I’ve been away for a week, with limited online access, and while away happened into Bristol’s Architecture Centre, which was hosting a small but rich exhibition on ‘Suburban Futures’, and almost completely unadvertised, at least from the street. 86% of the population of England live in suburbs, so making them sustainable is a valuable project. Increasing density is necessary – but benefits start to follow from this, in terms of the quality of community life.
There’s another kerfuffle about getting rid of plastic bags, since one of the government’s waste advisers has suggested that government plans to ban plastic bags, or charge for them, are a diversion from more pressing environmental issues. While it is true that plastic bags represent only a small amount of waste, or of oil use, the reason reducing their use has become important is because they are symbolic of a different issue – respect for other species.
The geographer Saskia Sassen is one of the sharpest analysts of the detail of globalisation – and I was able to see her speak on Thursday evening in London at an event organised by the RIBA ‘Building Futures’ programme. (I’ve posted before on her analysis of how different parts of government gain or lose from globalisation).
Her talk was based on a big academic study in which she and her researchers ranked 63 leading cities – cities, in her terminology, with a ‘global city function’ – by a whole set of criteria. Different cities came top on different assessments; Vancouver, for example, was top on the criteria of “ease of doing business”. Her conclusion from this is that the global economy extracts value from the (often small) differences between cities – but the small differences are critical to the value which any particular city creates.
The decision by the British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to reclassify cannabis as a Category B drug, despite the opposing views of her expert advisers, has reminded me of the chaotic state of Britain’s drugs policy. It is an area where policy has remained completely immune to evidence – as one ‘killer chart’ demonstrates.
One of the observations of last year’s State of the Future report (which I blogged about here) was that organised crime was one of the the three biggest threats to global security and prosperity. Misha Glenny’s new book McMafia (‘a journey through the global criminal underworld’) comes to a similar conclusion – arguing that organised crime is a bigger threat than terrorism.