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Why Brown is the New Green

By nebbish in Culture
Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 11:45:09 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

As part of the British government's strategy to deal with increased demand for housing in the south east, it plans to build 200,000 homes on disused industrial sites along the Thames estuary to the east of London. In doing so, England could lose some of its most important wildlife havens.

Brownfield sites are the gaps in urban areas where factories once stood. They cover a significant, if scattered, amount of land in the old industrial areas of East and South East London, stretching far into Essex and Kent along the Thames estuary. Bordered by housing estates and industrial parks, these sites have in some cases been neglected and unused since as far back as the Second World War.

To the disinterested eye they are spare ground, home to nothing but weeds, rubble, burnt-out cars and dumped appliances, and an obvious place to build new homes in a region where housing is so scarce essential workers cannot afford to buy a home.

This policy has long been seen as an environmentally sound way of dealing with the housing crisis. Green belts, areas of countryside surrounding the UK's major cities, were created in the 1950s to stop the spread of urban sprawl, and the government is reluctant to build on them. Filling in the gaps left by defunct industry in urban areas seems like the obvious answer to the problem.

However, naturalists have increasingly noted that brownfield sites not only provide a haven for wildlife, but are amongst the most important ecological sites in England. Furthermore, hard against built-up areas and open for public access, these sites are a valuable resource for England's majority urban population.

England has a unique ecology. It isn't just chance that has made it a nation of gardeners - the mild climate, changeable weather and sharply defined seasons make for a high diversity of plantlife. The Thames estuary suffers poor soil, upping the competition between its flora, the result being an even higher biodiversity. And where there is biodiversity in plantlife, there is also biodiversity in animals.

A recent article in the Guardian highlighted an example of this, a brownfield area of Canvey Island in Essex. Not only home to rare plants and animals, this rubble-strewn piece of land, between a petrochemical works and a built-up area of London's endless suburbs, is also home to unique flora and fauna found no-where else in the world. It is earmarked to be built on as part of the government's new housing policy.

I have spent a lot of time wandering on sites like these - where I live in south east London, miles away from the countryside, they offer me an opportunity to indulge my interest in wild flowers and wildlife I otherwise wouldn't have. Rare stag beetles, rare mosses, emperor dragonflies, orchids and meadow flowers can be found on wasteland walking distance from my home. Significantly, I would be hard pushed to find these in the countryside itself.

In the green belt around London industrial crop farming has created a monoculture more barren for wildlife than the city itself. Made up largely of private land closed to the public, and saturated in pesticides, these EU-subsidised farms cover a disproportionate area of a crowded region.

The housing crisis poses difficult questions for the government, and it is obvious that homes must be built somewhere. Building on the green belt would raise anger in a public unaware of industrial farming's detrimental effect on wildlife, bring the Labour party into further conflict with the Conservative rural areas, and could raise problematic issues of compulsory purchase. Brownfield land is cheap, unsightly, and viewed as unimportant by the public. But in building on it, we could lose some of the last bits of wild England we have left.


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Why Brown is the New Green | 97 comments (64 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
Jesus Christ (2.00 / 25) (#17)
by CodeWright on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 12:02:31 PM EST

Environmental wackjobs won't be happy until every last human and human artifact is irrevocably erased from the surface of this planet.

My proposal for improving the environment:
Recycle an Environmentalist.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
Pave The World! (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by phliar on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 02:03:51 PM EST

And there are some whose philosophy seems to be "I got mine, fuck the future."

Unlimited growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Makes me sick (4.33 / 3) (#68)
by CodeWright on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 02:20:07 PM EST

And there are some whose philosophy seems to be "I got mine, fuck the little people."

Environmentalists, Earth-Firsters, PETA, and all the other nihilist wackjobs live lives made comfortable by the hand-in-hand advance of technology and population growth.

Having gained the vantage of those rewards, they seek to limit or destroy the free opportunity of self-improvement to other people, so that the world can be perpetually arrested at a level of growth that permits them their diletantte quality of life but doesn't change the places they like to vacation in their SUVs and Arcadian organic wool sweaters.

Unlimited growth is the idealism of life.

The desire to limit growth is the desire to kill.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
You ignorant pissant. (1.00 / 1) (#69)
by spcmanspiff on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 03:12:15 PM EST

(note: antagonistic tone adopted only for fun)

All growth, with the possible exception of knowledge/information growth, is limited, you dumb fuck.

I realize that your disgust for yippies (yuppified hippies), which I share, has kept your little mind too busy being angry to think, but has it ever occurred to you that, hypocritcal as they may be, they could also have a valid point?

Seeking out sustainable growth and sustainable economies might limit some ways of 'self-improvement' (defined as: Easy Cash From Irresponsible Industries) but certainly not all or even a majority.


[ Parent ]

You ignorant pissant (5.00 / 2) (#70)
by CodeWright on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 03:25:03 PM EST

All growth, with the possible exception of knowledge/information growth, is limited, you dumb fuck.
That's what dipstick tree-hugging deathlovers have largely persuaded people to believe...

But, examining history, one finds that life is a locally counter entropic phenomenon, even though the universe is globally entropic.

