Economic Environment

2015 Paris Hive Attacks & Fire Engineering for Urban Resilience !

2015-01-31:  The beginning of this 21st Century is deeply unsettling … history is catching up on us, and old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …

The recent, extremely violent Paris Hive Attacks … which occurred between Wednesday and Friday (7-9 January 2015) … have again shown that co-ordinated attacks on a small number of carefully chosen, low-level targets can be just as effective in causing widespread social and economic disruption in a City as a single attack on a high-level target.  Search for our previous detailed discussion, here, on the 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks.

On this tragic occasion, the attacks happened in Europe … not, as before, in far-off India.

Following the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in 2005 and 2008, recommended that these Building Types should be treated as ‘Risk Priorities’ …

• Tall / High-Rise Buildings ;
• Iconic Buildings ;
• Buildings Having a Critical Function ;
• Buildings Having an Innovative Design.

However, a typical medium-rise office building (in Paris) and off-street supermarket do not fall into the above categories … another indication that the NIST Recommendations must soon undergo a thorough international review and updating.

In the real world, the whole urban and sub-urban infrastructure of a City is at risk from Extreme Man-Made Events … one more risk among significant others, i.e. Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident), Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis) and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (e.g. mass human migrations, regional famines).  And with 50% of the world’s population already living in Cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades … it is clear that, in the short to medium term, Cities must become much more resilient.  Search for our continuing discussion, here, about Sustainable Urban Resilience.

In this context, compliance solely with the minimal and limited fire safety objectives in current national legislation – from whatever source around the world – is so far from being either adequate or acceptable … that it is no longer worth a moment’s consideration.

A Fire Engineering which is ‘fit for purpose’, i.e. is both ethical and professional, in today’s complex and dynamic Human Environment … has an essential and critical part to play in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All !

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Global Event: ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !

2014-12-09:  FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event

Fire Safety for All !9 & 10 April 2015 – Dublin Castle, Ireland

‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !
[ www.fire-safety-for-all.eu ]

Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland

This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !

Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ;  the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant.  Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not.  And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?

While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.

This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!

Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.  (ISO 21542 : 2011)

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …

‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’

and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).

The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility.  In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users.  And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

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Good Design Practice: ‘Fire Safety for All’ & EICT Accessibility

[ EICT’s = Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies ]

2014-10-13:  Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies have rapidly become an essential feature of the Built, Social and Economic Environments; they are everywhere.  During a fire incident, however, these e-Technologies serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability.  They must, therefore, have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

This is a requirement of International Law … and an unambiguous National Requirement (expressed in the form of law and/or mandatory administrative provisions) in those jurisdictions which are States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

There is no European Standard (EN) on e-Technology Accessibility … and, in the European Union (EU), a coherent approach to the accessibility of even a modest range of EICT’s has not yet even been developed.

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Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) must comply with Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 … or with a suitable Standard/Guidance Document of another country which details an equivalent level of e-Accessibility performance.

U.S. Section 508 covers the following range of e-Technologies:

  • Software Applications & Operating Systems (1194.21) ;
  • Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22) ;
  • Telecommunications Products (1194.23) ;
  • Video and Multimedia Products (1194.24) ;
  • Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25) ;
  • Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26)

Source WebSite, Helpful Guidance & Support …

www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards

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Sustainable Human & Social Development – Reloaded !

2014-04-13:  Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13

There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).  As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.  WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.  But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators.  An imposing challenge !

AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.  In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!

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A New and Updated Groundwork …

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SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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The CITY (as Region)

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)              An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)              A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)              A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

together functioning as …

(i)                 a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;     and

(ii)               a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

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SOCIAL WELLBEING

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

INDIVIDUAL WELFARE

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

HUMAN HEALTH

A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.     [World Health Organization]

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SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.

VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT

A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.

ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.

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And So To Work !!

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Petrol/Gasoline Prices in Turkey Now – Here Tomorrow ?

2011-01-30:  A Sobering Interlude …

Colour photograph showing the prices of different grades of petrol and diesel at a Petrol Station in Turgutreis, on the Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-01-21. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the prices of different grades of petrol and diesel at a Petrol Station in Turgutreis, on the Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2011-01-21. Click to enlarge.

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The photograph above shows the prices for petrol (gasoline) on 21 January 2011 … in Turkey:

For 95 Octane Petrol (gasoline), the price shown is  3.98 TL  per Litre

The exchange rate at the time (2011-01-21) … € 1 / 2.04 TL  =  € 1.95  per Litre

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For 97 Octane Petrol (gasoline), the price shown is  4.01 TL  per Litre

The exchange rate at the time (2011-01-21) … € 1 / 2.04 TL  =  € 1.97  per Litre

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European Union Economic Governance – Too Late For Dithering !

