Image source: “The 15-Minute Neighborhood Analysis” (Holland, MI).

“That planning has become the conspiracy theory of 2023, who’d have thought?” asked Alex Nurse, a lecturer in Geography and Planning at the University of Liverpool, who was deluged with messages after his recent article about 15-minute cities in the Conversation. “My inbox died,” he told CNN. Source.

“Machiavelli observes in ‘The Prince’ that politics presents challenges akin to those physicians sometimes face: ‘… in the beginning of the illness it is easy to cure and difficult to recognize, but in the progress of time, when it has not been recognized and treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to recognize and difficult to cure.’”

The 15-minute city urban planning concept seems like a great idea, but has become mired in controversy. Why? Perhaps it suffers from the same misuse potential as AI, which is amazingly useful – in the right hands. Both can be miscast as “conspiracy theories”. This is so unfortunate because both have such great potential – opportunities – for good.

Like so many things today, the potential for good and for bad usage depends upon those in charge and those involved. Upon people, as always.

Conspiracy theories are labels attached to various concepts that some people and their groups oppose but who have no logical, credible arguments to support their objections. It is beginning to appear, to me at least, that such labels are mostly agenda items used to promote positions that cannot otherwise be reasonably supported, and of course to silence dissent.

Unfortunately, there are also quite visible efforts toward forced urbanization and “camps” of rather troubling kinds – in many cases by people and organizations driving world domination agendas. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and the United Nations (UN) have a “sustainability” agenda that has some quite scary overtones.

Childish name-calling or worse?

Labelling anything a “conspiracy theory” can be highly counterproductive for those doing the name-calling. It quickly draws attention to the object of this labelling and to the person or groups involved, on both sides. I can’t think of a much worse strategy than this, especially if I was supporting an effort or idea that was neither popular nor favored by the-powers-that-be.

Demonizing those who oppose you is nearly always a bad idea. It raises a clear red flag, among thinking folks at least, that you may well be up to some sort of no good. Umm … thinking folks? Not so many of those around anymore within our media-dominated world.

However, this is the world that we live in. We can’t change much of anything important. It is an important part of our social, economic, and political environment.

Some time ago, I had a look at 15-minute cities as an interesting urban planning concept. A way to rethink neighborhoods in some cases. Boston, for example, where I lived for a time, is a crazy-maze of wandering streets – said to have been laid out in the 1600’s by grazing cattle. The North End and Beacon Hill were wonderful neighborhoods despite their bovine planning origins.

What I did not look at was the increasingly vocal and often senseless opposition to this new concept of urban planning. However …

Quarantine camps aka prisons in New York State

Here is the article that caught my attention. It deals not with 15-minute cities and their ilk but with health-related lockdowns:

Susan Duclos writing in All News Pipeline under this troubling headline: “‘Quarantine Camps’: Democrats Endgame Beta Test To Lock Up Americans With No Due Process If Liberal State Leaders Claim To ‘Suspect’ Exposure To Viruses, Has Just Taken One More Step Towards Reality”:

“NEW YORK IS DEMOCRATS’ ENDGAME BETA TEST.
It is about to get worse, is the Democrats endgame beta-test continues to be approved by the courts.”

“Fact checkers had a field day with writers that accurately described NY Governor Kathy Hochul’s ‘Isolation and Quarantine Procedures.’ Independent Media called them ‘Quarantine Camps,’ and the fact checkers pointed out that the word ‘ camps’ wasn’t in the actual wording of the regulation, yet that is a mere technicality.”

“The AP asserts the claim of quarantine camps is ‘false’ because New York Americans would only be ‘quarantined in interim housing’.”

“AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Officials have repeatedly said that the state has no intention to build quarantine camps. Critics are misrepresenting a temporary rule adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic that outlines powers by state health officials to isolate or quarantine people for the purpose of controlling a highly transmissible disease. The rule said that people can be isolated or quarantined in interim housing, rather than just their own homes, but doesn’t mention camps. It was deemed unconstitutional by a judge, who said the state overreached, but also did not mention camp.”

Quarantine camps? Could never happen here, right? Well …

Quarantine Camps. Right here in America.
It has already happened once. The U.S. government created ‘quarantine camps’ when the COVID-19 ‘plandemic’ was first declared, when then Pentagon first set up 11 facilities near major U.S. airports to ‘house and treat thousands of people returning to the US from China, as shown in the map below.’”

Source: Link is above.
Source: Link is above.

What does this controversy have to do with 15-minute cities? Why, of course, these camps look like part of some grand scheme to imprison various groups of people in urban camps aka prisons for various nefarious reasons.