Translation: increase in human population levels has always translated ultimately to increase in per capita quality of life. This is because (a) humans are living creatures, and (b) they are smarter than rocks.

What the [y/h]ippies (like you) hate is that growth is also change. They would rather cast the current snapshot of perceived reality in perpetual stone than acknowledge that "real" nature is a never ending stream of change.

Do you see any stegosaurs wandering around the neighborhood? No. Did humans kill them? No.

The universe changes and it is the natural process of life to expand into whatever resources are available.

Wear a fucking helmet and let the non-deathlovers get on with their lives.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Pull your head out of your ass. (2.00 / 1) (#71)
by spcmanspiff on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 03:58:42 PM EST

Do you really expect me to believe that 'per-capita quality of life' in central asia is better now than it was before the agricultural revolution and corresponding population boom? Bullshit.

That Europe's decrease in population levels is leading to a decreased quality of life? Also bullshit.

I suggest you study what happens to a population of deer after their predators are removed.

Unlike deer, we do have brains. And some of us have realized that there's more than one way to grow. We can "grow" the same way we have since the industrial revolution and face eventual resource exhaustion, or we can transform our economies and explore alternatives.


[ Parent ]

Dumbshit (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by CodeWright on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 04:24:57 PM EST

You make claims that even the most ignorant bumpkin could debunk.

It is clear to any but the most deluded that per capita quality of life is better for people on the globe today that it was a thousand years ago, a century ago, fifty years ago or even 20 years ago.

This high quality of life exists because larger populations benefit from economies of scale for production of life's necessities and generating innovation (which further decreases costs).

With billions upon billions upon billions of galaxies of stars available in this universe, although theoretically finite, resources for humanity's expansion will not be exhausted before humanity has transformed well past recognition.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Gibbering shitspewer. (1.00 / 1) (#77)
by spcmanspiff on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 05:06:04 PM EST

If even the most ignorant bumpkin could debunk it, let's see it. You certainly qualify.

If population growth had jackshit to do with quality of life, then why don't China and India have the highest standards of living in the world?

No, the real relationship between 'population' and 'quality of life' is that overpopulation elsewhere in the world leads to better quality of life here for us.

And your 'population -> economies of scale -> innovation' gimmick is backwards. Look at the development of agriculture, for example: The innovations that led to increased food supply didn't give anyone a better quality of life. Instead, populations rose accordingly until subsistence was a way of life again. Every new innovation had an accompanying boom in population and the newly available food was spread just as thinly as the older. All too often innovation wasn't enough, and areas like the Cradle of Civilization (Sumeria) became wastelands.

It's cute that you believe in the Future Galactic Conquest; I personally think it's going to take one hell of a balancing act to survive as a species that long.


[ Parent ]

So... (2.50 / 2) (#78)
by CodeWright on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 05:43:27 PM EST

...you malodorant excresence of a leprous necrophilic corpse-buggerer...

While you and your leaf-eating buddies scrabble around in the dirt of the lower Pleistocene, I and my fellow technologists will proceed to pave the world.

No amount of anti-technological whinging can stop us. Hint: as much as the Earth-First ecoterrorists attempt to maim and kill in the name of an evangelical anti-technological religion, the technologists can and will build offenses and defenses faster than the Earth-Firsters can be late-adopters.


As I said before, wear a fucking helmet, you fucking hippie.

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Kids, I made peanut butter and jelly! (nt) (2.50 / 1) (#84)
by gilrain on Sun Jun 22, 2003 at 12:42:24 PM EST

[ Parent ]
China and India (5.00 / 1) (#94)
by Pop Top on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 04:46:31 PM EST

If population growth had jackshit to do with quality of life, then why don't China and India have the highest standards of living in the world?

Lets fast forward 50 or 100 years. In a hydrogen economy, both India and China could rather easily have economies that utterly dwarf the United States and European Union.

1 billion consumers to sell stuff to. I predict that 100 years from now China and India will be doing very well indeed.

[ Parent ]

It's not even conceivable for you... (3.00 / 1) (#97)
by Gooba42 on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 04:24:59 AM EST

We'll burn out our local (read: Earthborne) resources before we have any chance to expand beyond our current little habitat? With a concerted effort, I'm sure we could all reproduce until the system was thrown so completely out of whack that we ourselves become the next species on the chopping block within only a couple generations.

The alternative is to reassess what we actually value and adjust accordingly. Yes, we all know that having 15 children will crush some people and strengthen others. How many do you think belong to each category? And are you willing to pay for the others on top of your own?

You're demanding death by greed before you'd consider life by moderation.

[ Parent ]

BTW (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by CodeWright on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 04:39:04 PM EST

You picked the wrong guy to use your "Central Asia" example with -- here on k5, the two people that I am aware of who have been longtime Central Asian residents for any period are meatbomb and myself...

...And, Soviet banking crash aside, the quality of life there is definitely improved over earlier days...

