artist - architect - concepts designer
creative thinker since 1937
The Politics of Infrastructural Change
This Note added 5.6.20
The Coronovirus outbreak has been with us for several months now and the economic effects of lockdown are beginning to make themselves known. Unemployment is at record levels and welfare payments, in their current form are unsustainable. It is already obvious that the capitalist money-market system is ineffective and, many major businesses (airlines etc), will collapse without governmental intervention...........yet we all know that there is no magic money tree!
Controlled money-printing by the EU is the obvious answer.........Call them "bonds" or whatever you prefer!**
This money should then be directed into public infrastructural works, which then become the means to propel national economies into a sustainable green future. Think of it as national Marshall Plans for a new and resilient EU!
Humans are propelled by mood and "confidence" rather than economic rationality. The stock market, a form of gambling, clearly reflects these mental states. Private Money Market manipulation leads to concentrated wealth for savvy players at the expense of the overwhelming majority! Financial instruments such as Bitcoin are pure expressions of this Market confidence.
Small countries of course, cannot print money without it influencing their international trade. But the USA, the EU and China are so large that they can generate international confidence by printing money. Particularly if this money is used to improve and modernize infrastructure.
The future is bleak if we leave it to private capitalism to re-create lost jobs and solve all our social problems!
This Note added 19.4.20
The Covid-19 outbreak is a historic moment.
It will be seen as the trigger for World Scale Changes that were previously considered impossible.
It is a period which highlights the failure of Governance and Leadership.
The failure of a profit-focused Capitalist Systems which chose to ignore the majority in favour of a minority.
The failure of Totalitarian Systems which concentrate power at the expense of personal freedoms.
The failure of the politics of national self-interest, at the expense of common humanity!
In the light of Covid-19 the following is subject to review:
Politics is about power and power rests with men.
So by default, infrastructural decision making also rests with men.
Yet women make up 51% of the population and have a different mindset. They also have so much to contribute to improving family life and creating a fair society..............so something must be wrong!
Power is known to corrupt, so some men will only relinquish power slowly and with great reluctance.
The well-worn pattern of political lies, corruption and greed, leads to a path of concealment and political obduracy.
Every reason in the book will be quoted to resist change.
That is why women, who only obtained equal franchise voting rights in the 1920's, still don't have equal franchise in parliament.
Yet the solution is quite simple........as the graphic below illustrates.
But only coordinated and sustained pressure from women will initiate this change.
The European Commission Gender Equality objective is as follows:
Promoting equal economic independence for women and men.
Closing the gender pay gap
Advancing gender balance in decision making
Ending gender based violence
Promoting gender equality beyond the EU
The UN Sustainable Development Goals state that:
"Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world".
Surely, these are worthy objectives for all of us.............but when will it happen?
Ireland - A gender balanced Parliament
Graphic by Ross Eccles
Political Change - The Process
Allowing men to dictate the pace of change has been proven by events to be ineffective.
So a campaign of non-violent action by women remains the only civilized course left open to them.
It is something that women have to organize for themselves..........but they can be assured of the support of many men!
Iceland - as an example to follow
Out of 144 countries, Iceland ranks 1st in gender equality.
It also ranks No 1 for the political empowerment of women.
Yet in the early 1970's, working women's pay in Iceland was 60% of men's pay. Women also had very unequal political representation and therefore, little say in political or business decision making.
Women' groups then joined together in a Redstocking Movement.
This led to a women's strike in 1975, which took the form of a "Women's Day off Event".
This had an almost immediate political effect and by the following year, Iceland's Parliament passed a Law guaranteeing equal rights for men and women.
Why women's contribution to the Political Process is so important
It is generally accepted that women think in a different way to men. Quite understandable when we look back to our evolution and, the differing roles men and women have played in the development of our human species.
Thinking is a function of the human brain and, the brain has developed an evolutionary balance over hundreds of thousands of years........ and it is this balance that has contributed to dominance of humans over other evolutionary forms on this earth. (see graphic below)
The human brain is made up of two hemispheres connected by the corpus callosum. This is the "nerve transmission mechanism" connecting the hemisphere functions. The corpus callosum happens to be more connected in the female brain than the male brain. It is reasonable to assume that this may be the reason why women seem to be more adaptable than men at many tasks. A definite bonus to any political process.
Being in "two minds" begins to make sense when we understand the differing functions of the two brain hemispheres. Decision-making can be difficult, when information from each hemisphere is conflicting.
A failure of education
Modern state education is a very recent development in evolutionary terms. Unfortunately, much of our education fails to consider evolutionary brain function. It tends to concentrates on rote learning and, measurable functions associated with the left side of the brain. The system, holds little regard for the creative and instinctive functions of the right side of the brain.
Only male and female equality of representation in the political and decision making process will allow the democratic process to fulfill it's true potential as a governing mechanism.
Balanced functions of the human brain
Graphic by Ross Eccles
Planning for the effects of Climate Change and Mass Migration
Lack of "vision", leads to a lack of understanding!
This is particularly true in regard to infrastructural planning, which is about planning for the future. A future threatened by catastrophic climate change and unsustainable world population growth.
Climate change is a catalyst for mass migration and, a recipe for civil unrest on an international scale.
Rising seas around Ireland offer little protection from either.
The world population explosion has yet to be recognized!
To put this in the context of Ross Eccles lifetime:
Population of NIgeria alone, has increased from 20 million to over 200 million..... A 10x multiple!
And World Population has increased from 2 to 8 billion.
Assuming equality of opportunity for all and a sharing of the worlds diminishing resources, we all face a challenge. Few seem to recognize that it is a challenge of epic proportions and the principal cause of climate change!
Most people remain tribal in attitude.
They are unwilling to share territory or resources which they consider to be "theirs".
It has led to a flourishing Nimby culture. This poses a growing risk to the future of civilization, as it promotes confrontation rather than consensus.
Yet an individual DNA profile and distant ancestry check, will confirm that we are all migrants and closely related as a human species. A simple mathematical calculation confirms that, we would all be related in a matter of 1000 years, but for inbreeding and pedigree collapse!
Fighting, killing, disease and starvation, the traditional solutions to overpopulation, can never be a substitute for reason!
Democratic, male dominated, adversarial parliamentary systems, are a showcase for "lack of vision". Outdated, short-term political thinking, still regards infrastructural fire-fighting as "forward planning" and non-stop emergency measures as "great progress". White papers and lip-service to change, are no substitute for "doing"! So fundamental political change is necessary, before coordinated infrastructural forward planning is taken seriously.
It is not simply about.......more jobs, houses, hospital beds, social care, school places, transport, utilities, broadband, flood relief, sport and cultural facilities, etc.etc.......all considered in isolation. It is about the inter-connectivity of all of these things!
Comprehensive forward planning is about integrated, coordinated and sustainable thinking. It is about creating a "whole society" which is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The objective! To efficiently and smoothly overcome well-known infrastructural challenges and, make Ireland and the world a better place for all.
Integrated planning is complex.
No simplistic solutions exist.
It is a process that generates unintended beneficial consequences. It is about constructing a network that is sufficiently flexible to accommodate continuing change, as the needs of the population change. The very best brains, supported by enlightened politicians, are needed to progress the plan.
Examples from Nature
The natural world around is full of examples of integrated forward planning (evolution) where structure is of considerably more value than the sum of the parts. For example: A spider has the ability to produce multi-formulas silk from its spinneret glands. This silk can be used for catching prey, wrapping prey and as a trailed safety line. It can also be consumed (recycled) by the spider at the end of the day.
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is a man-made example. Born as a visionary idea in 1764-1782, it was the most commercially successful canal in Britain. Initially conceived to transport lime and general cargo by horse drawn barge it had a multiplicity of unintended uses and is still in use today. At its peak in 1865, 1.9 million tons of coal were transported mostly by steam barge. It was a catalyst for the industrial revolution in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Many coal mines powering many mills, were developed along its route. Yet the scale of success, was never envisaged when the canal concept was born!
Creating infrastructure will allow Ireland to finally dispense with emigration. The huge tracts of underutilized land and water resource, visible on any rail journey across Ireland, can be sustainably developed. It will allow the population to grow well beyond levels last seen in 1800 (see graphic below).
Politics of Change
Likely future effect of migration on Ireland
Politics of Change
Mauritania - the effects of climate change
Examples of the effect of climate change
Mauritania on the Coast of West Africa, suffers from environmental degradation, severe drought and food insecurity. The effects of migration both incoming and outgoing, creates conflict and chronic instability.
Assuming Europe and Ireland is closed to these and, many hundreds of millions of other displaced people, where in the world are they expected to go?
Given the political will (and I understand that is asking a lot!), the United Nations as the organizing body, could take temporary control of failed states.
Once stability is restored, and given the necessary guidance, authority could, once again be returned to elected representatives of the citizens.
The world is no longer accepting of migrants, as recent political events have highlighted.
