Canada’s fateful next step

October 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm | In canada, green, justice, politics, resources, scandal | Comments Off

Canada’s government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is about to sign into law a new trade agreement with China. The agreement has had no public input by the Canadian people or their elected representatives. One can only suppose that it’s designed to enrich Canada’s corporate class. It certainly impoverishes Canada’s democracy.

As The Tyee, in an article entitled Chairman Harper put it:

By Nov. 1 three of China’s national oil companies will have more power to shape Canada’s energy markets as well as challenge the politics of this country than Canadians themselves. And you can thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for this economic treason. (source)

Read the article for more details, each of which is more stunning than the last. This agreement, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), marks “Canada’s formal entry into the ranks of dysfunctional petro states,” as The Tyee puts it.

If you’re concerned about this and you’re Canadian, please sign LeadNow’s petition, Stop the Sell-Out – Canada is NOT for Sale.

The following is the response I received from Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands:

Thank you for your interest in the Canada-China Investment Treaty. Although Stephen Harper prefers to keep Canadians in the dark about this Agreement’s grave implications for our sovereignty, security, and democracy, I am hopeful that we can force the issue into daylight. Your letter proves that you recognize the seriousness and urgency of what is about to take place behind our backs.

While the Canada-China Investment Treaty will likely be our most significant treaty since NAFTA, Stephen Harper plans to sign it into law as early as November 2nd, 2012, without any public consultation, any consultation with First Nations, any Parliamentary debate, or even a single vote in the House of Commons. I do not accept such blatant disrespect for either the will of Canadians or for our democratic institutions.

Sadly, in addition to the anti-democratic process to approve this Agreement, it is the actual content of this investment deal with which I am most concerned. For the first time in Canadian history, the Canada-China Investment Treaty will allow investors (including Chinese state-owned enterprises such as CNOOC or Sinopec), to claim damages against the Canadian government in secret, for decisions taken at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level that result in a reduction of their expectation of profits. Even decisions of Canadian courts can give rise to damages.

Realizing what the Conservatives were attempting to do, in secret and without debate, and realizing that we will be bound by this destructive Agreement for up to 31 years once it is ratified, on October 1st, 2012, I made a request in the House of Commons for an Emergency Debate to allow Canada’s democratically elected Members of Parliament to study the implications of the Canada-China Investment Treaty.

Although my request for an Emergency Debate was regrettably denied, we have not given up and are continuing to pursue all available options to stop the treaty’s approval. Given what is at stake, we hope that you will join us.

In addition to the tools found on our Canada-China Investment Treaty campaign site at http://www.greenparty.ca/stop-the-sellout, I urge you to push back against this sell-out of our sovereignty, security, and democracy, and help to educate Canadians by talking to your friends and neighbours, writing letters to the editor in local and national newspapers, calling in to talk radio shows, and filling up the comment boards of news website.

Crucially, this is not a partisan issue, and it is only by coming together to stand up for Canada that we will succeed in stopping this agreement.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

I am so glad that May and Canada’s Greens are paying attention, and that the NDP is now also on board with stopping this incredible sell-out of Canada and its resources. Canadians: hewers of wood and carriers of water forever, eh? In whose interest, exactly?

 

Ecothinking and Marx

June 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm | In canada, green, guerilla_politics, nature, politics, scandal, social_critique | Comments Off

There’s a great video available on YouTube right now, A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never. Based on a 5/23 Washington Post op-ed by Bill McKibben of 350.org (and narrated and illustrated by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia), it sarcastically tells us that “It is vitally important not to make connections.”

Of course the intent is the opposite: McKibben does want us to make connections. These days, however, we’re often so bedazzled by spectacle (including disaster footage) as to feel powerless about the point of information that connects to anything else.

But if not connect now, when?

In the video we see extreme weather events, including recent tornadoes in the Midwest; wildfires in Texas and droughts in New Mexico; flooding in Mississippi, and record rainfall elsewhere. “Do not wonder if they’re somehow connected,” the narrator warns. Do not wonder…. because it’s imperative to have a passive populace, of course – one that’s transfixed by looking instead “at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising rivers as the water approaches his chest,” or similar “oh-wow”-human-interest angles.