"Jumpin Jesus H. Christ riding a segway with a little fruity 1 pint bucket of Ben and Jerry's rainbow fairy-berry crunch in his hand." --
[ Parent ]
Yippies (none / 0) (#96)
by phliar on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 06:50:15 PM EST

yippies (yuppified hippies)

Please! The yippies are an old and important group, and the term predates yuppies and even hippies! Do a web search on Abbie Hoffman and the yippies. Others involved with the group have been Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and Arlo Guthrie. They ran a pig for president in 1968.

Also look up "The Chicago Eight," police over-reaction and urban riots, defendants bound and gagged in the courtroom, the Black Panthers. While you're at it, read some Kerouac too.

Please make up a different word; "yippie" is taken.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

positive feedback (none / 0) (#92)
by caca phony on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 12:25:40 PM EST

Unlimited growth is the idealism of life.
You seem to think that human population is so fragile that we must not allow any negative feedback to check the positive feedback of biological reproduction.

This philosophy works to speed the coming of those conditions that would make it appropriate. With human society as it stands now, eliminating all negative feedback on our population growth and industrial development will tend to lead us to a situation where our species is indeed so threatened that it must reproduce at all costs and above all other concerns for it's continued survival to be insured.

Positive feedback tends to be unpredictable, and is mainly useful as an agent of destruction (nuclear explosions so we can kill large numbers of people with minimal effort, stock market crashes so speculation is kept in check, the oscillations that destroyed the tacoma narrows bridge so we could have a nifty logo, the feedback in a guitar solo that blows the speaker so the awful music stops, etc.).

The desire to limit growth is the desire to kill.
Limiting growth leads at worst to a stagnation, if you are overcorrecting the system, and that stagnation can lead to the destruction of the system, if not corrected in time. With the human population we would have a window of at least a generation to see that we are putting to great a check on development or population expansion, if not longer. The signs of that stagnation are well known and can be watched for and dealt with when they show up.

Unlimited growth leads INVARIABLY to instability, and that instability eventually to disaster if unchecked, in an uncertain timeframe, with a variety of possible manifestations and symptoms.

I prefer the flexibility of being able to chose how growth is limited along with the safety of knowing that if errors are made the signs will be clear and knowable and that we will be able to respond to those signs with a course of action planned beforehand, over the uncertainty of eventual disaster (and all this disaster would be is an element of negative feedback, but one we do not get to chose, and not implemented on our terms).

To sum up, the pair of statements you made: "Unlimited growth is the idealism of life." "The desire to limit growth is the desire to kill." are not just wrong, they are the kind of propaganda Orwell despised- not just a untruth but the OBVERSE of the truth. I can accept that within a larger system that provides some negative feedback such as disease and starvation, a species can survive without controling it's own rate of reproduction. In our great technical ability (which I admire every bit as much as you do, I assure you), we have minimized the dangers of disease and starvation to our species. If we do not allow rational and humane checks on our reproduction, starvation and disease will pick up the slack again as our population exceeds healthy boundries. Furthermore, it is of near mathematic simplicity to know that that no matter how many ways you invent to support a larger population, there is a possible population density large enough to overburden that technology, and without checks, either internal or external, the population will reach and exceed that limit, so lets not take the argument in that direction, shall we? If you have some plausable proposal whereby unchecked growth does not lead to the increase of starvation and disease, describe how it works, I would be sincirely interested.

[ Parent ]

addendum (none / 0) (#93)
by caca phony on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 12:51:52 PM EST

I do not mean to imply that starvation among humans is predominantly a result of overpopulation. In many cases there are surpluses IN THE SAME COUNTRY at least large enough to feed those in need, the problems are not unavailability of food but rather inability to afford it - there are companies that would rather let surplus grain rot than lower prices enough such that it would be purchased. Starvation does reduce population, whether overpopulation causes starvation or not, of course.

[ Parent ]
Chill out, man, have a cup of herbal tea (nt) (none / 0) (#86)
by nebbish on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 05:34:59 AM EST

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

An agricultural spanner (4.66 / 3) (#19)
by toychicken on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 12:16:58 PM EST

Although yes the countryside in the UK has turned somewhat into a monoculture, it's not as bad as many places. We don't tend to have as many of the mega-sized crops fields as many industrial agricultural regions (dustbowl anyone?) and one of the beneficiaries (at least in terms of wildlife) of the EU agro-policy is that many fields are left fallow, providing valuable habitats for wildlife there too.

Much of this land is in the greenbelt, and so too would be at risk of horizontal expansion. This just throws another spanner into the works of anyone trying to balance the decision of wildlife / housing.

I won't start on some of the more insane aspects of the common agricultural policy - i.e. a policy that pays farmers to have dairy herds, then pays them again, not to sell the milk...

Anyhow, I have an unpopular solution... how about building tall buildings for people to live in... get rid of all those nasty sprawling red-brick estates... think how many people you could get in, say a 16-floor block? The future of urbanisation is vertical, not outwards... ;-)

(For anyone not spotting the irony, after WW2, much of the UK's damaged & outdated housing stock was replaced with tower-blocks, however after 20-odd years, they fell into disrepair and were nearly all torn down. This was due to a combination of lack of fundamental resources for maintenance of the buildings, appalling decisions about the demographics of those that should live in high-rise, and some poor architectural materials choices... most people in UK today erroneously believe that tower block living is fundamentally flawed, however it seems strange that it seems to succeed very well elsewhere...)

- - - - - - -8<- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just how many is a Brazillian anyway?

Thames Gateway will be high density. (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by nebbish on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 06:58:28 AM EST

The proposed developments will have a high density and will in a lot of cases be high rise blocks - similar to ones already built at the Millennium Village in North Greenwich.

This is necessary to cram the desired amount of people into the space available.

I see your point, but the question is how dense can you make an area before it becomes undesirable?

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

The Brits need more living space... (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by MSBob on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 01:53:26 PM EST

That's the short and the long of it.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

I understand France is available ;-) n/t (3.66 / 3) (#23)
by Bill Melater on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 02:17:48 PM EST

[ Parent ]
The British Plantation of France (4.50 / 2) (#46)
by o reor on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 05:38:40 AM EST

It is already a well-known fact that many many UK citizens, hopeless for an affordable home, have decided to buy a house in France (notably Normandy and Brittany, but also in the South) where accomodation is indeed more affordable.

And this phenomenon has developped at such a rate that speculation on housing is creating an unusual rise on the prices of real estate. In Brittany where I live, even the most forlorn villages have houses for sale at sky-high prices, which would not be the case 20 years ago, all things considered equal. A worker with minimum wage could afford a decent house at that time, but it's no longer the case.

So I'm interested in having this story published, because it raises a number of questions on the choices a society has to do. I understand that the recent governments in the UK have favored the richest estate owners at the expense of the poor, and now they have to encourage the building of new houses; who and what should be favoured that time ?

[ Parent ]

What about jobs? (none / 0) (#74)
by ghjm on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 04:20:17 PM EST

Can you reasonably expect to commute every day between Normandy/Britanny and Kent or London? Or are the UK transplants getting jobs in France?

[ Parent ]
Check a map. (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by meaningless pseudonym on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 07:44:31 PM EST

No. 5-6 hour ferry journey at best.

I'm told Kent County Council are encouraging people to try it from Pas de Calais but that's not a very pleasant part of the world to live in.

[ Parent ]

The truth behind the Iraq war finally comes out... (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:42:17 AM EST

Vacation homes for the UK and the USA!!!!


I only read Usenet for the articles.

[ Parent ]
Density (4.25 / 4) (#24)
by Urthpaw on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 02:28:55 PM EST

I spent two months in London last year, and one difference that I noticed between there and most Canadian cities was the density.

In London, it seems like every single building is three stories high.  There's a handful of smaller buildings, and a handful of larger ones, but the vast majority of buildings (both Residential and commercial) seem to fall into the 2-4 story range.  There is endless sprawl of medium-high density development.

In Edmonton, on the other hand, the vast majority of land is covered by single-story buildings, with a downtown area full of 30-story highrises-- we have sprawling low-density areas, and a few clusters of high-density.  Overall, London's density is greater, but there seem to be very few really high-density areas.  The Docklands are essentially the only skyscrapers, and there's only a handful of them.

Given that land prices are so high, why not just build high-rise apartments?  A block of high-rises can fit many more people than the average London block.  In Edmonton, there's an aversion to living in a high-rise because of the lack of garden or backyard.  But from my experiences in London, most people lived in flats.  Personally, I'd prefer to live in a fifty-story building five minutes away from the tube than a three story one fifteen minutes away.

London planning (5.00 / 6) (#27)
by rvcx on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:04:34 PM EST

First, while I agree with your statements in general, I think you're underestimating average building height a bit. There are very few buildings in London less than three or four stories tall, and there are lots and lots of ten to twenty story buildings. I work in one of the office buildings, and from my window I can see many others.

There are quite a few residential high-rises as well. Unfortunately, many of these were built in the 60s and 70s as "council housing"--the London equivalent of "housing projects" in many American cities. The intended purpose as well as the bleak period in architectural history combined to create some incredibly ugly buildings.

A big part of the problem is London's terrifyingly rich architectural history. Next time you're in Piccadilly Circus ignore the signs and the shops and just looks at the buildings surrounding you. Planting any kind of giant monstrosity of a skyscraper within sight of these noble five to ten story buildings would just be destroying the city's character.

As can be expected, the only realistic places for huge buildings that didn't destroy the architectural flow of the city were along the river Thames (where you can see some tasteful examples of recent construction) and in areas which were never really built up before. Canary Wharf is the showcase for this type of idea. Aggressive development has turned east London from a squalid crime-ridden neighborhood to a major financial district with modern upscale residential buildings. This approach has garnered much wider public approval than the hideous communist-style government housing projects of the 60s and 70s. (Visit a few cities from the other side of the iron curtain and you'll see similar depressing architecture.)

In short, the "just build some cheap high-rises anywhere there's a vacant lot" approach has already been tried in London, and I hope very much that it is never tried again. Planning whole districts at a time and not interrupting the existing city for such projects are both important priorities, and that's the historical context which has led to the choice between the green belt and the brownfield sites.

