20 August 2005

20.08.05. This Was The Day, by Uri Avnery

Editor’s note: As anyone who reads around in here will (or at least should) soon be aware, we/I are not great protagonists of the established political parties, or at least the ways in which they appear to operating these days in our largely hapless democracies. But here you have an example of political realism and maturity which has implications far beyond those which are spelled out in this fine piece by peace activist Uri Averny (see http://www.avnery-news.co.il ) from Tel-Aviv Israel.

Uri Avnery, Tel-Aviv, 20.8.05

This Was The Day

August 18th, 2005 - a milestone in the history of the State of Israel.

This was the day on which the settlement enterprise in this country went into reverse for the first time.

True, the settlement activity in the West Bank continues at full speed. Ariel Sharon intends to give up the small settlements in the Gaza Strip in order to secure the big settlement blocs in the West Bank.

But this does not diminish the significance of what has happened: it has been proven that settlements can be dismantled and must be dismantled. And important settlements have indeed been dismantled.

The settlement enterprise, that had always gone forwards, only forwards, in a hundred overt and covert ways, has been turned back. For the first time. (Yamit and its settlements were not in Eretz Israel, and therefore their evacuation in 1982 did not constitute an ideological break. But this time it happened in "the Land of our Fathers".)

A historic event. A message for the future.

This was the day on which the message of the Israeli peace movement finally got through. A great victory, for all to see.

True, it is not us who did it. It was done by a man far removed from us. But, as the Hebrew saying goes: "The work of the righteous is done by others." Others: meaning those who are not righteous, who may even be wicked.

At the beginning of the settlement activity, during one of my clashes with Golda Meir in the Knesset, I told her: "Every settlement is a land-mine on the road to peace. In due course you will have to remove these mines. And let me tell you, Ma'am, as a former soldier, that the removal of mines is a very unpleasant job indeed."

If I am angry, profoundly sad and frustrated today, it is because of the price we all have paid for this monstrous "enterprise". The thousands killed because of it, Israelis and Palestinians. The hundreds of billions of Shekels poured down the drain. The moral decline of our state, the creeping brutalization, the postponement of peace for dozens of years. Anger with the demagogues of all stripes that started and continued this March of Folly, out of stupidity, blindness, greed, intoxication with power or sheer cynicism. Anger over the suffering and destruction wrought on the Palestinians, whose land and water were stolen, whose houses were destroyed and whose trees were uprooted - all for the "security" of these settlements.

I have also sympathy for the plight of the inhabitants of Gush Katif, who were seduced by the settlers' leadership and successive Israeli governments to build their life there - seduced either by messianic demagoguery ("It's God's will") or by economic temptations ("A luxury villa surrounded by lawn, where else could you dream of this?") Many people from the remote townships in the Negev, stricken with poverty and unemployment, succumbed to these temptations. And now it is finished, the sweet dream has evaporated and they have to start their life anew - albeit with generous compensation.

The television networks did us a great favor when they reran, between the scenes of the evacuation, old footage of the founding of these settlements. We heard again the speeches of Ariel Sharon, Joseph Burg, Yitzhak Rabin (yes, he too), Hanan Porat and others - the whole litany of nonsense, deceit and lies.

During the last few years, the peace camp has been seized by a fashion for despair, despondency and depression. I keep repeating: there is no cause for this. In the long run, our approach is winning. Now it must be emphasized: the Israeli public would not have supported this operation, and Sharon would not have been able to carry it out, if we had not prepared public opinion by voicing ideas that were far removed from the national consensus and repeating them countless times over the years.

This was the day when the settlers' ideology collapsed.

If there is a God in heaven, He did not come to their rescue. The messiah stayed at home. No miracle occurred to save them.

Many of the settlers were so sure that a miracle would indeed happen at the very last moment, that they did not take the trouble to pack their belongings. On television one could see homes where the uneaten meal was still on the table and the family photos on the wall. Sights I remember well from the 1948 war.

All the boasts and bluster of the pair of settlers' leaders, Wallerstein and Lieberman (who always remind me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the two villains in "Hamlet") went up in smoke. The masses did not stream into the streets all over Israel and use their bodies to block the forces sent to empty the settlements. The hundreds of thousands, including the opponents of the disengagement, remained at home, glued to their television sets. The mass refusal of soldiers to obey orders, promised and incited by the rabbis, just did not happen.

At the decisive moment, the reality we always knew about was exposed for all to see: the messianic-nationalist sect, the leadership of the settlers, is isolated. In their behavior and style, they are foreign to the Israeli spirit. The hundreds of settlers who have lately been seen on television, all the men wearing yarmulkes, all the women wearing long skirts, with their interminable dancing and their endlessly repeated ten slogans, look like the members of a closed sect from another world.

"It looks as if we are not one but two peoples: a people of the settlers and a people of settler-haters!" moaned one of the rabbis when his settlement was emptied. That is accurate. In the confrontation between the lines of soldiers, who were drafted from all strata of society, and the lines of the settlers, it is the soldiers who, in this unique situation, represent the people of Israel, while the settlers embody the negative side of the Jewish ghetto. The unending bouts of collective weeping, the meticulously staged scenes designed to evoke images of pogroms and death marches, the monstrous imitation of the frightened boy with his arms raised from the famous holocaust photo - all these were reminiscent of a world that we thought we had shaken off when we created the State of Israel.

At the moment of truth, the Yesha leaders found that no part of Israeli society stood up for them, except the gangs of male and female pupils of the religious seminaries, who they had sent to Gush Katif. The bedlam they created on the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue, when they viciously attacked the soldiers, put an end to their hopes of winning public support. But even before that, the settlers had lost the crucial battle for public opinion when their real purpose was revealed: to impose by force a faith-based, messianic, racist, violent, xenophobic regime, with its back to the world at large.

But most importantly, this was the day when a new chance was born for achieving peace in this tortured land.

A great opportunity. Because the Israeli democracy has won a resounding victory. Because it has been proven that settlements can be dismantled without the sky falling. Because the Palestinians have a leadership that wants peace. Because it has been proven that even the radical Palestinian organizations hold their fire when Palestinian public opinion demands it.

But it must be clearly stated: this withdrawal carries with it a great danger: if we stop in the middle of jumping over it, we shall fall into the abyss.

If we do not progress rapidly from here to a settlement with the Palestinian people, Gaza will indeed turn into a platform for missiles - as Binyamin Netanyahu is prophesying (which may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy). In the eyes of the Palestinians, and the entire world, the withdrawal from Gaza is - first of all - a result of the armed Palestinian resistance. If in the coming weeks we make no progress towards a negotiated agreement, a third intifada will surely break out, and the whole country will go up in flames.

We must immediately start serious negotiations, declaring in advance that within a specific time-span the occupation will end with the establishment of the State of Palestine. All the main elements of the settlement are already known: a solution for Jerusalem in line with the Clinton proposal ("What is Arab will belong to Palestine, what is Jewish will belong to Israel"), withdrawal to the Green Line with an agreed exchange of territories, a solution of the refugee problem in accord with Israel.

This was the day that will go down in history as the day on which a great hope was born.

Not the beginning of the end in the struggle for peace, but certainly the end of the beginning.

A small step towards peace, a giant step for the State of Israel.

19 August 2005

19.08.05. Living Large, by Design, in the Middle of Nowhere

Note and commentary from Lee Shipper of the World Resources Institute Embarq program:
Eric: This is what so many of the "good guys" ignore about urban form and sprawl. People who want space need to move to the edge of town to get more space for the price. People without much $$ need to move to the edge of town to find less expensive homes of a given size. Transport costs are low, even with today's so called expensive fuel, so don't really figure very much, do they? The math says no: The article from the New York Times gives some implied gradients of house price as a function of how far from the "center". Impressive. schipper@wri.org.

Living Large, by Design, in the Middle of Nowhere

By Rick Lyman, NY Times, August 15, 2005

ABSTRACT - Far and Away, first in series of articles examining life in America's most far-flung suburbs; planned communities are sprouting up at margins of metropolitan areas, driven by economic forces and shaped by shifting social patterns; they are being created, down to tiniest detail, by handful of major developers with master plan for new America; article focuses on KB Home, one of nation's biggest and most profitable builders, with 483 communities under development in 13 states; houses in its New River community in Florida resemble those of suburbs from past, except they are larger and closer together; this is result of elaborate market research into what young families want, down to carpet texture and kitchen placement; New River will expand over next decade to 1,800 acres and be home to 15,000 people living in 4,800 single-family homes, condominiums, town houses and rental units; it will have 200-acre town center, schools, government offices, park, office and commercial space; unlike older suburbs, these new exurbs are not all-white enclavies, but melange of colors and cultures; photos

Correction Appended

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. - New River Township is, for the moment, the edge of beyond.

Its square mile of tightly packed homes is the outer crest of Tampa's residential swell, four miles from the nearest grocery store and 30 minutes from the nearest major mall. Just down the road, beyond some orange groves, cattle graze languorously amid the insect hum of a sun-baked field, and only a few mobile home parks and a roadside stand selling tiki huts interrupt the vast sea of pine, palmetto and dense thatch.

But it will be a short-lived isolation. More than three dozen other communities in Pasco County, some bigger than New River, are in the works, promising 100,000 new homes in the next five years. A megamall is coming. And the first of the big-box stores, a Home Depot and a Sam's Club, had their gala openings not long ago.

"It used to be just us and the retirees," said Ruth Parker, who was busy decorating a new child care center at the edge of New River, a part of Wesley Chapel, where she has lived for nine years. "Five years from now, there will be a city here."

America is growing. And it is growing the fastest here, at the farm-road margins of metropolitan areas, with planned communities sprouting up and becoming a prime focus, almost a fetish, for election strategists from both major parties.

Such places do not sprout by happenstance. Driven by irresistible economic forces and shaped by subtly shifting social patterns, they are being created, down to the tiniest detail, by a handful of major developers with a master plan for the new America. In the case of New River, that developer is KB Home, one of the nation's biggest and most profitable builders with $7 billion in sales last year, which helped make it sixth among all Standard & Poor's 500 companies in total revenues.

KB Home has 483 communities under development in 13 states and expects to complete more than 40,000 new homes this year. Yet it is just one of about two dozen such corporate giants fiercely competing for land and customers at the edge of America's suburban expanse.

Poring over elaborate market research, these corporations divine what young families want, addressing things like carpet texture and kitchen placement and determining how many streetlights and cul-de-sacs will evoke a soothing sense of safety.

They know almost to the dollar how much buyers are willing to pay to exchange a longer commute for more space, a sense of higher status and the feeling of security.

"You bring people out here, and they say, man, look at all this open space," said Marshall Gray, president of KB's Tampa division. "But I assure you, there are deals in the works for virtually every significant piece of ground you can see out here."

Over the next decade, New River will expand to 1,800 acres and be home to 15,000 people living in 4,800 single-family homes, condominiums, town houses and rental units. It will have a 200-acre town center with 180,000 square feet of office space, 500,000 square feet of commercial space, schools, government offices and a 207-acre park.

At the moment, though, it is nothing more than an island of 400 suburban homes in the middle of nowhere, an infant exurb.

The term "exurb" was coined in the 1950's in "The Exurbanites" by A. C. Spectorsky, a social historian, to describe semirural areas far outside cities where wealthy people had country estates. The exurbs of the 21st century are a different animal. And they are not the same as the older rings of closer suburbs.

The homes in exurbs are generally larger and the space between them smaller. They tend to turn their backs to the street, with the biggest and most used rooms in the rear. And the people who live in them are different. Instead of the all-white enclaves of the 1960's and 70's, the new exurbs are a mélange of colors and cultures.

A Different Kind of Flight

"In one sense, these exurbs are just suburbs that take a longer time to drive to," said John Husing, a political and economic consultant in California. "With these, white flight has nothing to do with it. It's all housing prices. The makeup of these communities is a reflection of who's migrating, and that's people who have enough money to be middle class."

Look deep into the history of many of the new exurbs, and an entrepreneurial character like Beat (pronounced BAY-at) Kahli, an Orlando-based developer, can often be found.

The son of a baker from a Zurich suburb, Mr. Kahli abandoned his dream of racing in the Tour de France when he realized that he would never be fast enough. Instead, he went to business school in Zurich and became an investment banker.

In 1989, Flag Development, a consortium based in Fort Myers, Fla., bought the land that is becoming New River from a farming family, as well as an even larger tract on the far east side of Orlando. It approached Mr. Kahli about investing in Florida real estate, and he and some other Europeans bought in.

But in 1993, with his investors eager for results, Mr. Kahli, 41, came to Central Florida and was stunned.

"I thought, oh my gosh, what have we done?" Mr. Kahli said. "On the map, these places looked like they were not so far from Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center, but I saw that they were actually way, way out in the middle of nowhere."

In the recession of the early 90's, it was impractical to think of developing such remote properties, Mr. Kahli said. But as the economy improved, he decided he could transform the property outside Tampa and the huge tract east of Orlando into major communities.

"Most people in Florida are from someplace else," said Mr. Kahli, a rotund and ebullient man with an infectious delight in what he has built. "I was just from someplace a little farther away. Everyone was very accepting of me. There is no way an American could go to where I lived in Switzerland and be accepted in this way."

