June 18, 2009

This site is the archive of the Small Town Project, formerly at smalltownproject.org. For John Feeney’s current site, see johnfeeney.net.

(In importing the content to this blog, images were lost, though captions remain. (I’m not bothering to clean things up.)  Also, resource links formerly in the sidebar disappeared, but most can be found on the “Expanded, Annotated Links” page. All text content appears to have made the transfer successfully.)

Time to introduce a new site! After 18 months, Growth is Madness!, introduced below, began to take too much time away from writing for larger publications. To be able to focus on the latter, I’ve now settled into johnfeeney.net. It features a sampling of my writing, updates, information on speaking and interviews, and resources for those wishing to dig deeper into the core ecological issues confronting us. Stop by!


Growth is Madness! Launched!

December 21, 2006

I’m happy to announce that I have now launched a new weblog, Growth is Madness! This was the result of a great deal of thought. Though I had previously reported that I was planning a site which would be “uniquely participatory,” I decided to take another route. The site I originally had in mind is still on the back burner, but I believe it would require too much administrative work, and additional thought led me to question whether it would have the impact I’d thought it might. With blogging platforms becoming so easy to use and so sophisticated, I concluded that, for now, the most “bang for the buck,” would come from a new blog. But Growth is Madness! has a broader focus, aimed at disseminating information and promoting discussion of some of the most fundamental problems faced by human society today.

Those problems are population growth and corporate economic growth as they interact with growing per capita resource consumption levels. They are driving the looming ecological collapse of which scientists have been warning us for some time. Yet those with vested interests in shielding the public from the truth of these issues have done their job well. These topics are virtually ignored by the mainstream press.

As far as I know, Growth is Madness! is unique among weblogs in focusing specifically on these root causes of our ecological crisis. I hope that by providing well sourced information and discussion, Growth is Madness! will inspire others to take actions of their own to address these, the most pressing issues of our time. For me, it may become a springboard, as well, for other work aimed at addressing these issues. So stop by and see why growth really is madness.


Update on Planned Site

October 7, 2006

My apologies for the long delay since I last posted here. In the previous entry, I mentioned that I planned a new website. I can report that while it is still a site in concept only, aspects of the plan have been refined, bringing it slightly closer to reality. I still need to do a good deal of research prior to site construction, but I’m more optimistic now that the project will come to be.

As I mentioned before, it will be a uniquely participatory site, aimed at prompting action to address a number of serious social and environmental issues. Once enough details are worked out I’ll be able to describe the site more concretely. With any luck, it won’t be so long before the next update. 😕

If you read this site regularly, you may have noticed a shift in focus. Recently, I’ve written less on topics of local interest and more on broader issues. This shift reflects a necessary change for the site. In about a month, my family and I will be moving to Colorado. I will therefore be unable to continue monitoring and commenting on growth in Mount Vernon and Lisbon.

Not to worry!
Rest assured, though, this site will not simply evaporate. All the content of the Small Town Project will remain online as a resource for anyone interested in growth issues, particularly as they arise in small towns like Mount Vernon and Lisbon. It may become an archive on another site, but will, in any event, remain available for some time through the smalltownproject.org address.

What’s next?
I plan, in the coming months, to begin work on a new website. I won’t go into detail right now because it’s currently just an idea which could change radically. I can say I expect it to deal in part with issues of growth and sprawl, but to be multifaceted, encompassing a number of other social and environmental problems. It will likely also be more participatory and oriented toward generating solutions. Finally, it will work in a way which may be unique. I’ve been unable to locate any other site which does what I have in mind.

If I’m able to create the site, you’ll have no problem finding it. For an extended period you’ll be automatically redirected there from this address (smalltownproject.org). Again, the plan could change, so I hope you’ll keep you checking in here in the coming months to see what develops.

Impact of the Small Town Project
It’s difficult to assess the precise impact this site has had with regard to development in Mt. Vernon and Lisbon. Certainly readership has grown steadily since we went online in September of ’05. October, the first full month online, saw about 2,400 visits. The numbers grew steadily, with the site currently averaging over 4,000 visits per month. Of course only some portion of those visitors are in the local area. The Small Town Project has visitors from around the world.

