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February 29, 2008

Richard Florida

Spiky = Green

I hear Tom Friedman is working on a book on green.  He's going to have to confront the fact the a green world isn't flat, it's spiky. Here's what the Earth Institutes's Steve Cohen has to say (h/t: Robert Wuebker):

The high population density of New York City would never have been possible without a number of technological innovations: an extensive network of mass transit, the electrical power grid, the water system, modern sewage removal and treatment, product packaging, food refrigeration, preservatives and, of course, solid waste removal. The technology of waste incineration has advanced dramatically since the 1960s. In Japan, 70% of all waste is burned and generates electricity. While incineration pollutes the air, there is no question that it is less polluting than transporting waste in diesel-fueled trucks to leaking landfills.

What say you?

Richard Florida

The Passionate City

While travelling this week, my colleague and paisono, Pier Giorgio DeCicco, Toronto's poet laureate,  gave a major address on this subject (via Tree Hugger).

"What is required is an essential atmosphere of passion. Without it, we put up bad buildings, invent bandage solutions, and have merely a topology of artistic events cosmetic to daily life. Fine words. What are the strategies? We have “zero tolerance” for just about any form of abuse, to our credit. Perhaps it is time we had zero tolerance for what enfeebles the passionate imagination of a city. What enfeebles it?

1. The notion that money predicates vision.
2. The mean-spiritedness that criticizes before it allows.
3. The conventions of “safeness” from either the left or the right.
4. Anything that discourages human encounter in the interest of expedience and time-saving."

It's worth mentioning that his lecture was at The Institute without Boundaries at George Brown College which was the core partner on design guru Bruce Mau's Massive Change project,

Richard Florida

Real Education

Finland top the list on a recent mulitnational study of education. Here's why, according to this Wall Street Journal report:

High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don't start school until age 7.

Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they're way ahead in math, science and reading -- on track to keeping Finns among the world's most productive ...

Visitors and teacher trainees can peek at how it's done from a viewing balcony perched over a classroom at the Norssi School in Jyväskylä, a city in central Finland. What they see is a relaxed, back-to-basics approach. The school, which is a model campus, has no sports teams, marching bands or prom ...

The Norssi School is run like a teaching hospital, with about 800 teacher trainees each year. Graduate students work with kids while instructors evaluate from the sidelines. Teachers must hold master's degrees, and the profession is highly competitive: More than 40 people may apply for a single job. Their salaries are similar to those of U.S. teachers, but they generally have more freedom. ...

Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs," says Mr. Schleicher, of the Paris-based OECD, which began the international student test in 2000 ...

Finnish high-school senior Elina Lamponen saw the differences firsthand. She spent a year at Colon High School in Colon, Mich., where strict rules didn't translate into tougher lessons or dedicated students, Ms. Lamponen says. She would ask students whether they did their homework. They would reply: " 'Nah. So what'd you do last night?'" she recalls. History tests were often multiple choice. The rare essay question, she says, allowed very little space in which to write. In-class projects were largely "glue this to the poster for an hour," she says. Her Finnish high school forced Ms. Lamponen, a spiky-haired 19-year-old, to repeat the year when she returned.

No sports teams, no marching band, no prom.  A relaxed approach. Less homework. Kids can be themselves.  I'll have lots more to say on education in Who's Your City? What do you think?

February 28, 2008

The Austin American-Statesman reports that (pointer via The Street):

The South by Southwest music, film and interactive festivals and conferences pumped approximately $95 million into the Austin economy in 2007, according to a new economic impact report commissioned by SXSW ...

According to the Angelou report, attendees for the March 7-16 events included 21,000 badge holders, 7,300 musicians and 7,600 wristband holders, or nearly 36,000 people. In addition, the report factored in the impact of 87,000 attendees who bought individual tickets or spent money at music showcases, film screenings, the Town Lake Stage free concerts, the Flatstock poster convention and the Screenburn video arcade.

Richard Florida

The Jailed Map

According this AP story a new report from the Pew Foundation finds that:

For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America's rank as the world's No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.

Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 _ one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it's more than any other nation.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said ...

"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine." ...

The report said the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which round out the Top 10.

Ugh ... What a gargantuan waste of talent and energy - a dead-weight cost on long-run competitiveness.

Click here for a new Kauffman Foundation report on Entrepreneurship and Urban Success. It's authored by an all-star team including my Rotman colleagues Will Strange and Olav Sorensen, my former GMU colleague Zoltan Acs, and Harvard urban economist Ed Glaeser among others.

February 27, 2008

Richard Florida

Global Pop

In Flight of the Creative Class I wrote that the (dirty little) secret of American competitiveness was stealing - I mean attracting - the world's best and brightest - from Andrew Carnegie and Albert Einstein to the Google guys.  I even had a little ditty on how so many sports stars playing in America now come from around the world -take another look at those "New York" Yankees ... Anyone watching the Oscars quickly found out that all the top acting prizes went to non-Americans.  So how about popular music?

