medi-care/aid) & subsidies (tax-free employer health benefits) away from fee-for-service; i.e., fee-for-service resulting in force feeding more procedures to the detriment of good health. (A good discussion of the problem of this over-doctored approach can be found here).

Fortunately, there are some synapses firing elsewhere.

Indeed, there has been some great thinking to come out of all of the Sturm und Drang regarding Obama’s health care push. Yes, finally, we have some insightful thinkers who have written eloquently, thoughtfully, logically and systematically about the difference between health and health care.

The best I’ve found appeared in September’s Atlantic Monthly

This eminently just & logical solution is the only way out of our current bind of crushing health care costs–costs imposed on all of us by poor food policies (Q3 Answer B) and militantly car-oriented transportation policies, both of which are forced upon us by the federal government (with plenty of local collaborators, to be sure!) (Q3 Answer A).

Re: Q3 Answer B (above), Michael Pollan does a fantastic job of exposing how, if a universal health coverage mandate is imposed, we’ll likely see a positive domino effect on our nation’s food policies.* Why? Because the health insurance companies, being forced to take all comers, and no longer able to deny coverage, will have an extreme profit motive to get people to eat better foods for lifetime health. Health! It will be in the insurance companies’ best interest to see us living healthy lives–throughout our lives–rather than simply not caring about long term health under the current system because, hey, right now, if you get sick, you’re kicked off the plan! Under the current system, why should they care? With universal coverage, they will have no choice but to care. Maybe we can finally use the profit motive to the good. Better access to better foods, and major changes in our nation’s agricultural/food policies, what’s not to like? But first, as Pollan points out, there is likely to be an epic battle between the insurers and the food producers. I’ll be at the 50 yard line to watch this one!

Re: Q3 Answer A, I’ll add a prognostication that complements and follows along the lines of Pollan’s argument: We’ll also likely see insurance companies showing up to city council meetings and militating against car-oriented development policies. They’ll also turn their lobbyists loose in DC (and state capitals across the country) to reform  transportation funding away from highways-only and toward creating really cool places that draw people out to walk, bike or use public transit–in a safe environment. A place that doesn’t suck. Health care for all might turn out to be a boon for really cool places! The insurance companies might even see it in their best interest to offer rebates for living in walkable neighborhoods!

And now you see why a blog that is all about places for people is concerned with getting health care for all.

*Pollan is speaking this weekend (starting Thursday at the Kohl Center at 7 PM) at several venues around town.

Preserving and Enhancing the Urban Forest: Can the successful Milwaukee example be applied to Madison?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

This just in from Gary Tipler, Madison’s pre-eminent historic preservationist:

Preserving and Enhancing the Urban Forest

6:30 p.m., Wed., Sept. 23, 2009

Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, 953 Jenifer at Brearly

The program will review Milwaukee’s successful program for urban forest protection during street construction projects and discuss Madison’s current procedures and urban forestry program with Madison’s City Engineering staff and City Forester. Historically, the street trees as shade trees have helped define the city’s historic landscape and should be protected.

Free and open to the public.

Sponsors: Marquette Neighborhood Association and, Friends of Historic Third Lake Ridge

Be the Engine, Get Smarter

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

It’s true. Walk more, bike more, rollerblade more, run more and get smarter.

I guess this explains why I enjoy hanging out with active people–I always feel like I’m learning more!

License to Kill

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Driver’s License, that is.

Kill an old lady on a public sidewalk and it is ok, as long as you have a valid driver’s license.

The morality problem in this society is sick. And Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards is Exhibit A. Human life has no value in his world.

Badger Invades Gopher Territory!

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Badger Bus that is….

Finally! A decent public transit service–downtown->downtown–between MSN & MPLS!!!!!!! Ok, at least adequate. Right now it only runs weekends, but it is a start. I think this whole economic crisis is really forcing some positive outcomes, namely, better public transit given the decline in the affordability of das deathmobile. WOOOO-HOOOOOOO!!!!!

Soon, maybe we’ll even have a CHOOO-CHOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I do also very much like their highlighting the green element of taking da bus vs. the carbon spewing automobile. It has taken these bus companies way, way too long to make the green connection in their marketing.