Umm … does this make any sense to you? It surely didn’t to me until I started doing a bunch more digging.

The keyword in all of this, I think, is “lockdowns”

Here is an example of how this connection works (from CNN):

“Pandemic lockdowns helped boost the popularity of the concept, as people, confined to their neighborhoods, were forced to reevaluate their local area. ‘We have become more aware of how important living in well-served areas is,’ Calafiore said. Yet now, the mere mention of 15-minute cities online will bring a slew of angry commentators.”

This is from the same article that had the quote by Alex Nurse appearing above at the start of the post. Pandemic lockdowns, climate crisis lockdowns, civil disorder lockdowns … what next?

“Lockdown” equals “imprisonment”. Much of the world had a firsthand experience with lockdowns for COVID-19. This was a bad idea for so many reasons, but the lockdown-imprisonment connection now evident in the minds of many may be among the worst outcomes.

I think that the lockdown-to-15-minute-cities connection is more than a bit of a stretch. Whoever is generating this particular conspiracy theory connection is making a huge mistake. It is going to cause a great deal of pushback on quite a number of efforts globally to use the 15-minute cities concept as a new and potentially powerful urban planning concept. And, at the same time, putting the otherwise valuable 15-minute-cities concepts in a very bad light in the minds of many.

It does not help either that so many leaders and organizations are pushing visibly and strongly for a surveil-and-control system based on digital IDs and CBDC money. This effort is truly scary.

So, we have today a pretty strong and widespread perception, or suspicion, that those pushing for 15-minute city designs are up to no good. Why? Because they are unfairly (I hope) being linked to leaders who are visibly involved in various world control and domination schemes.

Empty streets during COVID-19 lockdown.
Empty streets during COVID-19 lockdown.

15-Minute cities mean fewer cars

This is the good news. You get to walk or bike everywhere. Unfortunately, you might want to relocate to a warm climate. If you are in a snowy-hilly-cold winter region like me (NH), a car is vital. Sidewalks and streets are well-cleared but often have icy patches remaining. Walking and biking will be dangerous.

What if you, like myself, do not want to relocate? I enjoy winter hikes of a reasonable nature. And winter itself generally, if not too severe. Seasons are important to many of us.

Take the bus, the rulers might say. Very good bus service hereabouts, so I have heard. One of the reasons I moved here, in the event that my car days are over.

My resistance to being told where to live, how to live, and with no-car is part of my general resistance to being told what to do by anybody. But especially by rulers and their organizations, which have a sorry track record of doing much of anything right. This used to be known as “freedom”, for those of us old enough to recall such days.

Tough, say the rulers. We do whatever we do for the greater good of the majority. Your freedom would be at the cost of safety, health, security, … of nearly everyone. Like it or not, comply and obey. Or else. Or else we will lockdown, quarantine, or otherwise deal harshly with you.

This in a nutshell is what I see as the underlying objection to 15-minute cities as a general concept.

Nothing to do with 15-minute cities as a urban planning great idea – in the right places. Everything to do with our steadily decreasing freedom to live as we like. This is no longer a free country, as a recent post argued.

The WEF being strongly in favor of 15-minute cities doesn’t help

The World Economic Forum (WEF), which aggressively seeks world domination – One World Government – along with the UN and its global agencies, being in favor of anything is a red flag. This is part of their “sustainability” agenda that I addressed in this post.

Here is what the WEF website offers, 15-minute city-wise:

The 15-Minute City:
Speakers: Sally Capp, Mike Haigh, Carlo Ratti, Arunabha Ghosh
September 22, 202109:30–10:00GMT+1

A new model for developing mixed-use, walkable communities, known as the 15-minute city, is gathering momentum in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. How does this model work for businesses, workers, communities and our planet?

Simultaneous interpretation in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Russian”

Needless to add, these folks are also strong supporters of digital IDs and government digital money (CBDCs). Surveil and control tools.

The underlying problem here is people, as always. Or perhaps, not entirely …

15-minute cities should be communities

Names carry strong connotations. Whoever thought up the “15-minute city” name might well have been a tyrant-wannabe. Does anybody really want to walk or bike almost everywhere? The underlying purpose is, or should be, the creation of relatively self-contained communities within a larger geographic area such as a large city.

By “communities” in this context would include “small towns” and “villages”. Probably “neighborhoods” as well. Nations start out this way and grow willy-nilly into cities with large diverse populations. Communities tend to have some kind of unifying commonality – a human need, not some urban planner’s dream or dictate.

Towns and villages in past likely grew up around family ties – tribal stuff. Or they may have formed to share access to a common resource such as a river or seaport, or perhaps a mineral deposit. Those that persisted found some way to reconcile whatever diversity of interests existed, including elimination of the weaker interests.

Have you ever lived in a small town? There is amazing diversity in these from my experience. One small town of about 150 residents was about 50% seasonal and the balance year-round. The seasonal folks were known as “212’s”, this being the area code of their mostly common main residence. The town locals were families that had roots from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Not much diversity, but mainly family and tribal squabbles.

Another small town was a ranching center of maybe 1,000 or so. My family lived about 20 miles away, up in the hills, as did quite a number of those like us. Townies were mainly storekeepers, teachers, medical people, and town administration. Although I was just a kid at the time, I don’t recall much diversity. The town served our ranching needs and some amount of social needs.

In each case, there was an implicitly defined community of common interests. Zero resources and services within a 15-minute walking or biking range for most of us, but still a tangible community.

Might also mention a recent experience living in a “Harvard” neighborhood for some years. Huge diversity of people and interests. Walk or bike to almost everything, probably within 5-to-10 minutes. Was this a “community” in any sense? Not to me. It was simply a geographical area defined by the Charles River, Harvard Square, Somerville line, Central Square, and maybe out to the Mt. Auburn Cemetery on the west. Perfect 15-minute city area, except for the lack of any commonality (other than Harvard itself).

This tells me that 15-minute cities are not the right urban planning concept. I see a great opportunity here.

Wisdom of the Blackfoot people?

While pondering what might be of value in replacing, or at least providing an alternative to, the 15-minute cities concept, I came across the following article:

Circles, Not Triangles.
The triangular models above suggest that there’s a place to start meeting our needs and a place we end up. But is it true that our needs follow Maslow’s hierarchy of ‘prepotency’, where some needs consistently take priority over others? Maslow (1943) himself indicates there are many exceptions to his hierarchy and Blackstock (2011) agrees, citing Seneca First Nation member and psychologist Terry Cross:”

“Cross (2007) argues that human needs are not uniformly hierarchical but rather highly interdependent … Physical needs are not always primary in nature as Maslow argues, given the many examples of people who forgo physical safety and well-being in order to achieve love, belonging, and relationships or to achieve spiritual or pedagogical objectives. The idea of dying for country is an example of this as men and women fight in times of war.”

“Blackstock represents Cross’ ideas in the circular model below:”

Terry Cross, psychologist, sees the primary set of human needs as highly interdependent, not hierarchical.
Terry Cross, psychologist, sees the primary set of human needs as highly interdependent, not hierarchical.

“This circular model reveals thinking in line with many First Nations: depending on the situation, the order in which our needs must be met is subject to change. A circular model captures the inter-relatedness of our needs and helps highlight that we can experience needs simultaneously and in changing order. This way of viewing needs makes more sense when seeing an individual as deeply rooted in a community, especially because a community is capable of meeting multiple needs in parallel. While one individual is cooking, another may be keeping children safe, while another may be negotiating peace with people from other tribes.”

I must admit a personal attachment to North American Indian culture and practices as a result of having been partially raised by Sam Yellow Face, a Peigan (Blackfoot) elder who worked on the ranch in Southern Alberta where I grew up.

Might a practical community model be defined around a circular, interdependent view of what people (as opposed to planners) might really need and value?

Defining a “community” for planning purposes

A community in my mind means commonality of some kind. A shared human reason for coming together. For the Blackfoot people, the commonality was tribal in nature. Great chiefs like Sitting Bull gathered tribes into nations for war and self-defense. Might there be a kind of “tribal” basis that could be used to identify communities in practice?

Cross seems to start with “belonging and relationship”, emotional needs, in his circular structure. This makes sense to me since these are how I tried to define “human nature” as being much more than anything artificial intelligence could generate or replicate (see here and here). I also used “belonging”, but “going-along-to-get-along” for what Cross calls “relationship”.

Next, moving counterclockwise, are physical needs: food, water, housing, safety, and security. In a community context, these are clearly shared needs of all people. These are most conveniently supplied locally – in a physical village, town, or neighborhood. Even in a 15-minute city, if you can imagine such a thing.

If we drop the walking-and-biking attributes of 15-minute cities, we have a basis for identifying – and creating – communities around shared physical resources. If you live in urban New Hampshire like myself, the transportation aspect would be mostly very large pickup trucks and SUV’s. Walkers and bikers beware! You can get to much of the city (Nashua) with such motorized monster rigs easily within 15-minutes.