[O]ur top foreign music stars were all over the map--everything from the loud guitar sounds of Nickelback and Three Days Grace to the indie-rock stylings of Feist, the swing vocals of Michael Buble and the infectious R&B of Corinne Bailey Rae, Joss Stone and multiple Grammy Award-winner Amy Winehouse.

We limited our search to still-active recording artists who first established themselves in their local markets before breaking out in the U.S. That meant excluding pop stars like Rihanna and Avril Lavigne. While they hail from Barbados and Canada, respectively, both are primarily products of the American recording industry because they enjoyed their first taste of commercial success in the U.S., not in their home countries.

The list is from Forbes (h/t: Al Mair).  Here's another list of the best-selling music artists:

  • The Beatles, UK
  • Bing Crosby, USA
  • Elvis Presley, USA
  • Frank Sinatra, USA
  • Michael Jackson, USA
  • A. R. Rahman, India
  • ABBA, Sweden
  • Alla Pugacheva, Russia
  • The Bee Gees, UK
  • Celine Dion, Canada
  • Cliff Richard, UK
  • Elton John, UK
  • Julio Iglesias, Spain
  • Led Zeppelin, UK
  • Madonna, USA (moved to UK)
  • Nana Mouskouri, Greece
  • Pink Floyd, UK
  • Rod Stewart, UK
  • The Rolling Stones, UK
  • Tino Rossi, France
  • Wei Wei, China

From the looks of this seems like the hey-day of US pop music hegemony was the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The Beatles and the "British Invasion" really signal a change in the popular music landscape. Come to think of it a variety of scholars list 1964-65 as the time when U.S. overall economic dominance started to weaken.

Your thoughts?

That's the headline that screamed across the front page of today's National Post.  I wanted to write a scathing criticism. But then I read the column by Max Fawcett and I found I mainly agree with the gist of what he has to say:

[T]he reception that Florida has received since he arrived in Toronto says more about why it isn't a worldclass city than why it is  ... The essence of the world's greatest cities is their innate self-confidence, a kind of shared understanding of the city's virtues that needs no corroboration or confirmation from experts ... .

Toronto, in contrast, has no such confidence, which explains its exuberant embrace of Florida and his complimentary research.  ... Their response, in turn, exposes the remaining vestiges of Canada's colonial mentality, which seeks affirmation from afar, not within, and sees greatness only in reflection, through the eyes of others.


Just a couple of things which readers of the blog already know. I did not come to the Rotman School and the University of Toronto to solve Toronto's problems. I came for a basic reason - the opportunity  to set up a world-class institute and a world-class business school studying ... well ... the world.. 

The media hub-bub is more a distraction at this point than anything else. Sure, I've said a few nice things about Toronto. But most of those things I said well before we moved here. Since we were happy in DC and I had no idea we would end up here, there was absolutely no reason to suck up.

Toronto has plenty of problems and challenges - PLENTY! One of my Globe columns zeroed in on the growing economic inequality and social isolation described the important University of Toronto "Three Toronto's" report. I made much the same points in my direct commentary to the mayor and city council last month.

I'm not in Toronto to curry favor or help save the city. I'm here to be a public intellectual directing a world-class think tank - to create a hub of a broad global conversation on creativity, economic growth, place and community.  That  - in my humble opinion - is by far best way my team and I can help Toronto  - and the world.


I will never, ever forget the day I first heard Never Mind the Bullocks. Ir didn't take me long to cut off my pony tail, put the acoustic guitar back in the case and take the electric one back out ... Their legendary Manchester concert attended by just 42 people changed the face of popular music and popular culture. I actually got share the stage with Tony Wilson and discuss creativity and economic development. Toronto's Accordion Guy finds useful and important lessons in the organically innovative nature of that gathering compared to the way economic developers or public officials approach things (h/t Tara Vinodrai):

The Sex Pistols concert was influential because it was set up by musical innovators and attended by musical innovators. Can you imagine what would’ve happened had it been organized by Manchester’s City Hall?

It probably would’ve gone like this: City Hall likely would’ve organized it as a showcase of Manchester musicians who performed in inoffensive, accessible, “safe”, commercial, “radio-friendly” styles. The guest list would’ve been organized by the chamber of commerce and would’ve included the media, representatives from major record labels and talent agencies, politicians friom all levels of government, local business owners, people from the tourism industry and of course, major media outlets.

None of the “nobodies” who attended the Sex Pistols concert would’ve been invited.

In the end, the city would have declared the event a success, but in the long run, it wouldn’t even rate as a footnote in musical history.

Your thoughts?

Richard Florida

The Religion Map