Mr. Kahli bought out his European investors, brought in some new American backers, and came away owning 82 percent of the deal. In 1996, he moved to Florida, first to Fort Lauderdale, where he met his wife, and then to Avalon Park, his development east of Orlando. He now lives in nearby Winter Park in a home with a swimming pool and a five-car garage, a millionaire pillar of the community who sits on the board of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"These are normal homes for normal people," Mr. Kahli said as he steered his gleaming black BMW along Avalon Park's winding lanes like an admiral in his flagship.

He pointed out the schools and the stadium that he helped the county build, and the town center where he owns two restaurants and the local weekly newspaper, the East Orlando Sun, for which he writes a column. Just outside the development is a cement plant, the first of seven he built around the state, making him the co-owner of the largest independent concrete contractor in Florida.

Sometimes developments like Avalon Park grow in unincorporated areas of remote, rural counties. Sometimes they fall within the boundaries of old towns, where they offer tax revenues but bring the challenge of providing services. Often, when they grow large enough, they become cities.

Avalon Park comprises 14 interconnected "villages" around a town center. Its residents, Mr. Kahli said, are mostly young families, with an average of almost three children per household.

When the project is finished in five years, he said, 15,000 people will live there. Already, the town center has cafes, beauty parlors, a gas station and a sprawling supermarket. Fresh banks of condominiums sprout on its periphery.

"This is what New River will look like in five years," Mr. Kahli said.

But it looks nothing like that now. Drive up Interstate 275 from the shimmering towers of downtown Tampa, past the old clapboard neighborhoods and the greyhound track, until the strip-mall muddle thins, and there is an endless canyon of pine and palmetto. Only billboards relieve the monotony, and at least half of them extol the new housing developments: "A new standard for luxury." "Own from the low $200's." Just before it enters Pasco, the county that sits like a hat atop metropolitan Tampa Bay, I-275 meets I-75. Two exits farther north is the ramp for Route 54.

"They used to say that you went to Tampa to visit your parents, and you went to Pasco to visit your grandparents," said Mr. Gray, of KB Home. "Pasco was the realm of the nearly dead and the newlywed."

A thick swirl of commercial clutter chokes the Route 54 exit and its surrounding intersections, but heading east, the roadside becomes a tangle of brush and gravel. Drivers pass eight churches, all Protestant.

About four miles from the interstate exit, the entrance to New River emerges from behind a bank of trees, a flower-lined entryway flanked by stucco walls and a line of homes with their backs turned on the highway clamor.

Mr. Gray, a connoisseur of sod, points to the grass and young trees along the entryway. "Look at the grass in that lawn," he said. "See how nice and thick it is. It's called floratam. Now look at this yard. That's called Bahia sod. It's cheaper, looks a little weedy."

When Mr. Kahli began building in 1999, first in Avalon Park and then in New River, he signed a deal with American Heritage, a company acquired by KB Home in 2002. Now, KB coordinates the residential development, which includes a mix of homes by KB and Windward, another national builder. Mr. Kahli retains control of the town center and other commercial sites.

Focus on Market Research

One area in which KB Home takes pride is its market research. It asks things like where people want their kitchens and how much more of a commute they can stomach. And it surveys its own buyers to get a comprehensive idea of who they are and why they bought.

The data from KB tells much about New River. In the first phase of development, more than 60 percent of the buyers had household incomes of $40,000 to $80,000; in Tampa, that is solidly middle class. Nearly half were between the ages of 30 and 40. They were 38 percent Hispanic, 24 percent white and 16 percent black. Three-quarters of the buyers had children in the house. More than 80 percent commuted, with the vast majority traveling to Tampa, a drive of anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

Four years ago, the first New River homes sold for as low as $150,000. Today, the smallest models cost $212,000, and an average home with 2,657 square feet, three bedrooms and a two-car garage costs at least $245,990.

In its most recent survey of Tampa home buyers, KB asked people what they valued the most in their home and community. They wanted more space and a greater sense of security. Safety always ranks second, even in communities where there is virtually no crime.

Asked what they wanted in a home, 88 percent said a home security system, 93 percent said they preferred neighborhoods with "more streetlights" and 96 percent insisted on deadbolt locks or security doors.

So KB Home offers them all. "It's up to us to figure out what people really want and to translate that into architecture," said Erik Kough, KB's vice president for architecture. And the company designs its communities with winding streets with sidewalks and cul-de-sacs to keep traffic slow, to give a sense of containment and to give an appearance distinctly unlike the urban grid that the young, middle-class families instinctively associate with crime. "I definitely feel safe here. I feel protected," said Lisa Crawford, who moved to New River about a year ago with her husband, Steve, and their two children.

"And I can tell you that the people in Tampa are a whole lot different than the people here," Ms. Crawford said. "In Tampa, there's a faster pace. I like it here, that it's more of a community, more of a small-town feel."

Mr. Gray said KB's Tampa division talks about a Mendoza line when determining what features to include in a home. The term comes from baseball and is used to describe someone with a batting average hovering at the .200 mark. Mr. Gray said he did not know how it migrated to real estate, but he uses it to describe components that are strongly desired by 70 percent or more of the home buyers.

Extra closet space, a walk-in pantry and a covered patio are all above the Mendoza line, so they are included in all New River homes. People spending more than $220,000 for their home get space for a home office because it falls above the Mendoza line. More than $260,000, they get dual sinks in the master bathroom.

At the heart of the matter, KB asks home buyers to put a dollar value on their time. Would they accept a commute that was 15 minutes longer for a house that was 10 percent cheaper? What about 15 percent? What if the commute was an additional 30 minutes?

The answer, the company decided, is that a house in New River must be $12,000 cheaper than the same house in the north Tampa suburbs, 15 minutes closer to downtown. And in Silverado, a community that KB hopes to build 15 minutes farther north in Pasco County, the house must be $12,000 cheaper than in New River.

Almost all of the fastest-growing counties in the United States are in exurban areas. And these far-flung communities proved, in the last election, to be among the strongest supporters of President Bush. His top advisers credited the 2004 victory, in part, to a strategy that focused on what the campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, called a Republican "fortress" beyond the cities.

Although opinions differ about why Republicans did so well last year in these areas, it seems to boil down to demographics. The bulk of people who choose to live in exurban communities, families with young children and property owners who share a desire for security and more personal space, are statistically more likely to vote Republican, as are the rural residents who live here before the exurbs arrive.

In 2004, the two precincts nearest to New River - those voting at the nearby middle school and at a Baptist Church a few miles away - gave 1,265 votes, or 61 percent, to Mr. Bush, and 782 votes, or 38 percent, to John Kerry.

A Community of Republicans

"Most of the people I know out here are Republican," said Yolanda Breuer, 34, who works for a software company in Tampa. "In the workplace in the city, its more like 50-50. And there were some Kerry supporters out here. But mostly, it's Republican."

Ms. Breuer said that she and her husband, Andrew, 29, who switched jobs to become a Pasco County firefighter, did not move to the exurbs to be near others who shared their values. It just worked out that way.

"What we wanted was a bigger house and a bigger master bedroom," she said. And they got it, moving from about 2,500 square feet to about 4,400, including a patio enclosed by a screen that stretches up two stories. They know they paid a price to live here. On a normal day, Ms. Breuer's commute to work is 35 minutes, but it can balloon to more than an hour on a bad day. The rural roads are already choked at rush hour, and when the caravans of minivans make the daily pilgrimage to schools and soccer games. "Oh, it's awful," Ms. Breuer said. At a KB model home not far away, Piper Bein and her husband, Mike, an electrical contractor, were casually surveying the 3,475-square-foot building. When asked what they wanted in their new home, the Beins, both 28, blurted the same word in unison: "space."

Their two children, Landen, 6, and Cade, 3, scampered from room to room, playing hide-and-seek in the warren of hallways, pantries, walk-in closets and bathrooms.

The sales representative, Ole Pietersen, was delighted with the opportunity to point out the room for storage. "Lots of places to hide, aren't there, boys?" he said, smiling at their parents.

18 August 2005

18.08.05. UK Govt Sustainable Development - Supporting Indicators

Editor’s note: I would like to draw your attention to this presentation of a collection of “indicators of sustainability performance” over time in the UK, as prepared by the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) of their Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The presentation is in two parts:

Table 1: UK Government Sustainable Development Framework indicators - offers a summary of assessments for the 20 UK sustainable development strategy Framework indicators. These give an overview of sustainable development and highlight priority areas shared across the UK. Clicking on the indicator name leads to a page with a chart/charts, assessments of progress and commentary. A smaller thumbnail chart links to a larger version in those cases where longer term trend information is available.

Table 2: UK Govt Sustainable Development - Supporting Indicators - identifies a further 48 (non-Framework) indicators, a number of which report on phenomena that are of direct interest to us here

I would like to invite your comments here on what you see and observe here. What is the message, conclusions that we should be drawing from this?

15 August 2005

15.08.05. A Sketch for a New World Food Order, H. Pietila

HilkkaPietilä, M.Sc. Finland

Contact: hilkka.pietila@pp.inet.fi

A Sketch for a New World Food Order

The Future of Nordic Agriculture in Global Perspective?*)


The cultivation economy, utilizing the growth potential of living nature in various ways, is the foundation for everything else in human economy. Due to huge differences in regional and local climatic conditions at the globe the application of free trade is unthinkable in the trade of agricultural products. In order to take into consideration the particular nature of cultivation economy we need a New World Food Order, which is constituted of three arrangements:

- a reform of the UN agencies dealing with food and agriculture, including

international trade;

- clustering agricultural products according to their human importance;

- categorization of countries according to their position vis-à-vis the food

production and agricultural trade.

Through these arrangements the detrimental effects of present trade policies on the world food supply and agriculture might be avoided and the food production become more self-reliant, sustainable and globally more equitably located and distributed.


Guaranteeing the food security to all people in this world of abundance and disparity should be the topmost concern in all trade and agricultural negotiations. Still millions of people have to face hunger and starvation in Africa and other places in the world. The world food situation and the negotiations on agricultural policies and trade relate to each other essentially and inseparably.

I would like to discuss the so called liberalization of agricultural trade and its consequences to agriculture in general and particularly to building up the food security to all in this world. What are these consequences both internationally and to agriculture of individual countries? Parallel to the term ‘agriculture’ I use in this paper also the term ‘cultivation economy’, which covers all the production where humanity do utilize the living potential of nature, i.e. agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry.

The trade liberalization ultimately implies that also the trade on agricultural products should be submitted to international competition. However, submitting cultivation economies to international competition in trade is fatal both economically and ecologically because of extreme differences in natural climatic conditions in various parts of the world. The terms of nature cannot be adjusted and equalized. And Mother Nature is not going to attend the WTO negotiations, her terms are not negotiable.

*) This paper was first presented in the 22nd Congress of Nordic Association of Agricultural Scientists, July 1-4. 2003. Turku, Finland

Free trade and agriculture - an impossible equation.

The biological facts and factors are self evident to farmers and agricultural researchers. They face the miracle of life every day in their work. But free trade principles are founded on prevailing economics, which does not recognize the facts of life sciences, biology and ecology. Under the pressure of transnational corporations the economists and trade negotiators don’t want to see the decisive distinction between the cultivation economy and industrial production.

It is crucial for the fate of humanity that we understand the particular terms of living nature and adjust our cultivation and trade accordingly. Cultivation economy is in fact an interface between the human economy and the economy of nature, it is interaction between human beings and nature, where we should profoundly understand the biological terms of ecology, and to be wise enough to take them carefully into consideration.

Cultivation economy can also be called a living economy, while it is regenerating and sustainable, if the ecological terms are taken into consideration. However, such unpredictable elements like rain and sunshine, warmth and frost are playing fundamental role in this economy, and their amount differs drastically in various climatic zones of the globe. The microbes and mycelia in the soil and insects and pests are also unpredictable living actors in the environment. Finally the natural genetic combinations in plants and animals dictate their perseverance and productivity. Therefore it is limited, how much the productivity and output of this production can be predicted and controlled by human means. Manipulating the properties of plants and animals has already been brought to the extreme and thousands of varieties have been killed in striving for making cultivation economies more competitive.

Industrial production can also be called extraction economy or dead economy, because it was originally based on manufacturing of non-renewable, non-living natural resources - minerals and fossils - which are extracted from the earth. Today it processes also raw materials produced by cultivation economy, like timber, crops, meat, coffee, cotton etc. The industrial production is not dependent on the terms of nature, therefore its productivity and efficiency can be improved as long as the raw materials are available. Its driving force is profit, not the human needs and wellbeing.

The fundamental problem is, that economics as science is based on the logic of industrial production, extraction and manufacturing of 'dead elements', non-renewable energy and resources. When this logic is applied to the living production like cultivation economy and the demands of ever increasing productivity and competitiveness are imposed on agriculture and husbandry, the system is bound to run into difficulties, as we see today, and ultimately to disaster.

