Considered correspondence

The posts on this blog were mostly considered emails written to people interested in a particular approach to addressing the problems facing humanity and our relationship to the planet. If you are interested in what you read - please leave a comment...

July 09, 2013

Protest! - an essay

This essay was written as an entry for a competition run by The Guardian, asking for 3000 words on a personal experience of protest. I rather ignored the brief, which called for reportage on a recent involvement. It goes without saying that I didn't win...
I wrote about my experience over a lifetime, really as supporting material for an argument, which is that protest over issues is all but futile - that at best it moves the goalposts (I initially miss-spelled that as 'gaolposts', and it was appropriate, as single issue protest can be seen as a call for no more than 'Bigger Cages, Longer Chains!'). The argument is that protest which is simply a rejection, which refuses to get involved in negotiations, in detail, in compromise, is more challenging to the status quo, harder to answer, more subversive - and more satisfying.

Anyway, rather than write it all again, here it is:

January 19, 2012

Letter to Greg Keeffe

Hadn't seen your urbanism blog before. Glad I have now.

There is a terrible thing going on. Life is being squashed, sucked, drained from everything by an essentially inhuman network that is corporatism - machine scale institutions, processes, understandings (this applies equally to 'right' and 'left' - all seem in thrall to / in awe of the insensate power of scale).

Those of us who hate this, who resist this, are nevertheless part of it: as Joe S said - "You have to deal with it/ It is the currency" - 'Hate and War'

But our opposition is fatally fragmented by the reverberations of modernism. Modernism is Janus faced. On the one hand, it celebrates the individual, encourages us to look at tradition with a sceptical and suspicious eye - as the trappings of an outdated feudal system - in this sense it encourages freedom, supports life.

December 12, 2011

Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle

There - that's a catchy title for a blog post, innit? This one'll go viral for sure.....
Actually, I'm being wilfully obscure (me?) - Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle were (are, it seems) a German post-punk band, whereas this post is actually about the implications of suggestions by scientists that free will is an illusion, written in response to this interesting post: The survival value of 'free' will.
In summary, the post rehearses recent suggestions from a number of scientific angles that free will does not exist, and looks at why we might have stuck with (developed?) such an illusion for evolutionary reasons.
I have read quite a bit around this topic - it comes up in New Scientist fairly frequently - and I've frequently come across this sort of statement;

"So why then do we believe in free will?
It’s simple: if we didn’t, we’d all die a lot sooner.

November 28, 2011

Letter to Christopher Alexander

I wrote this letter after seeing Chris. Alexander speak at the kevin Lynch Memorial lecture, held by the Urban Design Group in London, November 2011:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for the presentation at the UDG event on Wednesday. I was pleased not only to be able to come and hear for myself, but to bring along some others who have long known of my interest in and dependence on your work.

I have been and remain terribly frustrated (in the US sense of the word) by the lack of forums in which intelligent debate and development of the many ideas, possibilities and imperatives implied by your work. I have often attempted to discover others who might be interested in such work and talk via the Internet - only to fail.

I am really seriously concerned that humanity should not miss the point and value of your work. Although I know that you have focused strongly on architecture and the ability of humans to create beauty (as have I), I have a very strong feeling that the tools you have perforce had to create in the attempt to develop reliable approaches to inherently complex and indeterminate  (as in not-computable) systems have an enormous potential beyond the world of architecture (filled, as it frankly is, with intellectual duds, mountebanks, egoists clever and stupid, plodders, chancers, cynics, and sweet, deluded mystics of all kinds - plus the odd self-entranced genius of course).

April 02, 2009

A grumpy exchange with a green politician

Grumpy on my part, that is - Becca is never less than diplomatic.
An introduction: in 2008 Lambeth Council steamrollered through a proposal for the resolution of traffic problems at an awkward junction that entailed destruction of over 1000 sq m of one of the most loved and well-used parks in the Borough. The Friends of Brockwell Park resisted it, and I supported them, but all seemed lost. Until I got a message concerning Lambeth's refusal properly to consider an alternative scheme, that not only saved 400 plus sq m of park, but claimed to improve several road safety issues. I got a little heated, and sent the following message, with others. This one, though, was to a Green Party councillor (the only 'green' in the council chamber). I've posted it here because the exchange of emails (each of which is entered as a 'comment' below) broadens out the debate:

September 28, 2007

Lovelock urges ocean climate fix

This is a very interesting story, not only for the item itself, but that for the first time in a headline news item, the need for systems thinking has come to the fore; that Ken Caldeira's comments on the possible implications of a large scale technological intervention into a complex system which is not fully understood are part of the story.

There is a clear argument that the very reductionist, mechanistic approach which has given us such prowess in technical effectiveness is one of the motors of the climate change crisis. This approach is the dominant model for problem solving in industrialised cultures. There is a huge danger that as the implications of climate change become more starkly obvious, that we will appeal to this dominant model for 'solutions'.

July 22, 2007

Second letter to Dave Pollard

Sent to Dave Pollard September 2006 - in reply to his response to the inaugural posting on this blog.

With regard to capacity for conceptualising complexity - I agree that indigenous cultures seem to have developed ways of engaging sustainably with complex systems (although I think we need also to be careful of the cultural 'noble savage' stereotype' - there appear to be many examples where indigenous cultures did not live sustainably - the extinction of most of the large mammals is often laid at the door of human hunters - it is perhaps that surviving indigenous cultures live in demanding environments hostile to western industrialised societies, and are extant only because they can manage to live sustainably within these fragile ecosystems. So the lesson I draw is that humans CAN successfully live in this way, but not that ALL indigenous cultures did/do so).