The Junction Scoping Study

Submitted: September 25th, 2010

Sample from Part One Introduction Presentation.

Sample from Part One Introduction Presentation.

A multi-part studio project that stepped through the scoping study of a specific Toronto neighbourhood — in this case, The Junction area in the west-end.

Contributors:

Abby Besharah

Justin Cheng

Peter Giampa

Christopher Evan Jones

Michael Kozlowski

Brandon Langille

Natalie Lindsay

Personal Contributions:

Maps

Presentation Design

Lynch Image Mapping

 

Download Part One: The Junction

 

The Pickering International Airport: 40 Years of Regional Planning

Sample of the report

Sample of the report

Submitted: November 10th, 2010

Group assignment on the policies reflecting land-use and the controversial Pickering Airport plans.

Contributors:

Abby Besharah
Daniel Gordon
Christopher Evan Jones
Brandon Langille

Personal Contribution:

Layout / Design

Timeline Graphic

History, Analysis & Conclusion

Abstract

Since 1972, a number of attempts have been made to create a second international airport to service the growing GTA region. While the first attempt to establish a multi-nodal air transportation system within the region failed in 1975 due to failing political support and the changing socio-economic atmosphere of Canada. The need to alleviate future air capacity issues has become critical to the local and national economy. Local municipal airports are experiencing pressure for redevelopment, and limited operational capacity is advancing their eventual closure. Final attempts to maximize capacity at Pearson International are soon to be completed, so that action on the Pickering Airport Lands – an area north-east of Toronto under federal control for 38 years – has become a front-burner issue for planners and aviation policy makers in recent years.
It is important that remnants from the past do not go unheeded. Planning around four levels of government, some spanning multiple territories directly from land implications or indirectly through noise and air pollution can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Not taking lessons from history and understanding the full implications of externalities, this initiative could once again fail for the same reasons as 35 years ago. It risks becoming detrimental to the development and strength of local, regional, provincial and national economic engines implicating many industries including trade, tourism and housing.
Complicating this process is the exponential development of surrounding towns that once made this airport location so desirable. Developing business clusters, such as the high-tech industries in the westerly Markham region and the automotive industry to the east in Oshawa both require new support structures to continue growth or maintain their current trajectory. The introduction of environmental conservation policies and smart growth initiatives monetizes the surrounding lands rapidly, and places pressure on municipalities to continue with the current plan or declare it a finally dead proposal.

 

Download the Pickering International Airport assignment

 

Winning Hearts and Minds: How New Media has changed the Face of Democracy

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

 

I.         Existential Democracy

Technology has the intrinsic ability to alter and transform society – from the advent of the written word, public discourse, en masse publications, industrialisation and digitisation; each has demanded dramatic shifts in how we both commune and develop (Burns, 2010). Control of knowledge has become a valued and intangible commodity and has the ability to educate, influence and sequester public sentiment (Pink, 2005). New Media through the Internet has removed the temporal and spatial limitations on knowledge that once allowed for direction, control and sober aforethought once privileged to the leaders of state and industry – and has become a formidable weapon in the hands of proponents for change (Negroponte, 1995). Ignoring or discounting the power of the collective individual’s capacity for change has recently toppled long-standing regimes and stifled engrained organizations and reshaped the public eye in manners and speeds never seen before. It is up for governments to no longer attempt mitigation but adapt policies and function to meet the heavy demands of the common while preparing for an ever-dynamic public opinion. The failure to do so can lead to the dramatic collapse within the global social fabric and allow for societal shifts and abnormalities spawned from once fringe groups that have entered under the spectre of libertarianism to hide their true agenda or leave dangerous power vacuums in its wake (Howlett, Ramesh & Perl, 2009).

 

II.        Redefining Socialisation

Previous to the digital revolution, social development was moulded by four major proponents of society: Family, Peers, School and Media (Brym & Lie, 2009). While Arnett (1995) once argued the value of Self-Socialisation through self-reflection of media selection, the concept fell short as under conventional media since the self-selection was based between controlled information sources that upheld common morals and mores and designed to generate a solid audience in the hopes to maintain consensus or a return on investment (Crust, 2010). The Internet has changed the capital expenditure for knowledge and information dissemination by removing the requirements for physical real-estate, academic prowess and governmental regulations that are demanded from other forms of media – such as print, radio or television (Weinberger, 2002). Also, without direct appeal from advertisers to maintain a well-grounded and holistic audience in which to portray a given message, more individuals are able to provide their own specific brand of opinion without social warrant or monetary backlash (Robinson & Martin, 2010). Web search engines are used to source material-based knowledge not on relevance, but relation – how many people link to the information regardless whether in an a negative or positive light (Wakeford, 2004) – and because opinion is now relational and not rational, once rare or limited voices can have as much weight on the Internet then that of well-established institutions (Weinberger, 2002). This, however, also leads to questions of the quality, if not validity of said information. Without the requirement to maintain respect or authority, more biased or manipulative information is readily available and anonymity allows for competing views or usurpation of knowledge that can hoodwink the observer for personal gain or malicious mean (Weinberger, 2002).

 

More than ever, the Internet has become our sole source for sharing knowledge, far outweighing other social actors. This is attributed to its ability to be bi-directional, non-exclusive and global with utmost immediacy (DiMaggio, et al., 1996). Many young adults today have only known a world where information was conveyed in a manner not construed by states or corporations and were rarely exposed to well-rounded, unbiased mass media that sought to encourage public discourse through balanced reporting and considered all points-of-view (Machi and George, 2009). There are less restrictions to participation and inclusion in the development of dialog from a broad-base cohort of society; that changes the direction and quantity of ideas – but quality may indiscriminately alter the direction of policy through fallacy or mob-mentality (Calhoun, 1998); As well, the sheer amount of information, both personal, collective and available with such immediacy has led many to focus limited attention to sources that are more akin to our like-mindedness, stifling the ability to seek out alternate opinion and thus harming personal objectivity; and finally the speed in which ideas and discourse develops and may be shared undermines our ability to absorb and relate information in a meaningful, self-constructed manner – a privilege once obtained through written word and thoughtful well-structured education. The speed and range of information to envelop the world has led to a modern, digital agora that has allowed individual voice and opinion and redefined social attitudes (Robinson & Martin, 2010).

 

III.      The Global Village

Increased globalisation along with adapted technology has rendered the physical borders between nations inconsequential – or fuzzy at best – with the economy being the driving force behind the success of states and their governments integrated by trans-national corporations and ostensive trade (Howlett, Ramesh & Perl, 2009). First, with the riots that started in the Middle East against longstanding authorities began not only over oppression and limited civic liberties but driven by the disillusionment of highly-educated and underemployed generation marginalised by increasing costs of commodities controlled by global consumption and financial speculation (Homer-Dixon, 2011). Food, a basic necessity for life and economically private good is tied to the overall capacity of the world to produce, deliver and provide effectively – making it extremely elastic to changes in the price of oil or the effects of climate change in other nations (Tenenbaum, 2008) – even if on the other side of the world. Without stability and capacity to excel fiscally, many are felt to feel socially trapped and looking for somewhere to place the blame. Second, as the world became more connected, knowledge and information have become powerful commodities – propelling demand for hackers and terrorists to use information garnered on the Internet to corrupt, defraud or instil fear. Governments are not immune to the effects of open access to information, as seen in the example of the recent Wikileaks scandals and discourse over transparency verses national security.

 

Finally, one of the major issues of globalisation and the potential of new technology is the Digital Divide (Guillén & Suárez, 2005). While as such technologies as film and radio leveraged social engagement during the World Wars and television was the backbone for anti-war sentiment during the Vietnam conflict, they remained property of a well-established estate. The Internet is no exception for the capacity it possesses for change, but more potently so as the message becomes more independent, expedient and holistic (Weinberger, 2002).  It has allowed for once geographically-divided groups and individuals to coalesce and alter social policy and has greatly increased exposure and communication. At first, however, the outlay for Internet connection to was limited to available physical and fiscal capital (Norris, 2001, Couldry, 2004) and while governments are usually elected by the whole; digitally, a divided opinion may appear with only the elite holding the ability to purchase and maintain access. Through leapfrogging technology, once marginalised citizens in countries can now afford access and are not only connecting with new or similar voices within a the nation that conventional media may not have the ability (Falk, 1999) – or was disallowed to – and it has opened new windows to expatriates in other nations who may have more exposure to quality and accurate information. The immediacy of exposure to information has been transformative and traditional media has attempted to catch-up and compete with the growing popularity of new media. Unfortunately, they are also working with less capital from more spread advertisers – cutting analytical research and eroding their objectivity in exchange for an increased and more captive audiences (Weinberger, 2002).

 

IV.      Mitigation or Adaptation

So where do agents of the state turn for resolution? Egypt, with the removal of access to the specific uses of the Internet site only propelled sentiment against the ruling party and by example of technological capacity, innovation quickly adapted to the lack of communication by usurping older and more established media – through the telephone – to reconnect the people. Libya’s staunch control over media focused more attention on activities there because of such secrecy, but also resulted in misreporting that elevated world concern and might have turned initial reaction erratically negative in the first weeks of protest. Both nations, however, through there actions lost key and burgeoning Western diplomatic ties to the Americas and Europe almost immediately, flip-flopping international policies in many states within a staggering short period of time (Klapper & Lee, 2011). Blocking other forms of media and specifically arresting those who attempt to report on the situation only encouraged further world interest and disdain (Weinberger, 2002). Long utilized methods of controlling and limiting democratic discourse to maintain the power of the state worked on in the opposite, eroding power further, faster and harder as hard powers are now competing with more versatile and encompassing soft powers (Schiller, 1996).