Nevertheless, this is exactly what is taking place now both in agricultural and trade policies in Europe as well as globally. This misperception and mismanagement of cultivation economy is the reason why no solution has been found for food problems and why agriculture is such an

insurmountable problem in international negotiations. And now when we are reaching the limits of the arable potential of the planet, these problems are becoming alarming.

When we see the profoundly different nature of cultivation economy in comparison with the industrial economy, we must understand that the same liberation and competition policies

cannot be applied on agriculture as on industrial economy. And when the issue is feeding the humanity, the satisfaction of basic needs for all, we have to understand that the trade on agricultural products should be regulated, not liberated.

The World Food Authority to be established?

The World Trade Organization, WTO has been the object of harsh criticism for several years for its total incompetence to handle the agricultural trade. The international civil society has claimed for several years that negotiations on agricultural trade should be taken away from the WTO. What would then be an alternative forum for administration and negotiations on food trade and the global agricultural policies in general?

In the UN system there have been four agencies to deal with agriculture and food issues: The Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, the World Food Program, WFP, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, and World Food Council (until 1992). No one of these agencies has a mandate to deal with agricultural trade.

The paradox of the situation is that these four organizations own all the knowledge and experience in agricultural development and world food problems since 1946, but they are not mandated to deal with agricultural trade. The forum for trade negotiations, including agricultural products, is the WTO, which seems to be totally dominated by transnational business interests. Therefore the negotiators do not want to know or care about the particularities of agriculture and food problems.

The time is due to reform the UN food and agriculture agency system. The existing agricultural development agencies should be reconstructed to constitute a single new kind of agency with the mandate to administer global food policies and supply of provisions in a comprehensive manner. This new body should be more than an ordinary specialized agency like FAO. It should be able even to operate the emergency arrangements for countries where the food supply does not work and food security is jeopardized.

The new agency should also be given the mandate to become the forum and administrator of agricultural trade negotiations in stead of the WTO. This agency will then coordinate, follow up and develop the food and agriculture policies from cultivation, conservation and transportation to trade, distribution and consumption, i.e. to function as the World Food Authority.

There is already an Agency within the UN system, which has a mandate to operate in its respective field in the manner scheduled above. It is the International Sea-Bed Authority, which is administering the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, i.e. the utilization of “the Common Heritage of Humanity”, the deep sea mineral and other resources, which don’t belong to any state or company.

The World Food Authority should together with national governments administer the utilization of the greatest “common heritage of humanity”, the growth potential of living nature, for wellbeing and satisfaction of basic needs of all people.

Food or Commodities?

The sustainable development is the key-word in development discussions today. However, the only way of making human economy sustainable is to adjust it to the basic terms of ecology, the economy of nature. These terms are laws of nature and all human efforts to change them will remain futile.

Today the agricultural products are treated in trade as if they were equivalent to minerals and fossils or industrial products. The agricultural trade negotiations should always take the origin of the products - the geographic area and climate were they are produced - into consideration. Also the relative importance of various products vis-à-vis basic human needs should be recognized.

The cultivation economies do not produce only human necessities, but also raw materials as well as luxury products. Therefore the products should be diversified and clustered in trade according to their importance in human life and economy, and different rules and terms should be established for various categories of products according to their necessity value. The crude categories could go for instance along the following lines:

Diversification of the agricultural products according to their human value

1) The necessities like food and feed products:
grain, rice, milk and milk products, meat, fish, fruits, groundnuts, soya, maize, vegetables, etc.

2) Raw materials for industry and construction;
timber, cotton, wool, rubber, jute, hides, etc.

3) Luxuries, stimulants and drugs, (primarily for Northern market);
coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, tobacco, furs, coca, hemp, cannabis, opium, etc.

From the human basic needs point of view, these categories vary drastically in importance. If the first category were a universal priority, food problems would have been solved a long time ago. Raw materials for instance for paper, textiles and construction are also necessities, but in this category there are alternatives for many products. The third category of products could possibly be submitted to the supply and demand mechanism, since these products are nobody’s basic needs.

In present globalizing trade the principle is that the supply and demand and the competitiveness of products will set the priorities and prices in international trade. With this principle the global food problems will never be solved. Meaningful priorities and commercial values do not coincide, since the market mechanisms respond only to demand, not to poor people's hunger.

Export or Import?

One of the major reasons to the persistence of world food problems is the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and IMF, which has been applied and required from developing countries since 1980s. These policies have forced many countries to restructure their agriculture towards cash crops export production, even at the risk of their own people starving. The payment of debts has been made the first priority and a prerequisite for further loans.

The emphases on export production has also lead to growing needs in the developing countries to get better access of their products to the market in the North. Therefore there has been constant pressure by developing countries in the WTO for lifting all subsidies and protection from the agricultural products in industrial countries.

If these demands finally will be adopted, the food production in the North will drastically decline. Ultimately it might lead to a situation, where the poor people in the South will be harnessed to grow food, raw materials and luxury products for the rich in the North and they themselves be starving while not being able to buy the food they produce.

The demands are addressed to Northern countries without any distinctions. However, many countries here do need protection and subsidies due to the harsh climate and for supplying their own people. This is an issue particularly in Nordic countries, first of all in Finland. If we once will have to lift all protection and subsidies from our agriculture, it will imply the end of food production here very soon.

However, in this world of huge food shortages it would be insane to force any country, capable to feed its own people, to end its food production. That will only mean increasing demand and higher prices on the food market, and more hungry people in the countries, which are not able to grow, neither buy food.

Straitjacket or liberation?

With the view of finally assuring food security to all countries, it is obvious that food trade should be regulated rather than liberated. Very clear distinction should be made between the production for basic domestic needs – like food - and for export. The countries should be free to support and protect food production for the needs of their own people. But there should be rules and regulations for agricultural production for export and trade.

Free trade in necessity products is rather straitjacket than liberation for many countries, because it is threatening the basic provisions for their own people. For several traditionally self-reliant countries it would imply the end of domestic food production and total dependence on supply and import from the world market.

Self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food supply should be the ideal aim in all countries, which have been and still are capable to feed its own people. After all, most of food in this world is eaten in the country where it is produced. Only very small proportion of food production crosses the borders at all, according to some calculations only 5-10 % of food is traded.

Therefore not only products but also the countries should be diversified in trade according to the aims and policies of their agricultural production and the needs in supplying their own people. The following is just one proposal, what kind of groups there might be used in order to give fair and appropriate treatment to various kinds of countries in trade:

Countries classified according to their agricultural policies

1) Self-reliant Countries, which aim only for self reliance in providing food for their own people;

2) Import Countries, which are not able to produce enough food to feed their people and have to import food in exchange for their exports;

3) Export Countries, which have developed strong factual food exporting capacity - even by way of subsidies and protective measures.

