When Arianna Huffington sold her news aggregation site to Yahoo! we were concerned about what looked like another sell out of a smaller, interesting, independent entity to a mass media conglomerate. The jury is still out on that one but we think we all agree that socially conscious reportage certainly doesn’t hurt anybody’s image. Mind the Gap is a new ongoing feature on HuffPost’s Canada page. Among other poverty-enhancing things, it turns out that the increase in income inequality has jacked up the cost of housing for all income groups.
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.
A major guarantor of future suburban poverty (and of every other kind of poverty) is contemporary student debt. It must be getting pretty bad because during the last provincial election the Ontario Public Service Employees Union put up a bright red website all about it with the catchy name How Screwed Are You? This was downright feisty and the media are still taking notice of some of the harrowing stories of serfdom-at-twenty-five. With the Tories ascendant federally it only makes sense that Canadian politics and labour relations get amped up a bit. In the past Canadians were known as nice people who were ‘happy for no apparent reason.’ Think that’ll last another generation? Think there’s enough money in the tar sands to fix this one? Students! Find out how screwed you really are
Doesn’t take much for the dissonance to emerge from discussions of poverty and social conditions. Why in Canada, or elsewhere, is a big banker like Ed Clark so hard to find? Why is he the lone rebel, the challenger, the man sought out by high end business schools looking for nervy opinions and outside-the-box ideas about social issues? Goar: Business elite gets a reality checkToronto Star
While consuming an overpriced coffee product this morning we accidentally read part of today’s Globe & Mail. It was left behind on a table in a Barstuck’s coffee shop in Toronto’s financial district. The usual doom-and-gloom and consumerism filled the paper but we were heartened to see one article: a double pager with no ads about food bank use in every province. Maps and graphics made for factually solid reading. At suburban-poverty.com we are torn by media coverage of poverty. We are glad to see it and we hate to see it.
Ironically, we were on our way to Metropolitan United Church Community Services where participation in the Out-of-the-Cold program is under way. Thusly aligning the reality of the Globe piece with our own, however fleetingly. Curiously, we were chatting with several of suburban-poverty.com’s board of governors the other day and we remarked that when we were in Grade 8 there were no food banks, but there was this Prime Minister named Mulroney…
Here’s a recent feature from the Toronto Star about inequality. Written by J David Hulchanski, a university of Toronto social work academic, it notably takes up the language of the occupy movement. That movement may fade a little as winter weather sets in but suburban-poverty.com feels it is now a full contributor to the general discourse in the United States and the United Kingdom. In Canada it is not as developed. Mixed feelings about the banks do exist here but there is a genuine sense that the regulatory environment and the corporate culture in banks here deserve some moral credit for keeping us a little more secure than elsewhere.
Don’t get us wrong, the fact Canadian banks didn’t deliver us unto a foreclosure crisis or help themselves to even more of our money in the form of direct bailouts should probably not be viewed as a major favour. That goes double when you consider two more things. Firstly, “our” banks have been drawing on a major piece of real estate, the second largest country in the world for two hundred years so they can afford to be well regulated and like it along the way. Second, we bail them out indirectly every day in the form of transaction fees. Suburban-poverty.com’s treasurer was aghast the other day to have an ATM screen inform him of a new $1 charge for printing a statement the size of a modest convenience store receipt. All those “tips” add up, people.
Hulchanski’s article elaborates on an established concept, the emergence of three cities in the Greater Toronto Area. Basically it’s about the death of the middle class. Statistics, a graph and a map indicate the reality of suburban poverty in the fifth largest city in North America, Canada’s business capital and a vast area increasingly defined by, and living off of the avails of, suburban sprawl. The 99% know all about inequality
[statistics for 1970 & 2005 – projections for 2025]
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 Toronto Star
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.