In discussing whether the auto industry deserves a bailout, we talked about the role of the auto industry in creating the middle class. The work protections that we have, the work week that we have, the benefits we have, all come from the “massification” of work and labor organizing. 

As one of my commenters noted “As GM goes, so goes America.”

But what we didn’t talk about the relationship between the automobile and our very conception of the city itself. The conception of urban and suburban space, the development of the freeways we use to drive to work and back, all come from our affair with the car. The ideas we have about whiteness and non-whiteness and the modern mode of segregation that most afflicts blacks are not possible without the widespread use of the automobile. 

The discussions about the Big Three have revolved around whether to save them or not. If we do save them, how will we force them to restructure. But what is perhaps as important is what we want our cities to do in the wake of the change. Key to this discussion is the question of sustainability. 

Even the articles that recognize that the automobile industry has to become greener miss the point. Today for example the New York Times reports that William Clay Ford jr. has been a trailblazer in this area for Ford. But the writers totally ignored his work to make one of the oldest and largest manufacturing plants sustainable

David Harvey is one of the world’s foremost geographers. He participated in an interview with Sustainable Cities in August, before the bottom fell out. For him there were six aspects of city life that needed to be reconfigured. 

4. The organization of production systems relates to the organization of social and technical divisions of labour as well as to technologies.This system is driven by a political economic system in which the coercive laws of competition and market valuations hold priority of place. The production of space and the built environment, as well as decisions regarding which goods and services should be produced under which labour processes are fundamental to the transformation of nature into urban life. Experiments with new production and reproduction systems are vital in the search for more sustainable forms of urbanization.

The other five can be found here.

I linked to Subrealism the other day in talking about American illiteracy, or aliteracy. As Craig Nulan wrote in the comments we have the technology, perhaps for the first time, to begin to address this question. And here I’m talking more about the types of discursive networks that both enable you and I to converse with each other in real time, and to amplify our thoughts in a way that leads to policy shifts.

How do we begin to take these tools and make them work for a new project?