I do believe, though, this site has played a role in informing local debate about development. As an example, at the League of Women Voters sponsored debate on growth in February, I heard questions from the audience which suggested people had found ideas on the site. One question, for instance, referred to statistics precisely like those I described in discussing Paul Gottlieb’s study showing urban growth to be unrelated to per-capita economic growth. It’s my guess the question was prompted by the essay. More generally, I’m not sure the League would even have sponsored such a debate had it not been for the “noise” generated by this site. All in all, I do think the Small Town Project has generated some discussion and interest in growth related issues.

Update: Later in May it was announced that the city had commissioned a study of the fiscal impact of residential growth on Mount Vernon. If it is well conducted, this might provide some useful information. I’ve said here previously, however, that I am leery of the legitimacy of this study. Despite being the loudest voice in town concerning the problem of growth, I never heard anything about who recruited the economist conducting it, or whether he or those who recruited him may have an agenda to “prove” the worth of growth in M.V. This is small town politics, and I fear there is a real risk this study will find exactly what someone wants it to find. It is frightfully easy to hide the truth in numbers. Moreover, I’ve pointed out previously that there are multiple solid reasons to reject ongoing growth regardless of its fiscal impact. In fact, fiscal impact is minor among the many issues concerning the problem of growth. In any event, I’ve been told by residents that “noise” from The Small Town Project essentially prompted this study. I have no way to verify this, but it does seem to be another indication that this site played a role in at least prompting some sort of action. The precise nature of the study may or may not become apparent with time.

Take up the torch?
It would be great to see someone continue the work of this project after I leave. If you’d like to create a site with content or aims similar to those of the Small Town Project, feel free to contact me. I’d be glad to help with any information you might need to get started.

In the meantime, things will, of necessity, continue to slow down here. I’ll post on topics of interest when possible, and will provide updates concerning the new site. My thanks to those who have posted comments on the Small Town Project. You’ve contributed importantly to the site’s vitality. Please stay tuned!

My last post touched on the politics of climate change. Today, PRI’s program, To the Point, addressed the issue well. (You should be able to listen to the show in your preferred format from this page. Better, perhaps, is to download it as a podcast, which you can play on iTunes or other such software.)

I was especially glad to hear the comments of Mark Hertsgaard, environmental correspondent for The Nation magazine. Hertsgaard is forthright about Exxon’s (and others’) funding of disinformation campaigns to mislead both the public and lawmakers to believe the jury is out on anthropogenic global warming, and that we’d therefore better not rush to do anything about it. It’s good to know a larger audience is now hearing about these reprehensible tactics.

Whether as a result of such propaganda, corporate motives, or shear ignorance, the Bush administration appears to embrace the ridiculous notion that climate change is a “liberal hoax.” There’s much more on this in Hertsgaard’s Vanity Fair article, While Washington Slept.

Here’s a good link for Earth Day. Admittedly, it was the first link supplied by clicking today on Google’s logo. But it’s a good one, well designed with plenty of useful links and information.

By the way, here’s another link that was not far down the list on that first page of hits. I began reading it, and raised an eyebrow upon noticing that it’s an anti-environmental site. 👿

It is, of course, not the only such site. Big business and an array of groups opposed to government regulation of business (such as environmental regulation) have created plenty of sites containing anti-environmental propaganda, and trying, for instance, to muddy the waters about climate change. They want you to believe the jury is out on climate change, that there’s no solid evidence it is significantly human-caused.

A classic example is globalwarming.org, a site created by the so called “Cooler Heads Coalition.” It’s a big oil and big business front group which publishes bogus information on climate change in an authoritative looking package. On the site you can find lots of assertions which nearly any climate scientist will tell you are just flat wrong.

For legitimate information on climate change you might start with RealClimate, a site run by a group of working climate scientists, some of them quite prominent in the field. The few legitimate scientists (versus the total hacks) among the global warming “skeptics” often have ties to big oil.


As an added bonus, Alternet features a nice article about a few heroes of the environmental movement.