2010-12-22:  November & December 2010 … when the shit really started to hit the international economic fan ! … there has been an excess of hysterical nonsense in the Irish Media concerning growing European Union (EU) Economic Governance … and a perceived erosion of Irish National Sovereignty.  How sad ?!?

Economic Environment … the intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the Social Environment.

Social Environment … the complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

However, let me sketch out an altogether different and much more positive picture !

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Thesis – My Argument

[During 2009, I first raised this issue in meetings of the IIEA (Institute of International & European Affairs) Economists’ Group, in Dublin.]

Towards the end of 2010 … we can now see that Inter-Governmental Economic Governance in the European Union has failed … miserably.  This has not only destabilized the EuroZone … but the entire European Union, itself, as a political entity … and will continue to do so … until Economic Governance is brought much closer to, and fully within, the Community Method … which is a lengthy and complex process.

Back in 2009, however, when the Financial Markets were not in such a mad frenzy … it would have been natural to imagine that an interim stage in this process would most probably be to adopt an Open Method of Co-Ordination.  This is no longer an option … being too little, too late, to calm the Markets.

Throughout this process of reform, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the National Central Banks can, and must, retain their independence … as legally mandated in European Union Primary Legislation, i.e. the Treaties.

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Three Concerns I have had for some time …

–  Economists don’t know the Community Method from the Rhythm Method, and they are ill-equipped to deal with matters of Mainstream European Union Institutional Reform ;

–  The use of Economic Performance Indicators in the EU Stability & Growth Pact is simplistic and crude … and, therefore, very problematic ;

–  Economic Performance Indicators must be improved … qualitatively … and be mainstreamed in considerations, and the implementation, of Sustainable Human & Social Development … as legally mandated in the EU Treaties.

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Mr. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic & Monetary Affairs recently delivered a speech at the Institute of International & European Affairs, in Dublin …

Mr. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner

9 November 2010

Reinforcing EU Economic Governance: Relevance for Ireland

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (39kb)

However … instead of trying to desperately backfill the holes and gaps in the current, failed Inter-Governmental Method of Economic Governance in the European Union … Commissioner Rehn should be clearly identifying the proper target as the Community Method of Economic Governance … and plotting an appropriate course to reach that target … as soon as practicable !

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This is a useful background document … and includes a lot of information about the EU Stability & Growth Pact

European Commission & General Secretariat of the EU Council

June 2007

EU Economic & Monetary Union – Legal & Political Texts

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.66 Mb)

Since Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 … after 10 years of accession negotiations ! … an ‘informed’ view of European Integration has always been that the different Countries are pooling their national sovereignty, in an expanding range of specific areas, for the greater benefit of all their citizens.  This has certainly been the experience of Ireland.  And … let us also not forget that Irish Politicians and Senior Civil Servants have participated directly – at all stages – in the development of the EMU Legal & Political Texts listed.  There is no such thing as a Domineering ‘Brussels’ Big Brother !

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This is the most recent update of the EuroZone’s Economic Performance Indicators

European Commission, Directorate-General for Economic & Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)

2 December 2010

Key Economic Indicators for the Euro Area

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (360kb)

It is now widely acknowledged that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is neither a reliable nor an adequate indicator of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  But … that is another story … for another day !

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Community & Inter-Governmental Methods of Governance

The Community Method is the expression used for the most common and effective operating and decision-making mode of institutions in the European Union.  It proceeds from an integration logic, with due respect for the subsidiarity principle … and has the following salient features:

  • European Commission monopoly of the Right of Initiative, with a strong monitoring role in implementation ;
  • should consensus not be achieved, widespread use of Qualified Majority Voting in the Council of the European Union ;
  • an active, participatory role for the European Parliament ;
  • uniform interpretation of EU Law by the Court of Justice.

In contrast to the … Inter-Governmental Method … which proceeds from an inter-governmental logic of co-operation between EU Member States … to a large extent outside the institutional framework of the European Union … and has the following salient features:

  • the European Commission’s Right of Initiative is shared with the Member States or confined to specific areas of activity … with little, if any, monitoring role for the Commission in implementation ;
  • the Council of the European Union generally acts unanimously … and unilaterally ;
  • the European Parliament has merely a consultative role ;
  • the Court of Justice plays only a minor role.

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Open Method of Co-Ordination

The Open Method of Co-Ordination (OMC) developed as an instrument of the 2000 Lisbon Strategy, and provided a new framework for co-operation between the EU Member States, whose national policies could thus be directed towards certain common objectives.

Under this method of governance, the Member States are evaluated by one another (peer pressure), with the European Commission’s role being limited to ‘lite’ surveillance.  The European Parliament and the Court of Justice play virtually no part in the OMC process.

The Open Method of Co-Ordination takes place in policy areas which fall within the competence of the Member States … such as employment, social protection, social inclusion, education, youth and training.

