Tag Archives: solutions

(141) Retrofitting the suburbs

Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
Ellen Dunham-Jones & June Williamson
John Wiley & Sons
ISBN 978-0-470-04123-9

We’ve been wanting to mention
this book for a while and now that there is an updated edition available, here it is.  Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs is a big, detailed, serious take on just what can be done with aging, unattractive suburban sprawl. With the text you get maps and colour ilustrations of real world improvement projects aimed at making suburbs more walkable and connected, more transit friendly, more aesthetically pleasing, more economically varied and more attached to the realities of the environment.  Who wouldn’t want these things?  And surely retrofitting suburbia would ameliorate poverty there, enhance employment, prevent the suburbs from sliding into deeper obsolesence if not full on ghettohood.  The approach here is rational and advocates a technical, investment-orientated  approach to improving suburbia.  Absolutely these ideas should be on the table, many are already in existence and working well.  On getting acquainted with this book you will look at suburban communities as opportunities, not just as a set of mistakes or doomed to a Mad Max kind of future.

Ellen Dunham-Jones TED Talk 19:24

(140) Marx at 50c

Murmurs of Marxism, of maximum socialist gains, are faintly heard from the fringes as our brains fry in the heat of summer and both Europe and America go nowhere.  It would be far beyond irony and deep into the realm of something crazy if it turned out that thirty years of neo-con horseshit triggered a serious revival of Marxism and that revival were expressed politically.  It’d be hard to decide who the joke would truly be on but few of us at any level of society below the 1% are laughing these days.

Why Marxism is on the rise again Guardian

(119) Ed Broadbent on inequality

It’s quite heartening to see Ed Broadbent reemerging into Canada’s public realm through the creation of an institute with a major focus on economic inequality.  Even those adhering to neo-conservative thought must surely find it refreshing to come across perspectives other than their own.  Of course, that may be asking too much but  Mr. Broadbent appears intent on backing up his take on inequality, and the harm it does, with strong arguments, research and statistical evidence.  Not just the right has a tradition of vehemence, argumentativeness and truthfulness don’t you know!

At suburban-poverty.com we have high hopes that Mr. Broadbent will be successful getting the word out.  A reversal of the brain-washing, the opinions-disguised-as-the-truth, the elistist contmept and laissez-faire social policy that have been so much a part of the national life for the last three decades is long overdue.  Indeed, we remember in our teens some three decades ago, that in Canada Scandinavia-style social democracy was viewed as a perfectly rational option for the nation by a great many people.  Things turned out rather differently it would seem.  The inequality we have here now and, above all, the way it is viewed as inevitable by so many tells us that.

But efforts like that of economicinequality.ca and now Mr. Broadbent, however, show us that perhaps Canada is not a complete write off yet?  “Ready, aye ready …already!”

Broadbent Institute

(113) Economic Inequality forum at Metropolitan United

Economic Inequality held another public forum yesterday at Metropolitan United Church.  Three speakers weighed in on the matter, Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers was first with an early highlight in which he referred to FOX-style business “journalist” Kevin O’Leary as an asshole.  John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International and author made being a serious, history-minded public intellectual look so easy that even we are thinking of applying for such a position.

Tanya Zakrison, a surgeon from Doctors for Fair Taxation also weighed in on the realities of inequality.  Her phrase, “trauma is a political disease” will remain with us among our impressions of the two hour event. John Sewell and Liz Rykoff were there to act as hosts and are from the organzation’s steering committee.  Mike Ford handled the music.

Suburban-poverty.com attended the last forum, in Etobicoke.  Monday’s forum involved a larger crowd and there was less audience participation.  We found it educational and were heartened by the brain power on display and by the calibre of the arguments made against the aging bromides of neo-conservatism.  John Ralston Saul’s sense of Canadian history and the value he places on the relationship between democracy and the intelligence of the people is so nice to hear.

Metropolitan United Church was a good choice of venue.  Its community services efforts in the basement include a drop-in and meal program.  Open that day, it fed the homeless, provided referrals and other services to those in deep social difficulty, facing low income, personal problems, social exclusion …the very effects of inequality.

Doctors for Fair Taxation
Economic Inequality
nb: expired links 🙁

image: Metropolitan Methodist Church, (United), Toronto, 1896

(112) Wool hat

How cool is this dear readers?  One of suburban-poverty.com’s fine, talented, fans has knitted us a hat with our URL on it!!!  We were truly touched, charmed and delighted to behold this hand knit, funky wonder hat.

(110) Inequality forum

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

(106) Affordable housing via community land trusts

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

(93) Empire of Scrounge & Happy Neo Year

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

(83) 1 MILLIONth TOWER

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!