[ Parent ]

People don't want to live in hi-rises. (3.00 / 3) (#57)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:40:26 AM EST

That's basically the problem. The "American Dream" is an acre of land and big ol' house with detached garage. I can't imagine the "English Dream" is that much different.

I only read Usenet for the articles.

[ Parent ]
Remember the population density (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by AndrewH on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:57:31 AM EST

Britain, like most other European countries, is much more densely populated than the USA; London is packed even by British standards. Perhaps an inter-war suburban semi-detached house approaches a “British dream” — but it’s still something many people wouldn’t dare to aspire to with any seriousness.
John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr — where are you now that we need you?
[ Parent ]
It's the land (4.50 / 2) (#82)
by epepke on Sat Jun 21, 2003 at 04:22:52 PM EST

London and the surrounding areas are a bit too sandy to build many high-rises without some very expensive engineering. 30 stories is about the limit even if you're willing to spend an awful lot of money on the building. 20 is more of a practical limit for reasonable expenditure. This is unlike, say, New York City which is basically all rock.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
A good idea. (3.33 / 3) (#30)
by mulescent on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 06:50:08 PM EST

Housing obviously gets top priority because it generates property tax dollars and whatnot. I think the article highlights an exception, not a rule. Often, abandoned industrial areas are totally inappropriate for housing because they are surrounded by still-in-use industrial areas or are near downtown areas. I have personally seen many of these redeveloped as parks - Denver comes to mind.... I think its a good idea.

You better stop that laser game, or you'll smell my mule
You're an idiot. (2.66 / 3) (#42)
by debacle on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 05:22:39 AM EST

Housing gets top priority because people need houses.

The government isn't so shortsighted as to build houses just for the tax revenue.

Only on kuro5hin...

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]

No? (none / 0) (#95)
by Lagged2Death on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 05:01:09 PM EST

Housing gets top priority because people need houses. The government isn't so shortsighted as to build houses just for the tax revenue.

Hmm. Where do you live?

The town council of the last suburb I lived in clearly stated in their newsletters that their goals included:
  1. Increasing the property values of the home-owner residents (thus, coincidentally I'm sure, increasing the town's tax revenue)
  2. Doing so in part by decreasing the number of housing units in town. For example, the town would buy and demolish, say, 20 usefully occupied low-cost units, for the purpose of building 8 expensive new ones.
So it was quite clear that these policies were all about the money issues, and that the council was in fact openly hostile to the "people need houses" principle.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
Not so (none / 0) (#63)
by nebbish on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 11:12:04 AM EST

This is one of many docs available on the subject from a quick google.

There are other places on the Thames estuary that are also important. The ones I've visited are mainly in north Kent. Cliff (possible site of a future airport) is important for birdlife, as is the Isle of Grain (site of future brownfield expansion). The disused section of Chatham docks is home to the UK's only colony of scorpions (admittedly they are aliens, but they have been there for over 100 years and, lets face it, are pretty interesting animals). I wrote my piece using the article from the Guardian as a prime example of the previously ignored importance of these sites. Just because they look crappy doesn't mean they are. I visited the site on Canvey Island and saw nothing but weeds and rubble - but then I didn't know what I was looking for. The same might apply to Denver.

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

This reminds me how I was at burger king (1.57 / 33) (#31)
by A Proud American on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:25:18 PM EST

yesterday waiting in line for onion ring sauce for my onion rings and this little kid came up behind me and asked for a simpsons watch and i was like "hey punk where are you goddamn manners" and his dad came up behind me and he thought he was a tough ass because he was driving a ford f150 with the calvin windows decal pissing on the dodge logo and i said "look motherfucker my pythons are registered weapons with the federal government" and he said "yeah sure" so i socked him in the gut then in the face and then stomped on him about 672 times while his kid and girlfriend watched and then i ran off with his boots

The weak are killed and eaten...

I want my boots back [nt] (4.57 / 7) (#38)
by j1mmy on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 12:07:12 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Take your pick (3.62 / 8) (#32)
by godix on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 07:25:55 PM EST

You can have a few rare plants or you can have less homeless. Pick which you prefer. If you pick the plants I dare you to explain to a bum why a weed is more important than him.

"A disobedient dog is almost as bad as a disobedient girlfriend or wife."
- A Proud American
Homeless (3.75 / 4) (#33)
by Urthpaw on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 08:18:31 PM EST

I don't think these projects are aimed at alleviating homelessness.  The idea is to provide more affordable housing close to London, to reduce the commute of many workers.

In London, the cost of living is so high that many schoolteachers, &c, can no longer afford to live inside the city.

[ Parent ]

Huh? (3.75 / 4) (#35)
by godix on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 09:40:26 PM EST

What are you saying, building more houses means that there won't be homes for more people? I doubt schoolteacers and so on will decide to own and pay taxes on two homes. I also doubt the homes they move out of will stay abandoned. I suspect this would start several different population moves. The middle class sells homes outside the city and moves into London. People who currently rent nice places in the area buy homes from middle class. People is crappy apartments move to better apartments. Homeless move from street to shitty apartments. Following this chain building more homes will help homelessness even if it isn't the homeless themselves moving into the new houses.

