The Complex Mental Model of the Suburbs

the suburbs

It’s well established that the suburbs are bad for people’s health, the environment, mobility, and are associated with many other societal ills. However, amongst people who don’t live in the suburbs there is a profound distaste in sub-urban living that suburbanites don’t seem to understand. The revulsion people have to the suburbs predates our collective knowledge of the harm suburbs cause, so what is causing this disgust of the suburbs? That’s what Suzannah Lessard investigates in an essay in which she connects how we talk about (and conceive of) physical space influences our thoughts about it.

The problem with transcendence for progressives is that it is conservative in a profound way. I would venture that Howards End expresses a conservativism in Forster, in the sense of valuing what has accumulated over time, and the ways in which it can amount to something more than the sum of its parts, its uses, its price; a conservativism that was at odds with his progressive values yet could be expressed through a relationship to place depicted in Howards End; but only because that world was depicted as sufficiently obsolete that issues of power and status, of exclusion and exploitation, were not at play. The actual form of suburbia, in contrast, breaks up landscape into tiny pieces, spreading out indefinitely, undoing the pastoral terrain as context—as something larger than ourselves. It balkanizes an age-old archetype of providential order—much as most progressives would resist that quasi-theistic idea. The pastoral landscape is the last resort of secular humanists in search of a quiet expression of their sense of transcendence—and the suburban formation destroys that. Long-shot speculation? Well, yes. But maybe it opens a tiny chink in the mystery of suburbophobia.

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Closing Coal Plants Saves Lives

industry

Everyone already knows that burning coal for energy is absolutely horrible for the planet and were still learning just how bad coal power plants really are. The positive news is that once the plants are closed positive changes are quick to be found. A recent study found that shutting down coal power plants can be connected to the saving of 26,610 lives in the USA alone. There are other benefits too like cleaner air for plants, which in turns increases crop yields. This is yet more evidence that we need to do everything in our power to shutdown the use of coal.

An estimated 26,610 lives were saved in the US by the shift away from coal between 2005 and 2016, according to the University of California study published in Nature Sustainability.

“When you turn coal units off you see deaths go down. It’s something we can see in a tangible way,” said Jennifer Burney, a University of California academic who authored the study. “There is a cost to coal beyond the economics. We have to think carefully about where plants are sited, as well as how to reduce their pollutants.”

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How Architects are Responding to the Climate Crisis

Montreal

Architecture is all around us and most of us don’t even think about it. The built environment shapes how we think and provides (or denies) us with options on how to navigate the world and engage with it. This means that if we change the built environment we can change the planet. Years of thoughtless car friendly development have contributed greatly to the climate crisis and now architects are doing what they can to mitigate harm.

The Architects Declare Movement is Founded

In May, some of the world’s leading UK-based architects joined forces to call for industry-led action on the twin issues of climate change and biodiversity loss. The “Architects Declare” group includes firms such as Foster + Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, and Zaha Hadid Architects.

Utrecht’s 300 Bee-Friendly Bus Stops

In July, we reported that the City of Utrecht Council, in collaboration with advertising agency Clear Channel, has transformed 316 bus stops across the city into “bee stops.” The adaption involved installing green roofs onto the bus stops, creating bee-friendly spaces for the endangered species.

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A Union in the Kitchen will Improve Your Life

coffee

Thanks to the efforts of billionaires, and other corrupt individuals, union workers have been portrayed as lazy and inept. If anything, the opposite is true. Workers in unions have different goals than business owners insofar that workers just want to earn a good living while owners want to extract profit from consumers. Young workers today have noticed that the profit motive has left behind has the cost of living increase and wages remain stagnant. This has forced many young workers to unionize, and that unionization push is starting where a lot of young people end up working: kitchens.

Public opinion has recently swung in the other direction. Just over 10 percent of Americans are in a union now, considerably less than the 34 percent in 1954. However, more than half of Americans now say they view unions favorably, a number that has risen from around 41 percent since the recession. If there’s a silver lining to the ongoing decline of unionization, it’s that now, “membership in unions has gotten so low that people don’t even have a negative view of unions anymore,” Rogers says. There’s less of the cultural baggage associated with being in one, the slate has been wiped clean. Many of the organizers I spoke to said they’d never been in a union before, and either had no idea what they were about until recently, or a positive impression based on a dictionary definition of a union as a group of people with common cause arguing for their rights.

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Don’t Give Gifts this Year

coffee and chocolate

If you care about people and want to demonstrate that care through the acquisition of material wealth: stop. This holiday season you should try something different by not buying material gifts for those you love and get them something else instead, like tickets to a play. The spirit of gift giving is nice and all, but with the ongoing climate crisis we need to adapt to the reality of consumerism. There are plenty of alternatives to physical objects, all you have to do is look.

Sarah Herr, a project assistant for Living Green Barrie, based north of Toronto, is well aware of this. She recently held a workshop called “Greening the Holidays,” which included tips on how to help your family transition to greener gifting. Here are some of her suggestions:

  • Let them know you want to be more mindful about gift giving. You can do so by writing a post on social media or writing a Christmas letter or email to your loved ones, including how you are changing your holiday traditions to involve less waste.
  • Tell them why you are doing things differently. Let them know your concerns about environmental pollution, climate change and waste.
  • Provide alternatives. Your family will be much more likely to get on board if you let them know about new ways to give.

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