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New Orleans Principles

John Robb has an interesting post in which two astute points are made, and flowing from these, an important question is raised. The answer to his question depends on our thinking across disciplines, to see a very similar structure in a problem that was solved in Victorian London. A comparative analysis of the differences and similarities of John’s question to the problem in Victorian London provides a clear path forward, showing us how to address John’s question. First, his post starts:

Friday, December 08, 2006
THE NEW THREATS

As the debate over the value of the Iraq study group’s report rumbles on, it’s important to reflect on larger frame within which this debate is taking place. This frame, little discussed, encapsulates nature of the threat we face in Iraq and will be increasingly likely to face in the future. With Iraq, we can catch a glimpse of a the new class of threat that will increasingly define our future (and given that even a glimpse is enough to stump the establishment should be a dire warning). This new class of threat is characterized by its bottoms up pattern of growth rather than the familiar competition between nation-states. It percolates upwards through catalyzed organic growth until it overwhelms our ability to respond to it. These new threats include (not exhaustive):

  • Global guerrillas: Open source warfare and systems disruption. Fragmentation and chaos that can swallow states and regions. In the mid-term: super-empowered actors that can wield bio-weapons.
  • Peak oil and resource depletion: The acceleration of resource consumption due to the mainlining of China and India at the very point these resources are reaching capacity limits.
  • Global warming: Not the slow change discussed, but rather a cascading change in weather patterns and ocean flows that drastically change continental climates. Ditto the mainlining of China and India as a driver here too.
  • Pandemics: Bird flu and other forms of infectious disease that can sweep the world in the matter of days. Have infection, will travel.

The two points implied here are that: (1) sustainability and the response to the 5GW war are linked, (a theme of several posts I have made here at enigma foundry, as well as several comments I have made over at Global Guerillas) and (2) bio-weapons are the pre-eminent threat and weapon of choice for those who want to cause modern western states to fail.

Now the very important (in fact crucial) item we see here is the contention of the extremely small scale structure (the global guerilla) with with the large scale structure (the world’s last remaining super-power). Any time there is contention between items of very different scales, it is a sure sign that the equilibrium of the system is being disturbed. (This will be explored in future post I will write about Persistent Networks)

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Well, we can learn much from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and, as noted several times here, there exists a whole set of connexions between Sustainability and War processes, especially in the way that they will both drive Urbanism/Urban Form in the next century or so. (When I say War here, I am referring to 5GW, as described and discussed over at John Robb’s excellent website Global Guerrillas.)

So, looking at the New Orleans Principles, a set set of ten guidelines for Sustainable development formulated in response to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, I am not at all surprised to find:

8 • Provide for passive survivability
Homes, schools, public buildings, and neighborhoods should be designed and built or rebuilt to serve as livable refuges in the event of crisis or breakdown of energy, water, and sewer systems.

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