Lands and countries

Maps 2014 (37) Genealogical map of Pennsylvania

pennsylvania genealogy

 

We Europeans tend to think that the US have no history. Incidentally, this happens to be true from an European viewpoint, as their written records are quite recent (a different perspective would give a more complex vision). Recent history shows some curious features. The Genealogical Map of Pennsylvania, compiled in 1933 by the State Government and already in its tenth edition in 1985, shows the complex journey of the subdivision of the state during the XIXth century, and even the XVIIIth century purchases. New York and Pennsylvania where part of the same country, but even so Erie county was ceded by NY to PA to ensure an access to the great lakes…. The map is useful not by locating the main family names, but the administrative divisions that allow you to go to the proper county office. In most of Europe the reference would be the parishes, as they were long the ones having the baptism registration books…

Maps 2014 (22) Swiss rural space

The division proposed by this map produced by ARE (the Swiss Federal Office for Territorial Development) is thought- provoking: the national territory is divided in cities and metro areas, tourism areas in the Alps, rural areas around cities (taking into account integration in public transit networks) and peripheral rural areas (in which population is relevant).

Maps 2014 (19) Empty Europe

teselas pobladas EURO 2006

Populated celles. They have not been aggregated, so the overall black color corresponds mostly to the adjacent limits.

This is not, as I often do, a map that has been done by someone else, but rather raw data from Eurostat that I have represented. Some months ago I commented on a project concerning a population grid, 1 km wide, covering the whole of Europe, as to give a better vision on some issues, as population, whose rendering following administrative basis was far from good.

So, there I went to the Eurostat specific site ((http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/gisco_Geographical_information_maps/popups/references/population_distribution_demography) to download the GEOSTAT 1 km2 population grid, with associated 2006 population data. The density map is somehow known as we know the main cities and axis, but what is less known is the map of the void spots (in fact, Eurostat does not produce a polygon for those 1 sq m cells without residents). As often for European data, there are countries out of the Union (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) that are represented, while others (Cyprus) are not there).

The available cells (the populated ones, almost 2 million) help get the voids by exclusion; at first glance you can see substantial void areas in Spain, the Alps, the Charpatians, parts of Greece and the Scottish and Scandinavian mountains.

But it is far more interesting to better portray the empty areas.

Green cells have no population. So much more void...

Green cells have no population. So much more void… but there is a need to cultivate and to produce the environmental services needed by the population.

European choices (5) Pollution

Each dot is an EPRTR spot.

Each dot is an E-PRTR spot.

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) is a register managed by the European Environmental Agency that has data on industrial compounds emitting pollutants beyond the thresholds established in Regulation (EC) No 166/2006. It encompasses a wide array of factories, from urban waste water treatment to surface treatments to slaughterhouses.

As ever with European policies, there can be states with more stringent environmental quality laws, but Europe defines both a common framework and, as relevant as that for spatial planning, common databases that cover the whole of the Union (and often external countries as Norway and Switzerland), so allowing a better knowledge and debate.

European Choices (3) Urban planning, Danes and paella

auken-en

In February 2009 the Auken report, by a Danish member of the European Parliament, became news in Spain. The reasons are the complains of citizens of other EU member states that had bought homes in Spain to find out they were affected by the urban planning laws of the Valencia region, with fast management procedures that they understood as opposed to their property rights.

The report analyses the fast urban growth of the country, its effects on the environment and other issues. Urban planning is central, but not as such (it is a matter of the States), rather as something that impacts the rights of the citizens.

An interesting reading on the limits that the Union sets to the power of the States. Since this report, there have been legal changes in Valencia, and there are already blueprints of a new law that would group what now is a too extensive legal corpus.

The report was seen as a good thing by many in Spain: those same problems also concerned Spanish citizens. Here the Union gave a broader view to adopt a decision on the effects of a temporary and state-specific issue (the real estate bubble). Only a minority (or at least this is what I have perceived) saw that as an encroachment on the sovereignty of the State.

European choices (2) Birds

Natura2000 en Europa

Natura 2000 in Europe

Natura 2000 is an ecological network, including zones designated according to the Birds Directive and the Habitat Directive. It must ensure the continuity of species and habitat types in Europe as a guarantee of biodiversity. Each state of the European Union proposes, for each of the biogeographic and marine regions it encompasses, a list of spaces complying with criteria set in the annex III to Habitat Directive. After a long administrative procedure, these are declared Special Areas of Conservation. States also propose Special Protection Areas for birds.

Summarizing, states draw the line and Europe integrates the area in its network. The EU does not impose a zone, but once the area is approved as part of Natura2000, it is protected by European law. Therefore, when problems arise, the last word comes to the Court of Justice of the European Union, in Luxembourg.

