Thursday, July 26, 2007


Dr. Ed Blakely took a few jet-lagged moments to produce a column for today's T-P apparently with the aim of removing all doubt that his recent trip to Italy was every bit as enlightening as a ride on Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. The most valuable nugget of information bestowed upon Dr. Blakely by this world gathering of Urban Consulting Illuminati amounted to more or less a breathless restatement of 1950s futurism.

Cities as we know them are forms of the agricultural era. All of our institutions are based on the farm era. Our city size and organization emerge from the time when city boundaries were formed on the basis of a day's horse ride. But as the speakers at the forum pointed out, it is the mega-region that will form the basis for the generation of future economic wealth. These new super-regions are economic systems and ecosystems that are interconnected and act as the economic engines for the mega-region. For example, the Los Angeles mega-region stretches from Santa Barbara to Baja, Calif. In the case of New Orleans, our mega-region stretches from Houston to Pensacola.

These new mega-regions are the vehicle for the development of a new world trade system that respects regions more than nations.

Did you hear that? The motorcar has made our cities bigger! There's a "new world trade system"! The World is Flat, muthafucka!

Oh but the future is not all monorails and Tang. There are serious obstacles to progress that must be surmounted. Luckily we have Dr. Blakely to show us the way. And that way is decorated with as much richly empty consultant-speak as Dr. Blakely can toss off in one column. Wanna try your hand at highly paid professional urban consulting? See how many similarly vacant statements you can make by rearranging the highlighted words in this paragraph.

That means that we need to think both internationally and locally as we design our economy. We have to build our eco-system as we rebuild our local economy to account for improved social and economic equity. We must view initiatives such as the bioscience center, port distribution center and digital media as steps to our role in the mega-region development that will build new jobs for a sustainable future for all of our residents.

And if that doesn't work, you can always just throw out some factoids, imply that you have important theories about these factoids, and dare your audience to spot the contradictions.

Within the next decade, single adults will outnumber married adults. This is in part because women live longer than men. But it also because Americans and most of the developed world are experiencing later marriage and lower birth rates. But despite this, the United States is projected to have 125 million more Americans by 2050 than we have today.

Some of these new Americans will come from a constant flow of new immigrants who are escaping countries where poverty and a lack of opportunity are forcing them to find new horizons. But the vast majority of the new population will come from the current cohort of Americans as they have children and their children have children.

The big money in Urban Consulting goes to those who have mastered the art of talking in complete circles.

But never mind that now. The important thing is to remember that the cranes are on their way.. any day now. And when they get here they'll build us a greener, more sustainable, post-agricultural, eco-friendly, mega-region where an explosion of racially diverse immigrants are free to be born to the current cohort of New New Orleanians.

I just hope it comes with a Space Mountain too.

Correction: I hastily linked to the wrong Suspect Device cartoon. The one I actually wanted isn't online yet. I literally just grabbed the url for the latest one published and linked it in there without even looking. I'll correct the post when it goes up. Meanwhile this earlier one is slightly more relevant.

Further corrections, clarifications, and whatnot: See the comments.

No comments: