LAMP has been a social services presence in Etobicoke for some time now and so it makes sense that they would help bring an Economic Inequality forum to Toronto’s west end. The forum, one of three so far, is designed to get dialogue and action going in regard to the way societies like this one have just become giant machines for making the rich richer. This is the considered, brainy, indoors, post-Occupy response I think a lot of us have been looking forward to seeing for a while now. The suburban character of poverty, everything from aging highrises to the need for public transit spending, was fully acknowledged. Kay Blair, John Sewell and David Hulchanski spoke on behalf of the need to develop a broad popular agenda in favour of changing inequality. The event was quite audience friendly and the reasonable array of ideas, the well-considered social awareness in evidence was a lovely contrast to the kind of reactive nonsense we hear from right wing critters in public office and in the media too often.
We told them so on their Facebook page! They gave out some literature about inequality, gathered suggestions and the Etobicoke Guardian covered the event. Hopefully this is going somewhere.
The next related event is at Metropolitan United Church on March 26.
Economic Inequality home page
Economic Inequality Facebook
They say trust is the most important single thing in any economy, more than precious metals, cash, land, technology …anything really. A trust also can be an actual financial mechanism and here we see a nice example from the US and Britain. Community land trusts offer a tool for keeping people in neighbourhoods they are attached to but cannot afford due to wild price increases. The idea is to keep balance in urban areas where working people would like to stay but cannot afford, or even find, appropriate homes especially when they are ready to have a family. CLTs work, it seems, by detaching property from price speculation by individuals. What a wildly fantastical notion! The idea that a house is a thing you own and represents your relationship to a place as if you cared about it for some reason other than the fantastic amount of dollars or pounds you think you might pocket down the road. Surely this kind of thing will grow and help us keep cities balanced places. We wish this would catch on in Canada! If this intrigues you read on…
A revolution in affordable housing Guardian
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
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!
This image is from the Facebook icon of Global No Banking Week. Its organizers are asking the world not to go to the bank during the first week of December. The idea is to give the banks a warning in the form of reduced transaction fees and business volume.
Along with Bank Transfer Day this effort is rooted in the ideas that gave birth to the occuppy demonstrations. Neither GNBW or BTD are associated with the various occupy groups (or with each other) yet they are an opportunity for those who cannot, or will not, camp out to show their feelings about the world financial system.
GNBW is not affiliated with any political organization of any kind, requires no signatures or anything other than a little bit of planning ahead and yet is an enormously huge potential source of power – if enough people support it. As of this blog post GNBW has all of 4 Facebook “likes” and a bare bones web presence. Given the seriousness of events in the global economy since 2007-2008 this number can only grow.
Today, November 5th, is Bank Transfer Day. It will be interesting to see what kind of media coverage it gets and how many Americans will walk through the doors of how many banks and do the deed, move their money to non TARP banks, small ocal banks and credit unions. Interesting days, indeed.
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.
The Oil Drum blog is good daily reading for anyone concerned about our global energy future. Even the comments from the readership are so smart it’s scary. Suburbia draws on energy resources for the commuting and consuming it is dependent upon. The fact those energy resources are more expensive and harder to get at calls into question the very viability of the entire complex of things that go with suburbia. If the energy available to suburbia declined what would happen to the poor there? We think they’d have plenty of company as what is left of the middle class gets demoted by the energy and financial dysfunction to come. There may still be reason to argue about when exactly the energy dysfunction will really go big but we don’t see how a person in touch with reality even moderately can believe in a techno-utopian future suite of fixes that will allow us to prance past the energy issue. Jeff Vail has been writing about practical responses to the energy issues of suburbia for some time now. He wrote about resilient suburbia for the Oil Drum in 2008. In 2010 he gave an address called Rescuing Suburbia at an ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil) conference. Links below.
Rescuing Suburbia video & powerpoint slides 2010
A Resilient Suburbia? 4-part series 2008
We came across this item this morning and thought we’d offer it up as an example of resiliency. It’s about a family forced by economic circumstance to let go of their ideas of well off suburban living. A lot of how they live would be familiar to generations past in that it involves conserving resources and doing without. Carbon and other footprints seem to have been reduced in this reversal of the usual success story. Giving up the American/Canadian/Australian/British suburban dream doesn’t have to mean failure, misery and a lack of joy. Pretty soon we all might end up…
Living Right on the “Wrong” Side of Town
If this item interests you, ask at the library for a copy of No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. There’s also a series of articles on the Guardian website about one Mark Boyle, a man living completely without money.
The blog Infrastructurist published an interview in 2009 with Christopher Leinberger. He has done quite a bit to bring the concept of suburban poverty to the mainstream. Leinberger attributes much of the problem to supply and demand and to changing lifestyle expectations. In other words, the magic of the market created the problem and will fix it. Leinberger thinks it will take about thirty years for suburbia to adapt. We love the sound of many of the adaptations required: walkable, mixed-use urban hubs and rail-based public transit for example. He seems to be saying it’s a tall order but achieveable even if there will be losers along the way. Perhaps this effort at structural adaptation could be put in place under government guidance as a response to what really does seem like the end of growth but a dissonance emerges right away. A continental refitting of suburbia would require epic amounts of capital to start and maintain which makes Leinberger’s ideas seem almost hallucinatory given the impairments of the global financial system. At a couple of points Leinberger indicates he is well in touch with reality. He mentions the phenomenon of suburban houses converted into flophouses for groups of unrelated men. Certainly, Leinberger’s efforts at the Brookings Institution also indicate much comprehension of suburban poverty and dysfunction. His take on what to actually do with suburbia is both attractive and disappointing.
How to Save the Suburbs: Solutions from the Man Who Saw the Whole Thing Coming