What Have I Been Reading – July 30, 2021

Learning to live well on this fragile planet is far more important than dreaming about the next one.

Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development, and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), University of Surrey.

Tim Jackson, The Alternative UK, July 24, 2021

Essay – the Plutocrat Space Race

Fear of nuclear annihilation, the Cold War, the Vietnam war, Timothy Leary, and the Space Race provided the background for the 50’s and 60’s. The Space Race captured our imaginations. So, I think, baby-boomers’ imaginations remain captivated by space exploration. Tim Jackson confesses to his continued amazement. But, he also reminds us that learning to live well on Earth is more important.

By necessity, any essay dealing with the survival of the planet looks at the oil and gas industry. Jackson recounts that a Shell executive, Charles Jones, warned the American Petroleum Institute of the negative effects of fossil fuel carbon emissions on the environment. When, you may ask? In 1958. (this is a long read)

Our beautiful planet – what have we done?


And now suddenly, along comes a group of self-confessed technology lovers finally admitting that the planet is too small for us. Yes, you were right, they imply: the Earth cannot sustain infinite growth. That’s why we have to expand into space. 

Wait. What just happened? Did somebody move the goalposts? Something is wrong. Maybe it’s me. One thing I know for sure. I’m no longer the same kid I was – the one from the debating society. This house believes that humanity should grow the fuck up. 

Before it spends trillions of dollars littering its techno-junk around the solar system, this house believes that humanity should pay a little more attention to what’s happening right here and now. On this planet.

The Monocle Minute On Design, The Tokyo Toilet Project July 21, 2017

Flush With Pride

OK – so I am fixated. Downtowns need more beautiful places to pee. I have raised this topic a few times now which fits in with today’s theme of “learning to live well”.

Jingu-Dori Park

The Monocle narrative:

It must have sounded like a wild idea on paper. Hire some of the biggest names in Japanese architecture and design to create 17 public toilets around Shibuya. And yet the Tokyo Toilet project, backed by Shibuya City and The Nippon Foundation, has proved a hit for both the installations’ design and their maintenance. Cleaners in smart boiler suits are keeping the loos in tip-top condition.

And we’ve been keeping up with progress. Kengo Kuma has designed a “toilet village” in Nabeshima Shoto Park. It comprises five huts clad in planks of Yoshino cedar. Kuma describes it as “appropriate for post-pandemic times”. They are open, breezy and set up for the various needs of families, wheelchair users and children running around the park.

In Harajuku,

fashion designer Nigo has created The House, a small building inspired by a US military housing complex built in Shibuya in 1946 called Washington Heights. Only one of the original houses is left now, in Yoyogi Park. It doubled up as accommodation for Dutch athletes in the 1964 Olympics. Nigo’s mini-house, with its white and blue-green paintwork, is a nod to this important piece of the city’s history. “I wanted to preserve some of the designs that are beginning to disappear in my favourite area,” says Nigo.

At the foot of Yoyogi Hachiman shrine, Pritzker prize-winner Toyo Ito has designed a trio of toilets. The round, mushroomlike structures are beautifully tiled, lit and equipped with new Toto facilities (as are all the project’s structures). Other cities take note: public loos needn’t be pungent eyesores and can even enhance our parks and streets.  tokyotoilet.jp

The Economist, July 27, 2021

Pandemic Blame Game

America’s vaccination woes cannot be blamed only on politics

A number of statistics recited in this arctic caused surprise. From the US Centre for Disease Control: 40% of American adults are obese. One in four young adults cannot make the cut for military service due to excess weight.. Only one in ten eat enough fruit and vegetables. Also, less than have the US population can read proficiently and only 12% are considered health literate. One in eight adults does not seek required medical care due to cost. This article underlines the theme of my reading this week – learning to live well.

Health literacy is not learned on Facebook


Fox News, America’s most-watched cable news outlet, has been a forum for vaccine scepticism for months, though it recently began encouraging the jab during prime time. Former President Donald Trump hid his vaccination status for weeks before touting inoculation.

But the problem goes beyond that disinformation and poor leadership. The barrage of scepticism would have been much less effective had people been equipped with a better understanding of health and science. “We have really struggled with health literacy over the years, this is not new,” explains Jennifer Dillaha of the Arkansas Department of Health. “People struggle with how to get good health information and apply it to their lives. And this existed as a problem in our state, long before the previous administration.”

The Economist, July 27, 2021

Cocktails-to-go, Looser rules for takeaway tipples

Fauci Pouchy

No Fauci Pouchy here – think juice packs and pointy straws.

I don’t think that everyone will agree that takeaway cocktails, popularized during the pandemic, is a step to learning to live better. However, I love the idea. The streets are meant for people. It depends on the attitude towards alcohol. In Italy, drinking a spritz or a glass of Prosecco outside is a civilized ritual with nibbles and a place to rest a glass. Also, public inebriety is a serious no-no. If a Fauci Pouchy (see below) leads to binge drinking, a step backwards. If the Italian approach, a step forward in learning to live better.


As the Delta variant of the virus spreads and many people continue to avoid bars, takeout cocktails remain an important source of revenue. Cocktails have higher profit margins than food and other drinks. Freshly “crafted” mixed drinks elude the price-check comparisons customers make between restaurant- and shop-sold wine and beer. Whipping up big batches is quick and easy. Rohit Malhotra, beverage director of Capo Italian Deli, a bar hidden behind a sandwich shop in Washington (thus mimicking the illicit speakeasy joints of the Prohibition era), says healthy sales of his Fauci Pouchy, cocktails sold in plastic bags stamped with an image of the White House’s coronavirus expert, meant “not just the difference between keeping a skeletal staff and a full staff but also being able to survive”.

Cities are in Crisis

March 7, 2024

Anastasia Mourogova Millin, March 5, 2024 Earth’s urban population will grow by 2.5 billion people over the next 30 years. Over the same time period, urban land expansion put at risk the survival of 855 different species and will threaten the homes of over 30,000 animal and plant species. Add in the impact of climate […]

The Co-working Concept, Issue 80

January 22, 2024

Co-working space came to mean the notorious We Work model. When I had been asked to opine on co-working I tried to steer the conversation away from the Adam Neumann / Softbank  flimflam growth model. Instead, I suggested that property owners look at usage and users. While I doubted We Work’s ability to survive I […]

The Affordable Housing Conundrum

October 3, 2023

Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor  in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]

Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]