Photographed in State College, PA on 03/31/14
I think this is the most concise summary of privilege I’ve seen yet
1. Urban Growth Boundary
The effect of urban flight since the end of WWII have left a lasting imprint on both the land and it has shaped the perspective that growth and expansion are synonymous. Unfortunately, this methodology has left our city centers vacant and our infrastructure overtaxed and stretched thin. Detroit serves as an example of a massive infrastructure system to support with less and less people to cover the cost of supporting it. Over the last decade, trends in urban design have shifted toward more city center development over suburban and rural. Clearly we’re seeing that begin here in South Bend.
Not limiting expansion will always hamper success with that trend, though. An urban growth boundary (UGB) helps guide decisions on zoning and landuse, promotes higher property values (due to scarcity), and forces smarter decisions on long term growth.
This technique has been used around the world for decades, notably UK’s “Campaign to Protect Rural England” and Oregon’s statewide program developed in the early 1970s. In the case of Portland, they have established that line for a period of 20years, though I’ve heard that could be much longer. Having an elongated timetable encourages longer term planning and seeks to more purposefully develop the area within and around the city.
Partnerships: Developers, Dept of Community Investment, Policy Makers
Benefits: Increased land value, more purposeful landuse, higher urban density, preservation of green space (agricultural or natural), stronger infrastructure, and increased opportunities for community engagement
It occurs to me, standing outside and looking at the night’s sky, that geocentrism has a bit of logic to it.
More than just ‘of course early man would assume the Earth is the center of the Universe.’
See, if you were only tracking the Sun and the Moon, geocentrism is fine. Both appear to be heavenly bodies orbiting earth. And eclipses are consistent with this - Solar eclipses happen with the Moon passes in front of the Sun, and Lunar eclipses happen when the Sun and the Moon are opposite each-other (relative to the Earth). The Sun never crosses in front of the Moon.
Thales, known as the ‘First (Western) Philosopher’, made his mark by predicting an eclipse. Well, not merely predicting it, but exploiting his new Scientific understanding to end a war. Because it’s always been a race between Scientific Discovery and the Military Industrial Complex. One time, the two teamed up - and put a man on the fucking Moon. V2 rockets, Operation Paperclip, the development of ICBMs, the creation of NASA, the assassination of Kennedy, and so forth.
Sorry for that tangent. Anyhow, even the fixed background stars make sense with that geocentric model. Where the Sun orbits the Earth once a day, and the Moon orbits the Earth once a week, the fixed background stars orbit the Earth once a year.
These background stars are fixed relative to each-other, which means there are certain recognizable shapes that have always been and will always(ish) be there. This is where Constellations come from. The fact that the background stars orbit the earth once a year means they correlate with the seasons, and thus are useful to us in deciding when to plant and when to harvest. This, plus the fact that the Moon orbits (roughly) 12 times in a year, made it useful to invent the Zodiac.
The geocentric model only really runs into problems when we look at the Planets. The word ‘Planet’ derives from the Greek word for ‘wanderer.’ In the ancient world, 5 of the planets were visible to the naked eye - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The Sun and the Moon were also considered Planets (by the classical definition), making 7 celestial objects that move relative to the fixed background stars.
So the year was defined by the seasons, which correlated with the Zodiac. The month was defined by the Moon. The Day was defined by the Sun. At some point, they decided to break the Month into four Weeks of seven Days. Why seven? Well, there are 7 Classical Planets. And the days were named after then - Sunday, Mo(o)nday, Satur(n)day… language has evolved a lot over time, but you can see Venus in the word ‘Vendredi’ (french for Friday), and Mars in the word ‘Martes’ (spanish for Tuesday). Of course, most civilizations came up with stories about the Planets that anthropomorphize them, regarding them as gods (intentional agents that one can attribute propositional attitudes to, ensouled beings that one can interpret from the intentional stance). Somehow Thor snuck into the English Week.
I’m inclined to imagine that six days corresponds with the number of days an ancient general could march an army without rest (before they start dropping like flies).
But yeah. The Planets (minus the Sun and Moon) throw a huge wrench in the Ptolemaic geocentric model. That’s where you get the epicycles and such. And puzzling over this led to the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.
The Bible, of course, was written before Humanity (at large) realized that the Planets pose an unsolvable riddle in the geocentric paradigm. And so it was written from a geocentric perspective. When Science discovered the solution, that solution ran against the Sacred Literature. What this demonstrated was that Science refines our knowledge, affording humanity the ability to know more about the Universe with each passing generation. Those that regard Tradition or Revelation as Sacred had a difficult time accepting this lesson. At least, in the case where such a discovery directly contradicts the Bible.
Evolution does the same thing to all creation myths.
Now, there’s a larger story to explore here. The story of peace. The story of civilization. The story of time.
