Inclusion in the time of pandemics

How can we engage marginalized communities best in a time of social distancing? Many of the people who are a part of these communities require access to public transitt, schools, libraries and community centers in ways those with more access and influence do not. What types of spaces and places - real and virtual - will be needed?

This is an opportunity for the reimagining of Main Streets. How can they revitalize street fronts, businesses, and help shape and create community-based spaces.

I saw an article that in Milan they are closing city streets to cars and allowing the restaurants to inhabit the streets with open air dining.

Millions of free bicycles around the world - allowing the less well off have access to free and healthy transportation,

I read this NYTimes article by Nicholas de Monchaux this morning that made me think of the opportunities to rethink “democratic spaces,” or fair spaces that invite everyone such as active streets. Streetscapes definitely hold a lot of opportunities. Same with markets and parks and any interstitial spaces. It was a topic I was particularly fascinated with during graduate school.

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It is often said that history tends to repeat itself. The current pandemic appears to mimic the division and discord during the 1300s that spread with the plague through numerous medieval city states, including Italy, Hungary, England, Poland, and Castile—the collective global center of commerce and power of its era.

Our world is much larger in the 21st century, but our behavior has not substantially changed as it strives deeper towards nationalism, racism and violence against minorities and non-citizens, hoarding of food and goods, and increasing the inequality between the wealthy and the poor.

As we continue our downward slide into the greatest global economic collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the security of the US—world’s richest and most powerful nation—and its food supply is in jeopardy, especially in the meat industry. Thousands of meatpacking workers have been infected, closing more than a dozen of the four largest corporations that control the meat supply chain, and creating a bottleneck in the network of farmers, growers, shipping companies, large supermarkets, small groceries, and fast food chains across the US. Since the industry timetable is determined by and at the terminal point of the meatpacking facilities, any stoppage means that farmers cannot ship their growing stock of cows, chickens, or pigs. With diminishing space to hold the animals, and prohibitive increasing costs of feed—which would mean oversized animals too big for the size-limiting slaughter houses—farmers have been faced with euthanizing and burying hundreds of thousands of animals.

Just as in the medieval ages, it seems that those with great wealth and resources have not sufficiently behaved to be more magnanimous towards those who have little or no food, including: East Africa which is being overrun by millions of locusts that are decimating all crops; tens of millions of unemployed migrant workers in India who live day-to-day who have money for food; and poorly housed and cared-for migrants detained in refugee camps in Texas.

It would seem more moral and generous to utilize our means, technology, workforce, and financial ability to give away our excess food rather than destroy it. With global auto production falling by 1.4 million, many of the underutilized ships that are used to transport cars could be literally converted into arks to transport excess animals around the world. With global air traffic decreasing by as much as 80%, and the retirement of 200+ Airbus A380 superjumbo jets—that has a maximum capacity of carrying 860+ passengers— we can have flying arks to more quickly distribute surplus animals.

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