Inclusion & Democracy: A Tennessee Tale (Blog 5)

   Chapter 19 on Inclusion and Democracy made me think of so many situations currently happening in my home state of Tennessee. Last week, a resolution to denounce neo-Nazis and other white nationalist hate groups as terrorists died because not one member of the House Subcommittee would give it a second motion so it could have the chance to be voted into legislation. (story here) When asked state Rep. Bob Ramsey, told WZTV ,“that they didn’t have enough information on neo-Nazis or white supremacy to be able to talk about it.” Later, in a statement to CNN, Ramsey said the committee agreed with Clemmons “on the intent and philosophy of the resolution.” The objection was to “the designation of ‘terrorist organization.‘” -CNN

   Now this is a scenario, just one of many I can think of, that fully displays the nature of the type of democracy present today. If there was a hate group that historically exclusively terrorized white communities, hanging thousands of them. I would believe there would be legislation in place to classify this group as a terrorist organization. There are entire museums dedicated to the heinous acts of the Klu-Klux-Klan, and not just about the methods of intimidation and terrorism they used, but also the pervasiveness of its active members working in the criminal justice system up to the state and federal level. Let’s also not also forget the Holocaust and how neo-Nazi’s idolize Adolf Hitler.

   But how did this become appropriate? How is it possible for elected representative officials to abstain in this manner? It begs the question, who do these men see themselves representing? How do they identify themselves?

   Iris Young critiques Elshtain’s argument that says, “either politics is competition among private interests, in which case there is no public spirit; or politics is a commitment to equal respect for other citizens in a civil public discussion that puts aside private affiliation and interest to seek the common good.” Young says that she believes this is a false dichotomy and I agree.

   The elected officials observed here represent a base that has, through structural advantage, normalized ignorance towards issues that have historically had adverse effects on minority groups in America. Because this dominant group has not experienced mass terrorism, and has immense power in: population dominance: structural societal power; and financial capital these attributes almost mute the voices of other groups. “Under circumstances of structural social and economic inequality, the relative power of some groups often allows them to dominate the definition of the common good in ways compatible with their experience, perspective, and priorities….The capitalist class is able to control deliberative modes and policy decisions for the sake of its interests and at the same time to represent those interests as common or universal interests.” – Young. I believe these Tennessee representatives fully exercise this notion. Tennessee is a very southern Republican Christian state, this is “their” turf and that’s the lense through which they seem to perceive their world. High cultural values of: land ownership, traditional blue collar jobs, gun ownership, disdain for government intervention, individualism, hyper-nationalism, service to the US military, and a white cultural dominance are normative beliefs created and reinforced within this structurally powerful community. Others in structurally weaker communities who don’t hold the dominant majority’s cultural values remain: unheard, seen as unconventional, and at sometimes threatening.

  These Tennessee state representatives could learn a thing or two from Young. She speaks about moving everyone beyond their own parochial interests. “Trying to solve problems justly may sometimes mean that some people’s perceived interests are not served, especially when issues involve structural relations of privilege. Even when the most just solutions to political problems do not entail promoting some interests are not served, especially when issues involve structural relations of privilege. Fairness usually involves coordinating diverse goods and interests rather than achieving a common good.”  I hope one day the tale of Tennessee becomes one of an inclusive democracy.


Dark ecology and disaster in Planning: reevaluating how we work with and define humanity (blog 5)

Readings this week reflected my interests in dark ecology and posthumanism where nature functions at a remove from humanity because, although the living world houses human beings as well as plants, animals, and any manner of scape, the world is Nature, and humans simply live in the world. Nature does not live in the world, but because human brains place conceptual labels onto their lives, the idea of Nature comprises a setting, a place, and ultimately a separation and disconnection through which humans adopt the mindset of the self as conqueror of Nature and the impression that humanity lives with Nature.  In actuality, human beings live in Nature, but attempt to alter and force it into shapes modeled after and benefiting the human image. Creating the world around humanity has engendered the theories of posthuman ecology that examine the problem of the man versus insert-idea-here in response to literature. With posthumanist theory, one can analyze the relationships in different societies to question “what it means to be human” and “the relationship between humans and their non-human others” to re-think Nature and identity (Aretoulakis 2014). Aretoulakis’ work supports the connection with current ecological ideas in different cultures and how our cities are structured, especially around the effects of colonialism on the conglomeration of identities within the land. Whether these identities represent “deep ecology,” or an “alleged inevitability of an empathic collaboration among different species,” citizens can parallel their own relationships with each other, the land, and their conflict within themselves (Aretoulakis). Planners can develop these conflicts and try to understand citizen’s relationships, using themselves as example from their own first-hand experience, and review the Triangular model to create a more understanding city and society.

A literary theorist, John Figueroa expresses a “shame to those modernists who long to be rooted somewhere or in some Nowhere” (Figueroa 1991).  Through this idea, Figueroa questions what it means to connect to a place and whether that focus on one’s identity holds importance, especially when those people cannot or refuse to accept their hybridity. Moreover, he suggests this hybridity connects to posthumanismto reveal that we all “have complicated patterns” and must come to terms with the transnationalism of the world (Figueroa).

. Therefore, to accept this constant definition of self, Planners must recognize the importance of redefinition by understanding that humanity is all connected no matter who they are or where they come from because, as dark ecology theorist Timothy Morton explains: within the mesh of dark ecology, “there is no here or there, [and thus] everything [can be] brought within our awareness” (Morton 2010). The mesh correlates to Morton’s strange stranger that examines how “we can’t really know who is at the junctions of the mesh before we meet them [and] even when we [do] meet them, they are liable to change before our eyes,” as will “our [own] view of them” (Morton). These unknown beings, which can be non-human, and our perceptions of them and of ourselves by reflection are called the strange stranger.

Not only does everything flow, but we are also all connected like a spider’s web or the mycelium in a forest’s floor. In both of these comparisons when a piece of the web breaks or a tree falls on one edge of the forest, the other side knows it through the underground connection, and, thus, braces for the change in and to the whole. Just like a spider will begin to repair its home, Planners must work first-hand with citizens to understand the needs of the city to listen to what people care about, are confused about, and what they want, and thus educate them on the necessary components of how to make these factors work or explain why they can’t work. And yet some things cannot be one way or another, yes or no, right or wrong, and so we must continue to be flexible, adaptable, and keep working towards and with this continuous fluctuating world.

I was especially interested in the natural disasters chapter and Hurricane Sandy’s damage. I had family who have lived in Vermont for decades and I’ve never had the experience of being scared for peoples’ lives in a natural disaster. I grew up 20 minutes west of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and know the reality of hurricanes, but the mountains of Vermont don’t have that experience, nor do they have the infrastructure to be prepared at ALL for a natural force like they endured. My mom’s best friend was evacuated from her home and had to leave her two cats there. I visited a year later and was shaken up by the damage that was still very much visible and had totally altered peoples’ livelihoods. Luckily my family and friends lived (and so did the 2 cats), but it has completely changed those communities, the people, and how they live and make a living. The book only focused on New York City, which obviously there was way more people concerned there, but in the small mountain towns in Vermont, people were equally effected.


Aretoulakis, Emmanouil (2014). “Towards a Posthumanist Ecology.” European Journal of English Studies 18.2.

Figueroa, John. (1991). “Omeros.” The Art of Derek Walcott, edited by Brown, Stewart, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales: Seren Books.

Morton, Timothy. (2010). The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.


Planning Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Blog 5

The readings today have a lot of correlation to the planning problems facing developing countries especially sub-Saharan African countries. Looking at planning in Ghana for example from outside the Ghanaian perspective, I ask myself whether planning is done in the interest of the individual citizen in the city? I would be analyzing planning in Ghana to deduce whether or not planning activities are done in the interest of the ordinary citizen. There are numerous examples in Ghana where developmental and economic activities have negatively impacted the ecosystem. What has to encourage less regard for the environment and how can that be addressed in planning would be discussed. I would also touch on the unfairness in placing restrictions on developing countries in the name of the greenhouse effect. I would conclude with democracy in planning, which I call “planning democracy” and how to ease capitalist control of resources in poorer economies.


What I always see when I am in Ghana is a bunch of hosing placed randomly. Despite the fact that there is a planning office in every district, the division and allocation of land resources have not been influenced by planning. Every city competes for growth and development but the question remains whether that growth is fair. Is it the rich people bribing the planning department to evacuate poor houses and slums? Or the rich bribing planning departments to rezone people’s farms for commercial malls? I would argue that planning does not serve the broader interest in growth in developing economies, for example, Ghana. A 2008 report by Addo Koranteng at the University of Applied Science in Eberswald, Germany lamented deforestation in Ghana. The researcher argued about the wrongness of the rate at which forests are being cut down in the name growth. When forests are downed, farmers lose their farms and poverty arise for the poor.


