Monday 12 April 1999


Pic of the day: One of the three brand new trousers I found the other day on my archeological dig in the hallway. So what do y'all think? Was it worth it? I've sure had a better fit, but it seems sturdy and it's at least a different color and texture from my all time favorites, so people can see that I change clothes occasionally!

Today was rainy and cold all day. But at least it wasn't so cold that the rain changed into sleet or even snow, as it would usually do at this time in my childhood. I'm not sure how much comes from moving down here to Norway's south coast, and how much is due to the greenhouse effect.

Speaking of greenhouses, I just have to comment on a recent article indicating that the Norwegian government may be caving in to demands for significant tax breaks for farmers that take up farms in parts of the country where population dwindles. Now, to clarify, I am born a farmboy, a son of farmers and sons of farmers way back into obscurity. If there has ever been another trade in my ancestry, it is so remote there's probably not a single chromosome left of it in my genome. But come on already. Why farmers and not programmers?

Once upon a time, it could be argued that farms created other work around them: Dairies, butchers, tanners and what not. Today, milk and wool and animals for butching are all transported far far away, probably to more central sites, for processing. Sure, the postman remains, and perhaps a small shop if there are enough farmers around to justify it. But let's face it, programmers probably buy more than farmers, since they earn more. And when the farmers want meat, they go bash in the head of a calf or something, while the programmer will go out and buy stuff, and then some more stuff that he just happened to notice while he passed by. So, dear deluded goverment: Tax breaks for programmers now! And unlike the farmers, there will be more and more of us. The farmers will just work harder, while we'll invent things that nobody needs. And while you can eat only so much, there is no end to the useless software people will buy.

This is one of my hobby horses: You can't fight centralization by reverting to the past. Sure, you could have a lot of people live in the countryside if agriculture went back to horse plow and spade. But you would have to shoot an awful lot of people to get there. Khmer Rouge did it in Cambodia, and they shot a lot of people. The Maoists did it in China, and they also shot a lot of people. Or perhaps they stabbed them, hung them etc to save on expenses, I'm not sure. The point stands, though. Agriculture is not the way to fight urban sprawl.

The way to fight urban sprawl is urban supersprawl. Some people want to live smack middle in the city, but loads of people want peace, quiet, privacy, space, and a healthy environment for their kids. With the new e-conomy taking off, these people can easily live and work miles and miles from the city. They will want a place to do their weekly shopping though, for stuff they don't want to order over the net. In short, they want to live in a village, even though they may not know it. They want the countryside. But they don't want to live in a desert.

The way to accomodate this new decentralization is to foster service centra - mini towns - to act as a hub, and then decent roads, phone, electricity and similar infrastructure connecting the countryside to the hub. "Common living and working areas" to borrow an expression from Eivind Hjellum, a man with strong and clear opinions about the importance of infrastructure in utilizing the resources of rural areas. I think he's still arguing his points in public somewhere in my native province of Sogn & Fjordane.

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