Laura Poitras, Academy Award winning Director of Citizenfourand others at Field of Vision stitched together 200000 Google satellite images to create Best of Luck with the Wall, a video of the US-Mexico border, where the American government proposes to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.
Like David and Goliath, there is a mismatch between the scale at which environmental impacts are assessed under Canadian legislation and the geographical scale of environmental, human rights and economic risks. The Provincial Government of British Columbia is promoting the development of liquified natural gas (LNG) shipping terminal at the mouth of the Skeena River estuary by Petronas. Based on both cultural attitudes to the environment and scientific research, the proposal and and offer of $1.5B compensation has been rejected by the Lax-Kw’alaams First Nation on whose territory the LNG terminal would be located. Effectively this would be a form of expropriation approved by the Provincial government and is reminiscent of 19th century scrip practices in Canada, by which indigenous individuals were offered rations and money to extinguish their aboriginal rights to land and traditional hunting and gathering. An article published in Science(7 Aug 2015) by Jonathan Moore and others (Moore et al 2015) notes that this estuary is the site of the second-largest salmon-production in Canada, largely by First Nation communities. ‘Although terminal proponents and government have recognized interests of First Nations from the estuary during environmental assessment, they have ignored interests of upriver First Nations who also harvest salmon’ (see Stantec Consulting Ltd. Pacific Northwest LNG Environmental Assessment Certificate Application (Burnaby BC 2014) cited in Moore et al 2015).
‘Identifying the proper spatial scale for environmental decision-making is a fundamental challenge for environmental policy and ethics. Whether it is migratory animals like salmon that transmit impacts, hydro-electric dams that deprive downstream farming communities of water (see Glenn et al 1995 in Biology 10.1175), or carbon emissions from industrialized countries that raise ocean levels and threaten low-lying islands (see Barnett et al 2003 in Climate Change 61, 321), decisions can impact distant ecosystems and people. Science can and should inform the scale at which environmental decision-makers weigh risks to the environment and human rights against potential economic benefits’ (Moore et al 2015)
In 2007, writing for Himal Southasian magazine, Siddharth Varadarajan called Naypyidaw, the underpopulated capital of Burma, built by the military regime, “dictatorship by cartography, geometry”:
Vast and empty, Burma’s new capital will not fall to an urban upheaval easily. It has no city centre, no confined public space where even a crowd of several thousand people could make a visual – let alone political – impression.
The building of cities is a massive infrastructural undertaking, a spasm that reflects and requires the concentration of political, economic and affective power. Are cities where there is no “right to the city” by the people cities at all? Materially perhaps but not in intangible, virtual terms: While constructed like cities, they lack urbanity, the quality of the urban.
Information is data-in-formtion and can be transmitted and processed. Knowledge, however, is still a uniquely human activity of working-up understanding, ‘getting the message’, meaning-making. As such it requires social interaction in order to understand the codes, references and context of the information presented in any communication. ‘Smart’ involves being able to work with knowledge and information together by selecting information and applying it in a context as knowledge and in relation to other knowledge, such as experience, ‘know-how’, ‘knowledge-of’, ‘knowledge-why’ and ‘knowing who’. In addition, it involves trust, faith and affects such as determination, passion and pleasure.
The SMART city reduces these to the tech equivalent of the thermostat in your house and some wifi. Comment if you have an example that disproves this.