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  • Author or Editor: Phil O’Keefe x
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A New Understanding of the Climate Emergency

This urgent book brings our cities to the fore in understanding the human input into climate change. The demands we are making on nature by living in cities has reached a crisis point and unless we make significant changes to address it, the prognosis is terminal consumption.

Providing a radical new argument that integrates global understandings of making nature and making cities, the authors move beyond current policies of mitigation and adaption and pose the challenge of urban stewardship to tackle the crisis.

Their new way of thinking re-orients possibilities for environmental policy and calls for us to reinvent our cities as spaces for activism.

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This chapter provides a description of Jane Jacobs’ legacy beyond her famous intervention into city planning. Five aspects of her work are highlighted. First and foremost she was a knowledge builder, harnessing a voracious curiosity to understand the complexity of the human condition. The most auspicious outcome has been her revision of economics identifying city economies as the loci of economic growth. She made further unusual forays into history – contesting power to eliminate complexity – and politics where her bottom-up approach had drawn admiration from both the right and left. She brought this altogether towards the end of her life as a new understanding of economics as ecology. The chapter concludes with a critical appraisal of her treatment of urban demand – crucial to the argument of this book – and links Jacob’s oeuvre to the work of multiple other radical scholars to aid the process of unthinking.

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This is the first chapter on unthinking, specifically unthinking modernity. It takes the form of 14 statements that are presented as basic modern theses, and which are countered by antitheses, alternative positions wherein urban demand is central to the argument. This thesis/antithesis device is used to broach three broad areas. First, the relationship between cities and states are considered with the former identified as constituting social development. Second, the role of cities in that social development is used to undermine modern time and spatial framings of change. Third, these contrarian ideas are brought to bear on the study of anthropogenic climate change, inserting cities as mass demand mechanisms. All this unthinking is intended to foster a fundamental mindscape break pointing towards transmodern sensibilities..

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This is the second chapter on unthinking, specifically building a new narrative to show anthropogenic climate change is not a result of modern industrial society rather it has a much deeper pedigree as essentially urban in nature. The narrative has been constructed by matching Jane Jacobs’ ideas on the power of cities from their initial invention of agriculture to William F. Ruddiman’s revision of the sequence of greenhouse gases generating anthropogenic climate change. There are two initial outcomes: first a critical reassessment of the importance of cities in geographical imaginings of the past, and second a critical intervention into the dating of the Anthropocene pushing it back many thousands of years.

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This chapter asks the question, what does this unthinking mean for current anthropogenic climate change policies? This is answered in two ways. First, the concept of urban demand is discussed in its current manifestation as the product of a global Advertising-Big Data-Social Media complex. Second, the mechanisms behind the immensity of Chinese urban growth in recent decades are described. In their different, but intertwined, ways these two expressions of today’s modernity are pointing irrevocably towards terminal consumption. The only means to stop this happening appears to a reinvention of the city, creating an urban demand for stewarding nature for future generations, a posterity city

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This chapter takes the failure of current climate change policy as a given and seeks explanations and ways forward. Policy-making should be firmly grounded in the essential nature of anthropogenic climate change – a complex problem and an existential threat. It is found wanting in three fundamental aspects. International relations with its competitive preposition is found to be not fit for purpose as decision-making arena. The scientific input for decision-making underplays the ‘anthropo’ bit of climate change and therefore is found unfit for purpose. And social science contributions are found not fit for purpose because of their innate state-centric bias. To overcome the resulting impasse requires critical unthinking. The work of Jane Jacobs is chosen as guide to unthinking thereby foregrounding cities. An invitation is issued for others to provide alternate unthinking.

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