Doesn’t take much for the dissonance to emerge from discussions of poverty and social conditions. Why in Canada, or elsewhere, is a big banker like Ed Clark so hard to find? Why is he the lone rebel, the challenger, the man sought out by high end business schools looking for nervy opinions and outside-the-box ideas about social issues? Goar: Business elite gets a reality checkToronto Star
American state and municipal governments have seen their finances pounded since 2007. That’s a bad development for everyone because those are the levels of government the most number of people are the closest to. When we read items like the one below from Governing we get a detailed sense of how tough things can be. Again, the communication difficulties and costs associated with doing business in the suburbs make the delivery of health and social services all the more problematic. There’s also a cultural dimension that goes underappreciated. It seems that people with middle class assumptions often adjust poorly to hard times and lack even basic knowledge of where to go to get help when they hit the skids. Poverty comes to the suburbs: poverty is encroaching on suburban enclaves — even the most affluent of them. Many are ill-equipped to meet the new social-service needs.
While consuming an overpriced coffee product this morning we accidentally read part of today’s Globe & Mail. It was left behind on a table in a Barstuck’s coffee shop in Toronto’s financial district. The usual doom-and-gloom and consumerism filled the paper but we were heartened to see one article: a double pager with no ads about food bank use in every province. Maps and graphics made for factually solid reading. At suburban-poverty.com we are torn by media coverage of poverty. We are glad to see it and we hate to see it.
Ironically, we were on our way to Metropolitan United Church Community Services where participation in the Out-of-the-Cold program is under way. Thusly aligning the reality of the Globe piece with our own, however fleetingly. Curiously, we were chatting with several of suburban-poverty.com’s board of governors the other day and we remarked that when we were in Grade 8 there were no food banks, but there was this Prime Minister named Mulroney…
Here’s a recent feature from the Toronto Star about inequality. Written by J David Hulchanski, a university of Toronto social work academic, it notably takes up the language of the occupy movement. That movement may fade a little as winter weather sets in but suburban-poverty.com feels it is now a full contributor to the general discourse in the United States and the United Kingdom. In Canada it is not as developed. Mixed feelings about the banks do exist here but there is a genuine sense that the regulatory environment and the corporate culture in banks here deserve some moral credit for keeping us a little more secure than elsewhere.
Don’t get us wrong, the fact Canadian banks didn’t deliver us unto a foreclosure crisis or help themselves to even more of our money in the form of direct bailouts should probably not be viewed as a major favour. That goes double when you consider two more things. Firstly, “our” banks have been drawing on a major piece of real estate, the second largest country in the world for two hundred years so they can afford to be well regulated and like it along the way. Second, we bail them out indirectly every day in the form of transaction fees. Suburban-poverty.com’s treasurer was aghast the other day to have an ATM screen inform him of a new $1 charge for printing a statement the size of a modest convenience store receipt. All those “tips” add up, people.
Hulchanski’s article elaborates on an established concept, the emergence of three cities in the Greater Toronto Area. Basically it’s about the death of the middle class. Statistics, a graph and a map indicate the reality of suburban poverty in the fifth largest city in North America, Canada’s business capital and a vast area increasingly defined by, and living off of the avails of, suburban sprawl. The 99% know all about inequality
[statistics for 1970 & 2005 – projections for 2025]
When we started up this blog we told ourselves to never, ever use the schoolyard phrase “told ya so” in regard to suburban poverty. Oh well, looks like we let it get to us after reading this item and just broke our promise.
All these years we’ve had a funny little feeling about just what’s behind some of the crazy shit we’ve seen propping up in the global economy. Now, from, of all places, The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich comes an answer. The 147 do not form a fully coscious collusion but this is something to be concerned about regardless of the economic dogma you adhere to.
Escape From Suburbia: Beyond The American Dream dates from 2007 but we reference it here as quite a nice piece of background material. The topic is peak oil and suburbia. Escape is the follow up to The End of Suburbia and focuses on possible solutions. Nothing much has really changed since either movie came out except that all our money was emailed up to some giant orbiting death star and we burned another 400 million barrels of oil. Neither commodity is coming back any time soon.
The people seen in Escape are undertaking a handful of possible responses to the withdrawal of cheap energy from suburbia. Some are optimistic, some are pessimistic, some are getting the hell out while they figure they still can. Some are staying put, some are intellectualizing, others are angry. The critique of the energy and consumer future begun in End of Suburbia turns toward suburban poverty with the compelling destruction of a large community garden in south central Los Angeles. Implicit the whole time is that suburban poverty will be coming to a cul-de-sac near you sooner rather than later and that it won’t be pretty.
In 2007 suburban poverty was still somewhat behind the curtain …it ain’t now.
What will it all look like in 2017?
Canadians will enjoy scenes filmed in and around the Greater Toronto Area and words from David Suzuki and Kathryn Holloway.
James Howard Kunstler, a suburban-poverty.com favourite for years now, warns us not to ask him (or anyone for that matter) for solutions and hope but to find them within ourselves. JHK would make a better social worker than he thinks he would.
Econometrics don’t fully account for the quality of life in a country. For many years there has been a strong desire to have other benchmarks for assessing the big picture that include imponderables, things like cultural participation, personal happiness, stress and security, working hours, crime, family life, environmental quality, levels of harm associated with economic acitivity, volunteer activity and so on. We suspect suburban poverty, a complex and underreported phenomenon, might be easier to understand (and then fix) with more socially conscious benchmarking tools. The article linked below describes a good effort in this direction. New Canadian Index of Wellbeing reveals how Canadians are really faring Toronto Star
Worrisome reading about Las Vegas, Nevada and poverty. Probably the ultimate in suburban statements in its day, one has to wonder what kind of future this desert city has. A near total dependency on motor vehicles, air conditioning and water from far away makes for some hair-raising possible futures. Does it seem like the economy there is recovering in any way? Will real estate values go up again? Is it a matter of just waiting around for the next real estate boom?