Of course I'm not saying absolutely every person in each group will move, but even if a fairly small amount of them, say 5%, follow this trend it will make a notable difference in homelessness.

"A disobedient dog is almost as bad as a disobedient girlfriend or wife."
- A Proud American
[ Parent ]

Vaguely (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by Urthpaw on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 10:40:54 PM EST

Good point. What I was getting at was that development wasn't directly helping the homeless. Actually, I kind of doubt that there will be very much trickle-down effect from this-- I expect that the extra middle-range housing (either produced directly or freed up by people moving into the city) will be absorbed by people coming out of college.

[ Parent ]
Forgot about population expansion (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by godix on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:07:51 PM EST

Silly me. You're right, new people moving into the area will probably take the extra houses before the trickle down gets as far as the homeless. Please forget all that crap I was talking about earlier with the homeless.

I personally think the ideal solution is to increase population density, you could fit all the new and existing people while still saving the weeds. Of course, I come from America so destorying old buildings and neighborhoods is a fairly common reaction for me. I imagine a Londoners reaction to changing neighborhoods older than my country would prevent this from being a viable alternative.

The other fairly easy alternative is transplanting. I don't see why a large park can't be built and all the things we want to keep are moved to it. It'd be about as 'natural' as an abandon building is....

Still, the basic argument boils down to people or nature? The fact there is a London, or any other city, means this is mostly a long ago decided issue.

"A disobedient dog is almost as bad as a disobedient girlfriend or wife."
- A Proud American
[ Parent ]

Population expansion? (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by toychicken on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 05:34:18 AM EST

Hmm, kinda caught in the middle of these two arguements. Population expansion as a whole in the UK is almost nil, however, the general ageing of the population, and (for instance) increasing divorce rates, (or just solo living anyway) mean that the population requires more individual space.

So, the majority of new build in cities (as far as residential is concerned) are flats / apartments / studios. This keeps the cost of living high, which forces key-sector workers out of the town centres.

I would suggest therefore that whilst new developments (which would predominantly provide 1-2 bed housing) this would not provide much trickle-down effect for the homeless, as they are more likely to be merely forced outwards, and be homeless elsewhere.

'Surely they'll just take up the slack in the housing that the key-sector workers have just vacated?' I hear you cry... unlikely, as these homes will become desirable second homes for the middle-classes... d'oh!

- - - - - - -8<- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just how many is a Brazillian anyway?

[ Parent ]
Increasing population density... (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:36:51 AM EST

Definitely - but remember that density brings it's own problems: crime, pollution, litter and so on. That's the reason people move as far away from the city (any city) as they can.

I only read Usenet for the articles.

[ Parent ]
homelessness is not a function of housing (4.33 / 3) (#55)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:31:55 AM EST

At least, not per-se. Sure, there are places where there really is a horrendous housing shortage, causing a few employeed people to try living in their cars and so on, but the causes of long term homelessness are quite a bit more complex than that.

Throwing up more houses won't solve the problem in any case. Consider this thought experiment: what would happen if a miracle occurred and 10,000 low-cost homes suddenly became available in central London? How long would they remain "low-cost"? How long before bidding wars erupted among yuppies determined to "get in on the ground floor"?

I only read Usenet for the articles.

[ Parent ]
Comments. (3.00 / 7) (#39)
by qpt on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 01:35:56 AM EST

Preserving the habitat of endangered organisms is undoubtedly important, since extinction is forever, says the mantra. However, as with numerous other value judgments, it is difficult to convince a skeptic of the worth of such conservancy, particularly when opposed by a competing agenda. Everyone agrees that it would be nice to protect each and every last species and minute subdivision of genus and species, sustain all indefinitely and moreover naturally, ignoring that nature herself has assured far less, but only niceness is agreed upon and beyond that the issue is brutal with confusion and contention, cries of specieism clamoring against accusation of inhumanity.

There are enough homo sapiens, some claim, and perhaps are (how many times to the moon and back?), but for what? One is sometimes one too many, but let's not be hasty. Ever human life is instilled with incalculable worth, formerly by god, and though he rather suddenly quit (was fired? nobody wants to talk about it) and a replacement has not be forthcoming, we maintain in the tradition supposing perhaps that imminent revaluation is inevitable and a subtle swindle of retroactive moral accounting will justify that absurd ends to which we now self-extend for these wretches.

Wretches indeed! Supposing one were required to make a reasonable and impartial but of course difficult decision regarding which organisms would be spared and which would not, one would likely not choose to champion a scraggly-haired, brutally putrid lout who spent his days wandering sunblasted concrete, asphalt wrapped in a tattered filthbrowned coat screaming, moaning about...nobody knows what he's trying to tell us. But genetically, he's paramount, never mind that we all hope he didn't breed and know he never will now -- heaven spare the wench knocked up by that -- but our lunatic itinerant may yet be of some value, if only as a haven for endangered lice, Federal protection requisite, call the Congress.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

The 'housing crisis' is like the 'traffic crisis' (4.80 / 5) (#52)
by GoStone on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 07:07:53 AM EST

The population of the country is not in rapid growth. Simply more people want a place of their own compared to the past. Children leave home earlier. Young people don't want to share digs. People buy holiday cottages in the country. Commuters have a flat in town and a family home in the provinces. There is the perception that property is a good investment. I.e the population is spreading itself more thinly. Building more housing will not change the situation, just like building more roads will not solve congestion. There are never enough roads and never enough houses. The demand always grows to exceed the supply, to the point where there is no countryside except small zones of managed parkland and golf-courses. Endless suburbia.

A better solution is to keep the supply constant and let the market settle down. Introduce policies to curtail property speculation and encourage sharing.

Cut first, ask questions later

We've got the same issue in Pennsylvania. (4.40 / 5) (#54)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:24:37 AM EST

Pennsylvania is in the heart of America's "rust belt" and our population has been stagnant or declining for decades. So WTF is all the farmland being gobbled up by McMansions?

I drove past my old "neighborhood" a few days ago. 13 years ago, when I moved in, it was right on the line between suburb and rural. When I left 6 years later, buildings were popping up like mushrooms. When I visited a couple days ago, I thought I was in Los Angeles. It's pathetic. I hated LA.

I only read Usenet for the articles.

[ Parent ]
Philly (none / 0) (#73)
by Crono on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 04:20:06 PM EST

I may be wrong, but isn't Philadelphia proper losing people? Sure as the state is concerned, that might not be all that big, but as a Philly resident it worries me. We don't have enough taxes to go around as it is. We also have many areas of blight and whilst there are programs in the works, it doesn't seem to be helping all that much.

[ Parent ]
Re (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by djotto on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 09:01:58 AM EST

On average people are leaving home later, not earlier.

You're right about the drift towards single-occupancy, though.

The population is also moving towards the south-east, especially London - the north certainly isn't experiencing this kind of housing pressure. How to fix that... I'm not sure that there's an answer. Certainly any solution would be hideously expensive.

[ Parent ]

Nonsense. (none / 0) (#72)
by ghjm on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 04:10:35 PM EST

Provide significant tax incentives for businesses to relocate to the north. Create tax-free industrial parks, or set up regional business development units run by local government. It costs you nothing unless you count revenue foregone as a cost, and it's revenue you would not otherwise have collected anyway. Maybe the tax base of London shrinks a bit, but it's hard to imagine any government-run relocation program that would not also have this effect.


[ Parent ]

But think of the workers... (none / 0) (#66)
by thisweek on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 01:21:08 PM EST

But if they "keep the supply constant and let the market settle down", one would expect prices to rise to a level where supply and demand are equal. One of the problems is that the cost of living and house prices are already pretty high; those essential workers will be even less able to afford to live in the capital.
"Introduce policies to curtail property speculation"? That will be the day!

[ Parent ]
my point was (none / 0) (#83)
by GoStone on Sun Jun 22, 2003 at 04:36:36 AM EST

that however much countryside you cover with roads and houses there will always be too much demand, especially if property is seen as a good investment. These building schemes are presented as benefiting the workers but in fact only benefit the property developers and speculators.

...That will be the day!

well I know. The government seems to be on its knees to the home-owners. Its 'core constituency'. To the ruination of all else. Even the home-owners will come undone soon enough though, I suspect.

Cut first, ask questions later
[ Parent ]

How did they get there? (4.40 / 5) (#58)
by Quila on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 08:41:22 AM EST

If these species showed up in the last 50 years or so as the factories went away, then where did they come from? If they were hardy enough to thrive there, then why aren't they also thriving in other places? Did anyone think that maybe that the time on earth for that species of beetle maybe is just up if it's so rare?

I have noticed that a number of recent extinctions comes not from more species going away, but that science can now differentiate into two or three species what was before considered to be one, with the mutated species being very small in number and likely to die out anyway (having not been "selected").

How they got there, why it matters (5.00 / 3) (#89)
by wlossog on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 10:12:48 AM EST

Without knowing the specific mechanism by which any species made it on to the brownfields, the fact that they're there shouldn't be a surprise. The species that thrive in nutrient-poor habitats (the brownfields) tend to be those that are better dispersers, those that are able to send individuals (e.g., birds) or seeds (e.g., weedy plants, think dandelions) the greatest distances.

That these species are "hardy enough to thrive there" does not imply that they will survive elsewhere. This hardiness has a cost, species may need to make do with less proteins since there is limited nitrogen or work harder to acquire water since there are excess solutes in the soil. In classical competition (Gause 1934), competitive exclusion occurs as the "best competitor" grabs an increasing share of the resource pool until the "inferior competitors" are driven out. But this only tends to happen in spatially homogeneous, resource rich environments where dispersal doesn't matter, like the monocultures in the greenbelts the author mentions. In brownfields, most species have a tenuous grasp on survival and can become locally extinct. Also, the heterogeneous landscape (burnt-out cars) creates small microhabitats by which species can persist even if they are not the "best competitor" (population models that consider effects like these include metapopulation models which tend to have neat emergent properties that simpler ones lack). So, brownfields can potentially be very diverse environments that include species that are rare (but not necessarily in any danger elsewhere).