The countries should fix publicly their agricultural policy aims and assess their geographic and climatic prerequisites, which should be taken into consideration when decided in which group each country belongs. An international agreement should be negotiated, where these classifications and the status of each country is confirmed according to its respective goals in agricultural policies.

The countries, which are only aiming to self reliance in food, should have the right to protect and subsidize their domestic production according to their climatic conditions. With internal regulation of subsidies and food prices these countries would be able to assure, that everybody can afford to eat and the farmers will have decent livelihood.

With international arrangements food security should be assured to the second category of countries, which are not able to produce and possibly not even to buy enough food for their people.

The exporting countries may accept submitting themselves to the rules of supply and demand and international competition in international trade of their products, but they should not be permitted to limit the rights of deficient countries to subsidize and protect their domestic production. With these rights these countries will also be able to prevent dumping into their food markets.

All efforts should also be made to decrease excessive and unnecessary transportation of food between countries and continents. The extensive transportation and excessive manufacturing are very harmful to food products, since their nutritional and health quality only deteriorate the more they are traded and processed. The more people have to use imported food the less they know where and how their food is produced and how it has been handled.

To establish and administer these kinds of arrangements the World Food Authority is needed. Together these kinds of arrangements could constitute a New World Food Order, NWFO, with the aim of finally supplying basic food to all people and guarantee food sovereignty to all countries. It would also help to preserve the healthy and sustainable agriculture and food production in as many countries as possible.

Contradictions and Conclusions

Globally there are great contradictions in the situation today. A very mixed group of countries, the CAIRNS group – most of which are located in optimal climatic conditions - fight for free trade with the view of bigger gains in their export. Since the developing countries have been forced to direct their agriculture towards export production, they are now claiming for easier access to the market in the North. Therefore they make general claims for lifting all agricultural protection and subsidies in industrial countries.

The Integrated European market implies that the member states open their agriculture for free trade within the EU, therefore the famous Common Agricultural Policy has been approved. However the natural differences even in this region are so wide, that now the various EU governments are constantly claiming for complicated and bureaucratic systems of exceptions, exempts, particular support measures etc. in order to cope with present situation. The problems will further deteriorate when the Central and Eastern European countries will become members of the EU. The common agricultural policies as such cannot be applied even in an area like Europe – not to speak about the common trade policies on agriculture in the whole world.

The agricultural policies in Nordic countries reflect the differences which are quite significant even between them. For instance, in Finland the survival of agriculture is at stake. For the Finnish farmers it is an issue of life and death that the government will succeed in waging the delay tactics in the EU negotiations. The most persistent farmers work hard and invest heavily for making their production more efficient and “competitive”. Still all these measures are mere delay struggle. If all regulations, support and protection of agriculture will eventually be lifted here, Finland will be the first European country, where farming will die.

These contradictory demands exemplify insurmountable conflicts of interests in global agriculture, food production and trade. These problems will persist as long as the economics applied on cultivation production is the one stemming from dead extraction economy.

Today both are needed:

- the delay struggle in present agricultural negotiations within EU and WTO as efficiently as possible;


- long term work for a new kind of economics, and new institutions and agreements, which will comprehend the particular characteristics of cultivation and production based on living nature.

Ultimately the production of food is basic for the future of humanity as a whole. The fate of agriculture should not be dictated by business interests but by the needs of people. The law of supply and demand is not a law of nature, it will never end the poor people’s hunger, neither will it guarantee food for all.


Pietilä, Hilkka. 1997. The triangle of the human economy: Household – Cultivation – Industrial production. An attempt at making visible the human economy in toto. Ecological Economics, Journal of the International Society for Ecological Economics. Volume 20 No.2, 113-127.

Pietilä, Hilkka. 2002. Basic Elements of Human Economy. A Sketch for a holistic picture of Human Economy. Communication and Cognition. Volume 35, Number 1&2, pp.7-36.

Pietilä, Hilkka. 2002. “Cultivation and Households: The Basics for Nurturing Human Life”, in Human Resources Policy and Management, edited by Eleonora Barbieri Masini in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems, Eolss Publishers, Oxford, UK.

12 August 2005

12.08.05. When Mobile Podcasting Leads to Mobcasting

Editor’s note: We have been knocking at this door (hand held telecoms for brining people together, including as aubiquitous transportation interface) for some time, and if you share an interest in seeing what they come up with, you might want to check out their work space at http://www.digitaldivide.net/community/mobcasting.

When Mobile Podcasting Leads to Mobcasting

By Andy Carvin, Program Director, EDC Center for Media & Community, acarvin @ edc . org

I've been thinking a lot about podcasting over the last few weeks, particularly in terms of the role podcasting can play as a tool for civic engagement and citizen journalism. To date, many of the podcasts you'll find online today tend to be oriented towards discussing technology, entertainment and the like. A few pioneers like Brian Russell of AudioActivism.org have started to challenge us to think about ways the medium can be used for positive social change, but otherwise, notions of civic engagement have just begun to enter podcasting discourse.

This weekend, I came up with a way to create podcasts with only a smartphone. It's fairly straightforward for those of us with a little bit of tech savviness, but I wonder if it's easy enough for the average Jane Q. Citizen with no previous blogging or podcasting experience. Hard to say - perhaps I'll have to encourage a few members of the Digital Divide Network to give it a whirl and see if it's an easy solution or not. Even if it's not the best strategy for creating MoPodcasts (mobile podcasts) on-the-fly, at least it's a start.

But it makes me wonder what the Internet will be like when literally anyone with a mobile phone can publish audio, video and text to the Internet. In the past I've written about projects like Witness.org and OneWorld TV, which empower activists and the public at large to capture socially-relevant content, from civil rights violations at protests to war coverage, with a video camera and a website to host it. But with the proliferation of video-enabled smartphones, it seems that it would be a natural progression to mobilize the millions of people who are buying these tools with an easy, no-nonsense way to capture socially-relevant footage and get it online in near-real time.

Think of the role played by people using mobile phones and SMS during the ousters of Slobodan Milosevic and Joseph Estrada respectively. Now empower them with video phones, 3G mobile telephony, and a Flickr-like tool for uploading audio and video to RSS-enabled websites.We're no longer talking about mobile blogging or podcasting now - we're talking about a social revolution. We're talking about mobcasting.

What do I mean by mobcasting? Well, it's really a double entendre, if you will: a play on both mobile podcasting and Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold's notion of viral-like social coordination enabled by information and communications technologies. Smart mobs got a lot of hype last year in the mainstream media, usually in the form of surrealistic group performance art initiated over the Internet. But smart mobs are much more powerful than just a group of college kids showing up in an art gallery at 12:15pm, standing on one foot and yelling "Tevye, get off the roof!" before dispersing without further comment. Like the case of SMS use during the anti-Estrada demonstrations in the Philippines, smart mobs can be any form of group social action enabled by ICTs.

