Dublin at the crossroads
Conor Skehan is head of the 'Futures Academy' in Bolton Street and was head and shoulders above anyone else on the Bolton Street staff when I was there in the 80s.
That doesn't mean he's right
The gist of his presentation . . . . . for anyone too lazy to view the YouTube clip posted by keating, . . . . . is summed up is this declaration:
[INDENT]''Ireland has virtually no chance of facing up to the extraordinary global challenges that are facing us, . . . . and if we are to have any chance at all, the only chance we have is to develop the only urban card we have to play, which is the city region, on the east coast, with a population of 2 or 3 million people.
That region has almost no chance if it continues to see itself as a city, it has only a chance if it starts to get it's act together and starts to act as a region''.[/INDENT]
That's the opening salvo in Dr Skehan's presentation to a group of visibly shell-shocked environmentalists in the YouTube clip from July. Skehan goes on to challenge our assumptions on everything from the eastern bypass to inner city car parks, global warming, falling polar bear numbers, the lot.
Skehan may be a bicycle toting, Brent geese loving, dyed in the woolly jumper, environmentalist, but that doesn't stop him letting the air out of the global warming bubble with a withering series of flat-line graphs that echo like an empty hostel dormitory being de-bunked.
In a fifteen minute presentation, all of our assumptions are held up, rigorously questioned, and many of them laid bare as groundless, woolly thinking, misdirected hysteria.
All of our assumptions, that is, except that first assumption . . . in line one . . . . the assumption that we are facing . . . . ''extraordinary global challenges''
If all the other stuff is hysteria, what exactly are the 'extraordinary global challenges' ?
'Dublin at the Crossroads'
itself is an assumption. The east coast 'Dublin Region'
conurbation thesis is a response to the assumption that we will be living in some kind of new 'compete or die' global economic world where everyone else will have critical mass and we'll be out there on the edge dissipating our resources and dropping off the scope.
The problem with that thesis is that even if we pumped iron for the next twenty years, pumped all the steroids into one vein, we're not ever getting into the ring with Shanghai, or Kuala Lumpur, we're just not in that weight division. Our strength is that we still have a reasonably well balanced island with reasonably well distributed urban centres and despite our best efforts to destroy our environment with bungalows and low-grade urban sprawl, we haven't yet completely deformed the geography of our development patterns by concentrating all the growth on one side.
There's an argument that 'critical mass' itself is the next pseudo-scientific term that needs to be reappraised. Three guys in a room can be 'critical mass', and they don't even have to be in the same room. If globalisation has delivered anything, it's been in slashing communication times and removing the need to all be in the one place. Maybe 'critical mass' in regional terms, as an inward-investment pre-requisite, is an out-dated notion too. If you're a 'knowledge economy' guy in Lucan and I'm a 'knowledge economy' guy in Sandyford, how is that any different than if one of us is in Salthill?
I think we're missing the point here. We have a built environment and a natural environment, with deep inherent value, that we can repair, . . . . if we choose the right options. A lot of our 'competitors' don't have that.