Bill Rees is a Canadian academic from the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. Here he gives a deft and noteless lecture weighted with facts on the ground. Rees is all over the changing context of urbanization, technology, consumption, sustainability, and energy. Apparently what North Americans have come to think of as normal is really the single most anomalous moment in all of human history. Cutesy ideas like green consumerism, hybrid SUVs, green architecture and biofuels don’t last long in front of scientist Rees. Short term profit in the run-up to complete catastrophe have distorted our reality so much it looks like we can’t change in time. None of this means wealth and happiness for humans, suburban or otherwise. Boy, it gets depressing maintaining your own meta-blog some times. No wonder people drink.
One of our interns was riding their bike in a suburban area last spring and scored this virtually unused, clean-as-a-whistle, one-of-a-kind wooden horse – from a garbage pile! We made sure it joined a life list of items found thusly and passed on to urchins and unfortunates. Each time we hear about, or, better yet, participate in one of these little reversals of the waste/consumer ethos it gladdens our hearts here at suburban-poverty.com and gives us hope. It also reminds us of Texas academic Jeff Ferrell and his book (and blog) Empire of Scrounge.
Mr. Ferrell was faced with a lull in his career as a sociologist/criminologist and took to dumpster diving and trash picking on a bike to keep his observation and analytical skills sharp, save money and find cool shit. Empire of Scrounge is the title of the book that came out of the first part of Mr Ferrell’s adventures and the blog serves to update his ongoing adventures. Great stuff, well reccomended to our own readership when we consider the venue at hand. Dallas-Fort Worth is possibly one of this continent’s most serious examples of sprawled, super-suburbanization. It’s population density is only about half that of the Greater Toronto Area, for example.
Often, we are dismissed (sometimes even by ourselves) as doomer wannabes full of pessimism 0with little to offer in the way of solutions. Well, the editor hasn’t gotten his social services worker diploma just yet so this kind of practical, hands-on, exploratory, two-wheeled excellence will have to do for now. Links below, and seriously, have a safe, prosperous, resiliency-enhancing 2012.
Empire of Scrounge
Trespass, Trash & Train
It’s okay, don’t worry. Everybody go back to sleep, …just another report on child poverty in Canada. Everything’s fine.
Ottawa lacks plan to fight child poverty, coalition says Toronto Star
We don’t know if there are a million towers out there but certainly the reinforced concrete high rise apartment or condominium building is one of the most readily encountered artefacts of humanity and home to many, many people. An example of one was used as the banner image for this blog. The Toronto area alone is said to have about 2,000 large residential towers. Although it is remarkably easy to come up with critiques of such buildings and their effect on human communities it is kinda tough to find anyone doing anything really meaningful to imagine better for them and their residents. The documentary linked below, from Canada’s National Film Board, steps into the gap and asks a small group of high rise residents to imagine better. You’d have to be one hard hearted human being not to feel something while watching this six minute documentary.
Also see (61) Flemo!
Suburbia could be said to have been a product of liberal values like redistribution of wealth, upward mobility, technological progress, public education, a merit-based system of economic rewards and rising standards of living. Will it then die in the unfolding of the world as seen by Chris Hedges? It’s a grim picture dear readers. Hedges has given us a long, well written goodbye to liberals and their institutions. What little is left of liberal values is seen as nothing more than a mask hiding corporate power and abuse. We are two thirds finished this book and find it so powerful we decided to waste no time recommending it. You have to be tough to make it through this one, though. Hedges is describing a world gone to hell. Politics and government, the arts, war, business, mass media, education, …nothing escapes. Moral critique at its best, truly Hedges is a super-brained, seminary-schooled, war reporting version of Michael Moore.
All the more shame to CBC pseudo-journalist Kevin O’leary for his attempt to denigrate Hedges in October during an interview about the Occupy movement. Imagine referring to a well-educated, heavily-published, Pulitzer-winning writer with a powerful sense of morality as someone who sounds like a “left wing nut job.”
Video and data about the situation from WWLP in Massachusetts, and this telling quotation:
“I mean they’re not poor people that are moving into this area, they have lived here and done well for years but different things happen.”
Suburban poverty increases 53%
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.