Cape Town can save itself – Counter Currents: experiments in sustainability

From the Global Urbanist – a further review of Counter Currents:

Standing in contrast to the ‘doomful narratives and prophecies’ that surround urban development in Cape Town, Edgar Pieterse’s Counter Currents presents a radical project of optimism, bringing into collision the work of architects, planners, scholars, poets and sculptors to explore new possibilities for the city’s self-image.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Counter Currents

“How do we manage and navigate our many unresolved tensions? Between the imperative of practice, of having to intervene in the city to make things better and at the same time being conscious that so much of the knowledge that exists about African cities is so reductionist and instrumentalised that it often adds to the problem.”

–Edgar Pieterse, editor of Counter Currents and director of the African Centre for Cities, London, January 26th.

Counter Currents brings together twenty-seven authors in a colourful and heady tome, somewhat intimidating in its breadth and breathless tone. In Pieterse’s words it is a ‘showcase of bold urban development initiatives by the state and private sector.’ It initially incites suspicion due to the emphatic use of the word ‘sustainable’. However sustainability is delineated early on to refer to economic, social, ecological, physical and political sustainability–urbanity, then–and the book engages critically with its different manifestations. Continue reading

Reimagining the Mother City: ‘Counter Currents’ in Cape Town (via Encountering Urbanization)

This is one of the best books on the urban situation of the “rest of the world’ where “New Urbanism” is for the rich elites in their secure New Urban ‘lofts’ and it really exposes the need for more inclusive vision of what it takes to encourage and believe in a resilient city as the truth is we don’t design cities – they emerge…It is definitely worth reading.

Reimagining the Mother City: 'Counter Currents' in Cape Town Edgar Pieterse, director of the African Center for Cities and editor of Counter Currents presents in this recent volume on Cape Town, South Africa "a radical project of optimism, bringing into collision the work of architects, planners, scholars, poets and sculptors to explore new possibilities for the city's self-image." In Miranda Iossifidis' insightful review of the book on Global Urbanist, she discusses Pieterse's hopes that this volume can p … Read More

via Encountering Urbanization

Lessons from the South – Agriculture Is Crucial and Profitable via Eco-Business

This article by Shankar Venkateswaran and Jean-Philippe Renaut on provides evidence that agriculture support by business makes good economic sense even for banks:

In 2010, SustainAbility was retained by Standard Chartered Bank to assist in quantifying and qualifying the impact (social, environmental and economic) of its operations in Ghana and Indonesia. This was in line with providing substance to the bank’s new promise, Here for Good. The logic (or business case) is simple – contribute to building a more resilient and healthy economy, and have more and wealthier clients. The resulting reports are available on the Bank’s website.

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The New American Farming Movement, and Why It’s Here to Stay -Via SustainableCitiesCollective

Here is a perspective on why growing food is becoming cool again by Marisol Pierce-
in collaboration Jeff Hake on the SustainableCitiesCollective: I have friends in both camps – “old style” farmers who are involved in ‘agri-business’ growing and exporting fruit and wine all over the world dependent on  global markets and contributing to the expanding ecological footprint of the cities they are sold in,  and others who are involved in ‘organic farming’ local farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture and not easily making ends meet……! With food inflation at an all time high and said to be a contributing factor to the present citizen unrest and political action in North Africa, as well as predictions of global food shortages, food securtity is set to become a major concern and influence in what it takes to build and sustain the cities of the near future.

Still from The Greenhorns, a feature-length documentary about Young Farmers

The burgeoning new farmer movement in the US is characterized by a bevy of young farmers, craftspeople, homesteaders and combinations thereof.  It has been labeled by some as a trendy flash in the pan, as a path for hipsters that “don’t know what to do with their lives.” Critics declare that the frivolity of youth combined with twentysomethings’ inability to grow up makes for a horrible match with the laborious commitment required of farmers.  Indeed, it is fair to wonder if the current farming fixation will die out in a year or two in favor of the Next Big Thing, given a strong precedent of dissolution of such movements.  While it is difficult to imagine the movement’s heightened level of media attention as a permanent feature, an analysis of historical ebbs and flows can be used to show us what will happen to the current wave of food and farming fanaticism.  By this measure, your CSA next door is likely there to stay.

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Mumbai on My Mind: Some Thoughts on Sustainability via landscape+urbanism

Further reviews of essays from Ecological Urbanism by Jason King of landscape+urbanismHomi Bhabha

: Mumbai Slum – image via Lost & Found


“It is always too early, or too late, to talk of the ‘cities of the future.’ (78)
Bhabha uses this essay to frame the idea of sustainability and innovation, mentioning that “Any claim to newness, any proposal that we are ‘at the turning point’ of history, urbanity, or ecology, is at once a historical commitment and a tendentious and transitional proposition.” (78)