Wednesday, May 22, 2024
From the Wire

The 15-Minute City Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

In a surprising turn of events, the 15-Minute City conspiracy theory has not only gained traction but has been embraced by the UK government. Initially scoffed at by lawmakers, this fringe idea suggests that cities built for walking and biking are part of a government plot to control the population. However, we now find that the British government is putting the conspiracy theory at the heart of its policies. This concept, which advocates for an urban planning approach where all amenities are within a 15-minute walk or bike ride, has been met with resistance and criticism from those who believe it infringes on personal freedom. As this controversy unfolds, it raises questions about the role of government in shaping cities and the impact of urban planning on people’s lives.

The 15-Minute City Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

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Overview

In recent months, the 15-minute city conspiracy theory has gained traction and even been embraced by the UK government. Initially laughed at by lawmakers in the House of Commons, the conspiracy theory claims that cities designed for biking and walking are part of a global plot to control populations. This article will delve into the background of the 15-minute city concept, the government’s support for the conspiracy theory, protests against related measures, the origin of the concept, the details of the conspiracy theory itself, the government’s response, public backlash and proponents, and the ongoing impact and future perspectives. Through this comprehensive exploration, we aim to provide a clear understanding of the situation.

Background

The concept of the 15-minute city

The concept of the 15-minute city revolves around the idea that all amenities should be accessible within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. This urban planning concept aims to create more sustainable and livable cities by reducing dependence on cars and promoting active modes of transportation. However, the concept has become the target of conspiracy theories suggesting that it is part of a larger government plot.

The rise of the conspiracy theory

Conspiracy theories surrounding the 15-minute city began to emerge in 2020, coinciding with the COVID-19 lockdowns. These theories claimed that the concept was a pretext for a climate lockdown, in which the use of cars and fossil-fuel-powered vehicles would be banned. As lockdowns persisted, the conspiracy theories evolved, merging with other globalist conspiracies and gaining influence particularly among right-wing social media circles.

The 15-Minute City Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

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UK Government Embraces the Conspiracy Theory

Conservative Party lawmaker’s support

In a surprising turn of events, a Conservative Party lawmaker in the UK’s House of Commons voiced support for the 15-minute city conspiracy. Initially laughed at by his fellow members of Parliament, his support signaled a shift in government attitudes towards the conspiracy theory.

New transport plan

In September, the UK government unveiled a new transport plan that directly referenced the conspiracy theory. The plan prioritizes driving over walking and cycling, aiming to prevent the implementation of 15-minute cities by limiting schemes that restrict driving.

Prime Minister’s criticism

Even the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, criticized the 15-minute city concept, dismissing it as a short-term decision that fails to consider the impact on ordinary people. This further solidified the government’s opposition to the concept.

Protests and Popularization

Protests against measures

As councils across the UK introduced measures to lower speed limits and implement low-traffic neighborhoods, protests against these actions grew. Many of these protesters were influenced by the conspiracy theories surrounding the 15-minute city concept.

Social media and right-wing audiences

The rise of conspiracy theories on social media, particularly among right-wing audiences, contributed to the popularization of the 15-minute city conspiracy theory. Influential figures, such as psychologist-turned-conspiracy-theorist Jordan Peterson, boosted the theory’s visibility, reaching millions of viewers.

Conspiracy theory during the wildfires

In an alarming twist, the conspiracy theory extended its reach even to natural disasters. During the wildfires in Hawaii, conspiracy theorists claimed that a direct-energy weapon was used to start the fire as part of a plan to clear the way for a new 15-minute city. This illustrates the extent to which the conspiracy theory has permeated various aspects of society.

The 15-Minute City Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

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The Origin of the 15-Minute City Concept

Carlos Moreno’s proposal

The concept of the 15-minute city originated from the ideas put forward by Carlos Moreno, a French urban designer and professor. In 2015, Moreno proposed that cities should be designed in a way that allows residents to access work, housing, food, health, education, culture, and leisure within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. His vision aimed to create more self-sufficient and sustainable urban environments.

Planned access to amenities

Moreno’s concept emphasized the importance of planning cities to provide easy access to essential amenities. By reducing the reliance on cars, the concept aimed to improve quality of life, increase physical activity, and reduce the negative impacts of transportation on the environment. However, the conspiracy theories have distorted and misrepresented the original intent of the concept.

The Conspiracy Theory in Detail

Claims of a climate lockdown

One of the central claims of the conspiracy theory is that the 15-minute city concept is part of a broader agenda to implement a climate lockdown. The theory suggests that governments aim to ban cars and fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, thus limiting people’s freedom and control over their transportation choices.

Merging with other globalist conspiracies

The conspiracy theory surrounding the 15-minute city concept has merged with other globalist conspiracy theories, propelling its popularity among certain circles. These theories often involve claims of powerful global organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, orchestrating schemes to control various aspects of people’s lives and transform local communities into prisons.

Right-wing social media’s influence

Right-wing social media platforms have played a significant role in spreading and amplifying the conspiracy theory. Figures such as Jordan Peterson have used their platforms to endorse the theory, reaching large audiences and further fueling its popularity.

The 15-Minute City Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

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The UK Government’s Response

Transport plan favoring driving

The UK government’s new transport plan clearly favors driving over alternative modes of transportation. By aiming to prevent the implementation of 15-minute cities and consult on ways to restrict schemes that limit driving, the government is actively countering the concept’s original goals.

Dismissing the 15-minute city concept

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s criticism of the 15-minute city concept reflects the government’s dismissal of the idea. The government, rather than embracing the concept as a way to create more sustainable and livable cities, has taken a stance against it, suggesting that it hinders personal freedom and fails to consider the needs of ordinary people.

Public Backlash and Proponents

Critics of government policy

Critics of the UK government’s transportation policies have voiced their concerns about the dismissal of the 15-minute city concept. They argue that prioritizing driving over active modes of transportation goes against sustainability goals and exacerbates issues such as air pollution and traffic congestion.

Advocates for the 15-minute city

Despite the government’s opposition, advocates for the 15-minute city concept continue to promote its benefits. They highlight the positive impacts of reducing car dependency, such as improved public health, reduced carbon emissions, and increased community cohesion.

The 15-Minute City Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

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Ongoing Impact and Future Perspectives

Implications for urban planning

The embrace of the 15-minute city conspiracy theory by the UK government has significant implications for urban planning. It suggests a shift away from prioritizing sustainable transportation options and may hinder efforts to create more livable and environmentally friendly cities.

Continued spread of conspiracy theories

The widespread acceptance of the 15-minute city conspiracy theory is indicative of the broader issue of misinformation and the spread of conspiracy theories in society. The influence of social media, particularly among right-wing audiences, has allowed these theories to gain traction and permeate various aspects of public discourse.

Conclusion

The 15-minute city conspiracy theory’s journey from fringe idea to mainstream acceptance by the UK government is a concerning development. The distortion and misrepresentation of a well-intentioned urban planning concept have resulted in a backlash against sustainable transportation options. As urban areas continue to face challenges related to transportation, sustainability, and livability, it is crucial to navigate the influences of conspiracy theories and ensure that evidence-based decision-making prevails. Only through thoughtful and informed urban planning can cities truly become more inclusive, accessible, and environmentally friendly.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/15-minute-city-conspiracy-uk-politics/