Rotterdam speaks the language of the street
to pay attention to both the insights and the blindness in the accounts of the people who live the consequences of our uncertain world, and at the same time have the humility and the honesty to reflect on our own assumptions and prejudgements.
In a sense, one of the values of the kind of sociological listening I want to argue for is the importance of living in the service of understanding, of trying to grapple with moral complexity.
My hunch is that moral cannibalism produces a situation in which the worst is always expected.
Speaking about research findings presented in large block quotations from respondents:
Quotation is not portraiture and it is the task of sociological writing to bring to life the people we work with and listen to.
Speaking of globalization and time:
As much as the here also contains the elsewhere, the now also contains the legacy of the past.
Speaking of the inadequacy of words and the task of ethnographic representation:
This involves being open to the complexities of the incomplete nature of present-tense experiences, while at the same time avoiding reduction, fixing and closure.
On a photography that listens:
It is interesting to me that Salgado speaks of picture being given. There are at list two senses in which these pictures are given. The first is the sense of the verb to give. Those who look back give them; their look is a gift that is received. The second is in the sense of the adjective, something that is known, bestowed and specified in the look of those who stand before the lens. This is a description of a condition that outlines a sense of being that isn’t fully articulated.
Excerpts from Les Back’s “The Art of Listening” (2007)
Last week I was invited to join a participatory process looking at micro-adaptation projects. Initiated by De Urbanisten (who recently designed the Water Plaza in Rotterdam’s Benthemplein), the Rotterdam Climate Change Initiative, the spatial planning division of the Municipality of Rotterdam and the local ward of Noord, the workshop took place in the Zomerhofkwartier (ZoHo), a neighbourhood with plenty of empty office buildings that until a few years ago were in a “snooze state” due to the financial crisis. (I will elaborate about this in my next post).
The Climate Change Adaptation Strategy – Climate Proof (2009) for the city of Rotterdam shows how stress from extreme rainfall, drought and heat island effect may impact the city in the future. For some time now Rotterdam has been active in creating more rainwater storage space in the city to alleviate the burden from its sewage system. It invested in medium-large infrastructure (the Water Plaza, the storage space in the underground parking lot at the Museum Park, the plaza in Spangen) and it is now thinking about micro interventions in both the ZoHo and the Agniesebuurt (among others). The concrete landscape of the ZoHo is 75% non-permeable and 50% of the parking space (built for the offices in the area) is not in use. Further because the tidal water levels are fluctuating more than in the past, some of the underground housing plinths are deteriorating.
Residents and people that had ideas for the neighbourhood (like the 7 Seasons group, who are actively engaged in biodiversity enhancing activities in the city) were invited to propose them as part of the strategies suggested by De Urbanisten. These included façade gardens, water butts, green courtyards, blue infrastructure, public squares, de-paving, planting trees, bioswales and wadis. A preliminary brainstorming in groups involved thinking about spatial information on street use and width and addressing the current spatial weaknesses of the area (low permeability, unused parking space and degrading housing plinths). All the ideas were then combined into one or more visions for the area linking in environment, ecology, society and the economy and stating which actors would be working together to implement the micro projects.
(Source: De Urbanisten)
The four groups came up with a series of ideas and visions, which were ranked from 1 to 3 by each people present in the workshop. Four ideas, which partly combined similar suggestions from different groups, stood out among others:
- Inside/Outside: make better use of the south-west facing terraces in the neighbourhood which offer greening opportunities
- Socialize parking lots (de-paving): to increase the permeability of the neighborhood a percentage of the total unused parking space will be de-paved and handed over to interested citizens for temporary activities (such as gardens, car booth sales, street stalls)
- Greening the Hofbogen’s façade (the former train high-line): the high-line is the main westerly axis of the Agniesebuurt and is currently in a planning deadlock due to a raw between the two private owners. The former high-line has a huge potential and many local groups are interested in activating this space. By engaging with local residents and several small businesses currently having their offices in the warehouses below, a vertical green wall will be built on the façade of the high-line. This will contribute to reducing the heat island effect, and we hope, become a landmark in the neighbourhood
- Rainwater harvesting: to ease the rainwater pressure on the drainage system, Studio Bas Sala proposed a system of interconnected rainwater butts stretched across parts of the neighbourhood. The water collected can then be reused by local residents.