It is based principally on:

  • jointly identifying and defining objectives to be achieved (adopted by the Council of the European Union) ;
  • jointly established measuring instruments (statistics, indicators, guidelines) ;
  • benchmarking, i.e. comparison of the Member States’ performance and exchange of best practices (oversight by the European Commission).

Depending on the areas concerned, the OMC involves so-called ‘Soft Law’ Measures which are binding on the Member States to varying degrees but which never take the form of ‘Hard Law’ Directives, Regulations or Decisions.  Thus, in the context of the Lisbon Strategy, the OMC required the Member States to draw up national reform plans and to submit them to the European Commission.

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Colour photograph showing the last resting place, in Arbour Hill Cemetery Dublin, for many - not all - Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution. The Memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the last resting place, in Arbour Hill Cemetery Dublin, for many – not all – Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution. The Memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Ireland’s National Sovereignty in 2010/2011 ?

On a beautiful sunny day, this past autumn … I again visited Arbour Hill Cemetery in Dublin … the last resting place for many Executed Leaders of the 1916 Revolution … an event which finally initiated an irrevocable process of terminating a prolonged period of barbaric external imperial domination and cultural cleansing of the indigenous population …

Colour photograph showing, in the background, a latin cross and the Irish language version of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence inscribed on the stone wall, with the simple grass-covered graves of Executed Leaders in the foreground. Detail of the 1916 Revolution Memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing, in the background, a latin cross and the Irish language version of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence inscribed on the stone wall, with the simple grass-covered graves of Executed Leaders in the foreground. Detail of the 1916 Revolution Memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-10-24. Click to enlarge.

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On the wall behind the graves … the 1916 Proclamation of Independence is inscribed in the Irish Language, and also in English …

Poblacht na hEíreann

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC

TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN:  In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.  The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.  In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty:  six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.  Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman.  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.  In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government,

THOMAS J. CLARKE,

SEAN Mac DIARMADA,          THOMAS Mac DONAGH,

P. H. PEARSE,          EAMONN CEANNT,

JAMES CONNOLLY,          JOSEPH PLUNKETT.

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As We Approach the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Revolution … Ireland has failed to implement and foster the social values so eloquently elaborated in the 1916 Proclamation of Independence … widespread, deeply ingrained corruption infects our economic environment … and the institutions of national governance are dysfunctional and no longer ‘fit for purpose’ … while individuals within those institutions rise in rank according to their own natural level of incompetence.

Politically … Ireland has not yet properly matured as an Independent State.

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Ireland’s Relationship with the European Union … I am more than a little curious as to why Ireland is not associated with Declaration No.52, which is annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon

52.  Declaration by the Kingdom of Belgium, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Hellenic Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Lithuania, the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Austria, the Portuguese Republic, Romania, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic on the symbols of the European Union

Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto ‘United in diversity’, the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it.

Yes … we have a lot to discuss before 2016 !

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Update:  2013-06-03 …

On Friday, 31 May 2013, at the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA) in Dublin … I attended the third seminar in a series organized to mark Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (January to June 2013) … the seventh such Presidency … and 40 years since Ireland officially joined the European Economic Community (EEC), on 1 January 1973 … after a long, long, long accession process …

‘Economic Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization and EU Integration – Economic, Legal and Political Perspectives’

[ For full information about this IIEA Economic Seminar:  www.iiea.com ]

Because the seminar was not only very interesting, but is directly relevant in the context of this post … and the remarks of Mr. Peter Sutherland, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and the London School of Economics, and former Irish Attorney General, former European Commissioner and former Director-General of the World Trade Organization, caused quite a stir in the printed media on the following day … here is Paper 2 from Seminar Session I … which went to the heart of discussions on the day …

Prof. John W O’Hagan, Dept. of Economics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Shared Economic Sovereignty: Beneficial or Not, and Who Decides ?

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (635 Kb)

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Update:  2014-07-04 …

Economists exist and operate in a special bubble … in their own little isolated world of quasi-science and fantasy, where everything in ‘our’ society is seen merely as an input, or fuel, for economic development.  And when they talk about Sustainable Economic Growth … believe me, their notion of ‘sustainable’ is altogether different from our understanding of that word !

European Union Economic Governance

It should come as no surprise to learn, therefore, that economists are blissfully unaware that the EuroZone’s current directionless (and dysfunctional) economic governance is causing enormous instability and harm to the whole political entity that is the European Union …

EU Economic Governance & The European Semester - Who Does What and When, Every Year

Flow chart diagram, in colour, showing how it is proposed that The European Semester will operate … which EU Institution will do what, and at what stage every year.  Source: Council of the European Union.  Click to enlarge.

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This issue is too important for all of us … to be left to economists and national politicians, alone, to muddle through !

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Sustainable Cities – The Driver to Forge a ‘Creative’ Society ?

