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Hands over the city: Towards an urban nightmare


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By Dave Holmes
[This is an edited version of a workshop talk given on October 2, 2011, at the World at a Crossroads: Climate Change, Social Change conference in Melbourne. For more material from the conference, click HERE. It first appeared at Dave Holmes' Arguing for Socialism and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

I want to give an overview of the crisis of our cities as I see it. The city I focus on is Melbourne, where I live. But I doubt that the broad situation is much different in the other states.

Modern cities are "free-fire" zones for the corporations. And the situation is getting worse. We can't work out what to do without understanding this basic reality.
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Hands over the city: Towards an urban nightmare

  1. 1. Hands over the city Towards an urban nightmare
  2. 2. <ul><li>Big corporations rule: Profits come first, people last. </li></ul><ul><li>Drive for profit sharply intensifying. </li></ul><ul><li>Combined social & ecological crisis. </li></ul>Corporate ‘free fire’ zone Rod Steiger as ruthless developer in Naples in 1963 Italian film Hands Over the City .
  3. 3. ‘ Developers’ on the loose <ul><li>‘ Hundreds of miles of track, some of it quite useless, pushed out from the egocentric city to the rampant suburbs and the far countryside. Hardly a member of Parliament whose vote could be bought went without his bribe in the form of a new railway, a spur line, or advance information on governmental plans to enable him to buy choice land in advance – the value of which was enormously enhanced when the line went through. It was a dispiriting chapter in Victorian political morality.’ </li></ul>— Michael Cannon on Melbourne’s 1880s land boom (p. 39).
  4. 4. Bay wrecked for profit Portsea bayside beach, June 2011
  5. 5. Residents in truck hell <ul><li>Residents near docks have to live with heavy truck traffic 24/7. </li></ul><ul><li>Government’s only ‘solution’: Move problem somewhere else. </li></ul>Footscray truck protest; Yarraville resident ponders the view .
  6. 6. Building sustainable cities <ul><li>How cities are structured </li></ul><ul><li>How we move around </li></ul><ul><li>How we house ourselves </li></ul><ul><li>How we get our power & water </li></ul><ul><li>How we get our food </li></ul>Need to consider:
  7. 7. More people: more sprawl? <ul><li>Melbourne has grown by over 600,000 people since 2001. </li></ul><ul><li>Further growth of our cities on current pattern is an alarming prospect. </li></ul>Caroline Springs, Melbourne.
  8. 8. Open spaces to be sacrificed <ul><li>Situation outside green wedges bad enough. </li></ul><ul><li>New review to open way for development in green belt. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Freeway ma d ness vs public transport Interchange on East Link tollway.
  10. 11. Housing crisis intensifying <ul><li>Mortgage stress. </li></ul><ul><li>Soaring rents. </li></ul><ul><li>Homelessness. </li></ul><ul><li>Refusal to build public housing. </li></ul>Collingwood public housing estate.
  11. 12. Soaring power bills hit poor <ul><li>Privatisation. </li></ul><ul><li>Profit gouging. </li></ul><ul><li>Intolerable stress on pensioners & poor. </li></ul><ul><li>No serious move to renewables. </li></ul>New ‘smart meters’ will hit residents.
  12. 13. Desal plant rip-off Wonthaggi desalination plant under construction.
  13. 14. Food supply in the grip of capitalist monopolies <ul><li>Climate change will impact severely on food supply. </li></ul><ul><li>But so much already in grip of supermarket giants (Coles & Woolworths). </li></ul>
  14. 15. PPPs take public for a ride Southern Cross station: another PPP rip-off.
  15. 16. Radical change needed <ul><li>Creating green, livable cities will require a massive fight for a sharp change of direction. </li></ul><ul><li>Put corporate ‘property developers’ out of business. </li></ul><ul><li>Radically expanded public sector must play key role in transport, housing, services & jobs. </li></ul><ul><li>We need to develop an emergency program to fight climate change & prepare for what’s coming. </li></ul>