Friday, January 12, 2018


I believe that diet is down the line slightly on the chain of causative events. For me, land use is among the very top on the list. But then I also put a feminist revolution at the top. Then I woke up thinking that feminism and land use were similar (or integrated) issues.

To simplify the subject for now I would say that we're in a system run by patriarchy...and that patriarchy has co-evolved with civilization. We are all products of this system, which has of course produced many good things. But it's produced too many people and used too many resources to be useful any longer. It's also brought technology to such an advanced place that it compensates for the brawn that males traditionally supplied. (That means females are no longer as dependent on male upper body strength.) The budding feminist revolution we see around us has the makings of a corresponding land use revolution as well. The successful land use opposition movements in my area are led by women. Feminism is far less rapacious of natural resources than is patriarchy, although it's too simple to say that feminism depends less on a meat diet than patriarchy. It "tends" to due to very complex and systemic correlates to feminism.  And if women are given the education they want, and control over their reproductive choices, changes in living arrangements (and land use) might emerge from that and support massive population reduction (if and according to how it is needed)

"If the narrative changed to a different story–we humans are placing too many demands on the world and its resources, and in doing so, we are using resource faster than we should. We need to change our trajectory by eating a more vegetarian diet, and keeping fewer meat-eating pets that aren’t really useful for helping in any way. I expect that mostly what would happen, though, is that this shift would simply allow human population to grow more quickly, and the result would be about the same."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

SAB photos

(A post on "Restoring St. Ann's Bay" Facebook page.)

In thinking about Marcus Garvey and his significance to St. Ann's Bay (SAB), it is helpful to have read "The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey," compiled by his widow, Amy Jaques Garvey. I read it, or much of it, a long time ago. It's an easy read, and even with my poor or even partial reading, ideas hit with a gentle force that changes your life.

It seems to me that Marcus Garvey has been chosen as Jamaica's first national hero for reasons that are not essential to his mission. If we were to survey every adult in Jamaica and ask what Garvey means to them, I wonder what answers we would get. Traditionally, among Rastafari, Garvey is truly loved and honored for much of the right reasons. I'm very uncertain about the rest of the population, however. Garvey was a revolutionary, and to honor his heritage requires revolutionary thought and action. That by no means suggests taking up arms to fight some oppressive force. We are all, in some sense, the oppressive force that must be opposed, opposed through a variety of means, many internal and psychological.

Garvey's emphasis was the African diaspora's historical marginalization and belittlement within a global order that considered blackness something of a curse, worthy of disrespect. Black people had and have grown to think of themselves the same way, and so were/are our worst enemies. Thinking through his legacy and what it means for SAB is puzzling, for racial bigotry gets overlapped with class bigotry. I even argue that from these types of bigotry there is bigotry of place. Towns like SAB get marginalized by others that are easier to market and that mushroom according to a fictitious narrative about them. How is that different from the marginalizing of a race? Garvey's conclusion was that blacks could do all the great things whites and others did. He infused black people throughout the world with love of self and confidence in self. Can't the same thing be done for a place? Garvey's place of birth, for instance? Any place, however lowly its condition, can overcome its negative self regard and rise to the challenge of self actualization. Just like a race of people. It makes no sense for any place (or race) to have its heritage plowed under. It helps nobody. So I take away from Garvey's message something that wasn't necessarily exclusive referring to black people. The idea is that, just as having a world of human winners and losers is untenable, so is it untenable to have a world of places that are winners and losers. Such a world is bound to destroy itself. But greed and ignorance don't give up easily, as the growing inequality based on zero sum games attest to.

We all have been mesmerized by a vision of progress where a peasantry was at the bottom, and necessarily entirely inferior to the classes above it, and there being an ultimate pinnacle that had to be reached to attain human perfection. No matter that this supposed pinnacle was largely defined by European standards. There is the idea of linear progress and hierarchy--the higher is better than the lower. No wonder then that SAB has been savagely neglected. It has been allowed to fester and rot--not just the place, but the people in it. They are the low in every kind of hierarchy. I think Garvey would take exception to this state of affairs. We must also remember that treating the poor, and darker skinned people this way is a formula for lawlessness and disaffection. If we can redress this syndrome in SAB, Garvey would smile in his grave.

Resources of all kinds have been allocated to the support of the middle class and to the foreign interests buying up the north coast. One way that we delude ourselves that Garvey wouldn't tolerate is to make money blind us to our own interests. Money, being a deity, must never be questioned as to its over all effect on society or on living systems. Like environmental disaster for which there is no meaningful plan of action. Money, however misapplied, would solve all problems by its very magical nature. Money, absent any human direction or targeted effort, might magically solve all the problems of society. What is sketched out below is a development plan that views money as a tool rather than a deity.