The workshop clearly tried to exploit this areas’ spatial problems and turn them into an opportunity for tweaking the landscape of the ZoHo and the Agniesebuurt. One of the key principles I learnt about how the Dutch do climate adaptation is to take advantage of the already scheduled works that the city will undergo to sneak in improvements that would make the city more responsive to, for instance, bouts of rainfall and heat stress. The neighbourhood is indeed scheduled for replacing its sewage piping system, and this is seen as the perfect opportunity for introducing small changes efficiently. The current municipal officers in the district of Noord are also pressing for action now before the heads of the department change in March of 2014. Another workshop is scheduled soon to come up with an Action Plan.
The Climate Corporation is now owned by Monsanto, although according to Climate Corporation’s CEO “Monsanto does not set our policy”. In the light of increasing weather pattern uncertainty and as part of a long-term growth plan, Monsanto is buying Climate Corporation’s microclimate metrics and prediction capability.
Meantime a Trans-African Hydro Meteorological Network (TAHMO) is building a low cost experimental (running on Raspberry Pi) weather station with open source technology and experimental sensors built by amateurs and professionals from around Africa.
Like the article says it is Africa that has the most potential in terms of producing more food, so agri-businesses need Africa to produce more and possibly limiting climate uncertainty. The question is always the same: for whom, by whom and to whose benefit?
I can’t refrain from envisaging a future where low-tech open source and locally owned agri-data will resist high-tech proprietary and global agri-business ruling.
Knut Wolfgang Maron - Bilder uber Landschaften
“We’re reluctant to come to terms with the fact that what we love and enjoy and what gives us a sense of who we are is also now bound up with the most unimaginable devastation,” says Lertzman. “When we don’t process the pain of that, that’s when we get stuck and can’t move forward.” Lertzman refers to this inability to mourn as “environmental melancholia,” and points to South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an example of how to effectively deal with this collective pain. “I’m not saying there should be one for climate or carbon, but there’s a lot to be said for providing a means for people to talk together about climate change, to make it socially acceptable to talk about it.”
Source: Science & Space - TIME
"In some sense proper mourning would always be too late. Having fully digested the lost object, we could never taste it again. […] melancholy is more apt, even more ethically appropriate, to an ecological situation in which the worst has already happened, and in which we found ourselves, like Wordsworth’s narrator, or a character in noir fiction, already fully implicated. […] The moment of contact is always in the past. In this sense we never actually have it or inhabit it. We posit it afterward. […]
Timothy Morton “Ecology without Nature" (2007)
Timothy Morton positing the anterior, retroactive and melancholic qualities of ambient poetics and environmental writing’s struggle to convey a sense of immediacy. (Ambience is here used to make strange the idea of environment, which in Morton’s view is too often associated with a particular view of nature, which does not really exist - we have destroyed it and this goes beyond our conceptual grasp).
The rural appears within the city not just as a lifestyle choice, a new integration of the sustainable, as it is expressed and analysed in some discussions on urban farming in Western cities. It is not just an accessory, reintroduced on entirely urban grounds […]
Dimensions of the rural move into the city despite sometimes violent attempts to eradicate them. Slum clearance projects, for example, often make it impossible to keep livestock or maintain informal relations. Urbanization remains incomplete and is violent in its ongoing enforcement. As long as access to livelihood and basic needs requires also informal arrangements, there is in-built resistance to urbanization. […]
Patterns of investment and disinvestment are reordering urban and rural spaces and producing new forms of rurality. […] In Detroit and Cleveland new forms of improvisation have emerged, relating to schooling, social services, and transportation […] these cities are becoming the site of “first sector” activities. The rural appears within the city not just as a lifestyle choice, a new integration of the sustainable, as it is expressed and analysed in some discussions on urban farming in Western cities. It is not just an accessory, reintroduced on entirely urban grounds […]
Monika Krause (2013), The Ruralization of the World