One of the editorial interns at suburban-poverty.com came across a fantastic resource today: The Atlas of Suburbanisms from Waterloo University. Just getting to say a word like suburbanisms brings a joy to our hearts, …let alone the content!
The content is, of course, what’s important and as a tool for literacy in Canadian suburbia this site is powerful stuff. The focus is Canada’s three largest urban-suburban agglomerations: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Other communities are also examined. The information is timely, well presented. The more we read, the more we look at the maps and tables and analysis the more impressed we are with this site. Part of the problem of understanding suburban life lies in the difficulty of agreeing to the language to apply to it. The Atlas of Suburbanisms takes us beyond this initial confusion, shows us what is there, …shows us ourselves!
Atlas of Suburbanisms
Making a choice between suburban living and some other kind, or even choosing to see much difference between the two at all, has been a proposition since the suburbs were born. Now, late in the day for cheap energy and E-Z money, the question is defined anew. Recently political actors in Toronto expressed both sides of the question in a place where the suburbs and the city are, if anything, becoming more alike. The amalgamation of the old downtown City of Toronto with its sprawlshed never really sat well with anybody and yet it seems the language for describing the differences between city and suburb is much weaker than it should be.
Raising children in the city vs the suburbs Huffington Post
Do the suburbs make you selfish? Time Business
A lot of the change in the suburbs is driven by change in the city. Toronto is among the five largest cities in North America and has a tower building boom going on that appears to outdo the others on the list combined. The idea of finding a family home in the central city or the inner, older suburbs of Toronto seems to be rapidly becoming obsolete for all but the wealthiest people. This brings Toronto into line with many other global cities where international financial muscle, physical geography, and high population growth rates shape life. This type of change pushes working people outward. The distance pushed goes up even more for those in social difficulty.
The ‘Manhattanization’ of Toronto will change family-housing dreams CBC
Food desert is one of the jarring terms for describing the lowered expectations marking life in suburbia during a time of contraction and economic weirdness. It refers to the difficulty in acquiring good, fresh, reasonably priced and varied food in a way not overly moderated by automobiles. For lower income people and the elderly this can get kind of awkward. Smaller towns outside the city and densely populated urban areas often host farmer’s markets and other food sources not found in suburbs where the groceries come home via the big-box-store-and-a-highway interface. Another feature of life not much considered as the Great Recession rolls along and things continue to change. At the link below there is an item relating to Vancouver, British Columbia. The author’s concerns about food deserts can translate to many, many more places of course.
Poor and elderly stranded in westside food deserts Vancouver Sun
Canada’s largest freshwater turtle: the Snapping Turtle. Watch out kids! Tory the Turtle is none too fast but he’ll take that hand clean off if he gets the chance.
We came across this item, the article not the turtle, in the National Pest the other day. It won’t be a shocker to any of suburban-poverty.com’s loyal readers to know that inequality and poverty is damaging to the general functioning of the economy and therefore harmful to the business interests and the political system that would appear to foster said poverty and inequality at every turn. That the piece was written by a mainstream political actor associated with the federal Liberal party is not that striking either. What we noticed were the snarky, unsophisticated comments from the general readership of The Pest. Of course, not all the comments are simplified neoconservative maxims delivered with spite. Nonetheless, we’ve seen such reactions all over the internet whenever economics is the topic at hand. It bothers us and worries us that so many of our fellow citizens are so cranky and touchy and childish in their ideas about economics and the nature of societal relations.
Why is it so tough for people to separate the personal from the social, the anecdotal from the general? We’ve come to conclude that most people commenting on economics and society are firstly giving vent to some emotional quirk, making a resentful statement primarily. See for yourself.
Scott Brison: If Canada doesn’t tackle income disparity, the economy will suffer
Destitution Day arrived June 7th. The new D-Day is a tool of Social Planning Toronto designed to help Canada’s largest, richest, busiest city understand where it is at regarding poverty. Put simply, this is the day a single person collecting social assistance runs out of money. So, no, in case you were wondering Destitution Day is not generating a lot of happy talk or positive feeling. The statistics about poverty contained in the report are pretty distressing. It is said that nearly all the wards of the city contain the equivalent of a small town living in poverty, even the one’s with the highest incomes. And yes, the suburbs are well represented.
