Is it possible to make LOS ANGELES a city of: Safe and friendly neighborhoods; Full employment; Easy Transit; Solar Power; Orchards; Pure Water; Clean Air; and Natural Beauty?
That is the question posed on page two of Paul Glover’s Los Angeles: A History of the Future. The answer is, of course, YES – otherwise his pamphlet, most recently published in 2012, would not be 55 pages long.
Glover is the founder of 18 organisations and campaigns for ecology and social justice, ran for mayor of Ithaca NY in 2003 and for governor of Pennsylvania in 2014, on the Green Party ticket.
Throughout his long and varied career, he worked as a gardener, cartoonist, masseur, dishwasher, farmhand, lecturer at Cornell and other universities, sidewalk artist and inhalation therapist – though not necessarily in that order – and much more. He has campaigned against war and Walmart, and for local currencies, better healthcare and urban farming.
In A History of the Future, Glover paints a picture of an L.A. where progress does not mean more cars, concrete and pollution, but less. It is a vision that somewhat reminiscent of that old Talking Heads song in which “The highways and cars/ Were sacrificed for agriculture”.
According to this detailed sequence, the city would become a giant orchard looped with bikeways and solar rail. Industries would return to neighborhood scale, and workers would control them. People would live in ecolonies: solar co-ops specifically designed for this subtropic climate. It is the sort of possibility we hope unfolds during our decades…
You could say it is refreshingly visionary. Or overly optimistic. Or crushingly naïve. To take your pick, read the pamphlet in full. We stopped short at the maps, which distill the transformational message down into a mesmerising cartographic sequence of progress – realistic or not: if it is mappable, at least it has the air of the do-able:
PAST: Ninety years ago, several homes were built on a beanfield. Graded dirt streets connected to a concrete boulevard. Food, fuel and most water were produced locally. Trolleys made transit easy. Air was clean. Homes were safe unlocked.
PRESENT: The land is mostly paved and built on. 400 people live in 74 houses. Most rent. Food, fuel, metals and water are piped, pumped and trucked from great distances. Many commute far to work. Fuel is wasted, air is poor. Crime confines women at night. Garbage is the main product of the…