City Cancer, Country Prophet

September 11, 2008

A small Sakabashira blog-swirl led me to this animation, which reminded me.  Even though Japan has its own impressive variety of explosive-scribble power lines, and continental Asia more, the most magnificent of all, now gone, came in Kowloon Walled City.


From an animation by Imiri Sakabashira

An alleyway from Kowloon Walled City

(from the Archidose site dedicated to the city)

35,000 people on six and a half acres, with an unimaginable tangle of human stories overlaying all the space. It sprouted because it was in an administrative non-area that fell through the legal cracks, and so housed all manner of illegal activity, including– most horrific of all– scads of unlicensed dentists.

(Also essential: Greg Girard’s photographs in the place before it was torn down.)


At the other end of the spectrum,  Masanobu FUKUOKA passed on.  He was 95.  The old farmer pioneered a form of “do-nothing” agriculture after having a kind of revelation of the interconnectedness of things while working in ag science in Yokohama.  He was in his 20s, then, and the war was ramping up; then he moved back to his family’s plot of land in rural Shikoku and farmed it until he died.

He did make it out now and then, to lecture, and wrote a number of books, like The One Straw Revolution, finally to be reprinted by the New York Review of Books Press.  At times he seems either crank or Jeremiah, like Wendell Berry (who wrote the English edition’s introduction). Sometimes he sounds like an old-school Japanese right-winger, sometimes a genius.

Fukuoka’s system seems to have sprung complete from his head.  It anticipates current green trends like biomimicry, ecosystem design, and locavorism.  But even if Kowloon Walled City was its own contained ecosystem, I think Fukuoka would have hated it.


Meanwhile, my country’s uncontained, inane dog-and-pony show has effectively choked out all meaningful dissection of policy, at a time when we should be forming a Manhattan Project to address energy generation & environmental degradation.  I encourage everyone to vote based on conviction and data, not personality; not to watch the dog-and-pony show; and to chastise your circle should they bring it up.

And if I look at Politico again, you can shoot me.

Previous post:

Next post: