Category Archives: Environment

You can’t do that.

picture-41I just read something nice.
It simply proved something I thought true, but that I was told is impossible.
You see, being at Phog, it’s not uncommon to wax futuristic and wonder what the world might hold for us (or vice versa).
When the topic got to cars, and how we’re making vehicles in Windsor that few consumers want anymore, even the artists (lefties) at the bar were nagging, “Well, what the hell can they do to them? Huh? Nothing!”
“Well guys, what if Windsor was a city that decided they didn’t like the status quo. What if people ditched their cookie-cutter cars for older cars, the ones they used to make with steel…and had them retro-fit with eco-friendly parts, making them not only road-safe, but more environmental than ever…maybe even making them electrical? Imagine what the streets would LOOK like! You wouldn’t look out of a window and see what EVERY North American sees. You’d see something unique! And it would all be in part to the engineering and manufacturing prowess in this city!”
Bucky, a local enviro-guy, brilliant guy, was the actual person who hatched this idea some weeks and weeks earlier. I loved his idea. Preserving the past, but doing one better and making something new and refreshing to the eye while blowing a kiss to Mother Nature at the same time.
The people at the bar, most times I reintroduce Bucky’s idea for the sake of dreaming, almost always get out of sorts and try to think of all the ways this idea can’t work.
As a matter of habit, this is how my community OFTEN approaches new ideas and concepts about absolutely anything. They think of all the ways it can’t work before they think of all the ways it can. I can’t be sure, but I wonder if they are just talking themselves out of participating if it ever DOES happen.
This frustration has guided me to some new groups of folks who foster and develop new ideas. Thanks to you, you know who you are…

But back to this article I read at the beginning of this post.
HERE’S THE LINK TO IT.
Apparently, there is a company in the US who is way ahead of us, and WAY ahead of the naysayers I lock eyes and wits with almost every shift.

They take gas guzzlers, and make them more acceptable vehicles. Old, new, whatever.
The working class in Windsor could do this in their sleep. I wish the creative spirit drove someone to these lengths. I don’t feel it’s my obligation to “find” the right people and get them fired up to start a company doing this, because SO MANY people in this city could do this work. It would be wonderful if they’d just emerge on their own, and shock this motor city under their own volition, like the company currently doing so in the United States.

I really never listen to anyone who tells me, “You can’t do that,” anymore.

Winter Biking

picture-3No, I don’t use my bicycle in the winter.
No way.

Why not? Well, I look at the dudes on their bikes, huffing and puffing on clear-road days, wearing a mixture of Mountain Equipment Co-op gear with a hodge-podge of knitted hats and scarves or balaclavas with mismatched gloves…and they look like they had to spend 20 minutes getting dressed for their ride. Also, some folks have these super-pants (all I can think to call them) with seemingly light jackets. They look like they’re going to freeze. But likely, their jacket is some sort of ultra dense polymer-mix weather-resistant beast that MUST’VE cost a fortune.

So I have to either look like a Value Village on two wheels or pay through the nose to justify riding my bike 20km every work day.

Well, I began feeling like both of these two options is totally worth it. Worth the money or worth the look.
Last night, reading some older issues of Spacing Magazine, I was dumbfounded by some of the statistics about cars. Not the pollution. Forget that for a second. Just the space these things need is silly. Parking where you live, parking where you shop, parking where you’re going, and almost for FREE.
The author of one of the article postulated that raising the cost for parking WAY UP would only serve to discourage car rides when walking or biking is a doable option. I kind of love this idea. A lot (pardon the pun – hahaha). If you live in Boston and you want to go downtown, you may pay $50 for a day of parking. I can already hear the conversations of people anticipating this cost, “Screw that! Let’s take the subway, or the bus.”

Yes, Windsor would need a respectable transit force before any of this was possible, but I like the idea of discouraging car use by intimidating the wallets of the users. Should NO ONE have cars? No. I don’t think that. In fact, the idea of car-sharing in Toronto and New York, and other cities is hugely intriguing too. The bummer of car sharing, and many of these forward thinking shifts in transportation ar that they have to start in MAJOR urban centres…unlike Windsor. We get to sit around and wait for these initiatives to get used, proven, popular, and then passed on…

Parking is such a stupid thing, when it’s examined in terms of space. I fully plan on mapping all the parking downtown on a Google Map. All of the dead, mostly unused or underused space. I always hear that there’s no parking downtown from people, especially in the Windsor Star Letters to the Editor, but what they mean is that there’s not enough FREE parking. Like at Devonshire Mall. They want downtown to be a mall. FREE!! Well, the mall wants you to drive from the moon and back to get their stuff. I think the goal of urban retail and entertainment spaces should be to expect fewer cars and less traffic in areas of retail. I mean, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it has been proven to improve business when traffic is significantly lowered in urban areas.

I digress. I wanted to look at something I seem to remember from when we first opened Phog Lounge. There was a discussion about paying for parking, as a business owner, for any parking space that we, the business, could not provide to the customer. If we didn’t have a huge lot attached to us, we would (supposedly) pay for enough spots, corresponding to our capacity. How in the hell is this making sense? The business owner is being penalized because of the HUGE space-gobbling vehicles that people drive to their business? And for me, I have tons of customers who WALK, drive scooters and bikes, and don’t USE parking spaces on the street, in the lot, or anywhere. I think this kind of gouging for the city to offset infrastructure costs is just dumb. If they want to discourage cars from overloading downtown or their BIA, don’t charge the small-business owner, charge the person who chooses to drive alone in a car designed to tow, pull, carry way more than it is ever used to do.

Which brings me back to the bike thing. I just keep realizing how dumb cars are, in the capacity that they are currently used. They don’t get to use their speed (congested traffic), space (single drivers are rampant), power (moving one person only and almost never transporting goods), and are becoming more and more silly. They are, obviously, way more of a status symbol and inhibitor of exercise and connecting to the environment around us.

Jane Jacobs has suggested that as people think trucks get in the way, it is in fact cars that are in the way of trucks. Trucks employ people, they move goods, and they are economic pluses. Cars are buzzing around, taking up WAY more space than needed (which is extraordinarily expensive), and they are not contributing financially the way trucks do. If trucks were the road owners, and loads of cars left the roads, it would actually improve environmental situations with fewer vehicles on the road (less congestion, less idling). Which would beg the question…if we were a city who thought progressively, and we raised prices for parking, reduced car use, implemented a solid transit system, and consolidated our interests in a less-sprawling nature, and trucks were the kings of the road (the few bits and pieces that would still be in use), where in the heck would the next bridge crossing go? What would be made of the DRIC/Greenlink stuff? Where would it make sense to put it then? Hmmmm….

As for biking…I am anticipating warm weather LIKE CRAZY so I can bike to work every day. But should I wait? How much will I have to pay to outfit myself with warm gear that will keep me dry? Where would I buy this stuff? Why isn’t there a bigger bicycle persona in this area? I know lots of cyclists who tell me about all these other HUGE cycling enthusiasts and bike shop owners, but they’re almost invisible when it comes to encouraging new riders, bike education (like what the hell to wear in the winter), etc. Maybe it’s just me, but I had to almost fall into this biking thing by watching Phog customers biking and praising it. Where are the leaders of Windsor’s bike movement hiding? They should be prominent, respected, and referred to when discussing city planning and other such important issues.

My wife and I are seriously considering getting rid of a car from this two-car, two-person household. Save money, get healthy, get connected to the environment. Anyone want to help? I just feel so stupid rolling around in a car these days.

Green Shift in Detroit?

picture-5I listen to Detroit Today (on WDET 101.9FM) most mornings. It’s right in my wheelhouse between my writing hour and my Phog band-booking hour.
Today, from the time I turned on the stereo, Quinn Klinefelter was interviewing Rick Bowers. The City of Detroit has created its first office of Energy and Sustainability. Rick Bowers is the new chief of that project.

I was audibly laughing in my living room (even being stuffed-up) because they were talking about bringing green collar jobs to Detroit, and how incredibly attractive the City of Detroit is to people wanting to make these changes. I laughed because their conversation consisted of precisely the bits I was able to cram into my little Windsor Star article the other day.

And for some reason, I doubt that Quinn Klinefelter will get the responses I got on the Windsor Star website such as:

We need to abolish the WTO and NAFTA. Then we can start a green industry. The way China keeps its regulations illegally low compared to us makes it so all manufacturing goes there. E-waste goes there, so why wouldn’t “green collar” jobs? We are overlooking the structural problems in our country and think that environmentalism will solve it all when it has nothing to do with it. The bankers control everything with their fractional reserve banking.

or

To Tom: Manufacturing will never stay here because labor can be done cheaper in China. What we need is to setup recycling plants here to recycle e-waste, but right now that stuff goes to China. We have to take care of the financial structural imbalances (China’s keeping their currency/labor/enviro laws lower than ours) before we dream of setting up a green industry. Wake up Tom. We do not buy your humanist agenda to depopulate the city of Windsor thru scaling down.

or

Global warming is a fraud. Tens of thousands of scientists signed the oregon declaration to prove it. The earth goes thru cold and hot spells and this is normal. Water vapor is more of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is, but you know why they chose carbon? Because you breathe it! Eventually they will tax life itself if we get a carbon tax. Don’t be an extremist, please.

or

The green concept is based on putting the economy first, like to building a park to save it (instead of just letting it be.) By that (foolish) definition, that won’t work after the “big 3” leave. Ironically though, the air will be cleaner, and the poor will still be poor.

I mean, these comments are completely welcomed, as they get conversations started, but I have an extremely hard time getting into the mind-space of these people. I mean, when you hear about people wanting to bring green collar jobs to Windsor or Detroit, how can you think of China? Green industry jobs (installing solar panels, cleaning up toxic spills, landscaping/urban gardening, organic farmers, tidal/wind/solar energy farm technicians, etc.) are grassroots in design. Green thought is local thought. If a green energy push is made, China is the last place people are looking to go IF (big if) they have an infrastructure and a willing local government to implement these kinds of objectives.

Sure they make TONS of solar panels in China. No one here has made enough of a push to lure in these companies. Bitterfeld Germany certainly has, and look at them!

I think people find an issue they have a feeling about, and then they try to connect any given topic or story to their agenda, and then they harp on it at every chance. They have a pre-formed view of anything “green” and when they see it pop up, they go into their mantra about NAFTA, China, or what-have-you. You can’t please everyone, I get it, but to go off on a tangent about the WTO and NAFTA, when what I’ve written is clearly about is self-sustainability using local people to create LOCAL solutions…People are so funny!

I thought it was funny that this discussion was happening on WDET, which for some Star readers, might be a “more legitimate source” than some kid on The Scene page. I just wish that more Windsorites were dialed-in to this movement, which is not as hidden and unknown as it once was in the past. What can I do to make this clearer? Deliver the New York Times to every house in the city for free for a week so they can see how many of these positive changes are happening…written by the most reputable news source I can think of?
Who knows?

To hear more about this idea of greening the crappier parts of the country…the hurting urban spaces…see Majora Carter’s TED Talk here

But beware naysayers!!! There are NEW IDEAS on this website! Aaaaahhhhhhhhh!
By the way, this is one of the best websites I have ever visited.

Windsor Star runs Majora Carter article.

I woke up on Monday morning to an e-mail from Jhoan.
There was a link to a website.
She said, “There’s a big photo of you with your story,” or something like that.
And I thought, “What story?”

You see, I wrote something for The Windsor Star a while ago, around the time I wrote my blog post about Majora Carter (Sustainable South Bronx).

When it didn’t run in the paper within a month of my sending it to the editor, I thought it was rejected.
In actuality, it was being held for a proper day.
It was brought back into the sun on this past Monday, possibly because since I wrote the article (about the green collar job creation in the South Bronx and the constant loss of blue collar jobs locally) it has more immediate relevance.

It was just a very nice surprise to see this baby in the paper, and not lost.

If you want to see the article, here it is.
It was a great feeling, and I thought I’d share it.

Barry Furlonger, David Dubois: This week’s NIMBY

picture-44Well, we recorded another show, and again it felt as though Adam and I are finding our timing. It seems to be getting smoother and smoother with each show. Again, we produce/host NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) on CJAM.

We both remarked at how much we enjoy producing and airing the show, to the extent that we want to carry on this project as far as possible.

This week, Adam interviewed David Dubois of the band The Locusts Have No King. Dave has also been a massively proficient singer/songwriter for quite some time, and this interview was centred around the release of a new full length CD due out in January. The bits I heard on the show today were fantastic!

Me…I interviewed Barry Furlonger, executive director of The Downtown Mission. My interview with Barry was MUCH longer than the edited version on the show, which left a lot of usable, viable content on the digital cutting-room floor. So, I will first post the archived version of today’s Not In My Backyard, and then I will post the full, unedited interview I did with Barry for those of you who want to know/hear more about the Downtown Mission.

Thanks to all those who listened to the show live today!

Here’s the link to the extended interview with Barry Furlonger of The Downtown Mission!

Here’s the link to today’s NIMBY!

Night and Day: Big Walk

When Pina from windsoreats.com heard about Big Walk, she was adamant that we walk down Indian Road.

I had no interest in the street, especially. I had never been down Indian Road before. I knew that the Bridge Company was doing some questionable things on Indian Road, buying up houses in order to demolish them…building a second span from Windsor to Detroit. I also knew that the City of Windsor was trying to prevent this from happening.

The result is several blocks of homes, mostly abandoned (owned by the bridge folks), boarded-up, looking like we live in a hurricane delta, preparing for a storm-front. They will stay this way until the city budges, and they are knocked down for a new bridge.

Conversely, we walked down Victoria Avenue. This is a street we can be proud of, exhibit, and share, as the houses on this street are incredible relics of a more prosperous time in Windsor.

I must say though, both of these streets elicited strong feelings from many of the Big Walkers.

Enjoy some more video and audio discussion (particularly about the Indian Road fiasco).

More to come!

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1512114&dest=-1]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1512275&dest=-1]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1512784&dest=-1]

Coincidence

picture-43Not many weeks ago, with the Big Walk, I became aware of a guy from Windsor named Shawn Micallef. You see, I knew he existed beforehand, because I saw him regularly at Phog with some of my current patrons/friends.

What I did not know was that he was heavily involved in some amazing projects, including pshycogeography, Spacing Magazine (Associate Editor), and Murmur. Murmur being the most outstandingly wonderful story-telling concept I heard about when I was 20 or 21.

But Spacing magazine was something being tossed at me (conceptually) by several people. Some knew Shawn was involved, and others had no idea who Shawn was, but they knew Spacing Magazine. I was being referred to this magazine, because surely if I was interested in taking a crazy-long walk, I was a fan of the things this magazine stood for. Here’s what their website says:

“Public space is at the heart of democracy. It’s where people interact, teach, learn, participate, and protest.

But environmental degradation, commercial self-interest, and infrastructure neglect have come to dominate our cities’ streets. Fortunately, imaginative and passionate city-dwellers worldwide — and in Toronto in particular — appreciate the endless possibilities that cities can offer. They are resisting the co-option of their communities through random acts of beauty and intellect.

Inspired by these actions, we launched Spacing in December 2003 to cover the numerous political, cultural, and social issues affecting our lives in the public realm. We want the magazine to be an integral, independent, and unique voice that brings to life the joys and obstacles surrounding Toronto’s public spaces.

This city is a special place — we’re excited by its people and its neighbourhoods, its sidewalks and its graffiti. Spacing is here to help our readers understand and take ownership of Toronto’s urban landscape.”

Fast forward a bit, to when Chris Holt tells me that he has a pile of these magazines at his house.

“I can bring ’em to you if you want ’em,” he said. So I was totally revved about finally seeing this magazine, and secondarily, putting it out for my customers to consume at Phog. Maybe we get a little leakage from the pages of this magazine about CARING about your city and DOING things rather than harping, bitching, and whining. We’ll see in due time.

So I began reading the mags, but damn-near every article is fascinating, and I know it will take a while to get through these babies. I did, however find an article less than 6 hours after writing the blog post about the Downtown Mission and the possibility of them having their own organic garden on municipal land. (By the way, I got a ton of comments on this post form people who are musicians etc., who I know for their music primarily, but who are doing this VERY thing in other parts of the county…teaching food education through hands-on participation, an THEN donating food to food banks! Getting the word out there is amazing. The results of outreach can really open your eyes.)

The article I found in Spacing read like a question and answer, with the first question and answer giving me all the convincing I needed to decide whether it’s possible for The Downtown Mission to do this kind of project. Interview by Matthew Hague.

Nick Saul is the Executive Director of The Stop Community Food Centre, an organization in the Davenport West neighbourhood whose range of services include a food bank, workshops, and community kitchens…

Spacing: What are the opportunities that exist within the city to produce more locally grown, nutritious food?

Saul: I am a big believer that we should take every green space we have and turn it into food production. I think we should be growing food in our backyards, in our front yards, on our balconies. The Stop has an 8000-square-foot garden at Earlscourt Park where we grow about 3000 pounds of organic produce that comes back into our many programs, and it’s an exciting example of what you can do with green space in the city. Parks aren’t simply there to walk in and smell the flowers; you can actually turn some of that land into food production, and support our communities with healthy food.

Well holy crap.

Need I print more?