A quick example: imagine a large protest at a political convention. During the protest, police overstep their authority and begin abusing protesters, sometimes brutally. A few journalists are covering the event, but not live. For the protestors and civil rights activists caught in the melee, the police abuses clearly need to be documented and publicized as quickly as possible. Rather than waiting for the handful of journalists to file a story on it, activists at the protest capture the event on their video phones -- dozens of phones from dozens of angles. Thanks to the local 3G (or community wi-fi) network, the activists immediately podcast the footage on their blogs. The footage gets aggregated on a civil rights website thanks to the RSS feeds produced by the podcasters' blogs. (Or perhaps they all podcast their footage directly to a centralized website, a la OneWorld TV but with an RSS twist.) This leads to coverage by bloggers throughout the blogosphere, which leads to coverage by the mainstream media, which leads to demands of accountability by the general public. That's mobcasting.

Smartphones are getting cheaper every day, and 3G networks are now commonplace in Europe and the Pacific Rim (sorry America, we're running behind yet again, but at least community wi-fi is still a possibility). As blogging software becomes more mobile-friendly, more people should soon have the ability to create mobile podcasts without too much effort. And thanks to mobile-to-Internet services like Flickr, I hope we'll soon see push-button-easy methods for videophone owners to capture footage and post it to podcast-enabled websites. Perhaps all the pieces are already out there and we just need to connect the dots. Either way, it won't be a huge technological leap to reach that point. The bigger challenge will be encouraging activists and socially-conscious members of the public to embrace the idea: that they too can do their part to contribute to civic journalism.

Mobcasting. Power to the people.

Posted by acarvin at January 16, 2005 09:42 PM

05 August 2005

05.08.05. New Mobility Communications for The Commons (A working note)

Editor's note: Our current status report that sums up latest developments and offering in our IP communications toolkit. With some introductory words on the reasons why we need to put it to work without further delay in the interests of sustainable development and social justice. You'll see.

IP: New Mobility Communications for The Commons

Immediate access:
  • Click here for Skype phone link
  • Click for SightSpeed Video link
  • Check Paris time for call

    Deep background:
  • Electronic/Environment
  • ICT Operations Profile: 1972-2005

    IP in 2005: Efficient. Powerful. Cheap. Sustainable.

    The only real key to real progress in the struggle to sustainability resides in our ability to build knowledge and consensus. The inputs to do this are not going to come from a single place. A world wide outreach is needed. And to accomplish this we have to make good use of all the assetts we have in hand. Which brings us smack to the issue of mastering available communications technologies.

    Here is how our "virtual presence/distance work" communications toolset that we have built up here at The Commons looks thus far (with more to be added as the project moves ahead and the collaborators start to be more comfortable with these concepts and tools).

    You can start immediately to get a feel for how this works. Just click the Skype and/or SightSpeed links, and we can start talking or one-on-one videoconference at no cost to you. Once you have got the hang of it, believe me you will not go back. For more background, read on.


    Because we all need to learn, to be able to communicate better: more easily, more succinctly, and most likely in fact not necessarily all that much more in terms of sheer quantity of time spent. (Remember that every hour you waste sitting in an airport or on a plane is an hour stolen from your real work. So let's see how we can use our latest technologies to do a better job of all this.)

    Because we need to behave in a more responsible manner and do what we can, including through clever use of these technologies, to cut our CO2 etc. profligacy. Start by using this toolset to see if you can reduce your physical travels by half. Go on a CO2 diet. You and the planet will feel a lot better.

    The tool set that you see on this page is explained in this first instance largely in terms of one-on-one communications, with the option of trying it out with us at The Commons and our various programs that use these tools. But bear in mind that the final objective is not so much talking with us (though that is certainly a pleasure from this end), but rather to put these tools before you for broader uses. With your other colleagues in various places around the world, and of course in group situations. As you will see if you continue to read on here, there are some very

    Skype: Free IP Telephone

    Skype is a world wide IP communications service offering free or almost free phone calls anywhere in the world. Since it is easy to install and enormously cost-effective (and secure), we have found that even our most technology wary colleagues are able to get the swing of this and more over to it comfortable without having to undergo some kind of gut-wrenching mid-life culture change.

    It is our goal to move all of our international colleagues over to this handy means of communicating (or some similar, see below for a few more options), since we are convinced that those who are working to push the frontiers in these important areas need to have easier and cheaper access to each other.

    Click here to get full background information on Skype, as well as step by step guidelines for the very easy download and install routine. The whole thing should take you ten minutes. And if you wish to test your system, just pop the name ericbritton into the address box and you will be directly in touch with us here. Quality: very high. Cost: zero.

    Already on Skype? Click here to call direct.

    SightSpeed: videoconferencing and group work system

    If you are comfortable in this general technology environment, all you have to do is click here and follow your nose. If not, just drop down to the next paragraph and the leads it provides to facilitate your access.

    • First easy video connect (PC and Mac support, multilingual)
      The free SightSpeed.com package is the fastest and easiest to make that first contact. Works for both PC and Mac. The install routine is straight-forward with quick and clear step by step instructions for your first visit (download plug-in and off we go). Your cost for use with us: zero! (And later if you decide to use it mo0re generally in support of your work, very cheap.)

    • System requirements:
      Ideally in addition to your high speed internet connection and basic computer set-up, and Internet Explorer 6.0 or better, with sound card (see System Check below, ideally you have a proper webcam (example: good Logitech model, again see below). But even that is not absolutely necessary for the trial. If you are without camera, you will still be able to hear and see us in this first step.

    And if you are not accustomed to this sort of thing, courage! In truth it's no big deal. You will quickly get comfortable with this new and very useful functionality. Very high quality Help & On-Line Support available direct from: http://www.sightspeed.com. Be sure to check out your system and equipment requirements first (more on this below).

    Still running into problems and areas of uncertainty? Don't worry, pick up the phone and let us hear from you via Skype or the suddenly very old phone system +331 4326 1323 or try an email at secretariat@ecoplan.org.

    And once you get comfortable with this, we can begin to look further and start to make use of some of the more complete group conferencing packages, for which more information follows.

    SightSpeed supports The Commons and the New Mobility Agenda:

    The SightSpeed group has generously offered to support the work of The Commons, the New Mobility Agenda and the Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge program by offering free one year subscriptions to all those who are cooperating with these projects. All we need to have for you to set up your free service is a one line email indicating your interest addressed to secretariat@ecoplan.org, with a copy to pzottolo@sightspeed.com.

