Intelligent Urban Planning

The city of Louvain-la-Neuve is located less than an hour south of Brussels. I had long heard that it was a major University City for the Franch-speaking Belgians. But what I never fully understood is the story of why and how the city was built, only 40 years ago, in a very unique manner.

So today, accompanied by my cousin, we headed down to LLN to see the city and how it all works. As we rode the train into town, I knew we had arrived when suddenly everything went dark and the train went into a neverending tunnel.

This is not only true for trains, but for cars as well, all traffic circulates underneath the city. As we got off the train and climbed the stairs up to street level, you look around and see people walking in every direction, the occasional bicycle, and only the sounds of people.

street level

It was pretty amazing to see, a city who’s construction began only in 1968. And even back then, they understood that to create a truly vibrant and healthy city, you should find a way to have NO cars on the roads. Voila, you never see the cars because they are underground. Occasionally you run into a stairwell or an elevator to the sub-level street where there is parking. But otherwise, you see nothing but college students in their early 20’s, a beautiful site in such a calm environment.

A place like this amazes me when you consider the terrible cities that exist in this world. Obviously most of them were not properly planned and are so old that extreme circumstances led to some aspects getting out of control. But still.. then you visit Louvain-la-Neuve, and while it may not be the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen, it is still wonderful… especially when you think to yourself… people can create and live in a place like this.

LLN

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85% Voter Turnout

Greetings from an almost secret location in Belgium where I’ll be stationed for a few days. Coincidentally, just close enough to France so that everyone is this area is clinging to the French election results, and for the most part, pulling their hairs out in disappointment and frustration.

While it is hardly under-reported news, it is interesting, watching these elections in the global context. An old friend of mine in France once said, as much as his fellow citizens would never admit it, the French are very similar to Americans in many things. Every now and then, like in these elections, I think she was right.

He plays on fear. He threatens to be tough on immigrants and to cut taxes and benefits and whatever else he can cut. He goes on and on about national pride and what a great country it is. He could basically be a president candidate in the USA, but in fact, he is the new president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy. (or as I heard him referred to today, mini-bush)

As people learn the result of today’s election, you’ll hear lots of disgusted responses. “So embarrassing” people will say. Sounds familiar.

But unlike the US, where even if you bus people to the polls you can’t get a 50 percent turnout, reports from today say that turnout was at 85%! 85%! Now at first glance, that’s impressive. People can say, and they are, that it is a healthy sign for democracy because people are participating.

Then again, 85% voting for, with more than 50% of them choosing a pretty hardline conservative candidate also makes it hard for a country to deny who they are. At least in the US you can say “hey.. thats only half of the 40+% that vote who chose that bum, we’re not really like that”. In France, you can’t say that anymore. So if Sarko ends up rounding up all the immigrants and putting them in labor camps. Or joining the US military in its latest adventure to invade and bring democracy somewhere. It won’t be just a small percentage of crazies that took over the government. Nope… it’s a majority of the country that actually shares (at least some of) these values.

Once again, I don’t have a better idea yet, but western democracy is still overrated.

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bm199 What these Elections Will Do To France

Media coverage of the French elections has spiraled into the typical who looks tougher who will lose reporting, as is the norm for mainstream media today. But there are real policies that will harm or help real people throughout and France, depending on the outcome. In this podcast, with the help of Chris of Americablog and Jessica in London, we will identify what changes will come and what it means for French, as well as the effect on Europe.

I recommend Chris’s latest post on round 1 election results
Also Mentioned: Opendemocracy.net

We Discuss:
-The top issues that will HAVE to change regardless of who’s elected
-The economy and jobs
-The 35 hour work week
-The green movement, or lack there of
-The Health system
-Transport
-Selling “American Style” to the French
-Racism as an election tool
-Europe Union issues

 

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bm198 Zimbabwe Students Movement

Like much of the population in Zimbabwe, students are suffering a great deal at the hands of the government. Their struggle for human rights, academic freedom, justice, and representation is reaching out across borders and continents. In this podcast I sit down with Tendayi Lynnet Mudehwe, information and publicity secretary of ZINASU, the Zimbabwean National Students Union.

We Discuss:
– The circumstances for students in Zimbabwe
– Healthcare, Student Fee’s, and Rights
– Mugabe, who supports him?
– The goal of travelling to Europe
– The role of outside countries
– How close is change?
– The dangers that activists face

ZINASU Website
Clips used from SW Radio Africa

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