 

Conventional media outlets, such as television and newsprint have evolved to include tools of social media, from reliance on individual citizens or freelance reporters and blog postings to twitter feeds to provide breaking news from locations with expedience and without spatial limitations (Machi and George, 2009). With advertisement revenues dropping, choice and attention spans rapidly inversing, and viewer- and readership coming a rare commodity; media outlets look towards convergence as a method to balance travel and human resource budgets and still keep an edge over growing competition (Miller, 2004). But the cost of expedience is experience and reflective aforethought on what and who to report on – and why. Politicians rely on the media to provide the social breadth of opinion in order to drive policy. If the resources at their disposal are unsubstantiated, weak in objectivity or wrought with bias, can leaders of nations accurately reflect what the common sentiment may be or make decisions that understand the minority position or reflect the greater good of society? (Sens & Stoett, 2002)

 

 

VI.      Neo-Liberalism and Hyper-Pluralism

Recently, movements in both North America and Europe have captured the new individualism people have obtained from the Internet along with disaffection due to economic wasting through the recent recession to leverage growing idealism or toward far-right policies. From Obama to the Tea Party movements in the United States, Neo-Conservatism in the United Kingdom and Harper Government and Ford Nation movements here in Canada, once fringe political movements have captured sentiment to curry their own favour, capitalising on the perception of self-control and using the very tool that provided that capacity to communicate their message (Rohlinger & Brown, 2009). Latching on new found freedoms of expression, these movements have placated individual concerns through directional messaging via new media, garnering support from fringe groups and convey a mushy-middle of policy development that feels inclusive but is rather, in fact, deceptive in design. The notions and draw of power have not changed – but capturing and maintaining it have – diminishing concrete action and transformative measure in lieu of populous ideals and voter manipulation (Sens & Stoett, 2002).

 

New Media has opened a window of opportunity for marginalised groups and the ability to wield its power effectively can make-or-break a campaign.  Focusing on individuals or groups of individual concerns directly to the media sources they more commonly connect can create a custom policy platform which plays on a self-centred narcissism and draws more support. This has removed the traditional method of election where representatives of a localised area are elevated by those citizens to champion for their specific needs and values. This does not only draw on national ideologue, but globalisation has also allowed for supranational paradigms to develop and influence local campaigns regardless or originating state (Unger & Waarden, 1995). The danger of this is the creation of an epistemic culture that can greatly erode the ability of people to respond to dramatic social, economic and environmental issues with creative or innovative ways (Hearn & Rooney, 2002).

 

VII.     The Faceless Voice

In the new eDemocracy, special interest groups and even individual voices have a level playing field to provide discourse once awarded to the social, political and academic elite (Machi and George, 2009). New forms of socialisation which has allowed for true self-socialisation and option to select and voice personal opinion have designed a society with an inwardly-facing mentality that demands satisfaction at a micro-scale and the power to achieve it. Policy makers and statesmen will have to adapt and integrate new technologies (Robinson, 2011) into longstanding institutions in order to maintain the liberal-democracy that has propelled economic and social development and cope with the adverse effects of globalisation. Public opinion and perception has become exceptionally fluid and occurs almost immediately while disseminated over a more broad and vast audience than ever before. The Internet has allowed new voices to crowd out the prior agents that drove social policy and, in effect, socialisation – with little indication to state agents to fully understand or comprehend the direction of will or intent. Nations, politicians, corporations and institutions now are at the very whim of a connective, but not necessarily collective, social conscious changing forever how local, national and international politics is conducted and won (Falk, 1999). While this may lead to a more democratic world in the truest sense of the word, it will leave government ineffective and unable to function within a politically-, socially-, economically- and environmentally-changing world (Sens & Stoett, 2002).

 

 

A.        References

Arnett, J. (1995). Adolescents’ Uses of Media for Self-Socialization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24. 519-533.

 

Burns, C. (2010) History of Science and Technology. RyersonUniversity. In-class Lectures

 

Brym, R. & Lie, J. (2009). Sociology: The Points of the Compass. Nelson Education. Toronto.

Calhoun C. (1998). Community Without Propinquity Revisited: Communication Technology and the Transformation of the Urban Public Sphere. Journal of Social Inquiry, 68. 373–397.

 

Couldry, N. (2004) The Digital Divide. In Web.Studies, 2nd Edition, Ed. Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. OxfordUniversity Press. New York. 185-194.

 

Crust, L. (2010) Mass Media and Self-Socialization. In SOC 104 Understanding Society: Chapter 3 – Socialization [PowerPoint]. RyersonUniversity. Retrieve on 2010-03-21.

 

Diamond, J. (2005) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books. London.

 

DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Russell, N. W. & Robinson, J. P. (2001) Social Implication of the Internet. Annual Review of Sociology, 27. 307-336.

 

Falk, R. (1999) Policy options for social integration. International Social Science Journal, 162. 559-566.

 

Guillén, M. & Suárez, S. (2005, December). Explaining the Global Digital Divide: Economic, Political and Sociological Drivers of Cross-National Internet Use. Social Forces, 84(2). 691-708.

 

Hearn, G. & Rooney, D. (2002). The Future Role of Government in Knowledge-Based Economies. Foresight, 4(6). 23-32.

 

Homer-Dixon, T. (2011) Guest Lecture at Canadian Association of Student Planners. Centre for International Governance Innovation. Waterloo.

 

Howlett, M., Ramesh, M. & Perl, A. (2009) Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles & Policy Subsystems. Third Edition. OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 50-89.

 

Kappler, B, & Lee, M. (2011-02-25) U.S. Freezes Assets Belonging to Gadhafi, Four Children. The Toronto Star. <<Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/945405–u-s-freezes-assets-belonging-to-gadhafi-four-children>>
Maich, S. & George, L. (2009) The Ego Boom: Why the World Really Does Revolve Around You. Key Porter Books. Toronto.

 

Miller, V. (2004) Stitching the Web into Global Capitalism: Two Stories. In Web.Studies, 2nd Edition, Ed. Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. OxfordUniversity Press. New York. 171-184.

 

Negroponte, N. (1995). Being Digital. Knopf. New York. 229.

 

Norris, P. (2001). Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide. CambridgeUniversity Press. Cambridge, MA.

 

Robinson, J. & Martin, S. (2010, February). IT Use and Declining Social Capital?: More Cold Water From the General Social Survey (GSS) and the American Time-Use Survey (ATUS). Social Science Computer Review, 28(1). 45-63.
Robinson, P. (2011) New Media in Planning Policy. From Lecture at University of Toronto Mississauga.

Rohlinger, D. & Brown, J. (2009, September) Democracy, Action, and the Internet After 9/11. American Behavioural Scientist, 53(1). 133-150.

 

Sens, A. & Stoett P. (2008) “The Net Generation and Democracy”. Grown Up Digital. Toronto. McGraw Hill. 243-267.

 

Schiller, H. (1996). Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America. Routledge. New York.

 

Tenenbaum, D. (2008). Food vs. Fuel: Diversion of Crops Could Cause More Hunger. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(4). A254-A257.

 

Unger, B. & Waarden, F. (1995) “Introduction: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Convergence” in Unger and van Waarden, eds, Convergence or Diversity? Internationalization and Economic Policy Response. Altershot: Avebury, 1-35.

 

Wakeford, N. (2004) Developing Methodological Frameworks for Studying the World Wide Web. In Web.Studies, 2nd Edition, Ed. Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. OxfordUniversity Press. New York. 34-48.

 

Weinberger, D. (2002) Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web. Perseus Publishing. Cambridge, MA.

Downtown Relief Line – It’s Finally Time

Sample from the report

Sample from the report

Submitted: Monday, March 28th, 2010

Planning assignment to demonstrate page layout and desktop planning as related to an on-going city planning issue.

Abstract: 

Transit City’s (TC) plan to connect Toronto’s inner-suburbs to existing high-order corridors aims to right the lack of adequate public transit long-suffered by area residents. But this plan, along with subway extensions northward, neglects to recognise burgeoning condominium development within the downtown core and strained load capacities of the existing and rapidly aging subway lines and stations. Resurrecting the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) will stem capacity and safety fears while garnering new revenue for the city through increased fares and development charges and become a showcase to the world.

Elevated public transit-use driven by environmental concern and the high price of oil have created a bottleneck at Yonge and Bloor. The extension of the Yonge Line into Richmond Hill is expected to increase through-loads even more. The 55-yearold station sits under an area of dense high-rises – existing, under construction or planned – and its redesign is expected to costs a staggering 450 million dollars and will disrupt service for 4-5 years – creating immeasurable economic drawbacks

A second loop from Union station connecting east and west along the Bloor-Danforth Line will aid in shifting traffic destined for downtown away from Bloor Station and act as feeder support for surface routes. With Union station already slated for large renovations and Pape station expected to be reconfigured for future LRT connections, the development of the DRL in tandem with TC would limit overlapping capital expenditures, avoid inflationary construction costs and provide new zones for intensification

 

Download the Downtown Relief Line – It’s Finally Time report

 

 

Thoughts and Shorts II

Monday, March 6th, 2010

Defining Transportation

When land-use pattern create too heavy of a load on the existing or planned road network the system is unable to cope with demand and function at an adequate speed, causing Traffic Congestion. This can be stressed by traffic control systems failing to direct traffic effectively or there are conflicts between actors using the roadway, as seen with transport trucks and daily commuters (Springer, 2010a). Congestion increases the cost of operating a vehicle and requisite fuel consumption; creates economic fallout from unreliable transportation; increases the odds of accidents and ultimately reduces the level of comfort, convenience and safety of everyone which leads to impairments in mental and physical health (Jackson, 2003).

 

Solutions to congestion are to discouraging personal transportation by imposing Peak-Hour Pricing through toll-roads and electronic monitoring – or by further extending infrastructure. Although expanding the road network initially seems a logical and simple solution, it leads to Triple Convergence – a realignment of commuters’ space, time and modes of transportation. People inherently travel the path of least resistance (Downs, 1992) and by elevating stress on congested highways, those commuters who previous choose alternate routes to avoid congestion to return to the new roadway (spatial convergence); those who shifted the time at which they travel tend to return to a schedule that is more convenient; and those who switch modes from private to public transportation return to their car for the comfort, convenience and control (Springer, 2010a). This, in turn, creates new stress on the road and more congestion.

 

The design of Transit-Oriented Developments focuses on the root of the problem by the creation of a densely-populated, mixed-use community surrounding a node of public transportation with a intimate pedestrian-focused grid pattern and encouraging the use of safer and cleaner private forms of transportation with bicycles lanes and parking (Renne, 2009). These developments are typically a kilometre in diameter, with stepped-back building mass from a central point containing shops, offices and social services. The approach also pushes back on the notion of personal isolation – a repercussion of a technologically-laden society – that deters people from connecting with their surroundings and neighbours (Springer, 2010a).

 

By removing the necessity for an automobile in everyday tasks, Location-Efficient Communities are created where previous expenditures reserved for the maintenance and operation of a vehicle – estimated at $8000 a year (CAA, 2007) – can be released and reinvested into the community. Some financial institutions and government agencies in North America are offering mortgages that reflect urban realities – elevating people with lower-incomes into homeownership (Cervero, 2007) or allowing others the option to purchase more adequate housing, increase spending on local services and entertainment or save for future education and personal training. This has a doubling effect on the economic conditions of the surround city as less tax revenue would be needed to construct and maintain roadways, increasing tax revenue from new spending and limits lost productivity from time delays and pollution-related illnesses while increasing overall satisfaction of the public.

Dominance of the Automobile

The automobile has dominated personal transportation since the advent of the Ford Model T in 1908. Through the 1920s, Henry Ford’s assembly line manufacturing allowed for efficient production of affordable vehicles while his business policies provided his employees with the ability to purchase one easily, generating his own local and controllable demand (Wells, 2007).   The automobile remains the most sought after form of transit, private or public, because of the comfort, convenience and control it provides (Springer, 2010a) and is so attractive that Canadian spend on average 20% of their pre-tax income to possess these benefits – an amount second only to shelter and greater than food (Statistics Canada, 2008).

 

The post-war period of economic and population growth in the 1950s resulted in a large demand for new housing, mostly developed in cheap, low-density tracts of land on the outskirts of cities (Miller, 2006, p.105). The unchecked sprawl of development limited where new employment opportunities and public amenities were able to be established, many locating well outside of the encampment area of conventional private transportation (Bhat, Sen & Eluru, 2009). New financial clout from booming times saw people gravitate away from public transit – seen as inadequate and inconvenient and used only by the poor (Mensah, 1994) – towards the use of vehicles which were more comfortable, offered as a symbol of social class and provided control over the when and where of commuting (Wells, 2007).

 

With more than seventy percent of Canadian now using the automobile as primary means of transportation (Statistics Canada, 2001) and the sparse design of new suburban neighbourhoods being inefficient for the development of effective mass transit (Smith, 2006) governments focus infrastructure spending on roads and highways and provided subsidies to local communities to maintain them. Seen as an integral part of the Canadian economy, the auto industry enjoys capital subsidies and tax deductions with lax leasing regulations to encourage automobile manufacturing and market demand (Hanson, 1992). Along with businesses offering cars as perks to employment and the lack of immediate and noticeable externalities to car ownership – fiscal or environmental – demand for this mode of transportation continues to sustain.

Housing as a Product

Housing is a product of both private and public processes combining to create a good that is fixed, consumable and a measure of economic status and health (Springer, 2010b & 2010c). Driven by market forces, private industries supply the material and end-product while being overseen by public forces to guide development, location, use and expectations. In addition, public processes ensure that both the product and its end-user can both obtain and benefit from homeownership while providing alternatives for those who cannot (Rose, 1980).

 

A major mitigating factor to housing that is it is statically linked to its location. This location must offer not only intrinsic benefits such as geographic proximity communities, but tactile natural features, including sought-after views and nearby recreational amenities to provide value (Millward, 2006). Services must also be readily available to appease basic living conditions, such as running water, sewage, educational facilities, employment opportunities, easily adequate transportation, accessible goods and services and allotment for religious structures (Leo & Anderson, 2006). While the location may be static, its community can be dynamic, either growing with density through redevelopment or expansion, or shrinking with loss of industry or natural disaster.  Since most housing is affixed to property, durability of the product must be guaranteed, not only to provide safe, sound and sanitary conditions but for continued appreciation of value. Regular maintenance allows a home to last 50 years on average with revitalization extending it indefinitely (Springer, 2010b). Using regulation to enforce a variable mix of units ensures that all members of society have their specific need for shelter met.

 

In Canada, housing is the single most expensive individual procurement (Statistics Canada, 2008), often amortized over a lifetime and heavily debt-financed (Harris, 2006). The location and durability of housing ensures that it is a viable asset to borrow against – crucial for consumers who now hold almost one trillion dollars in outstanding mortgage debt (Dunning, 2010). Forecasting demand and controlling supply allows for a market that not only provides the need for a rolling stock of shelter but ensures affordability at a level most middle-class families can readily afford – constituting a large and crucial section of our national economy (Knaap, 2003). Failing to develop and control the product from both public and private perspective leads to a market bubble and eventual collapse – where those in demand can no longer afford to retain their shelter and those in supply can no longer able to afford production – devastating the economy and creating a downward spiral effect on the community and existing equity (Hulchanski, 2006). There is no more pronounced example of this failure than the United States in past three years.

Sprawl – Housing and Transportation

A critical concern influencing housing is that we are publicly avid about what we should and aspire to have but privately demand satisfaction of our personal wants. We seek cheap housing with high return on our investment; we want this housing to be open and spacious while in a compact and lively urban setting; and we want ease of access to amenities and employment without the drawbacks and costs of installing a transportation infrastructure to ease congestion. Left unregulated, private developers are more than ready to meet our demands knowing full well that services and networks are of the public realm, instigating sprawl against our wishes to maintain picturesque rural landscapes (Poulton, 1995). Individual behaviour is always at odds with individual expectation and the optimum for the collective, requiring public oversight and regulation to provide a middle ground.

 

As redevelopment of former employment areas is complicated and time-consuming process and brown-lands require years to ensure contaminated soil has safely settled or been removed (O’Reilly & Brink, 2006), assembly-line production is the most cost-effective methodology of development, consisting of cookie-cutter houses on vast tracts land (Harris, 2004). In North America, flat and rolling Class A agricultural land that surrounds urban areas are prime for such economies of scale and are attractive to purchasers who see the city as too expensive, crowded or unsafe and to developers who require large, efficient margins on their investment. But, without proper planning of mixed-use zoning, new residents to these developments required an automobile to reach employment areas, attend school and obtain services and sundries (Bhat, Sen & Eluru, 2009). The transportation network between nodes needs to be built quickly to meet growing demand and with little capital finances provided from tax revenue of cheaper housing, paved roads are often seen as a cheap solution to expansion forcing retailers to build big-box stores surrounded with ample parking to attract customers (Jones & Hernadez, 2006).

 

Land-use planning can be used to break this chaos, by first creating and preparing these edge cities with a location for shops, offices, transportation and services with adequate and sufficient housing for the intended population. By limiting the outer extent of the city through urban growth boundaries – such as the greenbelt retention in Ontario – and ensuring concurrent growth strategies mixed with smart development, we can limit the effects of externalities such as pollution and congestion and encourage transit-oriented developments designed around alternative modes of private transportation. Deliberately influencing the style and mode of growth not only improves the quality of life citizens, but provides a secure and sound community insulated from future fiscal and infrastructure constraints now apparent in older suburban areas (Geller, 2003).

References

Bhat, C., Sen, S. & Eluru, N. (2009, July). The impact of demographics, built environment attributes, vehicle characteristics, and gasoline prices on household vehicle holdings and use. Transportation Research: Part B 43(1). 1-18.

 

CAA (2007). Your Driving Costs 2007. Canadian Automobile Association. Retrieved from

http://www.caa.ca/documents/2007-04-27_DrivingCostsBrochure2007.pdf.

 

Cervero (2007, September) Transit-oriented development’s ridership bonus: a product of self-selection and public policies. Environment & Planning A, 39(9). 2068-2085.

 

Dunning, W. (2010, January). Revisiting the Canadian Mortgage Market – Risk is Small and Contained. Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.caamp.org/meloncms/media/CAAMP%20%20Winter%20Report%20Black.pdf

 

Downs, A. (1992). Stuck in Traffic. Brookings Institution. WashingtonD.C. 27.

 

Geller, A. (2003, September). Smart Growth: A Prescription for Livable Cities. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9). 1410-1415.

 

Hanson, M. (1992, January). Automobile subsidies and land use. Journal of the American Planning Association 58(1). 60-72.

 

Harris, R. (2004). Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960. University of Toronto Press. Toronto.

 

Harris, R. (2006). Housing: Dreams, Responsibilities and Consequences. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 272-286.

 

Hulchanski, J. D. (2006) What Factors Shape Canadian Housing Policy? The Intergovernmental Role in Canada Housing System. In Canada: The State of the Federation 2004: Municipal-Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada. McGill Queen’s University Press. Kingston. 221-250.

 

Jackson, J. (2003, September). The Impact of the Built Environment on Health: An Emerging Field. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1382-1384.

 

Jones, K. & Hernandez, T. (2006). Dynamics of the Canadian Retail Environment. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 287-305.

 

 

Knaap, G. (2003). Land Supply and Infrastructure Capacity Monitoring for Smart Urban Growth. University of Maryland. College Park, MD.

 

Leo, C. & Anderson, K. (2006). Being Realistic about Urban Growth. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 393-407.

 

Mensah, J. (1994). Gender, spatial constraints and the employment activities of low-income people in a local labour market. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 3. 113-133.

 

Miller, E. J. (2006). Transportation and Communications. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 102-122.

 

Millward, H. (2006). Metropolitan Form and the Environment. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 363-378.

 

O’Reilly, M. & Brink, R. (2006) Initial Risk-Based Screening of Potential Brownfield Development Sites. Soil and Sediment Contamination, 15(5).  463-470.

 

Poulton, M. (1995). Affordable Homes at an Affordable Social Price. In Home Remedies: Rethinking Canadian Housing Policy. C D Howe Institute. Toronto. 50.

 

Renne, J. (2009). From transit-adjacent to transit-oriented development. Local Environment, 14(1). 1-15.

 

Rose, A. (1980) Canadian housing policies. Butterworths. Toronto. 2.

 

Springer, J. (2010a). Transportation Module: The Role of Transportation Traffic Congestion Definitions & Implications [PowerPoint]. Toronto.

 

Springer, J. (2010b). Housing as a Product [PowerPoint]. Toronto.

 

Springer, J. (2010c). Housing as a Process [PowerPoint]. Toronto.

 

Statistics Canada (2001). Census of Canada. Government of Canada. Ottawa.

 

Statistics Canada (2008). Spending Patterns In Canada, #62-202-XIE. Government of Canada. Ottawa.

 

Wells, C. (2007, July). The Road to the Model T: Culture, Road Conditions, and Innovation at the Dawn of the American Motor Age. Technology & Culture, 48(3). 497-523.

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts and Shorts

Thursday, November 12th 2009

The history of modern town planning reflects an attempt to provide safe, sound, and sanitary conditions in urban areas, Discuss this statement with specific reference to: the conditions that accompanied dramatic urban growth in the post 1750 period; the major reasons for urban reform; the three primary approaches to urban reform

To clothe and feed a burgeoning population, “a new way was needed to meet the demands that a growing population would make on Britain.” (Trueman, 2000) The Industrial Revolution transformed the methods of production, eliminating the need for fragmented work forces that produce small quantities of food and goods. The Domestic System, where small workshop cottages completed all levels of production was deemed too inefficient of a process and was replaced by mass manufacturing. Farms, needing to increase output, utilized new technologies that obtained a larger harvest with less labour. Seeking a new quality of life, countless numbers of former farmhands and cottage workmen descended on the cities to find employment, crowding around the budding factories established near pre-existing centres of population and shipping corridors and to emerging resource towns that stoke the economic engine. With little time and regard to organize such an influx, the safe, sound and sanitary conditions of the urban setting spun desperately out of control.

 

Shoddy and hastily built timber homes with little setback from each other became home for numbers of people. With close quarters, no running water or sanitation, disease was rampant. The density and lack of proper ventilation in each neighbourhood was a festering breeding ground for Tuberculosis, and it was “believed that TB killed one-third of all those who died in Britain between 1800 and 1850” (Trueman, 2000). John Snow discovered that sewage poured out the back windows into cesspools or nearby streams, re-entered the local water table, spreading Cholera via contaminated wells and pumps, (Johnson, 2006). Poor design also led to string of fires that consumed cities around the industrialized world. Absence of modern firefighting utilities, such as the hydrant, plus the use of combustible materials and zero tolerance between structures allowed fire to spread quickly, overtaking large sections of the city and devastating many lives and the local economy.

 

These conditions were exasperated by rampant poverty and poor living and working conditions. Health, widely affected by pollution from smokestacks, manure left behind from horse-drawn carriages and poor nutrition, increased susceptibility to disease. Children worked dangerous positions and at early ages, receiving no formal education and often paid little to nothing. Adults were overworked, unfairly treated and had little democratic recourse to alter these conditions. Ultimately, revolt took hold causing general strikes and unrest across cities, with demands for suffrage and reform.

 

Most problems were isolated to the working poor, offering little incentive for political change. But when the upper-classes became jeopardized and started to see cities as sick, dangerous, ugly and sin-filled places, public consensus and governmental movements took hold. Regulation, redevelopment and relocation provided tools to resolve each of the underlying issues.

 

Regulation took the form of zoning and building codes, such as the requirement for firewalls and setbacks; and the form of laws, as in the British Public Health Act of 1848 which paved the way for sewage and water systems via local boards of health. Also included in the act was the organization of all major public issues at the time, including poverty, housing, environment, safety and food (Springer, 2009). Redevelopment, starting with Haussmann in Paris, sought to redesign the outlay of a city, demolished areas of impoverished neighbourhoods and replaced them with grand avenues and public squares to ensure the proper economic growth, flow and security of the city (Schwartz, 2001). The City Beautiful Movement, as set out by Burnham in Chicago and based on Haussmann’s design, extended these ideas to include aesthetic, efficient and economic values to achieve parity with the civil loyalty and moral wellbeing seen in European cities (Rose, 1996). Relocation, alternatively, strived to ensure that future developments wouldn’t fall into the disarray seen of inner-cities. Howard’s utopian vision limited the number of residents, defined densities and set the locations of structures and established environmental balance with neighbourhood gardens and green belts. Often overlooked was the “belt of green” or Grand Avenue to separate incompatible land uses (Hodge, 2008).

 

These reforms, coupled with the City Efficient Movement where civil-engineers designed transportation networks and water systems – the backbone of effective and efficient cities – laid the foundation for modern urban planning (Hodge, 2008). Local governments were entrusted to control these regulations and planning and health boards oversaw and directed action to existing or emerging problems. The realization that any issue within a city affects all of its residents equally, regardless of position or stature, demanded that solutions must become more rational, equitable and holistic so that the city can be efficient, effective and sustainable.

Describe and discuss the four approaches to decision making in Planning. (Rational Comprehensive, Satisficing, Incrementalism, and Mixed Scanning).

Over the years, scholars, weary of the cumbersome inclusiveness of the Rational-Comprehensive Model to decision making, have attempted to extend or alter the process to better match realities and encompass differing values. Rationality can be a seductive beast and often seen as sole proprietor of truth – but knowledge derived from logic often ignores other human abilities, such as imagination, intuitiveness and emotion (Darke, 1995). Much as rational economists understand that consumers do not actively purchase on the margin, planning theory must also be malleable to fit within known constraints and placate unknown factors.

 

Banfield’s 1955 Rational Planning Model used ends-reduction and elaboration to qualify a problem and quantify a measure of success or failure to potential solutions, including consequences of retaining the status quo. After collecting and evaluating all potential methodologies, each is placed against this benchmark to determine the best alternative. From this, a course of action and a plan for implementation is created followed by a system to monitor its validity and cohesiveness to correcting the original issue. While definitively this is the ideal approach to problem solving, reality remains that planners do not have infinite resources, time and expertise to circumvent all permutations and combinations nor at times have all of the information required to make a logical conclusion. From a set of goals that include the good, the cheap and the quick, rarely can all three be achieved simultaneously. To not further limit comprehensiveness one must also understand the power, politics and inertia of change (Springer, 2009).

 

In 1957, Herbert Simon, a Nobel Award-winning economist, added a caveat to the rational model, comparing alternatives with opportunity cost and benefit of each. From the Satisficing Model, the most irrational opportunities are summarily rejected at an early stage, creating a more efficient and cost effective process. By ranking the remaining options by pay-off, a selection of the most satisfactory and viable solution can be made (Springer, 2009). While the end result may not be the optimal solution, in general it would be the best approximation for success. This also assists in the removal of a person’s rationale to select the first plausible option encountered rather than determining a better one. Though productive, critiques of this method often find it cold as it neglects to integrate core-values that often are affected by the decision process (Argyris, 1973).

 

Lindblom’s Model of Incrementalism saw planning in a more finite view, realizing that ends and means are intertwined and scarce time and resources often limits the ability to be comprehensive. Options are chosen which do not deviate far from the status quo and by means of agreement between interested parties. Evaluations of these options are crude and limited by knowledge and scope, and may miss many consequences (Chilton, 2003). By mudding through, small steps and changes with little impact can facilitate the planning process with little cost and time, dealing with problems as they arise, rather than setting aside time to evaluate and compare. Modern day uses of this method can be found in the Agile programming method where “the conformance to plan is replaced with the ability to change” (Leffingwell, 2007). While this model is efficient, innovative opprotunities can be missed and it is commonly usurped as a stelthy method of pushing forward a plan not positively perceived by limiting the shock of immediate exposure.

 

Amitai Etzioni, seeing rationalism as being too utopian and unwieldy, and incrementalism stifling ingenuity and lacking opportunities (Etzioni, 1986), set forth the notion of combining the best of both rationales and presented the Mixed Scanning Method in 1967. The concept allows for two levels of decision processes, one at a high fundamental or contextual level and one at the lower incremental level, delineating them by relative size or nested relationship (Etzioni, 1986). This allows for a more efficient allocation of resources for the search, collection, processing and evaluation of information while keeping perspective on the overall goal. This process has been deemed as a more intuitive and holistic approach by scholars in that it allows for a master plan and an understanding of consequences while leaving room for effective and innovative solutions (Etzioni, 1986).

 

As planning principals evolved, so have the methods of planning. Starting with logic and the search for truth, the inclusion of other patterns of decision-making grounded idealism and allowed planners to abide by the realities and consequences of every option. The shift in process from a pure science to a more realistic approach is essential to ensure that all opportunities are determined and all goals are met while still being effective and efficient.

 

Describe the three early theories of urban form and structure (Concentric rings, sectors and multiple nuclei). Relate these models, where appropriate, to what you were able to observe on the 506 street car assignment.

Substantive Theory, as seen in the Concentric, Sector and Multiple Nuclei Models, differs from Rational Theory as it attempts to explain the organic growth of a city – The order and relationship of differing land uses, wealth and densities and how this is affected by the interaction between urban actors (Leung, 2003). The comparison can be made clear by stating one is a theory-of-planning while the other is a theory-in-planning (Faludi, 1973).  Each of the three models attempts to explain the structure of a city by utilizing lessons from different schools of thought.

 

Sociologist Ernest Burgess developed his Concentric Circle Model in 1933 based on the elasticity and inelasticity of demand of property from the centre of the city by differing economic parties. Observing Chicago, he noted that commercial sectors situate themselves in areas of most exposure, the core, whereas factories ring these developments take advantage of both the retail zones and the workers surrounding the city. Residential areas radiated out in increasing wealth, with the working-class within walking distance to the factories and high-class citizens live well outside the urban centre. This can be attributed to the high cost of transportation and the want to avoid the negatives of urban living, particularly at the turn of the century (Rodrigue, 2009).  While correct for most North American cities, where a good part of their development took place prior to 1950, the proliferation of the automobile post-World War II changed how people commute and ultimately allowed the city to break the bonds of the urban core. As well, the model did little to describe European cities whose development predated the Industrial Revolution and social status was garnered by living closer to the urban centre – inverting the residential rings in this model (Rodrigue, 2009).

 

Economist Homer Hoyt in 1939 manipulated the Circle model by observing that differing areas emanated out from the central core in wedge-shaped pieces, usually following a transportation corridor. His Sector Model still had commercial properties gravitating towards the middle, but allowed for all classes of residential and levels of industrial to border the core. These sectors would also organize themselves based around desirables and nuisances: the high-end housing furthest from the factories; factories situated close to rail and shipping links; and working homes closest to the employment areas. His model, where a city would expand on a series of axes (Rodrigue, 2009) was still limited by historical trends and does provide allowance for commuters travelling by automobile, leapfrogging to cheaper land on the outskirts (Rodwin, 2009).

 

Geographers Harris and Ullman discovered in 1945 that other than the central business district, cities tend to be designed around a multitude of areas that relate not just by distance to financial and retail sectors, but other attributes such as: accessibility; conflicting and compatible land uses; and suitability of the land (Rodrigue, 2009). The Multiple Nuclei Model helped explain cities with growth around natural barriers and variable transportation modes and allowed for sub-nodes of commercial properties or satellite communities and employment areas. Still referencing ideas from older models, where high-class housing would resist areas of industry or manufacturing and low-class housing often remained close to areas of employment to limit travel costs, it also explained the fractured or unpredictable form of cities. Harris and Ullman suggested that social-economic and cultural values also influence the land use with examples in Western cities where historical and often wealthy neighbourhoods co-exist with undesirable zones because of their sentiment and significance (Pacione, 2009).

 

Streetcar zones

(Figure 1) Approximation of land-use in and around the Carlton Streetcar Line – Best described by the Multiple Nuclei Model

While Toronto, pre-radial cars, arguably could have been described historically using Concentric Circles, a number of economic and social shifts over the years makes this model impossible to discern today. Remnants still exist in some areas with the waterfront and core as areas of employment; the lower-end houses north of Queen and the higher-end above Gerrard do follow this model; but urban renewal and gentrification have greatly altered value and form across the city. To a lesser extent, the Sector Model could be used – observing the city’s growth after the advent of streetcars and railways connecting the large industrial fields and middle-class housing both in the east and west ends – but the cities largest barrier to growth, Lake Ontario, and annexed towns with separate growth patterns, makes this model difficult to ascertain. The most intuitive method would be the Multiple Nuclei Model with a heavy focus on transportation corridors that would have been a factor in the Sector Model. From this, we have a concrete model forming, with lower-end housing ringing the central core, but also the factory outlays to the east and west. Medium and high-end houses exist on the periphery but also close to the core, as seen in Annex South, Cabbagetown and Riverdale verses HighPark and the UpperBeach(es) (see Figure 1).

 

References

Argyris, C. (1973). Some limits of rational man organization theory, Public Administration Review, 23(3), 255.

 

Chilton, S. (2003). Rationality Vs. “Muddling Through”. Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/~schilton/3221/LectureNotes/3221.RationalityVsMuddlingThrough.2003.Spring.html

 

Darke, R. (1985). Rationality, Planning and the State. In Breheny, M. & Hopper, A. (Eds.) Rationality in Planning: Critical essays on the role of Rationality in Urban & Regional Planning. London: Pion Limited. 15-26.

 

Etzioni, A. (1986). Mixed Scanning Revisited, Public Administration Review, January-February, 8-13.

 

Faludi, A. (1973). Planning Theory. New York: Pergamon Press

 

Hodge, G., Gordon D. (2008) Planning Canadian Communities. Toronto: Thompson Nelson. 60-63.

 

Johnson, Steven (2006). The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World. New York: Riverhead Books.

 

Leffingwell, D. (2007). Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises. Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional, 178.

 

Leung, H.K. (2003). Land Use Planning Made Plain. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2-4.

 

Rodrigue, J.P. (2009). The Geography of Transport Systems. New York: Routledge.

 

Rodwin, L. (1950) The Theory of Residential Growth and Structure, Apprasial Journal, 18, 295-317.

 

Rose, J. (1996) The City Beatiful Movement. Retrieved from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/CITYBEAUTIFUL/city.html

 

Pacione, M. (2006) Urban Geography: A Global Perspective. New York: Taylor & Francis, 143.

 

Springer, J. (2009) Planning Theory: Rationality and Alternative Approaches [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Blackboard.

 

Springer, J. (2009) Responses to Urban Reform: Regulation, Redevelopment & Relocation [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Blackboard.

 

Schwartz, R. (2001) Haussmann and New Paris. Retrieved from http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/mapping-paris/Haussmann.html

 

Trueman, C. (2000) History Learning Site. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk

Towards Inclusion : The Fight for Universal Suffrage

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I.         Sitting on Guard

Alberto Reynoso is employed by sub-contractor to replace the aging water mains in his neighbourhood. His 10-year-old daughter attends the local TorontoCatholicSchool.  His paycheque comes from the city and he pays property, income and consumption taxes religiously, but as a landed immigrant, he has no voice in how the city will function or how his child’s education will be structured. Back in his native city of Buenos Aries, a Canadian under similar circumstances would be afforded this by law (Const. Buenos Aries, 1996, § 61).

 

An intrinsic component of democracy is the right to vote and that individual voice envelopes a sense of recognition, self-worth and confidence (Taylor, 1994). This invaluable weight encourages educated opinion, proper discourse and introspection while being the foundation of a strong, equitable community where its members feel equally effective and empowered.

 

But it is this extraordinary value that also restricts it, with those in already in its possession unwilling to its dilute power. Without fresh voices, the political spectrum remains stagnant, causing disdain and voter-fatigue amongst the electorate, leading to falling participation. As civic responsibility wanes, the disenfranchised become more isolated, disconnecting from the cultural web and the damaging spirit of democracy (Jacobs, 2004). While broadening the municipal electoral base is not a sufficient approach to diminishing engagement, it is a vital first step in returning political and social equity (Siemiatycki, 2006) and is the essence of an informed and creative populous.

 

II.        The Need for Franchise

There are 250,000 residents in the City of Toronto without suffrage (Munro, 2008a) comparable to 15% of all eligible voters. When related to the voter turnout of just over half a million in the 2006 municipal election (CBC, 2006), this percentile jumps to a staggering 50% – and even further if you were to include the estimated 100,000 non-status citizens living under the radar (Siemiatycki, 2006). These numbers are reflected in the Toronto District School Board, where 31% of students are born abroad and 50% have English as their second language (TDSB Facts, 2009) and encouraged an “Access without Fear” clause in its policies.

 

Those who arrive possess their culture, language and tradition but leave behind one important right: Suffrage. Globalization has created a nomadic, border-permeating nation comprised of highly-educated citizens – a hefty requirement of our point-based entry system – with a strong history of participating in the democratic process (Munro, 2008a).   But once settled and given franchise, areas with large immigrant populations see the lowest in voter turnout, half that of areas with the highest turnout and long-standing citizenry (Siemiatycki, 2006). This void of participation between statuses fostered indifference and ambiguity toward the electoral process that carries past naturalization. It’s argued by Aleinikoff & Klusmeyer that the act of engagement instils a sense of belonging within the community and it is required training to better aid integration (2002) and creating a stable democracy (Munro, 2008b).

 

III.      Understanding the Status Quo

Local political will is not sufficient to mandate change as cities are constitutionally ‘Creatures of the Province’. The City of Toronto Act (2005: ii) declares “The City is authorized to make changes to its governance structure” which broadly interpreted could allow council to alter inclusion autonomously (Siemiatycki, 2006). But the superseding Municipal Elections Act states a qualified voter must be a Canadian citizen (1996). With notable councillors and mayors, current or former, including a former provincial cabinet minister vocally denounced the idea – Holiday (National Post, 2009), Walker (Spears, 2009), Hazel (Munro, 2008b) Chong and Chambers (Chong & Chambers, 2009) – the province remains unconvinced enough interest for an amendment exists, observing the issue as a contentious, slippery slope. Allowing Toronto to open the vote will set precedent for other jurisdictions and may lead to lengthy legal battles for Ontario and other provinces. Moreover, eliminating the citizen-restriction of suffrage argues the right for candidacy where under current Ontario law a person running for election must be a resident of the province for at least six months and a Canadian citizen (Election Act, 1990).

 

Civic arguments against extending enfranchisement resonate from both sides of the political spectrum. Right-leaning members see citizenship as a privilege that must be earned and the vote intrinsically intertwined (Chong & Chambers, 2009). They argue by unceremoniously providing the right would undermine the importance of enfranchisement and encouraging the current non-participative electorate to engage more frequently will assert pressure on non-citizens to achieve status. Members of the radical-left possess an errant belief that Asian minority groups, primarily from India and China, are more traditionally conservative (Sobolewka, 2005) and their influence would undermine long-established liberalism, unwinding progressive efforts – such as same-sex marriage, social assistance and universal health care – causing a dangerous clash of cultures.

 

Notwithstanding, inclusion is neither a novel nor unproven approach. At least 26 nations, either long-standing or bourgeoning democracies, embrace this holistic policy. (Siemiatycki, 2006) The United Kingdom maintains its cultural ties by providing franchise to all subjects of the Queen in the Commonwealth nationally and EU members at the municipal and supranational levels (Representation of the People Act, 2000), while other nations throughout Europe seek solidarity by extending this right to other EU members (LIBE, 2008). New Zealand extends universal suffrage after six months of residency and Switzerland extends rights to people from any nation that reciprocates in kind for their own citizens. Although exemplarity, income and property taxes in many of these states are much higher than in Toronto (OECD, 2006). In Manchester, England, taxes are paid directly by renters to the council causing a transparency that compels the want of one to be active in directing how finances are spent.

 

While uncommon, reversal of rights can occur. Politically, it is easier to take than it is to give, particularly when the majority is unaffected and the minority is indifferent. This occurred in 1985 with an amendment to the Equal Rights Statute of Ontario to repeal the right of British subjects to vote in municipal or school board elections (Official Report of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 1985). Although by removing suffrage from British nationals – in exchange for a timed leeway on citizenship entrance – inequities in voting regulation were resolved, it was also a missed opportunity to review franchise for other members of society.

 

IV.      Defining Our Options

The conservative course is leaving the status quo. Those already with voting power have little interest to change something that does not affect them and creating a platform around the issue worries politicians about potential loss of support. While not overt, Canadians tend shift political spectrums implicitly rather than voicing their distaste explicitly. But, the issue with retaining the norm is that it spawns disaffection and radicalism (Siemiatycki, 2006) and as debate continues, those on the non-citizen side will eventually earn franchise through status, influencing political will. Many immigrants have come from nations where reversals of suffrage or ongoing oppression have been key deciding factors in their upheaval and move to Canada and their current exclusion is perceived as abhorrent.

 

The more progressive approach is inclusion; weighing opinions and perceived rights of citizens and non-citizens to achieve a widely acceptable resolution. This can be committed by a top-down approach within the Federal Election Act, pushed forward by a majority ruling party who is sympathetic to the cause. But if even cities represented by a large immigrant population cannot find consensus, broadening the scope could be politically precarious. Inclusion can also refer to many subgroups and debate over whom would be granted rights – Permanent Residents, Landed Immigrants, etc. – vary greatly. If such an argument can be made, suffrage could be included in encompassing legislation, such as implementing proportional representation.

 

A more controversial option would be to redefine franchise. A reincarnation of censitary suffrage, where each individual vote would possess variable capacities of leverage, may appease those who value full citizenship rights over simple residence. Though census was historically usurped to limit participation based on wealth, race or religion and is regarded as a misuse of democracy, it’s not uncommon today: Canadian Parliament’s current level of representation is disproportionate both within the Senate and House of Commons. P.E.I. holds 35,000 per Senate seat while Ontario holds 550,000 per seat and yet many don’t consider Ontarians to be only one fifteenth the weight of an Islander. Alternatively, equal suffrage, by providing different quantity of votes to subgroups of society may encourage people to rise above their current status making the vote a form of currency. Compulsary suffrage, where participatory inclusion is required by law, may also stem the downward spiral of voter turnout, but rarely adjuncts democracy.

 

V.        The Path Forward

The major barriers any political change are fear, apathy and ignorance – each a by-product of poor interpretation and ideologue. To alleviate concerns, a multi-prong approach of inclusion and placation of misconstrued anxiety can be constructed. By inching toward universal franchise with municipal rights for permanent residence in coordination with a localized campaign regarding electoral responsibilities, we not only provide additional voices but perhaps quiet ones others that object. If worries about misunderstanding our system and the lack of participation by current and new citizens are the roadblocks to change, education should resolve this. Once a strong politically-experienced and -motivated base is established, expansion to other tiers of government would be a less arduous task. Only when success can be quantified, can an extension to landed immigrants be the next logical step and, if palatable by the public, comprehend the inclusion of non-status citizens.

 

Over history, acts of civil upheaval and disobedience along with sociably conscience political leaders and grass-root action have propelled the inclusion of many in to the act of franchise. Forgotten are the times when individuals without property or of certain creed or sex were not considered equal under the law. I, myself, have had the luxury to live on three continents where I was enabled to vote despite my lack of citizenship. It’s not uncommon for nations and attitudes to change, but society must first embrace the true nature of democracy – through education and reflection – and move forward the notion of universal suffrage. Globalization evened the playing field economically, culturally and physically but politically struggles from equilibrium. The majority can be the largest and most powerful voice for the minority and our purpose is to recognise this and act on it before others demand it.

 

A.        References

 

Aleinikoff, A. & Klusmeyer, D. (2002). Citizenship Policies for an Age of Migration. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 43.

 

Chong, G. & Chambers, M.A. (2009, June 11). Should non-citizens have right to vote in municipal elections?: No, Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/article/648848.

 

Constitución de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (1996) [in Spanish]. Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Retrieved from http://www.legislatura.gov.ar/documentos/constituciones/constitucion-ciudad.pdf.

 

Election Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.6, s.26(1)

 

Jacobs, J. (2004). Dark Age Ahead. Toronto: Random House. 121.

 

LIBE [Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs] (2008). Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. s.40. Retrieve from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/libe/elsj/charter/art40/default_en.htm.

 

Municipal Elections Act, R.S.O. 1996, c.32, s.17(2)

 

Munro, D. (2008a). Extending the Franchise to Non-Citizen Residents. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada.

 

Munro, D. (2008b). Enfranchising immigrants: should non-citizen residents have the right to vote?, Inroads: A Journal of Opinion, 23(May).

 

OECD (2006). OECD Tax Database.Paris: Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/document/60/0,2340,en_2649_34533_1942460_1_1_1_1,00.html#trs

 

Ontario, Legislative Assembily, Official Report of the Debates of the Legislative Assembly (Hansard), L005 (1985, June 11)  Hon. Mr. Pope. Retrieved from http://www.ontla.on.ca/house-proceedings/transcripts/files_html/1985-06-11_L005.htm#P100_28279.com

 

Representation of People Act, 2000, c.2, s.1(1[1-2]) [United Kingdom]

 

Roberts, R. (2009, June 11). Don’t let non-citizens vote, Toronto councillor says, National Post. Retrieved from http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/toronto/archive/2009/06/11/don-t-let-non-citizens-vote-toronto-councillor-says.aspx

 

Siemiatycki, M. (2006). The Municipal Franchise and Social Inclusion in Toronto: Policy and Practice. Toronto: Inclusive Cities Canada.

 

Sobolewka, M. (2005). Ethnic Agenda: Relevance of Political Attitudes to Party Choice, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 15(2), 197–214.

 

Spears, J. (2009, June 11). Should long-term residents be allowed to vote?, Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/649696

 

Taylor, Charles (1994). Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press.

 

TDSB Facts (2009). Toronto: TorontoDistrictSchool Board. Retrieved from http://www.tdsb.on.ca/communications/tdsbfacts.html

Load Up, Log In, Drop Out: The New Primary Agent of Socialisation

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I.         Load Up, Log In, Drop Out

Dramatic shifts in technology in tandem with economic- and social-adaptation can change how we socialize; from the Guttenberg Press to the Industrial Revolution, advances in material production geared social production and either levelled the playing field for literacy, education and health or stratifying the existing social structure by the commoditisation of social worth. Mass media, products of both these movements and one of the four agents of social development, depicts our views on taboos and mores while offering debate on delivery. But it was this in unison with family, education and peer groups that we conversed and sought validation of new ideas, sharing in the social capital with those who first aided in its development (Brym & Lie, 2009).

 

While modern socially-networked communication – particularly The Internet and to a lesser extent mobile phones – fit the context of mass media, they offer something previous implements did not: bidirectional control, individualism, and equal and global exposure with immediacy (DiMaggio, et al., 1996). Globalization – propelled with pervasive Internet usage and greater dissemination of knowledge – has shrunken the world to a closely-observed, tightly-knit community and forced re-socialization en masse (Barclay & Smith, 2003) – reluctant as some may be. But there are two groups in society most affected by this technology: the young generation now emerging into adulthood  have been exposed to multidirectional, multitasking socializing during their pinnacle point in mental and physical development (Yan, 2006); and those in peripheral and semi-peripheral nations with socioeconomic strain creating  the Digital Divide (Guillén & Suárez, 2005).

 

II.        Global Individualism

Self-Socialization as defined by Arnett (1995) constitutes the ability for people to decide independently how to define themselves by their interaction with society. Arguably, this position lacks complete understanding of the capital costs and time involved in producing media and negates to recognise and reflect the true nature of these products – which is to influence and homogenise society to ensure a constant and predictable return on investment (Crust, 2010). Self-socialization merely reflects a choice by individuals to associate with norms as defined by institutions with the power to produce and maintain these fiscally-driven forms of expression.

 

The Internet differs from traditional agents of socialisation as it allows social structures to define themselves with little material capital and high acceptance to a variety of messages. “Land-owners” in a virtual world require little expenditure and gain global exposure to cast a net for clients to peddle their particular brand of knowledge (Weinberger, 2002). Major media companies in the late nineties saw this threat and diversified their exposure by converging established media companies with fashionable web portals, vying for control over the methods people approach and utilise the World Wide Web. This approach toppled longstanding property owners, such as Seagram’s through Vivendi as they failed to recognise one true power of the Internet (Miller, 2004) – in that all its members are providers and thus believe to be authorities on subjects of their own choice (Weinberger, 2002). Knowledge has become a traded commodity inheriting the pressures of production, distribution and demand – and whereas The Internet has opened new opportunities to share the social and material capital we possess – validity and validation of the product comes from acceptance of the majority. Google, for example, weighs results based not on relevance or sound-value but on the popularity through the number of connections between sources of knowledge (Wakeford, 2004).

 

III.      Politics under Pressure

The ramifications of majority rule can be highly influential on the future structure of society effecting change on political deliberation and social structure (Calhoun, 1998). Proponents of major causes can reach a wider population with little effort or expense to deliver their message, as seen in American political campaigns during the last elections (Rohlinger & Brown, 2009) or more recently in the health care debates – but smaller organizations possess an equal voice, specifically those groups with highly technical abilities to utilise the web to its full effect.

 

Marxists see the exploitation of media by elitists to control politics through domination and surveillance (Schiller, 1996). Exposure of recent and negative global events were not driven by common media giants, but instead by independent reporters clutching mobile phones with Internet access – revealing a new perspective on totalitarian crackdowns of citizens in Iran and Burma and weakening the former strongholds of power and dictatorship. But, this also exposes unsuspecting or ill-educated people to invalid or socially unacceptable groups including terrorism, radical religious movements and ill-conceived cults or sects determined to obtain control for personal gain (Rohlinger & Brown, 2009). International news organizations and video file-sharing sites provide little or no authority over the validity of these videos or any measures to aid in critical analysis of their content (Weinberger, 2002). While the Internet gives people a vocal opportunity never possessed before, excelling civic engagement, governments’ longstanding control over the message has waned (Norris, 2001). The prorogation of The House of Common’s by Stephen Harper was widely seen as an tactic used to quiet growing sentiment to unpopular foreign policy while China’s attempts to maintain a stranglehold on information – key to their political power structure – harming their local and international image and forced western information providers and economic heavyweights, such as Google, to back away from conducting business in that country. As the quality of the message is key in preventing apathy towards movements or ideas, checks and balances from differing agents of socialization are needed to ensure proper authority and validity of knowledge (Weinberger, 2002) and a requirement to retain societies past movement toward equality and freedom while limiting possible isolation.

 

IV.      The Global Village

One of the positive forces of the Internet is its power to decentralize and empower a global society both economically and socially (Negroponte, 1995). Individuals can exert their economic prowess by become self-proprietors – decentralising the sale of products and culture capital, such as music, self-directed videos and ideas on an international stage. Economic and social trade can limit xenophobia by exposing active Internet users to varied cultures (DiMaggio, et al., 1996) without the previous bias of media reporting and documentaries allowing unhindered, raw access to ideas and norms normally not seen in isolated communities here in the North American backwaters or abroad in politically oppressive nations hindered by political or economic isolation.

 

Liberated media has widened socially palatability for a broader selection of nationalities for immigration allowing for the creation of the first post-modern nation, Canada (Adams, 1997), and increased our capacity as a country to compete with global forces within an interdependent markets by having knowledgeable citizens with business and personal ties to companies and countries abroad. The responsiveness to world events has dramatically tenured our perception and action towards reconciliation of the norm. Prior events, even through television were visual but contracted through media powers, limiting information to that acceptable by the expected audience and overhead organisations. Micro-reporting over the Internet during the terrorist attacks in the United States opened local and regional news with unique viewpoints to a broader audience (Weinberger, 2002).

 

Perceptions of race, ethnicity or gender and sexual relations have newfound voice in a world previous controlled by the elitist-few. But barriers to inclusion, referred to as the Digital Divide, still exist in the poorest nations, with little ability to even feed their citizens let alone develop the infrastructure to master and manipulate the World Wide Web (Couldry, 2004). In response, leapfrogging technology, paramount in propelling industrializing nations from feudal conditions to capitalist powerhouses offers one solution while other programs such as the dissemination of hardware and software to impoverished or marginal nations through charitable donation attempt to fill in the void for underdeveloped nations. Though the Internet, exists an opportunity of social cohesion without a fundamental shift in the structure and tradition of international relations, seen with colonialism and armed conflicts (Falk, 1999).

 

V.        A New Hope

While the Internet is still an emerging and evolving technology, it has already redefined how we communicate, educate and function economically. Policymakers today are faced with a hyper-knowledge-based society that is ever-changing stressing the timeframes and capacity for governments to respond to new threats or potentially systemic problems (Hearn & Rooney, 2002).  The lessening impact of traditional agents of socialisation has left industry, education, and state struggling how to define and perceive society.

 

Information technology has not harmed or limited our exposure to social capital an argument reserved for other media such as television or movies, but it has changed how and when we choose to socialise (Robinson & Martin, 2010).  Influence and social interaction are not only occurring at earlier ages, it now offers feedback and support creating a generational disconnect by superseding the previous four agents, elevating communication technologies to become the prime agent of socialization and new facilitator to the world (Casas et al., 2001). While the danger of the global divide causing a social divide (Norris, 2001) exists, the spread of cheap, holistic communications will come advantages, such as the spread of democracy and exposure of human rights abuses; effective and efficient sharing of ideas, traits and culture; and the economic elevation of people in under-industrialised or industrialising countries through globalisation that if administered correctly will benefit society as a whole (Falk, 1999).

 

A.        References

 

Adams, M. (1997). Sex in the Snow: Canadian Social Values at the End of the Millennium. Penguin Books. Toronto. 171.

Arnett, J. (1995). Adolescents’ Uses of Media for Self-Socialization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24. 519-533.

Barclay, J. & Smith, K. (2003). Business Ethics and the Transitional Economy: A Tale of Two Modernities. Journal of Business Ethics, 47. 315-325.

Brym, R. & Lie, J. (2009). Sociology: The Points of the Compass. Nelson Education. Toronto.

Calhoun C. (1998). Community Without Propinquity Revisited: Communication Technology and the Transformation of the Urban Public Sphere. Journal of Social Inquiry, 68. 373–397.

Casas, F., Alsinet, C., Pérez Tornero, J.M., Figuer, C., González, M. & Pascual, S. (2001). Information technologies and communication between parents and children. Psychology in Spain, 5. 33-46.

Couldry, N. (2004) The Digital Divide. In Web.Studies, 2nd Edition, Ed. Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. OxfordUniversity Press. New York. 185-194.

Crust, L. (2010) Mass Media and Self-Socialization. In SOC 104 Understanding Society: Chapter 3 – Socialization [PowerPoint]. RyersonUniversity. Retrieve on 2010-03-21.

DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Russell, N. W. & Robinson, J. P. (2001) Social Implication of the Internet. Annual Review of Sociology, 27. 307-336.

Falk, R. (1999) Policy options for social integration. International Social Science Journal, 162. 559-566.

Guillén, M. & Suárez, S. (2005, December). Explaining the Global Digital Divide: Economic, Political and Sociological Drivers of Cross-National Internet Use. Social Forces, 84(2). 691-708.

Hearn, G. & Rooney, D. (2002). The Future Role of Government in Knowledge-Based Economies. Foresight, 4(6). 23-32.

Miller, V. (2004) Stitching the Web into Global Capitalism: Two Stories. In Web.Studies, 2nd Edition, Ed. Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. OxfordUniversity Press. New York. 171-184.

Negroponte, N. (1995). Being Digital. Knopf. New York. 229.

Norris, P. (2001). Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide. CambridgeUniversity Press. Cambridge, MA.

Robinson, J. & Martin, S. (2010, February). IT Use and Declining Social Capital?: More Cold Water From the General Social Survey (GSS) and the American Time-Use Survey (ATUS). Social Science Computer Review, 28(1). 45-63.

Rohlinger, D. & Brown, J. (2009, September) Democracy, Action, and the Internet After 9/11. American Behavioural Scientist, 53(1). 133-150.

Schiller, H. (1996). Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America. Routledge. New York.

Wakeford, N. (2004) Developing Methodological Frameworks for Studying the World Wide Web. In Web.Studies, 2nd Edition, Ed. Gauntlett, D. & Horsley, R. OxfordUniversity Press. New York. 34-48.

Weinberger, D. (2002) Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web. Perseus Publishing. Cambridge, MA.

Yan, Z. (2006) What Influences Children’s and Adolescents’ Understanding of the Complexity of the Internet?. Developmental Psychology, 42(3). 418-428.

Peak Food : How Bio-Chemicals Will Affect Sustainability

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I.          You Eat What You Drive

Ten years from now, a car on the road will be propelled with soybeans; its side-panels made of sweet potatoes and painted with corn. Adhesives, motor oils, cleaning products, fabrics, personal grooming products and solvents will all be made of the earth – That is if the global corporations have their way. And by all measures, they will.

 

Governments and corporations are quick to jump on the green-bandwagon, subsidising development of fuel and plastics from biologically-based products. The optics of committing to the reduction of oil consumption plays well with voters; Farmers, struggling over the past decade to match globalization, are reinvigorated and ready to till the soil and ballot; and economists, once worried of the pressures of far-off wars and manoeuvring politics are placated with a local, stable and safe energy source to lubricate the markets. Everybody wins.

 

Or do they? Pegging food to fuel exasperates the poor and expedites a shift that has checks and balance racing to catch up. Public policy mandated under the guise of social welfare has an unlikely gang of supporters – including corporate farmers and multinational conglomerates – hoodwinking the green movement by, of all things, complying with their demands.

 

II.        Economic Liabilities – Peak Oil

The driving force behind bio-products is not environmental concern, but of economic autonomy and stability. The most optimistic estimate of Peak Oil – where new reserves cannot match the draw of demand from conventional sources – is thought to occur with in the next 15 years (Greene, et al., 2006). Prior to the start of the recent economic recession in 2008, this fear lead to record high oil prices, beyond even historic values when adjusted for inflation (McMahon, 2009). While markets have subsided in the short-term, Economist Mike Pope estimates by 2015 prices will hit $300, double the previous high (2009) as the recession wanes.

 

Industrialized and developing nations are heavily reliant on crude oil for energy and plastics for commodities to sustain continued growth and are actively seeking alternatives. Ethanol additives (E85) primarily from corn and wheat and bio-diesel commonly derived from soy (B20, B100) have been mandated for accelerated production around the world, including a 5% requirement in Canada and 10% in the EU (Banks, 2008). Light-weight plastics, such as polyethylene, ideal to keep transportation cost low, can also be manufactured from the glycerol in corn and sugar cane (Miller & Doidge, 2008). Toyota recently announced that 20% of all materials in their automobiles, from engine and structural parts to foam and fabric of the interior, will be made of bio-plastic by 2015 (Otani, 2008).

 

The concept that food prices are adversely affected by petroleum prices – either through the intensive use of energy in agriculture (by machinery and transportation) or via macroeconomic factors such as inflation and exchange rates – is nothing new, but replacement of oil with bioengineered products creates a double-edged sword (Alexandratos, 2008).  This sets income levels of agricultural output closely to the price of oil as it becomes a supplementary commodity. Adding to the milieu, government grants and subsidies that ensure a locally-grown supply of energy encourage crop-switching and decreased food production (Mercer-Blackman, et al., 2007).

Figure B1

Figure B1

Although Alexandratos (Figure B1) downplays the emerging economies influence on food consumption stated by Amartya Sen in his article “The Rich Get Hungrier” (2008) as one of the reasons for recent price increases, it does account for close to 50% (IMF, 2008). Instead he argues that growth in the demand of energy coupled with increased food consumption forms the true culprit (Figure B2). Market speculation catalyzed by fears of shortage from media images of food riots in 2007 also contributed to raising prices as the advent of Electronically Traded Funds simplified market influence of non-commercial investors wanting to hedge their portfolios on the burgeoning turmoil (Watts, 2009).

 

Figure B2

Figure B2

III.      Environmental Impacts – Crunching the Numbers

The world’s total arable land is estimated at 17 million km2 (11%) of which 1.5 million km2 (1%) is currently cultivated (CIA, 2009). Current world consumption of crude oil is 85 million barrels a day (EIA, 2009). At 19.5 gal/barrel yield (TXOGA, 2009) (or 1.6 billion per day) this translates to 58 trillion gallons per year.  With current technologies, one square kilometre of soy can produce 25,000 gallons of bio-fuels (Brown, 2006, p.34). This would require 2.3 million km2 (1.5%) of newly cultivate area equivalent to the size of Quebec, to replace fossil fuels outright. Just to achieve a 10% mixed-gasoline and ethanol mandate while continuing to meet the demands for bio-plastics would require a cornfield the size of Scotland – the area of land we lose each year to soil erosion and urban sprawl (Wright, 2004).