The Preservation Community:
What can you do when the organizations doing the best and most indispensable work to preserve our heritage is missing a big part of the picture? Maybe it is to start something new and yet complimentary. The Jamaica Georgian Society seems to have a top down approach to preservation. It finds lovely large buildings to study and promote for restoration. These buildings stand alone and are little related to the community around them, Georgian-evocative or not, To pay attention to such communities requires the field of town planning. Town planning (or city planning or urban planning, all related) requires holistic thinking to help a town succeed according to a set of criteria. In the case of overwhelmingly poor towns, rather than resting content with the preservation of large and impressive buildings, preservation planning would need to consider shacks and huts. It would have to consider roads and culverts and gullies. Views would matter, as would tourism. Poor people would need work. Education would be relevant to the place, imparting skills and attitudes to further the work of preservation. The approach would not only be holistic, it would also be bottom up. Meetings would have to be held where people off the street attended. the main players of every stripe would be consulted and collaborated with. Measures that are not preservation oriented--asphalting gravel roads, promoting non contextual concrete, businesses antithetical to preservation--all would be discouraged. This would clearly involve much thought and effort. But there is no short cut. An East Indian friend once advised me as I was complaining about a burdensome project: "To start is to halfway finish." So we must start.

Some Planning Requirements:
- "Arrested Decay" strategies that can apply to museum and tourism development in and around SAB. This could amount to literally propping up decayed structures till they could later be properly assessed toward a future plan of action--<>;.
Arrested Decay is particularly suited to the very poor who rent, own or squat in buildings that are almost falling down. Simply showing some love to the buildings is already start, but we might effect some measures that keep the structures from deteriorating further. And that should be of benefit the people who live in them. Without such a program, the overwhelming normalcy bias is a mindless rush to destroy the buildings, view the land they're on as real estate to maximize for the "highest good," which means making money for rich people by stuffing as many buildings as possible int the space, while pushing the poor residents out.

- Collaboration with St. Ann Heritage Foundation (SAHF), with its extensive knowledge of local organizations and of local and regional preservation issues. SAHF has two focus points that I'm aware of. One is the Seville Great House and related lands where extensive archaeology relating to Taino and Spanish artifacts has international and UNESCO support of some sort. This seems to have so much potential support that it could drive preservation funding for the "Old Town St. Ann's Bay" that is sorely neglected and in need of attention. Integration of historic preservation of "Old Town St. Ann's Bay". In order to coalesce the Seville emphasis with the "Old Town St. Ann's Bay" one, the framework for planning needs to be widened beyond old town to whatever serves today as "St. Ann's Bay," (still rather mysterious to me.) The two program emphases should converge through SAHF's Walking Tours, its other seeming emphasis.

- Documentation of "Old Town St. Ann's Bay" (approximately, between the Police Station to the east and the Hospital to the west). Promote systematic photo documentation of "Old Town St. Ann's Bay" by street.

- Fundraising campaign for the restoration of Blue Bowl. Starting to research and list possible funding is a an urgent need,

- Research possibilities for academic integration into the restoration program for SAB. The SAHF is chartered to support this effort. But it apparently needs non profit designation that it is simply too short staffed to pursue. They need help with this.

- Promote installation of hurricane straps on all applicable colonial SAB buildings..

By American (or continental) standards, 97% of Jamaicans are black. Apart from the pure question of race, this represents a huge advantage. The percentage of black people is considerably higher than in South Africa. We are at least a very significant entity within the African diaspora. Jamaica has experienced hundreds of years under colonial rule, and has developed a powerful creole culture and language that binds every single Jamaican--whatever their shade of skin or racial strands--into a single cultural entity. It is this strong culture that makes us a single indivisible people. And our culture is inseparable from our land.

We have, however, been plagued by the universal denigration of dark skin and negroid features, albeit confounded by assimilation through class. The people forming a poor, dark skinned underclass majority have always been subjugated, despite much that has changed since independence. A disproportionate number of those people have been left behind in the widening gap between haves and have nots.

Yet, in the eyes of the world, we are a black nation. But "black" can't stand in isolation. It belongs somewhere on land. Marcus Garvey clearly saw that land as Africa. And here it gets rather confusing: It is a Garveyite tenet to say that Africa is wherever an African goes. Certainly, wherever an African has lived for centuries. Garvey also spoke about an African Empire, and just on the face of such a term, one would have to examine the issues and concepts around Jamaica being a part of that African Empire. When Britain left, who knows what it thought would come of us? One likely thought is that we would be colonizes by America, and this would not have been far fetched. But might some not have been smart enough to know that our place was with Africa? And, if so, why tell us? Let us wander around sheepishly and exploitable for a century or so, till we figure it out ourselves. But it would seem to me quite Garveyite and logical to see Jamaica as a part of Africa. I see no reason why it would be subservient to any part of the African diaspora, and why it couldn't lead as well as follow? I see that as congruent with being part of the African Empire Garvey envisaged. But since we're swimming in a sea of paradoxes and conradictions, we need not forget that we are also creatures of the British Colonial Empire, as is a considerable portion of continental Africa. We are both things, one clearer and easier to trace than the other.

