The well tempered city , Jonathan Rose, 2016
Cities will have a prominent role in our future. Whether they are the best solutions for us to live in, is also written in the future. In general I regard people living in cities as trapped: if any system fails to deliver, think of water, food , energy, materials, people are trapped and have hardly any option to supply their own needs. It was a few years ago when in Greece the money tap failed to deliver due to the economic crisis, that many fled to family in the countryside, since they could not survive in Athens. They where the lucky ones that still had family living in the countryside. Anyway, cities are here to stay in some form, and growing. Which comes with opportunities and problems.
And then there is this book by Jonathan Rose, ‘the well tempered city’ : a wealth in examples, cases initiatives , all meant to improve our life in the urban jungle.
Rose touches upon nearly any issue related to cities you can think of. However at the same time thats the shortage, the issues are touched upon, but not in depth explored. “ The answer is urban” , is how the book starts. For the moment that is reality, but will that sustain in our climate and resource threatened future? And whether ‘Cities behave like natural organisms’ , might be true, but the case is not in depth explored. Also the statement: ‘ urban areas use resources more efficiently than suburbs because the are denser’ is not supported by analyses: Its one of the long lasting debates in urban planning. Recent work by for instance Salat shows that the Paris layout in the inner city area might the most optimal from a resource point of view.
There is a section that hits deeper, about the metagnome of cities, but just when it gets to the climax, the text moves away to describe more cases and explore examples .
Nonetheless, it inspired me to get new thoughts about cities and proceed thinking where the book stopped.
In summary: the book will not provide a solid case for specific urban developments. However. Assuming we have to deal anyhow with dense mega-cities, the book offers a wealth of insights, examples and strategies to follow, to make life enjoyable and comfortable. As long as it will last.
The economic growth engine , Ayres et all, 2009
How energy and work drive material prosperity
Ayres in this book attempts in a immense complicated task to connect economical science to physical science. And its a massive piece of work. Economy is usually based on two inputs : of capital and of work . And the rest is regarded as “ manna from heaven” .
Like technological progress: it s nowhere explained in the economical theories, and just happens to happen, at a rate of 2,5 % per year….
At least, thats how it was explained by a person called Solow: at the time the data for the period 1900 -1945 could not explain economic growth as it happened: 85 % of growth could not be explained by capital or labor. So he introduced a proxy: technological progress and assumed exogenous, and named it total factor productivity TFP, and it was assumed to raise 2,5% per year. Now thats economical science….. Maybe some ‘dark money’ capital is out there somewhere. Like dark matter and dark energy in physics…..
However Ayres makes the case for a more solid approach, introducing a third production factor, the unvalued input of natural capital in the form of exergy , multiplied with a conversion factor ( efficiency rate of using exergy).
And this could explain a large part of otherwise unexplained economical growth. Advantage could be that this production factor should be valued, and prevent free ride exploitation of goods. ( Like in GDP, that rises with bad constructed buildings increasing maintenance turn over)
Any way, its partly beyond my knowledge but makes sense: economy is not a science , as he expresses stating: perpetual economic growth is an extrapolation from history and a pious hope for the future , not a law of nature.
The system goes to equilibrium if we don’t value the system itself, the resources, in the economical system. At least thats what Ayres tries. There is another way: get rid of that economical system and just calculate in physical values…. take resources as the base value of society., but thats a long way to go. Anyway, highly interesting and if your into economics, read it..!