Great Cities Innovate to Adapt to Possible Global Warming Floods

(p. C3) Spurred by long histories of disastrous storms, the urban engineers of Venice, Tokyo and the Netherlands have been among the pioneers of modern flood control, building storm surge barriers and sea walls on the scale of the pyramids. Such structures could well be models for New York City in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
The cities most experienced in building bulwarks against flood tides and storm surges are at a turning point, however, in their struggle for control of nature. The land upon which they are built continues to sink, population grows and the seas around them rise. As city planners reach the limits of conventional flood control measures, they are experimenting with ways to re-engineer low-lying urban waterfronts.
In Rotterdam, architects are building houses that float on floods. Beneath Tokyo, engineers have tunneled to create miles of emergency floodwater reservoirs. And in St. Petersburg, where storm tides have flooded the city about once a year since its founding in 1703, engineers last year completed a storm-surge barrier more than 15 miles long.

For the full commentary, see:
ROBERT LEE HOTZ. “Keeping Our Heads Above Water; What can New York learn from other great cities battling rising tides and sinking land?” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 1, 2012): C3.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 30, 2012.)

Kevin Kelly Explains and Criticizes Amish Attitude toward Technology


Source of book image:×285.jpg

Kevin Kelly’s book has received a lot of attention, sometimes in conjunction with Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From, with which it shares some themes. I found the Kelly book valuable, but frustrating.
The valuable part includes the discussion of the benefits of technology, and the chapter detailing Amish attitudes and practices related to technology. On the latter, for instance, I learned that the Amish do not categorically reject new technology, but believe that it should be adopted more slowly, after long community deliberation.
What frustrated me most about the book is that it argues that technology has a life of its own and that technological progress is predetermined and inevitable. (I believe that technological progress depends on enlightened government policies and active entrepreneurial initiative, neither of which is inevitable.)
In the next several weeks, I will be quoting some of the more important or thought-provoking passages in the book.

The reference for Kelly’s book, is:
Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking Adult, 2010.

The Johnson book mentioned above, is:
Johnson, Steven. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010.