Monthly Archives: June 2006

Right to Play

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Football Fever or Right to Play

Did you know (because I didn’t) that there are more than 20.8 million refugees worldwide, and that more than 9 million among them are children? Refugees are legally defined as people who are “outside their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group”.

6.6 million are called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are uprooted civilians who have stayed within their countries. Recently the figure for IDPs has risen. 2.4 million people are stateless. 1.7 million have returned home but still need help. 775,566 are asylum seekers who have fled their own country for fear of persecution and are applying to be recognized as refugees. 80, 800 are resettllement cases.

And 29% are in legal limbo without clear status.

Right to Play is an athlete-driven, international humanitarian organization that has started up in order to promote play and learning among disadvantaged children who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Right to play programs are currently implemented in 23 developing countries around the world. Ronaldo, one of the world’s top players, has become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.

The love of play is universal.

All you need is a ball.

A ball designed for refugee camp conditions.

A ball as an icon for the potential of refugee kids.

A ball can change the world.

Help them play, let them learn.

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Livable Cities?

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Urban Sustainability: People & Environment

Sustainable development is the code word for the most important social debate of our time. Is our model of development undoing our very existence or, for that matter, the maintenance of our planetary ecosystem? Under which conditions are economic growth, our consumptive patterns, and our ways of living reproducible over time without damaging the conditions of their reproduction? Is generational solidarity – that is, forwarding a livable planet to the grandchildren of our grandchildren – an achievable goal in the current context of social organization?

This fundamental debate is increasingly urban. For all the talk about the natural environment, it is the living conditions in cities (in fact, in large metropolitan regions) that determine the future of our livelihood. It is in large cities where we generate most of the CO2 emissions that attack the ozone layer. It is our urban model of consumption and transportation that constitutes the main cause of the process of global warming and can irreversibly damage the conditions of livelihood.

The housing crisis, the collapse of transportation, the deterioration of public hygiene, and the contamination of air and water represent the dark side of the urbanization process.

In other words: in the midst of a most extraordinary technological revolution, we are experiencing the largest wave or urbanization in history, often in appalling conditions and, generally speaking, with a high cost in terms of the quality of life, both socially and environmentally.

However, these are structural trends, not historical fatality. What happens in history and in society ultimately depends on human agency…The future of our world will not ultimately depend on technological innovation or on the global economy. It will be the outcome of what we – the people – the urban people – do about it, through our projects and through our conflicts. The missing link between environmental sustainability and social organization, in theory as in practice, is the relationship of urban communities to their environment.”

Livable Cities?

“Livable Cities?” as the question mark implies takes a deeper look into whether our current way of occupying the planet and in particular our cities is sustainable. The word “livable” is an interesting choice because it connects the social aspect to the environment, and it is a relationship that has grown increasingly alienated and distanced, perhaps in some part due to increasing urbanization trends which has resulted in the territorial sprawl of urban life onto formerly green spaces. Livable is itself a somewhat ambiguous term and open to interpretation and misinterpretation.

The authors of Livable Cities? argue for a definition of livability that takes into account and must in fact exercise a balance between society (the people) and environment. We are interdependent, and if anything we are more co-dependent on the environment than it is on us. “The coin of livability has two faces. Livelihood is one of them. Ecological sustainability is the other”. Citizens should not be forced to choose between green space and breathable air or wages. To be livable a city must put both sides of the “coin” together in a way that provides livelihoods for people and preserves the quality of our environment.

What seems clear today more than ever, and is brought back into the light by books like Livable Cities? and the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth”, is that sustainability and livability are intertwined. Citizens cannot afford to imagine themselves living in an urban reality divorced from the hinterland. Urban life has become an expense that the environment cannot afford to carry in its present state and certainly not with the anticipated growth and urbanization of the developing world. We as social agents must become increasingly aware and participate in the creation of sustainable, livable cities. It is no longer just up to the government or turning the finger on the private sector. What becomes evident in Livable Cities? and An Inconvenient Truth is that all three sectors (private/public/civic) have an important role to play in building the framework for a sustainable world.