There was a statement in the Scott Campbell’s article that stated something about restrictions on developing economies. Our world knows now that certain economic and developmental activities place a lot of harm into the world. These are activities that have been previously employed by developed countries to achieve riches. The consequences of these activities are now placing severe harm on some developing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa. A country like the Republic of Niger is experiencing severe droughts as a result of excessive heat due to climate change. Placing a restriction on these countries will only make them poorer. How can planning be used in enhancing equality in growth and development in countries like Niger? It is rather necessary to look for ways in influencing equal growth in developing countries than placing restrictions that may hinder development.


Whether I like it or not, capitalism has affected planning in developing countries. Democracy in planning goes beyond just voting representatives to manage planning. But how sure are we that the people voted in power did not pay their way into those positions? There is no democracy in planning done in developing countries. The planning is done to the benefit of the rich who pay for certain changes to be done to favor their gain. A money hungry like Ghana are filled with planning offices that will plan at the expense of the ecosystem and the poor in the society. Incorporating of public interest in planning for the development of land has been affected by selfish activities. Planners in developing economies are not the mediators neither are they the listeners to the subordinate group


Environmental planning and disasters – blog 5, Corinne Bebek

Disasters, Vulnerability and Resilience of Cities by Brendan Gleeson focused on the impacts of the natural environment on the built environment. He uses examples from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy while creating an argument that building resiliently is aligning too much with destructive powers of nature.


On the topic of disaster readiness, there are articles making the claim that the effects of Hurricane Harvey were worsened by the land use planning model used for Houston, Texas. By building within 100 year floodplains the 7,000 residences had a low chance of surviving the rainfall. Though, building in the floodplain wasn’t the sole reason for the destruction.


Resilience can mean different things to different geographies. The resilience methods used by New York for weather events is much different from those needed in low lying coastal plains. Resilience in the economic sense can mean excluding certain groups. For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the economic resilience of the white population was much stronger than that of the African American population. The recovery effort was focused more on the tourist destinations than that of the life long residence. Many African American neighborhoods are still rebuilding and struggling to recover even though Katrina hit in 2005.


Another perspective for resilience planning, there is a theory that builds off of disasters by not rebuilding at all. The theory lets nature reclaim the flooded and destroyed areas and moves to improve the other places surrounding. Many ancient places have slowly been reclaimed by nature such as the ancient city of Akko in Israel.


Regardless of planning methods used, Houston would have flooded. But, because of the layout and building within floodplains this flooding was made worse. The question I have about this is how much worse? What is the unit of measure that these authors have used? I have not yet found an answer to this. It seems easier to blame the planners involved than it does to accept that natural disasters are becoming more unpredictable and devastating. Is there an actual effective way to mitigate climate change and regress the tragedy caused by storms?


Low impact development strategies have become standard or expected in many localities. The goal of this is to mitigate the negatives on the environment caused by development. Low impact development includes measures such as bio swales, green roofs, rain gardens and pervious pavers. These are all methods to slow the rush of water and increasing filtration to reduce pollutants in the waterways and minimize non point source pollution. Green roofs and increased gardens / green space increases the filtration and absorption of water by weather events thereby limiting runoff. They also lower the heat island effect that contributes to global warming. But is there a way to actually stop the harmful effects of global warming that have already wreaked havoc on our built and natural environment? Is there going to be a point that we come to in the near or distant future where we should just give up rebuilding coastal cities and move on to improving cities inland?


Equity in Planning- blog 5 e.thompson

In Scott Campbell’s “Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities?: Urban Planning and the Contradiction of Sustainable Development,” the Planner’s triangle of hell is discussed. This triangle is impossible to satisfy and adds to the list of things that planners cannot actually achieve. Each point contradicts the other and it’s just up to the planner to decide what’s best? Where should the focus be? How can the community voice input? When social equity is made the focus over environment and economy resources are not used efficiently. When the economy is the main goal then the environment may not be best taken care of and social will not benefit equality. If the environment is the focus then the economy will most likely not be used efficiently and people well not receive and even share. These dilemmas are standard across the board and force planners to decide what is most important in their community. Do they work to improve their city through grow and economic power? Should they work to include all people to the fullest? To create an equitable society? Should they take care of the environment and the land that their city occupies to ensure its health for the future? Is it possible to create an equal city? Could the economy and environment be destroyed in its pursuit? What role should planners have in creating this equity? Is it our job to be involving ourselves in altering society? How can planners educate the community to allow them to be responsible citizens to make informed choices? Perhaps that is the role of planners, to ensure their population understand the choices that they make on a daily basis and the influences that those choices result in such as alternative transportation or recycling.