Even in the most traditionally tolerant of countries, such as Ireland, Sweden & Canada, migrants are beginning to be seen more in a negative rather than in a positive light.
Unrestricted migration is no longer tolerated by any country in the world. Many are now resorting to "building "walls". So the question is: How does the EU or the United Nations begin to tackle the problem of mass migration?
A Proposal for consideration
A possible solution could take the following form:
It assumes that allocating asylum seekers into communities without proper consultation breeds unnecessary opposition and resentment, even from fair-minded people!
The EU Commission allocates a substantial capital sum for all asylum seekers and the displaced.
The EU then seeks Tenders from EU Member States for integrating asylum seekers subject to strict conditions. After central processing of applications on a humanitarian basis, successful applicants are placed with the approved Tender Bidding Countries.
National Governments that tender successfully could then receive from the EU (say) €100,000 per asylum seeker.
The process should be subject to proper controls and standards, and requires proper oversight to prevent corruption, Local Communities could be invited to integrate agreed numbers of asylum seekers and be given the necessary funds to do so.
These funds should include provision for community supervision, medical care, schooling, accommodation, etc. etc.
Ireland's Climate Change Targets 2020
ALL AT SEA!
Another Fine Mess......................!!***
With apologies to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
A graphic by Ross Eccles
Brexit - A Nimby Idea turned sour?
"Truth, Peace, Love" - The first casualties of Brexit
A graphic sketch by Ross Eccles
A mythical creepy-crawly..... Created out of English "Red-Lines"
A sketch by Ross Eccles
Political Ineptitude and the Crisis of Housing
Houses for the most part, are simple structures and quick to build.
Mass housing is just an assembly of ready-made components..........a form of Lego for adults! So any crisis of housing has nothing to do with the logistics of construction......but has everything to do with national legislation, national infrastructure and the political environment created by governments.
In Ireland, Governments have a particularly poor housing record, due to the corrupt system of brown envelope politics which was allowed to flourish and, which dominated the industry in years past.
Many proposals for change have been presented to Government, including the Buchanan Report of 1968.
But little of substance has been done to change the political culture.
And it is an unreformed political culture which is at the heart of any housing crisis!
Land ownership, land use and a fair taxation of this asset class, is at the heart of the problem.
In an Irish context, a fair balance between private ownership and public ownership makes sense! Wholesale nationalization is not being proposed as a solution. However, the crisis in housing can be directly linked to the private ownership of small pockets of land with inflated value. Inflated because of a perceived windfall gain if planning permission can be obtained.......a perception that goes back to the brown envelope era!
Planners are employed by Local Authorities and the State to forward plan infrastructural services including; public transport, roads, water, sewerage, schools, hospitals, recreational facilities etc. Only when these services are in place, should the process of developing tracts of land for public and private housing begin.
Zoning tracts of land is the responsibility of Public Planners. Any financial benefit should therefore accrue to the Public Purse.
It makes little sense (except to politicians!) when privately owned farmland valued at €12,000 per acre, suddenly increases in value to €1,000,000 acre. A process which is supposed to be at the discretion of Planners, who are deemed to be servants of the Public. Under Successive Governments, the very same Public are then exploited and, forced to pay a highly inflated land price for any house they wish to purchase.
The scandal of inflated land prices.
The nonsensical level of unearned and undeserved private profit from Land can be avoided, if larger blocks of land are assembled and taken into public/private ownership at market value, prior to re-zoning. Assembled Land can then be made available on long-term lease to housing societies and housing developers. Future increase in Land Value then accrues to the State and not private individuals......And it is The State that desperately needs capital to fund and improve infrastructure.
Building Permit Charges
In other jurisdictions, Zoning Density and Building Permit Charges are scaled according to distance from good infrastructure, such as commuter rail stations. People now expect and are willing to pay for public services. Particularly when these are provided close by, within walking/cycling distance.
Excellent community housing built by private enterprise
During the Industrial Revolution, factory and mill owners built mass housing to attract their workers and then charged manageable rents. The many examples include: Bournville, Port Sunlight, Saltaire and New Earswick.
Today's multi-national companies could again provide accommodation for their workers. Once there is a guarantee of take-out, large house building companies could easily raise low-cost finance and start building for let.
Mass housing could also be funded at low rates by life insurance companies etc. as a matter of course, subject to changes in Legislation requiring Government Approval.
Rent control is another useful tool. Even in the heart of American West Coast Capitalism, cities such as Santa Monica have rent control, in order to provide the working population with a place to live.
Nothing is impossible.........but a solution to the housing crisis does require a complete change of Government mindset!