CNU XI speakers: important new perspectives
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    APR. 1, 2003
With registration open for the eleventh Congress, The Evolving City: From Ideals to Reality, CNU staff are working overtime to pack this year’s event with new perspectives and to make use of member expertise. The Congress promises to keep the movement at the forefront of the growing effort to reform development and planning. Keynote: Health The keynote speaker on opening night, June 19, will be Dr. Richard Jackson, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Jackson is a leader in quantifying the malaise of sprawl and identifying "interventions" that could improve public health. Jackson will present research about the effects of sprawl on health of all sorts — physical, mental, and environmental. He terms the combined threat of sprawl a "syndemic," defined as "two or more afflictions, interacting synergistically, contributing to excess burden of disease in a population." In physical health, there are well known correlations between obesity and everyday activity. Jackson is looking into mental health and environmental health, as well. He questions whether some mental health problems, especially among teens, might be associated with the fact that their daily surroundings keep them out of contact with other people. He points to the water- and air-quality effects of sprawl as impinging on public health generally. Britain’s New Urbanism A second keynote speaker on opening night will be Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Prescott has emerged as a major supporter of New Urbanism, calling for its principles to be the guiding force behind the United Kingdom’s national urban policy. He was recently quoted in the Guardian of London saying, "I'd like something … which would be identified as strongly as the new towns: a community and not a housing estate." Quality-of-living proof Larry Frank, a professor of urban planning at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, will use the Congress to roll out initial findings of his vast "Smartraq" research. For two years, he has studied travel patterns in 8,000 households. He studied residential preferences in 1,500 households and physical activity and travel patterns in 1,000 more. His research aims to answer many interconnected questions — about where people live, how active they are, what they eat, and how fat they are. Among the questions his survey aims to answer are whether urban form is correlated with body mass index, whether people live in the kind of neighborhood they prefer, and whether people in all types of urban area have adequate access to nutritious food. Kunstler returns Renowned author James Kunstler returns to the Congress lineup for the first time since CNU VII in Milwaukee. His writing and speaking describe the lived experience and geopolitical consequences of different types of development. Kunstler, best known for his books, The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, is New Urbanism’s champion in the culture wars. His session is titled "The Long Emergency," reflecting his horror at the vulnerabilities built into the oil-dependent culture. He predicts ongoing catastrophes from car- and oil-dependence, including economic disruption, terrorism, and war. In his most recent book, The City in Mind, Kunstler describes Las Vegas and Atlanta in terms both comical and depressing. Atlanta is "one big-ass parking lot under a toxic pall from Hartsfield clear up to the brand new completely absurd Mall of Georgia." Las Vegas, he says, compares poorly to Antarctica, previously known as "the worst place on Earth." More inclusive Since the first Congress, CNU has been a vigorous forum. People with very different beliefs and hopes have argued out their positions, creating a stronger and more vibrant movement. As the organization has grown, however, some members have worried that Congresses have too many formal sessions and not enough time for debate. CNU XI, The Evolving City: From Ideals to Reality will have the first formal debate among CNU members on a specific, predetermined topic. The issues to be decided in the debate will be announced at CNU.org by mid-April. Background materials on the topic will be available there as well. CNU will e-mail members with an announcement of the debate, which will take place Sunday morning, June 22. In another effort at improving the event’s inclusiveness, CNU is expanding the Congress’ student scholarship system to match current hard times. It has been longstanding CNU policy to provide as many Congress scholarships as possible. This year, for the first time, all Congress attendees have the opportunity to sponsor a student scholarship when they register. Participants can add an extra $275 to their registration fees to pay the costs of a student’s participation at the Congress. Sponsors will be mentioned in the Congress program. CNU XI will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 19 -22. For more information call AHI at (800)788-7077, email firstname.lastname@example.org or register online at www.cnu.org.