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
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?
If gargoyles could vomit with disgust somebody would be hanging up buckets at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus next week. The college, located in a converted Edwardian psychiatric hospital on the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto, is hosting two eating contests. This is a place of education that trains social service workers and community service workers. Suburban-poverty.com thinks this is wrong in so many ways. There are food banks in every corner of the GTA now and there are people experiencing starvation in the world beyond. What kind of signal does this send to low income students or young women experiencing eating disorders and to the world at large about Humber? Why does the Humber Student Federation think it’s okay to put on this kind of event, supported by student fees? This is just more evidence, written in all caps in a font called Frat Boy Idiot, of just how low the level of mindfulness, social consciousness, and general discussion of poverty and other issues can be. Shame on you Humber if you go ahead with this. A growing number of students object to the eating contests and hopefully they will be heard by management in time to kill them stone dead. Even a gargoyle can figure this one out.
…a video covering the basics of suburban poverty. The speaker is Alexandra Cawthorne, an American poverty researcher.
Looks like Alexandra is on top of suburban poverty, she’s published a couple of other items on the topic, as well, including this item:
Trouble in the suburbs: poverty rises in areas outside cities
We thought we were reading The Onion without our glasses on late this morning when we came across a stunner of a news item about the newest muppet character …Lily the poor kid. What the hell planet am I on?
Sesame Street Introduces Poor Muppet Southern California Public Radio
Today in Canada is Thanksgiving Day. Jour de l’Action de grâce has been a national holiday since 1957. What better spot on the calendar could we pick to review the second edition of Poverty In Canada: Implications for Health & Quality of Life by York University professor Dennis Raphael?
From first encounter this work comes across well. The second edition clears 500 pages in trade paperback form and continues the fact-jammed academic dissection of poverty in the first edition, with extras. Of course, there are tables and charts and analysis with references, index and suggestions for web resources and further reading all in the right places. Plentiful ammunition for journalists, academics, policy makers and public servants to use against ignorance of poverty and hopefully poverty itself. Students should find this book useful in many fields.
Poverty in Canada is too frequent, too consistent, too often racialized, too hard on too many children, too deep, too little studied, too (literally) sickening, too often not acknowledged at all, too often blamed on the individual affected by it, too closely linked to deliberately chosen neo-conservative economic policies, and too readily reduced or eliminated by quite reasonable efforts and means. Again and again in this book Canada is seen to fare better than the United States but significantly worse than the Scandinavian countries when it comes to poverty. Considering the size and economic output of this country our poverty has to be some of the craziest shit in the developed world. If you are remotely interested in this topic you will find something of disturbing value in Raphael’s work.
Lived experience of poverty has been given more profile in the new edition. This is sensible. Elaborating the real thing is humane and complements the statistical approach.
Curiously, there is no specific mention of suburban poverty. When we purchased Poverty In Canada we expected to find some direct mention of the phenomenon since the Brookings Institution has done a lot to make it a mainstream issue south of the border. Additionally, we can claim to have directly observed suburban poverty in Canada through social service sector study and volunteering and through living in the suburbs. In its own modest, amateur way this blog has begun to register and aggregate information about Canadian suburban poverty so we are surprised that a big gun academic like Raphael approaches it indirectly, hasn’t chosen to name it. Some of this may have to do with the domestic statistical sources he uses and with the fact that the definitions of suburban and urban remains somewhat vague at times for many of us.
Ultimately, all poverty is a disaster and the labels attached to it are less important than the realities of it. Nonetheless, the experience of poverty changes over time and suburbs are a new frontier of problematic social conditions in Canada.
Seriously, buy and read this book. Mail a copy to your political representative. Put it on your students’ reading lists if you are a teacher. It’s available online and through most book stores.
The National Film Board of Canada came up with a documentary recently about an aging suburb in the northeast corner of Toronto called Flemingdon Park. It’s an honest piece of work directly engaging the people and place. Now, Flemingdon Park is not exactly south central Los Angeles but it sure ain’t film festival Toronto either. Rarely does this flopped Utopia ever make it into the mass media in the GTA unless some young man has just gotten murdered in a housing project. Lack of transit and poor socioeconomic conditions are combined with a lacklustre aesthetic environment that you would imagine from the outside all but destroys meaningful human experience or connection to place. The people of Flemingdon Park may be an archetype of life in many North American suburbs because of the former but they might surprise viewers a little on the latter.
We thought it good form to find some content from the interwebs that contradicted our own take on the issue at hand lest we be judged smug, dismissive. A semi-anonymous blog post from this summer fits the bill nicely and is linked to below. It employs the relativity argument. Not derived from Einstein’s view of the universe this is a technique beloved of those politically to the right. A cross-comparison to global poverty is usually involved. It is designed to shut down arguments about social policy in a developed country and is, in our experience, driven by fear, loathing and the lack of experience of life though it is usually presented as highly rational and objective. Such positions on social matters remind us that the battle against poverty need be waged as much in middle and upper class brains as in government offices, clothing banks, soup kitchens and shelters.
Suburban poverty? The Burning Platform