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✊🏙 Flooding in Midwest & Africa, Elon Musk is at it again, cities taking on cars, electric buses, air pollution, climate change, & more!

March 24 · Issue #78 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
Cyclone Idai and the flooding in the Midwest show that climate change won’t just make storms and floods worse in the coming decades — it’s already happening. In other news, Elon Musk seems to be melting down again and Autopilot is still putting lives at risk.
Plus, how cities around the world are taking on cars, electric buses are more important than Teslas, Marseille’s buildings are collapsing, capitalist planning is choking Sofia, and Singapore’s desire to be a city for the arts isn’t working out so well.
Have a great week!

Climate change is already making floods worse
We’ve been hearing for years that climate change will make storms stronger and flooding worse, but these aren’t things that will happen at some point decades down the line — these disasters are already here.
Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe in southeast Africa on March 15, has killed more than 700 people (though the death toll continues to rise), and has displaced a staggering more than 2 million people. The storm caused intense flooding due to heavy rain and storm surges that have created an inland ocean, as captured by the European Space Agency in the photo below.
The red is the flooded area.
The red is the flooded area.
Eric Holthaus at Grist used the storm to remind us of the unequal impacts from what we’re doing to the planet: “Cyclone Idai is a humanitarian crisis that once again lays bare the fundamental injustice of climate change. …  those most affected by climate change are those who have done the least to create the problem.”
Of course, southeast Africa isn’t the only place experience devastating floods right now. The U.S. Midwest is also under water in what NOAA director Ed Clark says could be “a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.” The flooding in the Midwest has been caused by melting snow and heavy rains from a “bomb cyclone” and other storms that have hit the region. If you want to see the extent of the flooding near Omaha, Nebraska, check out the comparative map in this Vox article.
What is Elon Musk up to?
You might remember that Elon Musk landed in hot water last year after tweeting that he was taking Tesla private and had secured the funding to do so. That turned out not to be true, and it resulted in a settlement with the SEC that forced Musk to step down as chairman, pay a $20 million fine (along with another $20 million from Tesla), and agree to have his tweets relating to Tesla reviewed by a lawyer.
Musk hasn’t complied with that last part, so last month when he tweeted unclear information about Tesla production numbers for 2019, he found himself in trouble with the SEC once again. The SEC says that Musk is in violation of the settlement, that more action could be necessary, and that Musk’s defense “borders on the ridiculous.” On Friday, Musk responded and (obviously) doesn’t agree with the SEC. This isn’t over yet.
In other Musk-related news, remember that a Tesla customer died last year when Autopilot steered him into a concrete divider. Another Tesla user has come forward with video showing the problem hasn’t been fixed and his Tesla tried to steer him into barriers. He says the reliability of Autopilot changes with every update — sometimes it’s fine, other times it’s very dangerous — and the company never responds when he reports an issue.
Jacob Bacharach
I'm seeing an awful lot of people retroactively saying, "How could anyone have fallen for Theranos when the tech was so obviously a scam?" when AI and self-driving cars are still out in the world.
Around the world
🛑 Cities around the world are taking on cars. Here’s what Oslo, Buenos Aires, London, Seoul, Madrid, Beijing, Paris, and Chennai are doing.
Bikes and scooters
👍 One way to make bikes more attractive? Invest in secure bike parking.
🛴 During SXSW, Austin police created a mountain of confiscated scooters
🚲 Dockless bike dream becomes a nightmare: Ofo & Mobike may go under
🇳🇿 Auckland’s cycleways are booming: February use up 23% y/y
🚌 Forget Teslas; we need electric buses. “For every 1,000 electric buses on the road, 500 barrels of diesel are displaced each day … By comparison, 1,000 battery electric vehicles remove just 15 barrels of oil demand.”
👎 Virginia transit officials went to see Elon Musk’s tunnel. They weren’t impressed. “It’s a car in a very small tunnel.”
🚇 Hong Kong’s transit is profitable because of its “rail plus property” model, but the corporation’s choice to build private instead of public housing causes income disparity near stations
Oliver Bruce
One of these things is not like the other. E-bikes are the sleeper hit no-one saw coming. #micromobility @asymco
☀️ Ending climate change requires the end of capitalism: “Today’s children, as they become more politically aware, will be much more radical than their parents, simply because there will be no other choice for them.”
💲 Carbon gentrification: Young professionals move to cities for a greener lifestyle, and though their transport emissions may drop, overall emissions could increase because they consume more than displaced residents
⚡️ People like living near wind energy: ~90% of Americans within 5 miles of wind turbines prefer them to hypothetical nuclear, coal, or natural gas
🧳 “Last-chance tourism” is hastening the destruction of areas threatened by climate change
🏠 A socialist approach to ending sprawl must socialize wealth and address social alienation
🇫🇷 “Marseille has the last remaining working-class city centre in France, maybe even in Europe,” but historic buildings-turned-slums are collapsing and growing real-estate pressure is causing fear the poor will be relocated
🇳🇱 If Amsterdam’s new regulation is passed, new homeowners won’t be allowed to rent their home; they’ll have to live in it themselves
🇧🇬 Sofia, Bulgaria’s air pollution is blamed on personal consumption, the poor, and the Roma, but is more a result of post-1989 planning decisions
😷 Air pollution kills about 800,000 people prematurely every year in Europe and takes two years off the average lifespan
❌ A year after an Uber self-driving vehicle killed Elaine Herzberg, Tempe hasn’t made the road pedestrian friendly even as people still cross there
Michael T Sweeney
Cars are the perfect late capitalist consumer product: an expensive, often de facto mandatory, solution to a problem that the product itself has largely caused.
Art (or not)
The Vessel betrays the fact that behind the glitzy, techno-urbanist facade of the Smart City™ lies the cold machinations of a police state.” — Kate Wagner
🇸🇬 Singapore wants to create an arts’ scene, but censorship and conservative values hold it back. “Money provides materials and spaces, but it cannot guarantee a well-established art scene.”
👩‍🎨 Artist Joy Gerrard recreates photos of street protests in Japanese ink
Other great reads
💵 New plan for the future of work says that commuting time is a space between free time and working time, and workers should be paid for it
🇮🇳 A community group in Bengaluru is trying to preserve ancient stones from as far back as the 7th century after many were lost to development
📱 Are smart cities really improving urban space for residents or simply granting corporations powers that were once held by city hall?
📷 See the Parisian skyline in great detail with Jeffrey Martin’s 360º gigapixel panoramic photo
Remember the ad that shot Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into the national spotlight? The people who made it are working on a “left-wing Netflix.” Check out their crowdfunding launch video:
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