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.
…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
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.
More 2010 US census analysis is trickling into the mainstream media. The stats show Texas, Florida and California really taking the cake when it comes to suburban poverty.
…or maybe that should be a carton of stale Twinkies from the food bank.
Poverty pervades the suburbs
CNN Money with map & video
It just keeps getting better with Elizabeth Warren. I mean, who else do you think we’d have a crush on around here? A critter like Ayn Rand, uber goddess to the far right? A woman we just discovered spent the last seven years of her life collecting social security?
If we can’t spend Labour Day wallowing in the past then what good is it? Besides, there’s a lot to be learned back there. When considering suburban poverty and how we got to be where we are it’s hard to ask for a better starting point than a particular item in the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. From late 1954, this News Magazine feature examines the state of housing in the entire country. The music and voice over evoke the seriousness of war time. Sure, there is a Levittownesque optimism but there’s also a grim tone regarding affordability and the extent of the costly undertaking of keeping the working families of a growing country properly housed. The persistence of 1930s-style poverty wherein “housewives struggle against decay and filth” is openly acknowledged, too. The latter did much to drive the exertions required to build suburbia and is easily forgotten in 2011. Two approaches to housing Canadians are seen. Public housing – urban redevelopment in Regent Park – and private suburban housing in Don Mills. The latter was among Canada’s first couple of planned suburbs.
CBC News Magazine: White Picket Dreams
Historica is the semi-regular feature on suburban-poverty.com that helps you learn how we got here in the first place. Levittown was North America’s first major post-war mass suburb. This short film features Ford tractors in use during Levittown’s construction. It begins with a drive out of New York City to the countryside where a new way of life was being built. The scene is almost cute by comparison to the monster home- and big box retail-dominated Edge Cities of today. You’ll also meet Ed, Ralph and Teeny, the guys who built Levittown. Thanks, guys!
We thought it might be useful to look at popular culture for evidence of suburban poverty. Much of what you come across in popular culture is aspirational, delusional even, when it comes to portraying class and social conditions. Among the things we found is this resentful dirge from fringe Republican Hank Williams Junior. The song refers to ‘this town’ but we see symbols and elements of suburban life. Williams croons from inside, or next to, a late 1950s Cadillac, there is a motor vehicle in every scene practically. Single family dwellings and working people populate the video. Things don’t look too hot – the repo man is after the pickup and there’s no work and apparently Williams paid taxes. Awful to watch and awful to listen to. A song and video like this is produced because nobody is living what it represents? …more to come from popular culture!
Tactical Team 4 from suburban-poverty.com fired up the boilers in the Taurus and hit a semi-abandoned orchard north of the Greater Toronto Area this morning with excellent results. A large quantity of apples was picked and delivered to a busy drop in centre serving many low income (and otherwise vulnerable) people in Mississauga. We’ve noticed the lack of fresh food and low level of food literacy among the service population at the drop in and the appearance of a ton of crisp fresh apples created a happy buzz. One that will probably last for a couple of days. Those dependant on social agencies, food banks and charities for basic necessities often encounter too much in the way of salty canned and prepared food, Kraft Dinner and other carbohydrates. There’s a risk of encountering outdated food from such sources as well. We’ve already learned a little about the complications of providing social services in suburban areas so the value of using some creativity to find alternative sources of good, fresh food is enormous. An apple is such a simple healthy thing if you think about it. No packaging or preparation required.
While we found it a pleasure to make a contact, secure and then deliver some fruit we realize we are amateurs at this. See posting (30) and here are two Canadian examples:
Not far from the tree Toronto, ON foragers
Fruit for thought Regina, SK
Check out this video as well, it features veggie gardening in suburban Columbus, OH: