(MP3) Justice, Equity, and Rights In The City: panel discussion from the Just Metropolis Conference, UC Berkeley 2010

I still need to write a reportback about the Just Metropolis Conference at Berkeley that I attended from the 16th-20th. In the mean time, here is a recording of an all-star panel (Teresa Caldeira, Peter Marcuse, Edward Soja, Martha Matsuoka, and James Holston); "Justice, Equity, and Rights in The City: A Conversation About Contemporary Urban Idea(l)s." It was a hell of a debate, and an amazing conference. Thanks to all of the presenters and organizers, especially Alex Schafran from UC Berkeley.

In the discussion, I found the comment from an audience member at the end regarding justice & pain fascinating. All too often we treat pain as something to be suppressed/repressed, when it is not pain that is the enemy but suffering; an idea that is central to Buddhist philosophy. Of course we want to rid ourselves of suffering and unnecessary pain, but there is a certain amount of pain that is a function of our existence and the fact that we have to work; to exploit ourselves, others, and the environment, in order to survive. If we look on that basic pain in disgust, or try and make it disappear (the entire project of modernity was/is in some sense concerned with this), we just end up creating more suffering, whether for ourselves, or for those on whom the pain of the privileged is dumped. So the notion of justice is inextricably tied to pain, the pain that we all inherit at birth and learn to share in complex ways through our social/technological constructions. A Just city would certainly eliminate a great deal of unnecessary pain that we have now (corporal punishment, etc), but it would also equitably share the pain we need to live, the pain that is our inheritance, the pain that turns to pleasure when we appreciate what it does for us. That's a Buddhist teaching, that pain can turn to pleasure to the extent that we do not turn away from it but observe it closely and make it our companion. I hope that this point was not lost on the panel.

-Nick Kaufmann


Building a Community Skills Lab @ Heart of Biddeford

This corner will soon become...


The goal is to provide a space where local business owners and residents can learn about urban planning / community development / business development, thereby enabling them to better understand the language of planners and administrators and be able to have productive and empowered dialogues with them about the community. Planners and outsiders can in turn learn more about the community here. There will be a computer workstation in addition to a small library of books, so that people can come in and listen to open source lectures or watch DVD materials, as well as promote their projects with online social media.

The Social Capital wall will be a low-tech, local Facebook; a directory of people and organizations, their skills, and how to contact them. Everything will be updated according to the wall, so there can be an online directory and a yearly guidebook distributed to local businesses when we accumulate enough profiles. In order to encourage people to post profiles, we can make it a condition of being able to borrow a book from the library. That way we make sure to get the books back :)