There is a gap for me right now between how much planners can do and how much planners should do. I think that planners can affect a lot. Maybe not all across a city but definitely in a few focus areas. What ethical checks are in place for planners to be guided by? If the community is too large to be involved or uneducated or disassociated then planners can alter without oversight. I don’t think this is true of large decisions such as comprehensive plans or zoning but on social campaigns or programmatic changes can be made. Those may even be the more important decisions.



Blog # 5: People-Centered Design: An Alternative View of Resilience Planning and Urban Management by Efon

The forgotten issue of disasters, vulnerability, and resilience of Cities, which until recently, I would argue were an after-thought in the context of planning and urban management. In transportation and infrastructure management, at least, resiliency is part of both operational and functional planning and system management of physical and cyber-systems. However, in practice, resiliency is mostly approached from a limited and narrow risk-based, and safety and security perspective.

But, from today’s readings, which implicitly, crosses many aspects of this issue, I can think no further than the work of “now” renowned architect and educator Balkrishna Doshi. I started reading about Doshi early this month after it was announced on March 7, that Doshi was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize based on his groundbreaking design work in his native India. From media reports, many have described Doshi an architect, urban planner, and educator. According to an article in the, the award cited his outstanding contributions and recognizing his “..understanding and appreciation of the deep traditions of India’s architecture, he united prefabrication and local craft and developed a vocabulary in harmony with the history, culture, local traditions and the changing times of his home country India.”

The same article also recognized his work on low-cost housing project in Indore, to accommodates more than 80,000 people (mostly poor), by building a system of houses, courtyards, and internal pathways, showing and attributing values to enhance both culture and quality of life of those affected by his projects in India.

In a nutshell, Doshi approached architecture, design, and planning in harmony with nature. It could be described as going back to the basic. In fact, planning for resiliency must be incorporated into the design and must accommodate for natural imbalances, which are often represented in local cultural architecture and artifacts that have withstood the test of time. I believe this is something that is representative of Doshi’s work as an architect, urban planner, and educator. More importantly, Doshi worked with Le Corbusier. He was influenced early by Le Corbusier, and Louis Kahn, probably, two of the great 20th-century architects.


In a heart attack inducing climax in Sergio Leone’s Western, “The good, the bad and the ugly”, the films protagonists find themselves in a three way shoot out at a cemetery, the outcome of a search for buried Union Army gold. Each had something to lose, and each has no idea how and when the other party will react. They are at odds. What I find most interesting is how the director chooses to focus on the actors faces, showing (as films do well) rather than tell us that the stakes are high.


Angel Eyes

The eyes, darting back and forth between each assailant and juxtaposed cuts of each character as they size up the competition.



The music continues to swell, the stakes are clearly high. The tension increases even more. These men do not trust each other, and they know what is at stake.



The camera darts between the characters some more before we catch a glimpse of a hand crawling toward a revolver still nestled in its holster at the hip. The brass instruments are at this point belting out screams. Cuts back and forth between the faces, the eyes, the hands reaching for their revolvers, the eyes, the faces, the eyes, the revolvers, the faces, the eyes and then suddenly…BANG! Resolution

(I would watch this film if for no other reason just to get to this point. Watch the clip here:

As I went through the reading on sustainable development, I could not help but think about this scene. The three characters are rather illustrative of the priorities of Sustainable development: Equity, The Environment and The Economy. These three are engaged in a somewhat similar three-way conflict. Each pushes for its best interests, and in interacting with the other finds itself in a conflict due to the goals it is seeking. Goals that are not in their own way ‘bad’ but may be antagonistic to the other pillar. The Conflicts of property, resource and development are the descriptions given to these antagonisms.

The escalation of the tension in the film is in some way the feeling I got as I studied the conflicts. It is this and not the resolution of the scene that I am focused on in use of the scene from the film. Besides, the film would really disappoint if after all that build up, the camera cut to an urban planner who proceeds to moderate a truce between Tuco, Angel Eyes and Blondie.

Sustainable development is rooted in the idea that these three axes cannot do without each other. They must instead work with each other to deliver and outcome that considers, as much as, possible each parties concern. This working together demands the resolution of conflicts through interactions and participations where the goals from each axis are floated and a mutually respected balance is established.

During the previous class, an interesting question was brought up; “What can planning really claim to be its own if all it does is borrow from other established disciplines and realms of theory?”

My response would be, (in keeping with concept of sustainable development) the strength in planning lies in its ability and agency to understand various approaches [Economy, Ecology and Social Justice] their agendas and motivations, and bringing them together; moderating a conversation amongst them and promoting an ideal of development that is emblematic of balance. Planning recognizes the need for professional allegiances in a way that others may not. And this is core to how planning functions and its necessity to the world.