All posts filed under: Sociology

How to model our future cities?

The novel Frankenstein written by the English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley describes the creation of a poor wretch. The premise is that a sum of organs could create a human being. Shelley wanted to write the best horror story and she succeeded. “Smart” buildings, “intelligent” transportation systems and “smart” airports are all isolated projects (managed by independent departments) which leverage the use of technology to create new urban value in a city being modernised and often called a “smart city”. Like Frankenstein, the sum of isolated “smart” urban projects creates a so-called “smart city”! A city is not a sum of things. Vibrant cities are a complex system of systems (and not a set of sets) which rely on economic, social and environmental interconnected values with the goal to support urban sustainability. In the history of ideas, Aristotle was probably the first to point out that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Blaise Pascal wrote in Pensées 72, “since everything then is cause and effect, dependent and supporting, mediate and immediate, …

A populist in power in the U.S.

The USA on November 8th, 2016 elected a demagogue and misogynist with no prior political experience, scant respect for liberal-democratic values, an allegedly volatile temperament and next to no knowledge of international affairs to the highest political office in the land and the most powerful in the world. Is it surprising? Yes. But only because almost all opinion pollsters (once again wrong-footed!) anticipated a Clinton victory and in his campaign Trump appeared to have been enmeshed in too many moral and financial scandals and to have antagonized and offended too many constituencies and groups, even within his own Republican Party, to win. But Trump masterfully tapped into and mobilized deep-seated protectionist and isolationist tendencies that dominated US economic and foreign policies until the Second World War, but were buried temporarily by the Cold War with the Soviet Communist block in the ensuing four decades. He rode the rising tide of populism (the glorification of an ethnically and culturally homogenous ‘people’ against an – allegedly – corrupt ‘establishment’) that has gathered momentum and swept the Western world, …

Ethiopia,© Photo by Eric Lafforgue

Sacrificed Ethiopia

Ethiopia is building one of the most important African dams, on the Omo River. According to the government, the dam will double the amount of energy available in the country. “The dam will dramatically change the life of 200 000 people settled in the Omo Valley, says the French photographer-reporter Eric Lafforgue. The government plans to relocate people in new villages by promising access to health care and education. But traditional ethiopian tribes have always lived out of agriculture and cattle breeding. Today their lands have been confiscated and ‘rented’, for 1 euro a month, to multinational companies. Water from the dam is used to irrigate crops owned by corporations. The military take care of people who resist ‘modernization’. Some Suri people work for the multinationals. They earn 30 euro per month. They save to buy cows, but less and less land is available to graze. Situation is tense. The government sent armed troops to ‘control’ tribes. Then central Addis Ababa government organized a kind of dance competition, filmed and aired by  Ethiopian national TV, …

Our Lady of Vailankanni

Indian Pilgrimage

In Vailankanni, on the Bay of Bengal, in India, more than 5 million pilgrims visit the sancturay of Our Lady of Vailankanni. The Holy place is called the “Lourdes of the East”, resonating one of the West’s most famous marian pilgrimages. Every year, between August 29th and September 8th, more than 3 million people travel from afar to celebrate Mary. ©Melissa Pignatelli 2012