15-minute cities (the latest conspiracy?)

If we didn’t know it already, humans are able to be afraid of the strangest things. The 15-minute neighbourhood is the latest and out of a morbid curiosity, we wondered how people are able to be scared of “have good life without needing car”…

This is one of the typical videos we’ve found. A journalist – pretty, caucasian and blonde – asks straight-faced questions of people protesting an initiative that’s attempting to… free people from the kingdom of the machines, at least in a little oasis of choice. The answers are illuminating, for a bit of our zeitgeist.

If you’d rather not risk absorbing craycray stuff for the whole 20-odd minutes, here’s a breakdown – thanks to Talk Wellington intern Grace who watched the whole thing so you don’t have to!

7:27-9:32: hot takes on the the people who were there. How the council implemented the plan poorly, not helping matters. A based take asking why people aren’t this angry about other issues like the younger generation being poorer than their parents, people unable to feed their kids, the rise in homelessness. The next person she talks to is a local discussing electric cars… just one of a whole bunch of issues people can hook into.

13:1-14:00: someone saying how he didn’t understand a 15-minute city at first but in trying to find out, could see how so many fall down these rabbit-holes. Us too!

15:00-16:55: how we got here

16:55-19:55: chat with the labour politician

20:00-20:25 a couple young people being very confused and saying f&ck cars

Interestingly for a highly place-based issue (i.e. if you’re not spending time in the area getting improved, it literally won’t affect you at all): some people had come from outside Oxford to protest.

The main thing we took from this is the stockholm syndrome* that people suffer, from having lived all one’s life in a really car-centred environment, really can’t be overstated.

Add to that the fact that those same city leaders, planners and engineers have made our streets and roads, the ways we get groceries or go to worship, get to school etc etc so that all the alternatives to the car are more unpleasant right now and when people face this kind of change to their familiar place, you’ve a perfect recipe for inviting feelings of resentment, anxiety and general hating. All the negative stuff that fires up the fear and fight centres of our brains – and, sadly, focussed by a small number of folk on very noisily protesting initiatives trying to make fundamentally good changes to neighbourhoods.

Don’t be disenheartened, be discursive!

movin' march logo 2023 - a KEA WIT A BACKPACK SAYING READY? STEADY? go!
  • Instead: cleanse your palate with the absolute joy and everyday good times being had by kids going to and from school under their own steam, in the magnificent Movin’ March run by Greater Wellington. The very stuff enabled by 15-minute neighbourhoods.
  • Build some good brain-muscles by checking out this lovely guide for ordinary folk to talk really well about change to your local streets and roads
  • Even better, get into the Parents For Climate Aotearoa mahi. This is exactly about helping local people have local conversations about why we should welcome changes to our neigbourhoods that let our kids walk to school, our old folk shop locally, and ordinary people get beer/coffee/fruit and social contact without having to get in a car.

*We know that’s not an actual thing, but it’s a handy shorthand for describing this particular phenomenon which is real and not based on a dodgy experiment!

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