Thursday, September 07, 2006

Letters to the press not printed

Sent to Sydney Morning Herald 14 August 2006

Professor Capon implies that increasing residential density will alleviate the epidemics of obesity, depression and asthma (Finding a cure for our sick cities, August 14).
Our suburbs have been with us for 60 years, yet obesity is a new phenomenon. Also, in Sweden it has been shown that the rates for psychosis and depression are greater in denser areas. The Australian Unity Well-being Index reports that the happiest electorates tend to have lower population densities.
Achieving a healthier environment needs to be based on something more substantial than unproven aspirations.
Tony Recsei

Sent to Sydney Morning Herald 4 September 2006

In his advocacy for high-density living (letters September 4) it is Douglas MacKenzie who is stuck in the past. He advocates that children be brought up in units and play in parks instead of being able to play in a backyard with their friends. In highly populated dense areas it is now just too risky to allow these children go to a park unsupervised or to join gangs that roam inhospitable streets.
What is more, backyards are multipurpose. We grow fruit and vegetables. This provides us with fresh produce, educates our children about sustainability and saves the large amount of fuel that otherwise would be required for its cultivation and transport.
Tony Recsei


Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised these weren't published. There is a lot here that flies in the face of current fact. For the sake of argument I'll single out three of your most egregious statements.

"Our suburbs have been with us for 60 years, yet obesity is a new phenomenon"

Obesity has grown in response to and with the increasing suburbanisation of our cities, it has been a decades long problem. It's recency is apparent only to you and those who argue for the status quo in our built space. Those of us who believe in urban consolidation have been warning against this for some time now and saw it coming a mile away.

Simply put, you can't build outer suburbs and the time consuming car dependency they bring and not have fat people. It's an obvious cause and effect.

"In highly populated dense areas it is now just too risky to allow these children go to a park unsupervised or to join gangs that roam inhospitable streets."

Talk about scaremongering, the inner suburbs are largely affluent now with Sydney's comprising some of the richest in the country. Gentrification has meant that the crime and gang life you claim are minor in the extreme.

It's in the outer suburbs like Macquarie Fields where crime and social dislocation are readily apparent.

Secondly all crime statistics viewed with a balanced eye have shown no real change for years, you buying into the law and order meme spread by politicians in order to support your arguement is either wilful or just blind to fact.

Lastly I take issue with your claim on the multipurpose use of backyards, while this would be a wonderful thing to see happen it has no great basis in reality, most folks now build out the backyard into an even bigger McMansion or deck the thing in order to enjoy the so-called good life.

I could go on. But knowing facts are likely to overtake your view I'm sure that we'll see a future written retraction to the letters page - I know that will get published.

Anonymous said...

Phil presents a most disturbing 1984/Brave New World attitude. We know best, no one else must say anything at all to contradict us.

The facts are:

1. Unlike the suburbs, obesity is a new phenenom. There are multiple causes of which the contribution of urban form is only considered to be about 15%. Suitable programs can be devised to counter this minor aspect of the problem and it is not justifiable to use obesity to cram the unwilling masses into bird boxes.

2. Broad crime statistics cannot be used to measure the risk of allowing young children to go to a park by themselves. Ascertain the proportion of parents willing to take this risk. And regarding the affluent new high density areas in the city – visit these areas in Central Sydney, Chatswood, Hurstville or Auburn and observe the many gangs of youths hanging around, something that was not apparent in the previous urban form.

3. Backyards provide wide scope for many activities, not least of which is the freedom to take part in family activities or get together with friends without the constraints that dense living would impose.

In a democracy it is indeed sobering to consider Phil’s Orwellian way of thinking. Irrespective of the facts, the press must not print anything contrary to the viewpoint of the proprieter, it must not print anything that questions the latest faddish dogma.

Anonymous said...

I'll look past your ad hominem attacks Tony and focus on a couple of realities.

To the contrary, your group articulates a view that seeks to avoid debate, and one that is not open to an alternative way of living - it is regressive in it's thinking.

Your love of suburbia is mired in past assumptions about the way we live, or should live, and seeks to cast society as static and unchangeable in the face of evolving evidence. Currently, climate change denialists are the best examples of this attitude. But maybe you don't believe in that either.

Getting back to the crime stats, it has to be said again that per capita city residents are less likely to be involved in criminal acts than those in places with smaller populations. Look it up.

I'm also fascinated by you obsession with "gangs", but I'll leave that one alone with the comment that one mans group of kids is a gang, but others may see them as just kids having fun. Remember skateboarding and BMX'ing is not a crime, neither is wearing baggy clothing or being a person of colour.

Thirdly, obviously you've conceded on your previous assertion on backyards and food growing and resorted to anopther argument - but most Australians are city residents, with many living in bird boxes, and they appear to have no problem having friends over for drinkys.

Lastly I'm puzzled by you use of the term Orwellian to describe my alternative view it's an inapproriate analogy, one would have thought that this discourse is indicative of a democratic society, I don't seek to censor you, I'm engaging you in conversation - why do you appear to have a problem with that?

Your use of this blog to communicate your interests is a positive one as goes a long way in showing your org to be a transparent one, but why should it only be a freeway of like minded conversation?

By the way, your term 'faddish dogma" closely mirrors that of the climate change denialists assertion that the science behind that change is "junk science". Nice sound bite though.

Anonymous said...

Tony has his view,Phil has an opposite view.Neither will ever agree.What SOS is about is giving people a chance to give their view at election time.At the moment,both major parties have had the same high density urban consolidation view for the last 20 years.Hence only 1 disputed view is being aired at election time, if its mentioned at all.All the polls that I've seen indicate overwhelmingly that Australians prefer traditional single residential housing.If SOS had as much donations as the major parties get from the high density development industry,I'm quite sure our views would win any referendum.Perhaps we could introduce Citizens Initiated Referenda to resolve this problem once and for all.Over to you Phil.

Anonymous said...

It is Phil who should focus on realities. The facts extensively presented on the SOS website clearly show the justifications claimed by the high-density advocates are without foundation. We welcome and encourage debate on the question in all sorts of ways. On the other hand, the State government’s attitude is Orwellian. While pretending to invite public comment, the State Government manipulates the public with euphemistic and misleading language and actions with a political purpose. Just one example - in spite of widely publicised invitations to the public to have its say in the future planning of Sydney I was consistently refused entry to its forums on some pretext or other.

So, focussing on realities, in Australia high density cannot be shown to be to the greater good of the community. However it can also be shown without question that restricting the land supply and forcing high density onto communities by government results in huge profits for those developers who specialise in building high density. It can also be shown without question that developers make huge political donations. It goes without saying that public service career opportunities are favourable for those who perform to the benefit of politicians and disastrous for those who don’t. This is reality. I do hope, Phil that you are not part of this reality.

Looking at some other aspects, why bring up irrelevancies? What have climate change or being a person of colour got to do with the price of tea in China?

With regard to crime statistics I say again that broad crime statistics cannot be used to measure specific risks. You mention that per capita city residents are less likely to be involved in criminal acts than those in places with smaller populations. But there are many factors associated with crime. For example disadvantaged individuals are over-represented in many small communities in Australia and these people are more likely to fall foul of the law.

And finally, I certainly do not resile from anything I have said on backyards.