See, peace is achieved when a consensus is reached. If there’s no consensus, then either the populations remain distinct, or one group subjugates another. Only by consensus can you have truly voluntary participation in a social system. The consensus may be that majority rules - so long as everyone accepts, when in the minority, that the majority opinion should be enacted.
But the ‘Social Contract’, as Hume rightly points out, is a myth. ’I ain’t signed shit.’
So what sort of consensus can we reach? Well, for populations that speak a single language, quite a few. Really, it’s not difficult to overcome the Prisoner’s Dilemma with a small society of people with a common tongue.
But that consensus only produces peace on the small scale. This is where in-group morality originates. Religious belief, skin color, national (from the latin natalis, meaning ”pertaining to birth or origin”) affiliation, clan, sect, family, etc etc.
But on the larger scale, what sort of consensus might be reached? Across boundaries, across language barriers, across religious backgrounds, between all populations within the boundary of that consensus?
Time. Measurements of time and season.
If distinct populations adopt the same calender, it is much easier for them to engage in commerce. It is easier for them to recognize their unified fates. It is easier for them to negotiate peace, if for no other reason than that they have a common understanding of time and math that enables a consensus on tribute (or taxes) to be paid (in order to enable a cease-fire).
The seasons vary for (obvious, to us) geographic reasons. But the stars are fixed. And regardless of your climate and geographic location, the Zodiac will be helpful in deciding when to plant and when to harvest. At least, for any civilization that has had an agricultural revolution. It’s still useful in hunter/gatherer societies, but decidedly less so.
China and the Islamic World use a lunar calender. In the West, today, we use a Solar calender. The Mayans used some weird wonky hybrid.
How did we get hours? Well, I’ve looked into it, but haven’t found a solid answer. I have speculated a bit… the Earth is roughly 24,000 miles around (at the equator). The Greeks were able to calculate this. They may also have noticed that the Sun rises earlier or later, depending on how far east or west you go (the Mediterranean gave their vessels a very long reach - which granted their civilization a much broader knowledge of the world). An hour, then, is the difference in time between sunrise at one location, and sunrise at another location 1000 miles apart (at the equator). If you travel 167 miles a day (about 6 knots, or ‘nautical miles per hour’) due east (at the equator) for 6 days straight (resting on the 7th day), the Sun would rise an hour earlier than it does at your origin point. 7 is the Heavenly number - the number of Classical Planets (celestial objects visible to the naked eye that move, relative to the fixed background stars), and the number of days a ‘mere mortal’ is incapable of marching (without rest) - so 6 days’ travel makes sense as a measure. So you have 24 hours (because the Equator is 24,000 miles around), and you divide each hour into 60 minutes, and again into 60 seconds.
The Greeks also knew the Earth to be round, and decided (arbitrarily, but likely as an approximation of the number of days it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun) to define a ‘degree’ as one 360th of a circle. Sixty squared is 3600. I’ve no idea if there’s a connection, but Pythagoras led a cult of mathematists. They’d’ve seen beauty in these numbers.
Christians took Easter from an older pagan holiday, but the Church figured Easter relative to the Jewish Passover feast. The Hebrew calender is lunar (whereas the Julian and Gregorian calenders are solar). So the date of Easter ‘floats’ (relative to our Gregorian calender).
Strange that Religious Affiliation and Calender adopted seem to correlate.
And then the Scientists revolutionize our understanding of the Universe by demonstrating heliocentrism (and refuting geocentric models), it affects our Calender. Our most basic consensus. The thing most closely resembling a universally accepted and voluntary social contract (for any given civilization or culture).
And the Scientists of the ancient world were troubled by the imperfection, by the fact that there are not exactly 12 lunar months in a year, that there are not exactly 360 (or even 365) days in a year, and that the Planets do not behave consistently with a geocentric model. This contributed to their religious obsession with the number pi. They wanted a calender where something - be it the summer Equinox, or the phases of the moon, or the movement of the Zodiac - was fixed on their Calender, without needing any ‘tweaking.’ Without ad hoc patches. Without hypothesizing epicycles. Without the need for central control, wherin some authority communicates to everyone some mandated adjustment to the calender (and enforcing it, either through social pressure or military force). Like the Julian Calender. Or the Gregorian Calender.
And later on, Ben Franklin invented Daylight Saving time, compelling everyone (within a jurisdiction that adopts it) to change their clocks twice a year - signing, in a sense, a ‘social contract.’ One might also cite the reporting of income and payment of taxes as re-signing a ‘Social Contract.’ This, one has to imagine, is why Thoreau made such a stink.