 

These values neglect to include the 5 trillion gallons/year of fuel required to farm these new lands nor the water or nitrates to fuel them. Fresh water, already at a deficit from excess irrigation wells demanding more than natural aquifers can replace, would be further strained (Brown, 2006, p.42).  Using the highest efficiency of irrigation at 6 acre-inch/acre (Clark, et al., 2001), the “Cornfield of Scotland” would require 3 trillion gallons of water per year, equivalent to four times the annual consumption of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources, 2008). Averaging soil qualities, an additional 1.3 million tonnes of nitrogen would be required (Nafziger & Hoeft, 2000), which runoff from farms have been blamed for poor drinking water quality; causing birth defects, methemoglobinemia (or “blue-baby syndrome”) and cancer (Logan, et al., 2008); and oceanic dead-zones, where thriving algae blooms strip the water of oxygen required by fish and plants (Biello, 2008).

 

An already stressed environment has resulted in a number of draughts and diseases that have limited crop output (Mercer-Blackman, et al., 2007) and monoculture farming strips the land of soil through erosion, limits diversity of habitat for species and encourages deforestation, the use of pesticides and genetically-modified species of plants. The shear quantity of land required to meet the 10% mark for the entire world would only be obtainable via mass-agricultural farming and only cost effective to large international agribusiness, such as Cargill (Tenenbaum, 2008).

 

IV.      Society’s Downfall – Who Will Win?

Already at premium, land will now fight between sustenance and sufficing the worlds need for oil. Corporations heavily vested in the automotive and manufacturing industries – including Toyota, Dow Chemical, Cargill, DuPont and Shell (Miller & Doidge, 2008) – vie for arable properties with local inhabitants. Land values are pushed out of reach of the common farmer, turning them into low-paid farm-hands (Tenenbaum, 2008) and eliminating their ability to be economically self-sustaining. Farmers must cost to a highly competitive market, stretching each acre of land to maximum production with the use of fertilizers, pesticides and modified crops – requiring an initial capital investment impossible to obtain by individuals with little assets.

 

Prior to the bio-fuel boom, agricultural output produced enough to nourish each person with a 2,700 caloric-diet (UN-FAO, 1996). Since then, 20-50% of feedstock as been diverted to the production of ethanol to meet quotas set by government green policies. This represents a scant 1½% of petroleum used for transportation, hardly affecting oil prices (Helbling, et al., 2008) but dramatically inflating food prices. This binding of grains to crude results in an echoing effect; feedstock used to create cooking oils become scarce increasing the cost of meal production in Malaysia through 2008 (Tenenbaum, 2008). Food insecurity persists not because of the world’s inability to produce but the local ability to purchase (Alexandratos, 2008) and poverty being its root cause. With over 1 billion now living at the margin of malnutrition and spending 70-80% (Tenenbaum, 2008) of their income and energy on the acquisition of foodstuffs, the relation between food prices and welfare is extremely elastic.

 

Figure B3

Figure B3

Global security and welfare are also in jeopardy, as food price hit record highs in 2008 (Figure B3) governments shut their borders to limit supply and riots were seen in 33 countries (Tenenbaum, 2008). Restricting trade limits potential economic gain (Figure B4) as worried investors flee seeking stability for their capital elsewhere, furthering poverty and social unrest.  Shrinking arable lands from the impacts of bio-fuel farming, including water depletion and soil erosion, will transform millions into environmental refuges. People of differing culture, language or religion and once separated by geographic means will be pitted over remaining tracts of land for sustainability and shelter (Brown, 2006, p 114).

 

Figure B4

Figure B4

V.        Solutions – Abetting Reality

Calls for a moratorium of the production of feedstock for bio-fuels by various countries have already been made (Tenenbaum, 2008) to ensure that diversion of food to product is first well-balanced and future growth unhindered. But, ultimately, Peak Oil is on the minds of all participants.

 

To remove our dependence on oil is not merely transference of energy from one source to another, but a reduction of our entire exposure. The throwaway society that has driven job creation and economic growth – and has become the envy of emerging economies (Alexandratos, 2008) – is no longer sustainable. Oil notwithstanding, other important resources, such as lead, tin and copper, all have their estimated peaks within this century (Brown, 2006, p. 109). Moreover, it’s about changing attitudes. Bottled water was found to be no cleaner than that from a household tap and yet billions of units are sold across North America, wasting untold energy in its production, refrigeration and transportation (Brown, 2006, p. 242). It is time we forget the notion that production growth is the only measure of wellbeing and start developing new solutions.

 

Brown (2006, p. 228-232) suggests shifting the cost of excess from the environment on to the consumer in the form of taxation. By excising the true cost of fuel on the end user via road or gasoline taxes, purchasers will self-regulate consumption.  Further, he argues that lowering income taxes in compensation will create jobs via spending in other sectors of the economy and encourage the development of green technologies to curb energy-use. Both Brown (2006, p. 233-234) and Helbling (et at., 2008) recognise the economic disparity between countries who trade energy in the form of tariffs and subsidies, creating an uneven playing field for producers that penalize development and ultimately accelerate their own environment destruction.

 

Alexandratos (2008) stipulates that a balance between bio-fuels and food production can be best met by trading production to areas with the lowest opportunity cost of production, providing an example of Brazilian sugarcane being used as a source of fuel while freeing northern hemisphere’s breadbaskets for the production of food. Alternatively, the UN-FAO (1996) suggest investing in food security by providing capital and resources instead of raw food aid thereby increasing the amount of arable land revitalizing economies and stemming hunger and malnutrition in failing states.

 

Diamond in his book Collapse (2005) chronicles societies that have committed unintentional ecological suicide – or ecocide – where abandonment of settlements were triggered by destroying resources which their society were dependant and warns of ignoring these lessons from people past.  Fundamentally, this decision is left to our world’s actors: the consumers that must ask ‘What are we trying to sustain, our livelihood or our lives?’ and become conscientious shoppers; the producers that must realise ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees, nor does it in the fields’ and economic growth is the end result of social and environmental stability; and the politicians to develop the wherewithal to acknowledge these facts and lead before it too late.

 

 

 

A.        References

 

Alexandratos, N. (2008). Food Price Surges: Possible Causes, Past Experience, and Longer Term Relevance, Population and Development Review, 34(4). 366-397.

 

Banks, S. (2008). Bill C-33: An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Legislative Summaries, LS-587E. 2.

 

Biello, D. (2008). Fertilizer Runoff Overwhelms Streams and Rivers–Creating Vast “Dead Zones”. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fertilizer-runoff-overwhelms-streams

 

Brown, L. (2006). Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. New York: W.W. Norton & Earth Policy Institute.

 

Clark, R., Kolcke, N., Schneekloth, J. & Norton, N. (2001). Irrigating for Maximum Economic Return with Limited Water. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.

 

CIA [U.S Central Intelligence Agency] (2009). World Fact Book. Washington. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2097.html

 

Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Penguin Books. 6-7.

 

EIA [Energy Information Administration] (2008). International Energy Outlook 2009.Washington. Retrieved at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/highlights.html

 

Greene, D., Hopson, J. & Li, Jia (2006). Have we run out of oil yet? Oil peaking analysis from an optimist’s perspective, Energy Policy, 34(2006). 530.

 

Helbling, T., Mercer-Blackman, V. & Cheng, K. (2008). Riding the Wave. Finance and Development, 45(1). Washington: International Monetary Fund.

 

IMF [International Monetary Fund] (2008). World Economic Outlook, April 2008.

 

Logan, W. [Principal], et al. (2008). Water Implications of Bio-fuels production in the Untied States. Washington: The National Academic Press. 27-36.

 

McMahon, T. (2009, July 15). Oil Rebounds in Inflation Adjusted Terms. Financial Trend Forecaster. Retrieved from http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Rate/Historical_Oil_Prices_Chart.asp.

 

Mercer-Blackman, V., Samiei, H. & Cheng, K. (2007, Oct. 17) Bio-fuel Demand Pushes Up Food Prices, IMFSurvey Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2007/RES1017A.htm.

 

Miller, D. & Doidge, B. (2008).  Bio-chemicals from Corn : Update 2008 [PowerPoint]. Ontario Agri-Food Technologies. Retrieved from http://www.oaft.org/UserFiles/File/Biochemicals-From-Corn.pdf.

 

Ministry of Natural Resources (2008). Water Use in Ontario. Toronto: Government of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Water/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_163594.html

 

Nafziger, E. & Hoeft, R. (2000). Thinking About Nitrogen Recommendations. Chicago: University of Illinois. Retrieved from http://ipm.illinois.edu/bulletin/pastpest/articles/200004k.html.

 

Otani, T. (2008, Oct. 21). Toyota Plans to Replace 20% of Plastics with Bioplastics, Nikkei Electronics Asia Newsletter. Retrieved from http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp/english/NEWS_EN/20081021/159844/.

 

Pope, M. (2009). Peak oil and an economic recovery. The National Forum. Retrieved from http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=9407.

 

Sen, A. (2008, May 28). The Rich Get Hungrier. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/28/opinion/28sen.html.

 

Tenenbaum, D. (2008). Food vs. Fuel: Diversion of Crops Could Cause More Hunger. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(4). A254-A257.

 

TXOGA (2009). What a Barrel of Crude Oil Makes. Texas Oil & Gas Association. Retrieved from http://www.txoga.org/articles/308/1/WHAT-A-BARREL-OF-CRUDE-OIL-MAKES.

 

UN-FAO (1996). Agriculture and Food Security. In World Food Summit : Food for All. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

 

Watts, J. (2009, Aug. 19). Food supplies at risk from price speculation, warns expert. The Guardian. Retieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/19/food-supply-risk-speculators.

 

Wright, R. (2004). A Short History of Progress [Lecture]. The CBC Massey Lectures 2004.