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Jaded Listicle: We’re No. 3, We’re No. 3!

August 19, 2014

From The Economist, via Business in Vancouver.

The Economist has released its annual ranking of the world’s most livable cities and although Vancouver hasn’t topped the list since 2011, the city is still considered one of the best places in the world in which to live.

Vancouver takes top spot in North America and is the third-most livable city in the world. The city received an overall rating of 97.3 out of 100, getting full marks for healthcare, which looks at quality and availability of both private and public healthcare. The city also got top marks for education and culture and environment.

The city’s lowest score, 92.9, was for infrastructure, which looks at the quality of road networks, public transport, energy provision, telecommunications and water provision, among other factors.

Again, preceded by Vienna, No.2, and Melbourne, No. 1.

This, however, might be taken more seriously:

Using The Economist’s criteria, overall worldwide livability has declined, according to the report.

“When a five-year view is taken, global livability has declined by 0.68 percentage points, highlighting the fact that the last five years have been characterized by heightened unrest in the wake of the global economic crisis, which has undermined many of the developmental gains that cities may have experienced through public policy and investment,” reads the report.

UBC Reads: “Don’t Even Think About It” – Sep 10

August 19, 2014

Why, after 20 years of discussion on climate change, do so many people ignore the science and evidence of their own eyes? UBC Reads Sustainability’s first speaker of 2014, George Marshall, draws on the social psychology of climate change to tackle this question.

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Wired

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Registration here.

Listicle of the Day: World’s Friendliest/Unfriendliest Cities

August 19, 2014

We don’t seem to get tired of these.  From CNN: 

Friendliest?

Melbourne and Auckland jointly taking top honors in a new survey. … Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s annual Readers’ Choice Survey says it was “no surprise readers adore Melbourne,” calling it Australia’s “capital of cool.”  Aucklanders were praised by readers for their “humor” and a view on life that’s “something to aspire to attain.”

The unfriendliest has roots as a British colony too:

Johannesburg, South Africa, was named most unfriendly because, despite being “one of the most beautiful” cities, “safety still remains a serious concern” with one reader calling it “a city of crime and contrasts.”

Victoria, BC, is considered the third most friendliest – and we in Vancouver?  Don’t rate, apparently, either way.

Great Danes: Andy Prest thinks they have a point

August 19, 2014

Or should that be ‘Great Dames’ – the two women from Denmark who created quite a stir with their reproachful remarks on the quality of our cities.

Andy Prest, a North Shore News columnist, thinks Complaining Dane may just have a point

So Denmark, our Canadian cities aren’t good enough for you, eh? …

Danish tourist Holly Chabowski wrote an open letter to the Ottawa Citizen and several Canadian politicians following a five-week trip that she and her girlfriend took through Eastern Canada. Their complaint was that the Canadian cities they visited weren’t livable places, they were parking lots.

“As humans trying to enjoy Canada’s major cities (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Halifax) we were treated like second-class citizens compared to cars…. We heard that the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is actually tearing up bicycle lanes to make way for more cars!”

First of all, Danish humans: let’s not go judging the entire country based on the actions of Rob Ford. That’s like judging the Louvre based on a huge turd someone left in the gift shop washroom. …

Hoo boy, how unkind.

More comments, with a North Shore perspective, here.

Dropping Densities: New Shift in Portland?

August 19, 2014

Given that we look to Portland for trends, here’s something to watch, as reported in the Portland Tribune: City ponders about-face on density.

The city of Portland — often incurring the wrath of residents and neighborhood associations — has scrambled for two decades to increase density via infill developments, row houses, apartments and condos.

Now city planners are plotting something unthinkable in the 1990s and 2000s — reducing density.

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In the proposed comprehensive land use plan designed to guide Portland’s growth through the year 2035, planners are proposing lower densities on 2,100 acres of land throughout the city. It’s known as down-zoning. …

None of the proposals are written in stone, as the city has just started taking public testimony on the long-awaited update of the 1980 comprehensive land-use plan. And to be fair, that “comp plan” also calls for increasing densities in many parts of town, especially on commercial corridors and intersections ….

Full article here.

The Daily Scot: Tipping Point on Suburban Poverty in U.S.

August 19, 2014

Scot links to Bloomberg: Ferguson Unrest Shows Poverty Grows Fastest in Suburbs

According to a Brookings Institution report July 31 that found the poor population growing twice as fast in U.S. suburbs as in city centers. …

“We’ve passed this tipping point and there are now more poor people in the suburbs than the cities,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, author of the report and a fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington. “In those communities, we see things like poorer health outcomes, failing schools and higher crime rates.”

Combine the economic realities of the above with the trend in the post below, and the transition of the police from protector of community to warrior for containment seems inevitable without major shifts in policy and politics.

Side note: Ferguson is a community of 21,000 in a county with 90 municipalities.  That would be like the West End of Vancouver being two separate cities.

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St Louis County

Automation: “So it goes with autos, so it goes for everything”

August 19, 2014

So says CGP Grey about the impact of automation on employment in “Humans Need Not Apply – a discussion not of the desirability of automation but its inevitability.

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NPR’s On the Media explores the same subject here:

People often object to the idea that the minds of machines can ever replicate the minds of humans. But for engineers, the proof is in the processing. Stanford lecturer and entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan (talks) about how the people who make robots view the field of artificial intelligence.

Kaplan demolishes the cliché that “Computers can only do what they are programmed to do.”  And the real nature of the ‘robot threat:’

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  You also sort of hinted that it might be a threat, but I guess you’re talking about to people’s jobs, potentially, not to their actual lives or autonomy.
JERRY KAPLAN:  Well, the impacts on the job market are going to be extreme. There’s a study that estimated that 47% of the US working population, that their jobs will, in the next five to ten years, come under potential threat of being completely automated.
The people who are building these systems are going to have a unique advantage, in terms of skimming off the increased economic value that they’ll be providing to society. So it’s going to have a significant impact, and already is having a significant impact, on income inequality.
Transcript here.
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