Dr. Craig Barrett, Chair (2005-2009) of Intel Corporation’s Board, recently dropped some sharp home truths onto our frail and sensitive Irish laps … concerning national competitiveness in the Global Economic Environment.  It was like a breath of fresh air !   And … how right he was !!

Today, however, I want to focus on just one of his themes …

Quality Education + Quality Research & Development + Facilitating and Fostering Creativity & Innovation in Society

Since the 1990’s … we have had to listen to endless amounts of bullshit and hot air … until we are blue in the face … about the Information Society, the Knowledge Society, the Smart Society, the Green Society [what is ‘Green’ anyway ?], etc., etc., etc … and the biggest anti-climax of them all … the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy … boring, boring, boring !!!!

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When you hit the bottom of the barrel, there is only one place to look … and that’s up … with an engaged mind feverishly picturing what’s around outside !   So … for one wild moment, let’s join together some nice ideas …

Could Sustainable Cities be that essential driving force which forges a ‘Creative’ Society ???

What is the Sustainable Urban Environment (City) ?   A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

  • An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;
  • A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
  • A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated or ‘wrought’ landscape) ;

And together functioning as …

  1. A complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;    and
  2. A synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

Our Ultimate Goal must be to achieve a dynamic and harmonious balance between a sustainable ‘human’ environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, ‘natural’ environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving social wellbeing for all.

Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate and future climate changes, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s).

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Supporting Definitions

Human Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the ‘natural’ environment.

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the ‘natural’ environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the ‘virtual’ environment.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The ‘social’ environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the ‘built’ (including ‘virtual’) environment.

Economic Environment:  The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the ‘social’ environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the ‘built’ environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  (World Health Organization)

Individual Welfare:  A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Sustainable Human & Social Development:  Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … and their children.

*As defined, in International Law, by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).

Sustainable Design*:  The ethical design response, in built or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

*Includes Spatial Planning, Architectural / Engineering / Interior / Industrial Design and e-Design, etc.

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Abu Dhabi as ‘Sustainable City’ – A New Language Required ?

2009-03-03:  Recent international attention has been drawn, in a morbid sort of way, to the current economic condition of two contrasting cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Abu Dhabi and Dubayy (Dubai).

 

In the month of October, 2008, I was very pleased to travel to both of these cities for the first time … with the purpose of introducing the subject of Sustainable Fire Engineering at a Building Seminar in the World Trade Centre, Dubayy.  My host was, and is more so now, convinced that this innovative approach to fire engineering offers a key to future commercial success in the Gulf Region.

 

Before making my presentation, however, I had spent some essential days wandering around Abu Dhabi … soaking up the local atmosphere and culture.

 

Arriving later in Dubayy, I was ‘shocked and stunned’ – a vivid Dublin expression –  to see that Billions of Dirhams (the local currency) had been spent on re-creating the Nightmare that is the 20th Century American City … where, if you want to just scratch your nose, you must get into your car – or one of them at least – to do so.

 

It was tragic to see how the local authorities were trying to ‘shoehorn’ an Urban Rail System into the existing City Fabric … ducking, and weaving in and out, between road overpasses and spaghetti junctions which had only been built in the last 10 years.

 

Sightings of UMO’s (Unidentified Moving Objects) … pedestrians and cyclists … are extremely rare !   The local summer, by the way, is the only season when it is definitely unhealthy to engage in either activity … temperatures can regularly reach into the low 50s oC.

 

People are much smarter in Abu Dhabi – so I was told.  They have seen the mistakes which have been made up the road, and they are determined to take a different path with their future development.

 

“How long will it take to transform and re-shape Abu Dhabi into a Sustainable City ?”, I was asked.

 

 

In order to answer that question, a new language is required.  Let me introduce you to some of its Technical Terms … which, even after many years of sweat and toil in SDI, are still being regularly reviewed, revised and updated:

 

 

Human Environment …

Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the natural environment. 

 

The Human Environment comprises, and must be taken together as a unified, complex whole:

 

Social Environment …

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

 

The Social Environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the Built (including Virtual) Environment.

 

Built Environment …

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc.

 

Virtual Environment …

A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the Built Environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

 

 

Long before the present seismic upheavals and sordid revelations … the intuition of many people around the world had been informed that ‘economics’ inhabited its own closed environment … and operated to entirely different ‘rules’ from the rest of us – mere peasants – which are anything but open and transparent.  The ‘actors’ in this Economic Environment are not accountable.  Well … not yet, anyway !

 

Economic Environment …

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the Social Environment.

 

 

And, still under development … the Institutional Environment.

 

 

 

Social Wellbeing …

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

 

Individual Welfare …

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

 

 

 

And finally for now:

 

The City …

 

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)  An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)  A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)  A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

 

together functioning as …

(i)   a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;   and

(ii)  a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

 

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END

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