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Baby Boomers

Ulysses

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vest the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

And drunk delight of battle with my peers;

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

As tho’ to breath were life. Life piled on life

Were all to little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

A section of Alfred Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses

It is slightly ironic that today’s baby boomers, a forceful generation that faced many firsts, is standing at the precipice of the past and the future, deliberating how to prolong the benefits of youth into an extended life expectancy. It seems somewhat cruel to have faced up to so many challenges: the demise of Nazi Germany, the civil rights era, women’s admission into universities for the first time, and to have time suddenly reward you with old age. This is a generation that lived up to the expectations set for them and by them, and now they are being asked to retire and to pull out of the game they so actively participated in for the majority of their young and adult lives. Where is the justice in that? Don’t we have a lot to learn from this group? Don’t they have stories to tell us? And more importantly shouldn’t we be listening to them, and to each other?

This morning my friend Riccardo and I got into a banter on favourite pieces of literature, Dante, the legend of Lancelot and Guinevere, and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s

Ulysses was among them. It was Tennyson’s poem that caught my attention. For me, there was really no need to write another book after Ulysses. Don’t get me wrong. I love books. I love words. I am very content to curl up in the pages of a new found book. But for me Ulysses captured the human spirit so fully. While you might not agree with Ulysses or Penelope, it is their very flaws, their weaknesses as well as their strengths, that make them so compelling. And so human. They are no better than us. And no worse. They are like each of us; in all our rage and beauty as we face up to life.

Reading Tennyson’s Ulysses I cannot help but feel sympathy for this grizzled man that has endured and withstood the tests of time, but finds himself reaching the edge. While his body betrays him with knots and failing strength, his mind and his spirit are very alive and still hunger for the adventures of the past. There is still so much more to discover. The concluded stories were in some ways just an opening of Pandora’s box, and it seems premature to have the lid close on your fingers. As Ulysses says, “How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! As tho’ to breath were life.” (This last line needs no further explanation of the injustices and the lack of imagination we impress upon the ageing population).

Reading passages from the poem, I cannot help but draw parallels between Ulysses and baby boomers. Knowing all that you know makes you want to set forth to do even more. It is part of your lived experience, it is part of your history, and it is even part of your DNA. Truth be told while some parts wane, there is still “And this gray spirit yearning in desire To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” .After all these years of moving forward, how can you possibly retreat, or worse, step back and be told that the world is no longer yours to discover, or to experience. All of these experiences you endured have become a part of you and enable you to see the possibilities. Because despite the passing of time and the quiet slowing down of bodies, what does endure is the strong will and desire to strive, to seek, and to find. Come what may.

As Ulysses says:

Come, my friends,

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in the old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal-temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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Generational Names or Labels

“Veterans are those born from 1922-1943. The Great Depression, World War II and Patriotism are the defining events in their life. They value hard work, law and order and respect for authority.

The Baby Boomers are those born between 1943-1960. Defining events include Television, the Civil Rights Movement, and prosperity. they value health and wellness, personal growth, and involvement.

Generation Xers are those born between 1960-1980. Watergate, MTV, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall are defining events for this generation.

They value diversity, global thinking, and pragmatism.

Generation Nexters are those born after 1980. Defining events include school violence, multiculturalism, and TV talk shows. They value civic duty, achievement and diversity.”

An excerpt from an online discussion on Millenials

For more glimpses of the ongoing conversations on Millenials and other generations head to Fourth Turning

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A Visit to the CCA

“I experience myself in the city and the city exists through my embodied experience. The city and my body supplement and define each other. I dwell in the city and the city dwells in me”.

Juhani Pallasmaa, 2005

“From all the happenings in the past few years and our continuing urbanization I feel the playground must not be developed as a piece of abstract design but as a natural ground form, with mounds, trees, water, sand and rocks. Children today do not get a chance to feel nature enough and with this philosophy in mind I developed the enclosed design adhering as much as possible to the idea…”

Cornelia Oberlander, Landscape Architect

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The Inner Courtyard of the Canadian Center for Architecture

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Ecological Landscapes

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Landscape Architect

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