At the top, which I believe is proper and correct, are cognitive needs: self and community needs. I’d combine these under “community” for simplicity: actualization, role, identity, service, esteem. Might this set of human needs provide an excellent basis for defining a community replacement for, or alternative to, 15-minute cities as presently defined?

Before addressing this question, I should complete the Cross’ circle with spiritual and life purpose needs, which I’ll call simply spiritual. This may well provide an important part of many real community definitions. I’d suggest combining this with the community needs set, leaving a triangular “circle” of sorts.

Community: actualization, role, identity, service, esteem, spiritual

I very much like this set of human needs as a foundation for community definition and creation, but just how practical might it be? Such needs seem to be something like ones addressed in the past by churches, schools, and community organizations. My understanding, however, is that such organizations generally emerged after communities were formed and as part of the subsequent community growth process.

The host communities themselves were created for any number of reasons, and probably developed in somewhat random ways. They were not planned in any real sense. They mostly just happened.

Today, in much of the world, we have established cities, neighborhoods, suburbs, towns, villages, and similar population locales. Do any of these contain communities that reflect even roughly the community definition above?

Having lived many years in many different cities (etc.), I can’t think of one that might fit into such a community definition. Closest that I can recall is a Boston neighborhood of Sicilian families, tightly-knit, and rather closed. We were graciously invited into this rather fascinating group, tribal in essence, but saw it as a product of 19th and 20th century immigration from Sicily.

How inconvenient, yes? Here we have what appears (to me at least) to be a great community definition, but one that does not seem to exist and that may not be anything that could be created. Back to the drawing board?

Three sets of human needs – interdependent, not hierarchical.
Three sets of human needs – interdependent, not hierarchical.

Communities are inherently local, or are they?

In past, communities occupied a geographical space with more or less identifiable boundaries. Within these boundaries, residents had some strong commonalities, valued things that provided bonds and identification. What things?

Things that satisfy basic physical needs would seem to be fundamental. Cities, towns, villages and often neighborhoods do this through government structures and processes. If physical needs are not well served, such as in many cities today, the foundation for communities seems unavailable, impossible.

Once physical needs are reasonably well satisfied, something more is needed to address emotional needs – that creates and maintains a shared sense of belonging and relationship. This would appear to be a people-to-people thing that reflects a local commonality, a sharing, of some sort. An example? Well, perhaps a love of gardens, parks, and recreation facilities. Good places to walk, run, picnic, play sports, and meet others. Town and village greens in years past served this purpose.

Anything that brings residents together socially and frequently would seem to be a practical solution in many situations. If these are especially well done, they should be able to attract new residents who value such common local facilities. Community greens.

The idea here is to attract, not to order or to limit alternatives as 15-minute cities concepts tend to do.

Addressing the top set of community needs is much more challenging. In past, strong churches, social organizations, schools, and the like brought people together locally at a higher level. Today, the fabric of such organizations seems to be substantially dissipated or even absent. Today is different from the past.

We now have internet-based communities organized around common interests. These are not local in general, and can be global in many cases. They are part of nearly everyone’s life at present. They seem unlikely to go away, or even to diminish in importance. Continued growth in size, power, diversity of interests, and value to participants seems far more likely.

Can this sort of community be addressed in some manner by local action? One vital requirement is state-of-the-art communications infrastructure. Fiber broadband and reliable cellular services are essential. Another possibility might be a community center where groups could learn and share web-based activities. Anything that serves to bring community residents together on a regular basis could provide some of the elements identified as community needs.

Does any of this appear to reflect 15-minute cities concepts? Hardly. Rather than being restricted to folks who like to walk and bike, communities could attract even people who prefer big pickups and SUV’s and who drive nearly everywhere. These work especially well in snowy-cold regions, unlike walking and biking approaches.

It would be very interesting to hear what others, much smarter and creative than myself, might see as ways to create and maintain such communities. The basics seem to include:

  1. Community based on commonality and sharing of interests.
  2. Common facilities and activities that bring residents together socially and regularly – a new form of a village green.
  3. Physical needs services that can attract new residents and retain current residents.

It might also be a very good idea to drop any reference to “15-minute cities” since this term has caused some very unfavorable connotations and connections.

Bottom line:

Because 15-minute cities as an urban planning concept has been deeply tarnished, probably irreparably, by strong opposition now labeled as conspiracy theories, the concept descriptor seems no longer to be of practical value. It may well be increasingly linked in people’s minds to lockdowns – prisons and quarantine camps. The 15-minute cities descriptor should be dropped.

