Last true term at Massey

Judging by my email inboxes, term time has nearly resumed. Since junior fellows are only allowed to be residents for three years, this will be my last real term at Massey. Certainly, there’s a chance I will work for the summer residence program again, and there are many JFs who remain highly present and active after they move out. Nonetheless, it’s worth devoting some special attention to using this last term as well as possible.

I don’t think that calls for anything especially elaborate – just a special effort to take advantage of all the things that make Massey special. In particular, that means spontaneous opportunities for conversations, at meals and elsewhere.

I will also be wrapping up my multi-year project of documenting college life from the inside.

McKibben’s conclusions in 2010

The momentum of the heating, and the momentum of the economy that powers it, can’t be turned off quickly enough to prevent hideous damage. But we will keep fighting, in the hope that we can limit that damage. And in the process, with many others fighting similar battles, we’ll help build the architecture for the world that comes next, the dispersed and localized societies that can survive the damage we can no longer prevent. Eaarth represents the deepest of human failures. But we still must live on the world we’ve created – lightly, carefully, gracefully.

But the greatest danger we face, climate change, is no accident. It’s what happens when everything goes the way it’s supposed to go. It’s not a function of bad technology, it’s a function of a bad business model: of the fact that Exxon Mobil and BP and Peabody Coal are allowed to use the atmosphere, free of charge, as an open sewer for the inevitable waste from their products. They’ll fight to the end to defend that business model, for it produces greater profits than any industry has ever known. We won’t match them dollar for dollar: To fight back, we need a different currency, our bodies and our spirit and our creativity. That’s what a movement looks like; let’s hope we can rally one in time to make a difference.

McKibben, Bill. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. 2010. p. 212, 219 (softcover)

Jacobs of the sharp pen

There is a wistful myth that if only we had enough money to spend – the figure is usually put at a hundred billion dollars – we could wipe out all our slums in ten years, reverse decay in the great, dull, gray belts that were yesterday’s and day-before-yesterday’s suburbs, anchor the wandering middle class and its wandering tax money, and perhaps even solve the traffic problem.

But look what we have built with the first several billions: Low-income projects that become worse centers of deliquency, vandalism and general social hopelessness than the slums they were supposed to replace. Middle-income housing projects which are truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life. Luxury housing projects that mitigate their inanity, or try to, with a vapid vulgarity. Cultural centers that are unable to support a good bookstore. Civic centers that are avoided by everyone but bums, who have fewer choices of loitering place than others. Commercial centers that are lacklustre imitations of standardized suburban chain-store shopping. Promenades that go from no place to nowhere and have no promenaders. Expressways that eviscerate great cities. This is not the rebuilding of cities. This is the sacking of cities.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. 1961. p. 4 (hardcover)