Finally, why does this matter? Why should we be concerned with species loss? Turns out its not "that species of beetles [that is] so rare" that will disappear. It will take a while but its the big, most abundant, "best competitors" that will disappear (Tilman et. al. 1994). Scary stuff.

[ Parent ]

Most interesting (none / 0) (#90)
by Quila on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 10:30:16 AM EST

Wish I could rate higher than 5.

"Ours goes up to 11!"

[ Parent ]

It should have been you who wrote my article! (nt) (none / 0) (#91)
by nebbish on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 11:39:14 AM EST

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

The Hackney solution (5.00 / 3) (#62)
by AndrewH on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 09:13:25 AM EST

Find a part of London that’s underdeveloped rather than derelict (and well away from the green belt or the estuary), give it decent rail links (roads on their own are severely not good enough in London), and watch the people pour in.
John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr — where are you now that we need you?
Hackney needs the investment (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by nebbish on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 12:05:31 PM EST

It has some fairly serious, entrenched social problems, and crime is a real problem, but serious investment could turn it around. It'd take a lot more than just a lick of paint but it's possible. It is handy for the City and could be a desirable place to live. I'm not sure how much room there is for new households though - I'd imagine overcrowding in it's existing housing is a real issue, which would have to be tackled first.

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

D'oh (none / 0) (#65)
by toychicken on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 01:10:08 PM EST

Hasn't Hackney, within the last year, just demolished a load of its high-density housing? Insane? Well, perhaps not if you'd seen the things, but a poorly considered option. Undoubtably.

Mind you someone has started the slum clearance... Check this out

Of course, I only live round the corner, so this is not really a laughing matter...

- - - - - - -8<- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just how many is a Brazillian anyway?

[ Parent ]
Hackney is growing (none / 0) (#87)
by nebbish on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 07:27:50 AM EST

According to this 2003 Labour Market Assessment (PDF file), the population of Hackney is growing faster than the rest of London anyway, so it looks like we're all barking up the wrong tree.

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Underground development (5.00 / 2) (#79)
by Urthpaw on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 05:43:59 PM EST

It's probably a few years off, but maybe we'll see this down the line.

Very interesting (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by nebbish on Mon Jun 23, 2003 at 08:53:11 AM EST

Great article, but I was surprised to see no mention of underground obstructions, which is the main reason underground transit systems in London are so expensive. Multiple cabling companies, a nineteenth century sewage system, and unexploded WWII ordnance all make tunnelling an expensive business here in the smoke.

Once you get down deep enough I suppose it will cease being a problem - but it could make for some pretty tight entrances (god that sounded bad...)

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Slight tangent: mortgages (4.33 / 3) (#81)
by meaningless pseudonym on Fri Jun 20, 2003 at 07:59:34 PM EST

OK, I was thinking about housing issues earlier with a friend, and we got whingeing about the banks on this sort of thing. The essential point was that, because we all acknowledge we need loans to buy property, property prices are to a large degree fuelled by what the financial institutions are prepared to loan us. Britain got one boom in the 80s when second incomes started being counted against possible mortgages (no, I'm not suggesting that was the only factor) and we're experiencing another now (admittedly the tail of one) where banks have started allowing 40 year mortgages and 400+% income loan levels. Both of which will cause house price inflation and which, coupled with the first, is sending numbers of first time buyers down to below 20% when they previusly sat at 50% or so.

It is my thesis that this only benefits the financial institutions as it allows them to earn more interest on longer, larger loans. It reduces the number of the general population who are able to afford to invest in property and so build themselves a more financially secure and stable long-term base and increases the demand for rental accomodation, which again concentrates money into the hands of those who already have it. Finally, by reducing disposable incomes at a time when they would otherwise be rising, it reduces the benefit of a boom to the economy as a whole by reducing economic activity.

It would therefore seem potentially sensible to regulate more closely what mortgages lenders were able to offer. Restrict to 325% annual salary of one person (on the assumption that a couple may well have children and remove the second income, at least temporarily), restrict term to 30 years. All hypothetical figures plucked straight out of the air, but make mortgages something that people can realistically afford and can plausibly repay. By doing so we reduce the purchasing power of buyers as a whole (OK, admittedly first-time buyers first but hey, have to start somewhere) and so inevitably reduce the cost of housing.

I can instantly hear various people moaning about big government and leaving the enlightened self-interest of capitalism to self-correct but, fact is, I believe the financial institutions have found a solution that is extremely beneficial to them but harmful to the economy as a whole and are unlikely to change unless forced. Aside from the argument that on principle we don't want to meddle in this sort of thing, what problems could people see with this idea?

Did you hear the moaners mention rent? (none / 0) (#85)
by Scrymarch on Sun Jun 22, 2003 at 07:04:51 PM EST

The cost of property is tied to the cost of rent, because it becomes cheaper to rent and invest the difference elsewhere than buy a home.  Long time moaners at The Economist recently published a survey which argues the link between the two shows much of the rich world is in a property bubble.

[ Parent ]
Why Brown is the New Green | 97 comments (64 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
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