To Revive Main Streets Let’s Make them People Focussed Instead of Business Focussed

Since the proliferation of big box stores and malls small cities have been struggling to keep their downtowns engaging and profitable for businesses. What if we rethought our downtowns to be about people and making a community instead of profit centres? That’s the very question a small city in the UK asked and found the answer was to make the city for people. They converted old stores to community spaces and sure enough more people kept showing up. Now their city is vibrant and businesses want to be there to capture all the foot traffic. If you put people first then the rest will follow.

The Stockton vision is to buy up, repurpose, restore and reconfigure the heart of the town, emphasising events, independent enterprise, green space and conviviality. As a glamorous statement of intent, in just over a fortnight one of the finest art deco theatres in Britain will reopen its doors. The Globe, a Grade II listed building, has stood derelict on the high street for a quarter of a century, rotting from within. Built in 1935, in its heyday it hosted the Beatles, Little Richard and Stevie Wonder. On 6 September, McFly will play the first gig of a new era, at the biggest venue of its kind between Newcastle and Leeds.

The cost of the lavish and exquisite restoration – funded by council borrowing and a lottery grant – soared close to £30m and has generated political pushback. But according to Claire Frawley, the council’s town centre development officer, it will provide jobs, a revitalised sense of place and a footfall of up to 200,000 visitors a year, acting as a regenerative hub for the new Stockton.

“People are desperate to get involved,” says Frawley, “they’re desperate to come and work here. There will be public tours soon, and the local demand is huge. This place is part of the town’s heritage and you can feel the pride.”

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Digital Violence Exposes NSO’s Tools Targetting Activists

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NSO made the news again due to their tools being used to spy on Bahraini and Hungarian activists, which obviously isn’t good. NSO is a cyber security organization that focuses on offensive rather than defence; they sell hacking tools and exploits to target individuals. Anyone with enough money can buy their attack tools, including rich individuals or companies. In Mexico their spying tool was used to intimidate campaigners asking the government to regulate sugar content in sofas.

We know spying on human rights activists is not good for anyone, and three organizations teamed up to expose how NSO supports such spying (and thus abuse). Forensic Architecture, Amnesty International, and Citizen Lab all worked together to create a neat website called Digital Violence which explores the complexity and reach of NSO’s tools.

First detected in 2015, the NSO Group’s Pegasus malware has reportedly been used in at least 45 countries worldwide to infect the phones of activists, journalists and human rights defenders. Having learnt that our former collaborators and close associates were hacked by Pegasus, Forensic Architecture undertook 15 months of extensive open-source research, interviews assisted by Laura Poitras, and developed bespoke software to present this data as an interactive 3D platform, along with video investigations narrated by Edward Snowden to tell the stories of the individuals targeted and the web of corporate affiliations within which NSO is nested. Supported by Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab, our analysis reveals relations and patterns between separate incidents in the physical and digital sphere, demonstrating how infections are entangled with real world violence, and extend within the professional and personal networks of civil society actors worldwide.

Check out digital violence.

One way to defend yourself from NSO group and other malicious agents is to keep your software up to date. Apple released a patch this week, so update your Apple devices.

A Kenyan Factory Turns Plastic Waste into Bricks

Nzambi Matee got tired of waiting for a solution to all the plastic waste she saw, so she created a company to deal with it. The material engineer opened a factory in Kenya where they turn plastics which can’t be recycled (with traditional methods) into bricks. She designed a concoction of hard plastics and sand to create a solid brick which has a comparable price to stone bricks. This is a neat solution to a global problem, her one factory has processed 20 tones of plastics since 2017!

“Our product is almost five to seven times stronger than concrete,” said Matee, the founder of Nairobi-based Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastic waste into durable building materials.

“There is that waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get,” Matee said, strolling past sacks of plastic waste.

Matee gets the waste from packaging factories for free, although she pays for the plastic she gets from other recyclers.

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A Real Smart City Lacks Smart Technology

Intersection

A few years ago Silicon Valley mega corps thought all cities should be made “smart” by tracking all citizen data. There was a concentrated effort by Google to violate privacy rights in Toronto and bullying the city into a finance deal which only benefit the advertising giant. Torontonians protested and the company backed out.

In Columbus, they ran a well funded research project into the smart city only to discover that the “smart” aspects showed mediocre results. We already have solutions to most problems cities face like mass transit and better funded health services. It’s time to fund the boring, old, not “smart” solutions in our cities.

Now it’s clear that private firms can’t predict the future of cities and may not have their best interests in mind. Davis says Columbus’ selection led to a flood of proposals from companies that ultimately proved difficult to manage, and “at times distracting.” Meanwhile, Uber (and Lyft) have pulled out of autonomous vehicles, notably after an Uber testing vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Google sibling Sidewalk Labs promised in 2017 to construct a sensored-up neighborhood of the future in Toronto. But it killed the project last year amid the pandemic and a bitter political battle with privacy advocates and local groups and developers.

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These 100 Debates Could Decide the Canadian Election

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Canadians are about to vote in the country’s 44th election and this election may finally be the moment when the nation votes thinking about a green future. From coast to coast to coast in the country there will be local debates about the environment and what the candidates will do to protect their ridings. These 100 debates are back after the very successful first run of the format last election. The debates are run by GreenPAC which is an organization that wants people to care about having a sustainable and healthy future.

Providing a forum for voters to make informed decisions and for candidates to clearly communicate their policy plans are key, he added.

Laurel Collins, another returning debate participant and the NDP’s environment and climate change critic, said hundreds of people attended the 2019 debate in Victoria, B.C.

“It was such an important conversation for community members to hear from candidates about this critically important issue,” said Collins. “It’s so critical that candidates hear from community members about the issues that are most important to them.”

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