My profound spiritual sense of things is that Garvey would essentially share this vision.

Garvey ended his Jamaican career working in the legislature. He was a constructive man, interested in the levers of power that enable nation building on a visionary scale. I see SAB as the challenge to build the first governmental entity on earth to bring Garvey's constructive African mission into reality.

Jamaicans are African, whatever their race.
In the interim before finding someone on the ground to work with in SAB, a couple of us had considered writing a piece for magazine or newspaper publication. But I'm way too scattered and off-kilter to sit down and try to do it by myself. I can elaborate on outline suggestions that others provide, however, and try to slap the results together for a publication.

Among things we see a lack of are the following:

- A clear sense of who governs SAB and other old towns, as opposed to a St. Ann parish wide municipal corporation or parish council.

- A business directory

- A chamber of commerce for SAB (or some semblance of one).

- Comprehensive photography of SAB streets, providing something tantamount to a Google-Street mapping of the town.

- A historic preservation organization. The St. Ann Heritage Foundation seems to be one individual whose major emphasis is Seville, two miles away.

- A sense of what the New Garvey Center at 3 Marcus Garvey Drive in SAB is about.

- A sense on what progress is being made on the restoration of Marcus Garvey's birth home.

- A relationship of any sort with the Marcus Garvey Technical High School. A great deal of restoration and community building could be done by the students as part of their learning process. The town could be restored by and for them.

- ETC.

I imagine that assembling a large sample of the photographs so far discovered and generated would add interest to an article, which could also explain the impasse so far regarding the above itemized issues.
America and Jamaica History

Friday, January 5, 2018


I’m trying to connect some dots and would welcome help to correct flawed assumptions.
Once oil was discovered, it had to be used profitably. One way to do this was to use the leftover tar from oil production to build roads. The roads had to go somewhere, and the solution to that was to build suburbs as their destination. I’ve come to learn, OFW has taught me, that the extensive living spaces suburbanization enabled promoted single family living on an unprecedented scale, which increased population proportionately. Our economic system has been growing exponentially, along with this population.
But now we’ve hit a roadblock.
As easily obtainable supply has dwindled, oil has become increasingly hard and costly to produce. Since the entire networked economy runs on oil, the strain on producers has trickled through the rest of the economy, making it less able to afford oil at the high prices producers would need to survive. But that isn’t all, for the oil economy, starting with mass-scale suburbanization, has gobbled up critical supplies of land and other natural resources, so that they, too are in short supply. There is talk that if an extremely cheap source of energy that used the same infrastructure as oil could be found, civilization could hum right along. But that wouldn’t address the problems of more depletion and more pollution caused by the extravagance and complexity of the oil-based civilization our large population has come to depend on. Besides, no cheap alternative to oil has yet been discovered.
It would seem that discussions on this dire situation tends always to leave out the critical issue of land use. Global land use policy to fit the age of oil depends on sprawl. Sprawl is possible through cultural programming that devalues land as having any value other than for economic maximization–the highest and best use policy that planners talk about. So land is the battleground on which the civilization’s wars are fought. The momentum of the civilization is to develop every last piece of land as cheaply as it can, until no more land is to be found. That necessarily increases pollution, uses more oil, and produces more people.

The city annexes a huge amount of county open space and develops it all the way to the county line. During this development process, a huge suburban style development was put in just on the county side of the border line from where the city was intently scraping away and paving over.

Nobody raises an alarm. Even those who claim to be preserving rural heritage in the county say nothing. Is it that they don't see a difference between suburban and rural? Nobody thinks about developers. Who developed the city down to the county line? What, if any, was the relationship between them and the the suburban developer(s) on the other side of the county line? Was the suburban development meant to patronize the city sprawl, single-use development in a kind of murky metropolitan-style smudging of boundaries? Which banks made development loans? Nobody (that I know of) asks these questions. The developers and their funders operate in secret, hiding in plain sight.

Beyond this, there must be a whole array of enablers and enabling systems to smooth the development process while affixing the needed blinders on the public's eye.

Just as veiled and cloudy was the matter of the new freeway interchange. We drive into town one day, and huge construction has begun. A new diverging diamond interchange is being built. Everyone is alienated from the process. It's something that the people in charge have decided to do. Never mind that we should have learned not to relinquish land use oversight to "people in charge". Not at the county level anyway. This is the level at which the people should retain oversight.

The divergent diamond takes two years to build while they detour us this way and that. Finally it's done, and there are two fatal accidents there in the first week. There are two stop lights to maneuver where formerly there were none. We county residents can't see the advantage of this thing. The scale of the operation was staggering. But for what? Maybe it was meant to accommodate the totally insane proposal for a truck stop right by the interchange on the county side where hundreds of trucks will park with motors running all night? The suburban development people are up in arms. The pollution! The noise! The lights! A mighty opposition movement is formed against the truck stop (as if the truck stop and not the developer community was the main problem).

So here is a case of the system painting itself into a corner, which could have been avoided with commonsense planning.