And Scientists can’t help but be bothered by the fact that ‘one sixtieth of one sixtieth of one twenty-fourth of one day’ isn’t exactly the same as ‘one year divided by 365 1/4 divided by 24 divided by 60 divided by 60.’ The difference, of course, is the ‘leap year.’ Which was invented because Scientists noticed the equinox moves forward by one day every four years, if we assume 365 days in a year. Because the time it takes for the Earth to make one full revolution around the Sun (or vice-versa) is not evenly dividable by the time it takes for the Earth to make one full rotation (from sun-up to sun-up, accounting for seasonal variation of one day).
So recently some Scientists decided to change the definition of the Second to “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.” Atomic time was born, a measure of time for Scientists to use, competing with the Lunar and Solar calenders (and their variations). A basic building block for a calender not based on the stars, but based on the elements, the evolution of stars. Universal. And they did their best to approximate the present conventions, both for convenience (so this new measure of time still aids greatly in agriculture and business). But this time will translate to any other planet, as caesium-133 is an element.
And Einstein’s discovery of Relativity completely throws all of that under the bus. He doesn’t simply show that speed is relative; he shows that time itself is relative. Not only that it can be fixed to the Moon, or to the Sun, or to the Atom - but that time does not pass the same for me as it does for you. If we are traveling at high speeds (relative to eachother), we will experience a different number of seconds even if we use the cesium definition. Speed is a measure of time, and if speed is relative, so too must be time. Moreover, this undermines the idea of ‘absolute simultaneity.’ Our GPS satellites have to account for this, when calculating velocities and locations of objects on our planet.
And now we’re in the age of computers. Changes to the Calender no longer need to be dictated by a Church or Government; the Internet now holds Authority over Time. Most clocks now re-sync themselves when they access the Internet. Cell phones, computers, entertainment systems, even many actual clocks now set themselves by ‘consulting’ some external authority (over radio waves or cable wire). There are a number of different authorities - those that control the GPS signal, those that control the Atomic Clocks, those that control the Operating Systems, those that control serves that the Operating Systems consult with… but there is a consensus amongst them.
And in the Information Age, time zones make less and less sense. If you do much of your business over the internet, you have to use Greenwich Mean Time to co-ordinate virtual meetings. If you travel a great deal for your work, a Universal Time is useful to stay grounded. If you have a lot of dealings with people on the other side of the globe, you worry less about the position of the Sun relative to you and more about the position of their Sleep Cycle relative to your Sleep Cycle.
Global Warming is relevant here too. Our seasons do correspond pretty well with the Zodiac. But Global Warming is shifting those seasons, which has the potential to undermine our agriculture. Different plants have different climate needs, different climates have different growing seasons, and early frost or drought or brutal storms can ruin a harvest leading to famine, starvation and war. Moreover, if we affect the climate in a way creates a confounding variable with a period that is anything other than exactly one year, it greatly complicates the calculations we use when trying to predict the fucking future so that we can feed the fucking population. Global Warming won’t change the length of time in a year, but it might shift the seasons in a way that does not synchronize with the year. We already have such trends (periods of global warming or cooling) naturally.
And ‘resetting’ time seems to correlate with religion too. Christianity sets Year Zero (3 a.d., somehow ) as the Birth (or Death?) of their messiah figure. Islam has it’s own count, China has its own count, even Scientology uses ‘After Dianetics.’
So this is the challenge before us. In order to move forward as a global society, we must re-set time. Not just re-set it, but re-invent it. Taking into account all of these lessons that we’ve learned. The Internet has already done this, in many ways. And few have noticed, or pondered the significance.
A theme I shall frequent upon: We are in the midst of a new Renaissance. I intend to feature artwork that I feel exemplifies both the innovation and quality of work prominent in our day.
I spent a day in Rome, with my family, a few years back. We were travelling on to Barcelona, so we only got one night. We were all exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, and after it became clear that stress levels were high, I opted to sleep rather than explore. I encouraged my family to do the same, but they were too eager to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Dad rushed out, neglecting to put his valuables in his money-belt, and was quickly relieved of his wallet. Tina and Keith went to the catacombs, where Keith drank from the Aquifer and got violently ill. I slept until 2am, then wandered away from the hotel in search of cigarettes (I had a carton in my luggage, but our luggage was all lost in transit - 14 days in Europe and Africa, with 6 people and no luggage!). Apparently they can only sell tobacco within certain hours, but a kind young man sold me a pack of black market Marlboros - I told him to keep the change, he said “Fuck off!” and pushed it back into my hands.
I don’t have a strong desire to revisit Rome, but one of my few regrets in life was that I did not get to see the painting “The School of Athens” while I was there.
I’ve been to Casablanca, Barcelona, Matamoros, Funchal, Toronto, Agadir, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Windsor, Washington D.C….
I’d love to visit the ruins of the Library of Alexandria, or travel to Athens, or marvel at the excesses of Dubai. But as far as the place I’d most like to visit? Limited to this planet? Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Johannesburg, Vienna, Tokyo… I gotta go with Alexandria, Egypt. Cradle of Civilization.