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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

fixing limits for the growth of a city? « Previous | |Next »
January 12, 2011

A defence of suburbia --American style. They have become more diverse and they are becoming economic powerhouses. Fair enough, but suburbs today still mean cities sprawling across the landscape, with some of them becoming increasingly bloated, congested and polluted with their transformation into large urban agglomerations (eg., south east Queensland) and mega cities eg., Mexico City or Shanghai.

Should cities just keep growing? Or should they be governed so they develop within limits?

We have the argument that living in compact, well-planned, walkable and integrated cities is part of the solution to the issue of economic development and environmental sustainability. Paul James observes:

Imagine a boundary to the city—some European cities have them—where the suburbs are edged by permanent forests and grasslands for leisure use, and by agricultural land for feeding the city. Imagine a series of compact and dense urban centres, punctuated by parks and threaded by bicycle and walking paths that give easy access for work and leisure.

But no limits are being placed around the edges of Australian cities. They continue to sprawl. Developers rule. Hence the alternative position of "well-managed" cities looks to be more feasible.

Chetan Vaidya says:

Thus, rather than restricting city growth, urban strategy should focus on harnessing the benefits of urban growth by managing it well, ensuring improved and equitable service provision and promoting good governance. Planners of sustainable and inclusive cities need to review urban planning practices and approaches, be aware of resource constraints, and identify innovative approaches that are more responsive to current and future urbanisation challenges.

Managing cities means managing them for a goal---such as an innovative, liveable and sustainable city. What once used to be called sustainable development.

This then raises another question? Who actually governs our cities? In Australia it appears to be the state politicians but we soon realize that they are largely acting on behalf of the interest of the developers --private capital. The justification? It's usually something along the lines of endless growth and profitable investment. The economic model underpining this is one that advocates smashed the power of labor and deregulated finance so that the financial system that can put investment funds in the right place and the right time in order to ensure new rounds of capital accumulation.

Capitalism is permanently in flux as it constantly renewing itself in a process of what Schumpeter termed ‘creative destruction’. The question is whether Australia has a state that is capable of making the long-term investments in 21st-century infrastructure needed to provide avenues for profitability and growth, to say nothing of establishing social programs that raise the living standards and purchasing power of the middle and working classes.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:37 AM | | Comments (2)


Thanks Gary, for a quick study of a phenomena that has baffled many Australians, certainly me, for a long time.
The comment about green spaces, for example.
Back as far ago as the seventies, state governments recognised this need and instituted green belts, supposedly to remain free from development, such as the gap between Dry Creek and the northern suburbs.
While it's true that Salisbury council over recent times, pioneered wetlands at this location, and Dry Creek might arguably have been a useful new location for Uni SA's new campus, it's also true that housing and industrial development has turned parts of it into a low-lying eyesore.
People of my generation will remember countless 4 Corners or old ABC TDT's on integrated planning over deades- there is nothing known now that wasn't known thirty or even forty years ago, yet it's all gone backwards and I beleive for the reason you suggest, relating to the neolib strain of globalisation.
This lends itself to this symbiosis of government and capital, behind closed doors, at the expense both of enviro and heritage and worse still, a participatory three-tier Australian democracy, also.

The overrun of our commons by by the politician/developer formation has changed in the last fifteen or twenty years in its overtness and in its in your face character, personified by politicians like Costa and Foley.
If you knock out resistance to unorthodox developments, how much easier to get through anything else, this involves a curious paradox, since development has of course been previously deemed a social good when it stuck to the rules.
If you can overrule, by force (and that ultimatly what it is, reducing )objections to something that is faulty, how much easier to get at the rest, nowadays.
If you batter Mt Barker into accepting mass suburbia or round the Fleurieu and southern beaches, or north of Gawler, or some thing like the St Clare complex within the established city, the City parklands and any thing else of even greater value must therfore later be within reach, free of resistance.