they call it snowy monday…

While it’s not really the first snow of the year, it seems our increasingly online existence is taking it’s toll. Especially when it comes to dealing with real time events like snow. Even the city of Montréal has succumbed to the “melting is part of our snow removal policy” much to the chagrin of several people on the receiving end. This time though, everybody getts involved as you can see below.

Certainly won’t be the last time, and won’t change bureaucratic minds interested in garnering publicity value. Otherwise it’s been a beautiful day and I can’t wait to share what I found tomorrow.

“if you don’t know where to start with sustainable development, start with women and girls, everything else will fall into place” Phumzile Mlambo~Ngcuka

While there are a great number of structural changes going on in the world at the moment, one thing has been consistently overlooked.  How do we come to terms with a global community that will not go away just because we wish it would; and how do we make it work in a stable and lasting way.

There has been trainloads of policy papers and books written on the issue. Bombs have been planted and fallen, bullets fired in protest and anger. Mobs have tried to force their hands and authorities have responded with plenty of covert and overt violence.

Institutions have been built on trying to get rich with solutions and interlopers have tried in turn to enrich themselves.

Meanwhile, a commonality of purpose and respect for one another has been constantly evaded. In it’s place we’ve had centuries of violence while trying desperately to forge a fantasy called ‘the new world’.

Maybe it’s time we step back and accept the world as it is. Maybe for once, we could return to addressing the realities of our situation with honesty, humility and compassion.

Individually we could ask whether we are being helpful to ourselves and those around us in the best possible way? Maybe ask for some guidance from a power not of our making?

These are the big questions in life that need answers; and the article I’ve cited above goes a long way towards a response.

Most problems in life are simple and are resolved when we lose focus on just ourselves. As humans we are gifted in this way,and it’s time we reached out and used it in our daily lives.

Maybe we could start by taking a look at the article above and maybe even bookmark it in our heart. We could return to it when we get lost and use it as a signpost to guide us in our lives?

click here for article on sustainable development goals in pictures

picture tuesday – crossing the line

 

 

 

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The Gardiner Expressway
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Harbourfront

 

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Harbourfront
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Harbourfront

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Harbourfront

In order to reach the foot of the city you have to find a way to mentally cross the Gardiner. And as a result, once across that line, you can rest firmly in a land of make-believe.

The downtown waterfront has been a place of dreams for as long as I can remember. The gritty socialist paintings of the 30’s. The smell of malt and sour mash and life. Boats and trains beckoning to faraway places. Goods flowing in and work being done. There was a visceral commitment to human progress and development. An unplanned vitality and exuberance even if it was ratty around the edges.

But there were other nascent dreams in the wings -mostly about how to accommodate more cars. And for quite some time, unless your average visionary was thinking about this idea, they weren’t a visionary they were a nuisance.

Somehow we were coerced into believing that a city of lively public thoroughfares was a city crammed full of cars.

Human industry, capital and street level commerce were discarded for a singular dream. Office space, condominiums and cars. What on earth could we otherwise need?

A rich and complex life gave way to a corporate shanty-town unable to reconcile itself with life on the street. Its absence replaced by carefully constructed dioramas. Public window-dressing dumped into every proposal with a promise of creating a glimpse of what real city life once was like.

No one foresaw or even cared where this was going. The sad result if you look around, is a tragic wasteland of half-baked ideas. A testament to complete inattention. A total lack of cohesive planning and the resulting desperate attempts to patch it up.

Meanwhile a little west of this district, Toronto has a rich and impressive history of waterfront development. The parks to the east are an inspiration as are the Islands, both places worth visiting for. The fantastic model of University Avenue. The original approaches to the CNE. They all could have set the score.

I don’t quite know what to say. Inspired planning is central to civic life. It’s not an individual project, it’s cohesive and human in scale. It creates space and room for things to flourish. Places where we don’t have to be reminded to walk with care, but instead can head out for a stroll.

 

 

foto friday – conventions

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There are certain places where you can mount your camera on a tripod, open the shutter, spin it around, and you’re bound to get a good picture.

Actually it’s a little more complicated than that, but case in point, the convention centre in Toronto was definitely one of the early anchors in the new developing core to the south of downtown.

When it was completed in 1984 it signalled the arrival of cargo cult culture in Canada and established Toronto firmly at its centre. Whether joining the trickle down/floats all boats ideology of the Thatcher-Reagan era or trashing history to make room for Fukuyama, we would embrace it all. Whatever washed up on our shores was fine by us.

The nifty practice of parcel-by-parcel development allowed this area to become an exciting innovation zone and a vibrant public environment with an aspirational, enviable pulse engaged in the urgent transformational undertaking of creating a neighbourhood where people live and work in the same place.

Of course there are the exciting investment opportunities too  ..Jus sayin’.

 

picture tuesday – those clever blue jays

 

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“the name SoCo mimics the district names of Soho in New York City and Soho in the West End of London”.

It’s fitting that the home of the Toronto Blue Jays was one of the first roosts to establish itself in the district South of the Business Core (SoCo). In an era when the city was obsessed with being ‘world class’; this noisy, bold and aggressive bird capable of mimicking powerful birds of prey, established itself as a symbol of the city and the area soon to be developed.

It’s habit of sitting hidden in a tree and advertising itself by screeching like a red-tailed hawk enables it to scatter the smaller songbirds from feeding stations in order to swoop in and have everything for itself. And like similar developers found throughout eastern United States and southern Canada, blue jays will not hesitate to mob and chase other birds in their territory in addition to raiding their nests.

Colourful and intelligent, Jays are also symbols of the dandy and the greenhorn. A person who cares too much about their clothing and personal appearance and a naive and inexperienced newcomer. Giving rise to the term Jay-walking, an epithet used in an aggressive campaign of labelling and scorning individuals that allowed modernizers to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong. All in all a fitting emblem.

 

 

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foto friday – anticlimactic-modern

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Over the next couple of weeks I will be featuring a series of pictures taken in the Soco area of Toronto. Toronto is a difficult city from many points of view. I lived there for a decade while I was developing my photographic skills and a great deal of my time was spent walking about the city day and night trying to understand what I was looking at, and seeing if I could capture it on film.

When I was young I eagerly waited to see the architectural rendering of a new project pasted above the hoardings. These bravely painted utopic scenes rendered with care and detail seemed to triumph over even the best works of socialist realism. They all promised tranquillity possibility and purpose. They were the giant calling cards of progress and provided compelling visual reinforcement that our proposed way of life would always be on the right side of history.

Once a project is complete and everyone moved in, the hoardings down and the surrounding traffic back to normal, no one sees that view again. Instead, it is added to this weird amalgamation of hyperbolic promotional material and media hype we carry around in our heads. Confronted with the real thing ‘in situ’ we only see the take away points. Connecting the dots is for dummies.

The area I walked through was once part of the Toronto harbour that was gradually filled in during the last half of the 1800’s and the first 20 years of the new century. The new land was necessary for railway lines that were rapidly replacing marine traffic. Industry and transport met at the foot of the city in a powerful testament to its importance and growth but when the economy faltered and then shifted mid-century, it was quickly and physically cut off by an ugly raised expressway so that it could languish and die out of sight.

Once dead, it has been the site of fevered reinvention as a cultural waterfront experience, an arts and entertainment district, a green transportation corridor, a transportation hub and a tourist destination.  Once relieved of its ‘stigma’ of railway and industrial heritage it has become a crushing hotspot of speculation and hype and the the development of vast tracts of very private and very expensive condominiums.

 

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