Instead, there appear to be a great number of opportunities to focus efforts and resources on creating actual communities based on some commonalties around basic human needs. The idea here would be to attract, not to order or to limit alternatives. Communities could develop more or less naturally but enhanced by local resources and services that can attract people.

“Proponents of the ‘15-minute city’ say it will reduce emissions and improve residents’ quality of life, but critics say the concept, supported by the World Economic Forum, is discriminatory and will lead to ‘climate lockdowns.’”

“The ‘15-minute city’ made headlines this month [Feb. 2023], spurred by controversy over plans by the U.K.’s Oxfordshire County Council to pilot ‘traffic filters’ to reduce car use as part of the city of Oxford’s 2040 development strategy.”

“Under the filter plan, Oxfordshire will be divided into six districts. Beginning in 2024, residents will be able to drive within their neighborhoods, but license plate recognition cameras will fine private cars £70 for passing a filter without a permit. Vehicles such as bikes and public transportation will be exempt.”

“Residents can apply for a permit to drive through the filters up to 100 days per year, and residents living outside the zones can apply for a permit for up to 25 times per year. The filters will be in effect daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.”

“The county council said the plan is not meant to coerce residents into staying in their neighborhoods, but rather to address traffic congestion by ‘making walking, cycling, public and shared transport the natural first choice.’ Critics of the plan garnered thousands of signatures on petitions opposing it.”

“… Conflict over the plan went international. Polarizing figures like bestselling author Jordan B. Peterson tweeted that the plan was the ‘worst imaginable perversion’ of the idea that cities should be walkable, and Piers Corbyn went to an Oxford City Council meeting to protest. City council members reported being harassed.”

“Major media organizations, including The Guardian, Reuters, PolitiFact, USA Today, The Times and the BBC weighed in to support the local policy and discredit dissent as ‘conspiracy theory,’ by pointing to some exaggerated online claims that people would be confined to their districts by force.”

“But the 15-minute city concept has sparked widespread public concern beyond Oxford, particularly among the growing number of people concerned by policy proposals promoted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that involve widespread implementation of top-down environmental and urban policies, as seen on Twitter, in numerous articles and in videos.”

“… Cities such as Paris, Madrid, Ottawa, Seattle, Milan and Vancouver are among those that have declared plans to transform their cities into a 15-minute city model. Melbourne has adopted a long-term strategic plan for 20-minute neighborhoods.”

“As we were recently warned by ANP reader ‘Mike’ who had read Susan’s article about Quarantine Camps in New York, Governor DeSantis in Florida also recently did the same thing in his so-called ‘no vax’ bill, which if you read it in depth and closely enough, learn that towards the end of the bill, it became a ‘forced vax’ bill, complete with quarantines and all kinds of ugliness for those who aren’t ‘compliant’. “

“Once again usurping our Constitutional rights, check out the wording directly from the bill.:”

“4. Ordering an individual to be examined, tested, vaccinated, treated, isolated, or quarantined for communicable diseases that have significant morbidity or mortality and present a severe danger to public health. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to be examined, tested, vaccinated, or treated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience may be subjected to isolation or quarantine. “

“a. Examination, testing, vaccination, or treatment may be performed by any qualified person authorized by the State Health Officer.  “

“b. If the individual poses a danger to the public health, the State Health Officer may subject the individual to isolation or quarantine. If there is no practical method to isolate or quarantine the individual, the State Health Officer may use any means necessary to vaccinate or treat the individual. “

“c. Any order of the State Health Officer given to effectuate this paragraph is shall be immediately enforceable by a law enforcement officer under s. 381.0012.”

“So did you check that out? Using words such as ‘by any means necessary to vaccinate or treat the individual’ sounds exactly like full-scale medical tyranny!”

“The 15-minute city could be a compelling target for the future of mobility in Seattle, and some of our elected officials have expressed interest in the possibility. To better understand how Seattle might become a 15-minute city, I created an interactive map showing walking times to amenities across the city. These include:”

  • Supermarkets
  • Public libraries
  • Parks that are 20,000 square feet or larger (excluding “pocket parks”)
  • Bus stops connecting directly to downtown Seattle
  • Light rail stations
  • Restaurants and coffee shops
  • Public schools, split by grade level

“Select amenities from the check boxes below to automatically update the map. The color shown for each block represents the maximum walking time across all selected amenities. You can pan and zoom on the map; hover over a block or tap on mobile to see specific travel times.”

Try out this interactive map at the link shown above.
Try out this interactive map at the link shown above.