The zone must be drawn according to scientific criteria, but the line can also be subject to political opportunity criteria; few of the large European cities have Natura2000 zones in their metro areas, and land use changes for infrastructure or urban growth can challenge that protection. The State must follow a complex path to change these decisions, and in case of trouble it is in a rather different position when facing the Luxembourg Court if compared to a national Court.

There is an interesting 2006 booklet on how the Luxembourg Court decided on Natura2000 related cases. A selection of cases of interest:

– C-335/90. Santoña marshes. Spain. Wastewater, aquaculture, roads, embankments.

– C-44/95. Lappel Bank. UK. Exclusion of an area from a Special Conservation Area for birds due to economic considerations.

– C-374/98. Basses Corbieres. France. Classification as SPA, quarries, compensatory measures

A state can receive a similar answer from its national supreme court, but the fact that Luxembourg speaks raises more buzz in the press.

Nukes, crowns, housing, euros, birds and Scotts: european choices

europ

The EU is often presented as an organisation that has helped Europe (or at least its member states) to have one of the longest periods without war in history. That is true. But it probably is coming to a point in which it will have to change, one way or the other (not peace, but the architecture on which it rests).

Of the five title items, the only two things that have created some sort of consensus in Europe are euros and birds. Two states have nuclear weapons, but this is something that is not subject to negotiation (and somehow displaces the military issue to NATO, an altogether different framework). And there are also nuclear weapons in some others, provided by NATO.  This is defined by each State.

Seven are monarchies, which indicates that in the past some people were deemed to have been chosen by God to manage their national flocks; so they are inherently different from an elected president, creating potential future frictions.  But the form of the State is defined by each of them

The European Parliament has recently passed a resolution on social housing (11 june 2013), but this is not a Directive, and it seems difficult to attain a compromise on that matter. To be sure, there are some Directives covering energy efficiency on buildings, but it is not exactly the same thing. As the right to housing and how it is provided for is a prerogative of each State.

Euros have come into physical existence and this is no doubt the sign of a consensus among all States, as they have yielded one of the traditional prerogatives of independence: currency. The extent to which the currency is seen as a good thing by citizens is perhaps not as widespread due to the economic crisis. Even if you keep your currency, the Union’s policies are strong as economy goes.

Europe has enacted a birds Directive, which is one of the rare instances in which the EU says something approximately concrete on land uses. We seem to love birds… (don’t take me wrong, I like birds too).

Scotts are holding a referendum this year on a potential independence from the UK. They want independence, but they also want to stay in the EU and NATO. But independence is not what it used to be in its days. The issue is not why do Scotts (or Catalans, for that matter) want to cut the tie while remaining in Europe and countries such as Serbia or Albania want to be also part of these families. It is rather which is the administrative level to be disposed off now that Europe is acquiring so much clout. And nationalism will play a role; for instance, UKIP wants the UK out of Europe, but not an independent Scotland. Which in its turn would be a state, but a much weaker one than what they have grown up used to think.

How this translates into architecture and regional and urban planning, the reasons for this blog? To be seen in next posts.

Maps 2014 (17) Hotspots of land use change in Europe, 1990-2006

ESPON is the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion, adopted by the European Commission as a programme in 2007. It has just published a map of the “hotspots” of land use change on a continental scale.

The map is built around the concept of use intensity. Regions with light of white colours have had smaller changes; blue ones have intensified land use (grasslands become urban areas, or more intensive agriculture zones), while the green ones have been subject to intensification (going from more to less intensive agricultural use). According to the map notes the data series are not homogeneous and some countries have no data, but you can see how intensification through tourist second homes has played a role in Mediterranean Spain, and how eastern Europe is intensifying, for instance in how Prague is “vacuum cleaning” peripheral Czech regions.

Back of the envelope calculations (1)

The price paid for each olive influences the survival of this landscape

The price paid for each olive influences the survival of this landscape

The aggregative effects of what we can see as simple things can give us a clue on how the world works. I will try to approach this in the next set of posts.

Biblio (84) Sectorial Program for Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development 2013-2018, Mexico

Mexico is a giant country: a straight line from Cancun to Tijuana measures about 3.200 km, about the distance from Lisbon to Helsinki or Mumbai to Bangkok. And there can be an impressive distance between neighbouring streets when it comes to quality of life. The Sectorial Programme for Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development, published in December 2013, lays out the policies that the 2013-2018 administration pledges to apply in these domains.

The text describes the current condition of the country as far as urban development and housing are concerned, with substantial deficits. It is difficult to know what the future will bring in such a complex country; besides, there is no financial perspective in the document. But it give an overall vision of the problems. It can be downloaded at:

http://www.dof.gob.mx/copias.php?acc=ajaxPaginas&paginas=todas&seccion=SEGUNDA&edicion=255381&ed=MATUTINO&fecha=16/12/2013   (beware, the text itselfs begins at the page 65 of the PDF)