    MSN Messenger: Useful support tools

    MSN Messenger: When we collaborate on a group project, we ask each member of the team to check in via MSN Messenger (that's http://messenger.msn.com/) and it's free.. We find this the best way either to knock gently on the door to set up a conferencing appointment, or alternately for you to leave a message to indicate that you dropped in, and when you'd like to hear from us, etc.

    MSN Messenger also offers a useful complement to both Click to Meet and SightSpeed, especially for the latter since it permits additional group work functionality, allowing for such things as simultaneous sharing and viewing of documents, webpages, high speed file transfer, whiteboards, chat, etc.)

    Group work and conference environment

    Once you have been on line a few times with our 'alpha' or learning system thanks to SightSpeed, it will be easy for you to take the next step, which is our much more complete and powerful group work and conferencing environments. The excellent and ever evolving software for this has been developed by a group called First Virtual Communications, based on early work carried out at Carnegie Mellon University going back a full decade. It is a mature product that works. We are grateful to our long time friends and colleagues at the Construction IT Centre of the University of Maribor in Slovenia for making these sites available to us for our pioneering public interest work.

    Note: When you enter either of these sites for the first time, please bear in mind that there is no need for you to register. Thus when it asks you to "sign in" you can safely ignore and keep moving right along, as if no one ever asked. (Later when you decide to join and wish to make fuller use of the capabilities, we can set up your sign in routine.)

    1. Click to access to our virtual office (appears in own window)
      Our virtual office is intended for private meetings and consultations, including eventual initial conversations about either our on-going work, future projects or ideas that you may have for collaboration or support. (The full office address in case you wish to pop it into your IE browser direct is: http://cgiserver.uni-mb.si:8080/clicktomeet/index.htm?ID=200. If I am not there when you check in, please drop me an email note and we can setup a mutually convenient time for a meeting.)

    2. Click to access to Conference facility (appears in own window)
      There is more to this than just videoconferencing (a powerful state of the art tool for our daily uses in any event). The program works to turn all more commonly used applications into a multi-level group work environment, integrating with the common desktop applications, your web browser, Windows Messenger and Outlook for calendaring and scheduling. The simple upload of PowerPoint, Word and Excel files allows seamless collaboration with others in the conference. (The full conference room address in case you wish to pop it into your IE browser direct is: http://cgiserver.uni-mb.si:8080/clicktomeet/index.htm?ID=16143.)

    Both of these group work programs -- PC only, sorry -- are comprehensive tool sets for distance group work: they offer not only offer direct or group videoconferencing and/or voice access, but they also accommodate different levels of participation (works with full webcam/sound, sound only, no-see no-hear but view visual proceedings). You will see more about this as you get into the programs themselves.

    However if you are not familiar with this technology, we counsel that you check out the following. A little care here will go a long way to make this an easier and more effective experience.

    Check out your system first

    What you have here is one-click access to some very complete group work facilities, which you will find amply explained below and on the sites themselves. But let's start by checking out your system requirements, showing you first an optimum but still quite affordable set-up, following that with a rig that is perfectly useful for daily operation.

    Best audio, video, data experience:

    • Pentium IV 1.8 GHx 512Mb
    • QCIF video size at 30fps w/ 8 videos received
    • G.722 audio
    • Echo cancellation enabled (Windows XP)

    Still quite good:

    • CPU Windows: Pentium III 800 MHz 256 Mb
    • Operating Systems Windows: 2000 or XP
    • Macintosh: G4 800 MHz or faster
    • Macintosh: OS X 10.3 or higher

    • High speed (broadband) connection: Min. > 256k


    • Sound card, with headset or speaker phone
    • Webcam (Click here for a useful listing. Note: If you wish only voice access, you will not need a webcam.)

    Click to Meet Specifications: http://www.fvc.com/eng/products/ctm4.htm

    Attitude (Check out yourself)

    IP Conferencing although fast advancing is still very much in the process of finding its way. This means that when things are well prepared and conditions correspond, then it can offer an extremely satisfying and useful experience. On the other hand if you are working alone and without good support, you will need to exercise patience and forbearance from time to time. And in this a little knowledge about what you are actually trying to do helps.

    The bottom line: if you have a low frustration threshold and expect things always to work the first time around, this is probably not for you. Come back again in a year or so and you will certainly find a more facile working environment. But then too, you will have missed twelve months of working creatively with others perhaps many miles away and who just may have a lot to share with you, to teach you, and, yes, to learn from you. And of course, imagine all the CO2 that you are not burning when you keep off that plane. That should make you feel good, and the planet will certainly thank you.

    How to use. . . and protecting your time

    One of the more daunting tricks of these technologies is not only to get them up and working (which fortunately is getting easier with each generation of new products), but also the no less challenging task of figuring out how to make a useful tool of what you can have. This is not always so self evident and does require a bit of a strategy.

    For our part, when we go on line with services like Skype, SightSpeed and MS Messenger, which we have on line all the time during the working day, we make sure in the first place that we restrict entry only to those friends, family and colleagues that we want in fact to hear from. In each case when you get the product up and working, it is worth paying some attention to seeing how this can be done.

    But the other half of this coin is the matter of netiquette: how do we then figure out how best to let someone know that we want to speak or videoconferencing in a manner which is properly discreet and not disruptive of their work or concentration. Now there is of course the option there of simply and boldly clicking them in -- but this as you can well imagine amounts to an uninvited breaking down of their door. Not on clearly!

    All three of this first level of software products offer the possibility of leaving them a discrete note inviting them to a meeting, which they can then ignore, give you a good time for or whatever. This is very handy and works well for us and those with whom we are in frequent contact.

    Finally a note on CO2 et al. These technologies will, if you give them even half a chance, help you gradually to cut back on your physical movements, which of course is what in our view at least "New Mobility" is all about. If in the Kyoto World Cities Challenge we are asking on the cities to cut back on their CO@ and traffic by 20% in 2o months - well it is only fair that we do at least as well for our own part. And indeed we can.

    Hosting and Costs

    Thanks to a long standing relationship of friendly cooperation and exchange on matters relating to our deeply shared common interests and commitment to the sustainability agenda, the use of this system is free to The Commons and our programs and international associates and supported, with all costs and technical overheads most kindly covered by our colleagues at the Construction IT Centre of the University of Maribor in Slovenia.

    For more information/Help

  • General backgrond on Click to Meet: http://support.fvc.com
  • On current program (Ver. 4.0): http://www.fvc.com/eng/products/ctm4.htm
  • Full background on SightSpeed.com

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    Last updated on 5 August 2005