Movie discussion – Ekumenopolis

In July 2015 CDN Alternative Urbanization Working group had an online movie night and discussion.
istanbulThe discussion of the movie started with sharing general feelings about the movie, participants of the discussion mentioned, that it was interesting to see how after Ottoman empire there was neoliberal empire coming into it’s place. The film showed us how government in Turkey started making money from construction numerous buildings,
under the name of improving the life in Istanbul, while actually destroying the city and victimizing poor people. It was especially interesting to watch the part of democracy and how the construction sites and policies changed the ways people talk about cities and
democracy. Some of us were acknowledged with the public transport system of Istanbul, but for some of us that as a shock. For majority it was interesting to discover TOKI as such. Also some members were thinking that the shaping of current Istanbul is a result of capitalism and not neoliberalism.

Next thing to discuss was Social Justice and Urbanisation. We discussed how should the changes in the cities be done, how should the state include the people they serve. In the documentary, there was an example how the state and the companies do not include the citizens in decision making at all, moreover they are violating their rights. One of the participants mentioned having particular feeling in Armenia, that progress is always associated with capitalism or Neoliberalism, and people living in these places as well as  the city planners have no concept of how to create housing without focussing on the land value. To change the city, a fundamental shift of ideology needs to happen first. On the other hand, in Georgia, when investors want to destroy somebody’s house and build something else on it’s place, they offer them 3 times more, but not the best location and quality of housing; at the same time it is really easy to fit your project into plan of the Cities, if you have enough connections.
The solution model that come up to mind of one participant was to present the plans to wider audience, and discuss the planning of the cities widely, on public meetings. But there are many buildings in one city, so how much time one discussion would cost?! The solution would be to somehow  provide simplicity and inclusiveness in this whole process. 
We also discussed the two tools of capitalism – cars and property. We agreed, that both things are useless, especially in the amounts that we have. Car is ideologically wrong, because it’s totally unfair to have an amount of metal with which you pollute environment to feel comfortable and privileged. Public transport is more ideologically proper both environmentally and socially. 
If we talk about private property, it is unclear why that much buildings are being built. We have a feeling that they create artificial demand on living in the cities, when stimulating migration from rural areas at the same time. They create business centres and services nobody needs. 
One of the participants mentioned that there is a big similarity with London and England’s south east. There’s not enough houses for everyone,  which drives prices up and makes developers and investors richer, so that in effect the city planning is done merely in their interest. Actual real need is rarely considered.  If you create few houses, the prices go up.  Hight prices in turn make the area desirable for the social elite and poor people get driven out of the city centre. However, most jobs are still based in the centre which means that people either have to make long, expensive commutes or face unemployment. We agreed that the jobs should be located closer to neighbourhoods, or vice versa; public transport should be a top priority for the city. There shouldn’t be a gap between the centre and peripheries, as it is now. We concluded that the Centre and periphery are the means of class discrimination. The rural-urban division is a result of the economical system we currently live in. The industry and politics is centralised, what also is a problem.EKU
The last point to discuss was the transport and democracy. The participants of the discussion agreed, that the public transport is a tool of democracy. If there is a well developed public transport, the access to places is easier; the more efforts state puts to develop public transport, the more democratic it is; doesn’t matter if it uses fossil fuels or not. It is always better to have one bus that transports 70 people and runs on the Fossil Fuels, than 70 cars. But the priority, of course, should be given to developing eco-friendly public transport. Metro and Tramway should be introduced to the cities all over the world, bicycle lines should be in every City or Town.
In the end of the discussion, the participants gave a feedback on the discussion in general.
To watch Ekümenopolis, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maEcPKBXV0M
To be added to the Alternative Urbanization working group mailing list, please, contact Anastasija Pejovic ( anastasija@cdnee.org )

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