Social Planning Toronto releases first-ever poverty profiles of the city’s 44 wards on Destitution Day Toronto Star
Twinned with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a shared heritage of steel making, the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario also grapples with the kinds of changes many cities in North America are facing. In the piece linked below, a Hamilton blogger and transit acitivist relates the issues of suburban change and decline to his city of just over 500,000 people at the western end of Lake Ontario. It’ll be interesting to compare how post-industrial Hamilton evolves in comparison to Toronto, the sprawling super-suburbanized mega city to the east. Whatever path Hamilton follows will be instructive to the whole region, both sides of the border.
We may be on the edge of an epochal migration Raise The Hammer
Descriptions of where suburbia is at call forth questions about its future. Some of the predictions of where it’s all going for suburbia are dire indeed. In a world of capital and energy problems the growth of suburbia is safely described as over. Does that mean we are looking at decay and contraction or adaptation? Is it possible that we’ll see an element of scrapping, reclaiming and recycling of the very fabric of suburbia? Maybe. There’s hundreds of thousands of tons, nay millions of tons, of everything from wood to asphalt to aluminium and copper out there. If it is deployed in a built environment that increasingly is either unsustainable or simply doesn’t meet human needs what will happen to it? Humans are inventive critters so we’ll probably see all three: adaptation, contraction and physical reclamation of useful materials.
With that in mind we’d like you to meet two guys already at it. Kenny Chumsky of New Jersey and a Canadian in southern Ontario named Jack-the-Scrapper. These dudes troll the suburbs garbage picking and scrapping. They live off the consumer insanity of suburbia but could easily have their way with the very bones and flesh of it without much difficulty we imagine. Kenny has a charming New Jersey accent and looks a little worse for wear, he doesn’t even don work gloves as he demolishes everything from TV sets to swing sets. Jack is younger and could easily be a comedian with his own reality show. He’s almost as funny as the Chief Publisher here at suburban-poverty.com. Jack doesn’t look half as rough as Kenny, …must be all that socialist public health care forced on him by his vile government. Either way, these two men are out there on the edge, testing the future one discarded cast aluminium barbecue at a time.
How to scrap metal from a TV: for copper, wire and aluminum Caution: awesome!
How to scrap a flat TV for cash $$$$ “I’m gonna hit that TV with this axe!”
If you live in a suburban area in North America you probably have noticed a serious rise in scrapping and garbage picking. Such things were staples of the economic life of developing countries and their visibility here probably speaks volumes. Copper wire is currently worth about $3.00 a pound and that is why the cords disappear from the toasters and video tape players that go out on garbage day. Pop cans and scrap aluminium is worth less than a dollar a pound. Other times scrappers repair or reuse objects and the internet abounds with tales of perfectly good stuff hauled out of the garbage. Outside the suburban-poverty.com office the first wave of scrappers in vans and pickups, often with trailers, rolls by mid-afternoon garbage day. There’s another wave around dinner time. Sometimes one around 20:00 and another at 23:00. Individual pickers and scrappers can cruise by at any time on garbage day. There’s a man nearby here who scraps on foot with a specially adapted baby buggy. Not something really anticipated when this grand, sprawling suburban creature was birthed officially in 1974.
A lot of the coverage of the last Canadian federal budget focussed on government layoffs and cuts to the CBC. Less attention has gone to the axing of what is called the National Council of Welfare. This is a small government advisory body that concerns itself with “any matter relating to social development.” With a broad, progressive mandate like that you know you are dealing with something created before the present age of neoconservative ignorance. Since 1969 the council has communicated with ministers about:
- income security programs
- child benefits
- the tax system
- income adequacy
- employment programs
- the justice system
- social services, such as child care and child welfare
- the cost of poverty
- specific populations such as children, lone-parent families and seniors
You’d have to wonder why such a focus is so offensive to the present government that they’d ditch an agency that provided them with insight into these areas. Can we assume that the Harper Tories, therefore, don’t care much about these things?
The second last item on the list above should be a bit of an eye catcher: the cost of poverty. NCW has published findings that show spending to reduce poverty would be expensive but would save Canada money because of the costs associated with poverty. This includes everything from crime to healthcare for mental illnesses caused by poverty. Duh! The neoconservatives project this image of being sensible, businesslike, no-nonsense types. If there were any truth in such imagery they would be all over NCW’s findings and doing everything they can to reinforce the council, not shut it down.
The dollars and sense of solving poverty
With poverty, the fun just never stops. Now, the automobile in North American popular culture is viewed as a great cultural leveller and class unifier. Montreal’s Department of Public Health just spent four years looking at motor vehicle accidents and guess what they came up with? The poorer your neighbourhood the more vehicular, pedestrian and cycling accidents take place and the more serious the nature of them.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
Wealth and traffic accidents: study shows poorer people many times more likely to be hurt