It’s far too hard to look at facts, or to ask whether government policies (such as allowing more coal mining or exploiting Alberta’s tarsands) even begin to make sense when it comes to global welfare…

So how about some facts for the next time you get up off the couch and head to the fridge? According to The rising cost of food – get the data (published on June 7, 2011), global food prices this year are still 37% higher than they were last year. And there’s no relief in sight as “high and volatile food prices are also likely to prevail for the rest of the year, and into 2012.”

What’s driving this rise, which has propelled the food price index from 92 in January 2001 to 232.4 in May 2011? Theories abound, including ones around weather (too much and/or too little rain fall); a growing population (including a demand for meat in China); concentration of corporate control; and the use of food for biofuel.

But maybe the following angle, alluded to in The Guardian, reveals an aspect that vitally deserves to be connected to other facts and insights: As the article notes, there is a

massive influx of big investors into deregulated commodities markets – searching for a “safe bet” after the dotcom bubble burst – who speculate on the future price of food. On Sunday, a UN conference on trade and development said it may be necessary for governments to intervene with regulation to rein in rising food prices. The FAO adds that more must be done to improve transparency in global food markets. (source)

Ok, let’s take that “dot” and connect it to another approach, courtesy of Bob Burnett’s recent article, Roll Over, Karl Marx (June 10, 2011). When you start to think about climate change and weather disasters in conjunction with environmental despoliation and rising food prices, and plug some of that into a political analysis, you have to get politicized …which is probably very dangerous to our ruling class.

Ruling class? Why, what’s this? Class warfare?

Well, yes, it’s shaping up that way, isn’t it? Except, of course, for the lethargy of the key players…

Burnett summarizes Marx and marxist thought in broad strokes, from the Industrial Age to the later 20th century, when income inequality (Johnson Administration) lessened …before picking up again. By 2007, income inequality had reached a historic high. What’s up with that?

In the meantime, our more recent Great Recession has hugely exacerbated that imbalance while it’s also busily eviscerating the middle class – which of course leads to more polarization. Yet the populace remains docile, even in the face of environmental despoliation (which is causing disasters world-wide) and significant rises in the cost of living, particularly food prices.

Burnett addresses several factors Marx (who expected that any class under such pressure would revolt) could not have foreseen: multinational corporations; a corporate-controlled mainstream media that owns the airwaves and your eyeballs; a PR campaign that remade our perception of corporate strategy (convincing us that trickle-down economics actually work, for example), or that “markets are inherently self correcting and there is no need for government regulation.” Burnett notes, the “consequences were devastating to workers, the environment, and the American economy,” particularly as jobs went overseas while wages stagnated. Union power / collective bargaining rights were undermined or destroyed, and – most significantly – instead of being perturbed by this loss of real power, people became distracted with questions about fundamentalist religion and issues like abortion – both of which “ divert attention from poor wages and living conditions.”

It doesn’t help that the Democratic Party is (as Burnett puts it) “capitalism lite,” leaving the non-capitalist crowd without a champion in the political arena.

And yet we wonder why Obama has been so wishy-washy on the environment. Why we continue to rape the earth – frack it for all it’s worth, for example.

But of course, “It is vitally important not to make connections.”

You should not wonder

You should instead continue to be distracted by “human interest” stories and ridiculous debates about religion and abortion and other matters that keep people on a slow boil, instead of directing them to fix real problems.

Above all, remember how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fuel companies…

Relevant images (links included)

 

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Despoliation of the environment, high finance, mountain top removal

December 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm | In green, land_use, nature, politics, resources, scandal | Comments Off

Two articles that need your attention: one, in the Wall Street Journal, Trader Holds $3 Billion of Copper in London, which describes how some trader is sitting on 80-90% of circa 50% of the world’s exchange-registered copper stockpile, squirreled away in a London warehouse. We don’t think a lot about where those metals come from.

Which brings me to the second article, in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Obama-Effekt erreicht Bergbau und Banken. The article looks at the involvement of Swiss banks in financing companies like Massey Energy – companies engaged in environmental despoliation of a scale that’s hard to imagine. It’s called “mountain top removal”…

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Watch iLoveMountains‘ video, above. Check out their website.

This is where (and how) we get our resources.

There’s got to be a better way.

Below, image of a landscape wrecked by copper mining, via Wall Street Journal article:

Worse than Katrina? Anti-density bombs over Detroit

September 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm | In cities, futurismo, land_use, politics, scandal, social_critique, urbanism | Comments Off

Caught a Sept.23 post by David Byrne today, Don’t Forget the Motor City (found via a tweet by Richard Florida). Byrne writes:

This is a city that still has an infrastructure, or some of it, for 2 million people, and now only 800,000 remain. One rides down majestic boulevards with only a few cars on them, past towering (often empty) skyscrapers. A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called Requiem For Detroit by British director Julian Temple, who used to be associated with the Sex Pistols. It’s a great film, available to watch on YouTube, that gives a context and history for the devastation one sees all around here. This process didn’t happen overnight, as with Katrina, but over many many decades. However the devastation is just as profound, and just as much concentrated on the lower echelons of society. Both disasters were man-made.

That film Byrne references – Requiem for Detroit – occupied a chunk of my evening. It’s truly haunting – unbelievable, except it’s true. (The link Byrne gives goes to Requiem for Detroit in 10-minute segments; the link above goes to the entire 1hr.16min.45sec. film – not sure how that was uploaded to Youtube, but I hope it stays up).

Byrne includes this photo, a google maps overview of a couple of “city blocks” in Detroit today …no density, hardly any houses (most have been razed, the city is trying to “shrink” itself), a sorry accompaniment to the more frightening destruction that has taken place in other areas:

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I believe it was in his 1740 essay The Anti-Machiavel that Frederick the Great wrote that the Netherlands, with its small land mass but large population of educated citizens, was far richer than Russia, with its vast but sparsely populated land mass – a population furthermore kept in servitude and ignorance due to a feudal system that enshrined serfdom.

People – engaged, educated, integrated – matter more than machines or raw land. Looks like land use policies (racist) and factory practices (automobile production) came together to make Detroit turn into 18th century Russia instead of Holland.

Making the obscene seen

June 7, 2010 at 10:36 pm | In ideas, scandal, social_critique | 4 Comments

I chose a couple of redesigned BP logos to illustrate yesterday’s Sunday Diigo Links Post, even though my links weren’t related to the oilspill. They just struck me as appropriate. One in particular caught my attention:

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The design is part of LogoMyWay’s BP Logo Redesign Contest. It was submitted by Gremlin (no further information logged about this designer, except s/he’s in Australia).

Anyway, it’s a damn good piece of work, to my mind, and it caught the attention of melanieb (also in Australia, coincidentally) who reads and comments often on my posts. She wrote:

I’m so old! I know that first reworked BP logo. It’s the south vietnamese police colonel assassinating a burglar (dressed up in the propaganda as a viet cong) in the street. I don’t know quite why, but I don’t think even BP deserves that.

I commented back, consequently thinking a bit more about what, exactly, made that redesign work for me. Let’s look at it a bit more closely…

First, here’s the famous photo by Eddie Adams that “Gremlin” references:

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I can’t remember when I first saw it – I was 12 in 1968 and didn’t become aware of it until several years later. But take yourself back to an age perhaps more reserved, consider what is shown (a man being executed), and something new comes into focus.

In my comment I wrote, “…the designer latched on to something important: that photo seems to be the first instance of mainstream [media] obscenity, and linking the obscene to what’s happening in the Gulf seemed somehow right.” Then I tried “thinking out loud” about what I meant by “mainstream obscenity”:

I think this photo might be the first time that we saw an image in “respectable” mainstream media of a murder – a death – as it happens. Until then, people heard about pornographic films in which victims were actually “snuffed” out, but only sickos would seek out a snuff film (or produce one). Showing the act of murder was too much of a taboo, literally ob-scene. So for me, this photo marks a divide between what was unacceptable and what was acceptable to depict: it literally wrenched the goalposts into new territory.
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The connection to BP might be that the current disaster, while it competes for First Place in the Hall of Shame (that is, other disasters have happened or are happening right now that compete for top prize), is going to do something similar: move the ob-scene into the scene/seen, and force us to deal with it. For years, environmental despoliation has been going on in Nigeria. For years, we’ve been burning these hydrocarbons and pumping the waste into the atmosphere – to the point where we’re now facing climate change that has potentially catastrophic consequences for us as a species. We’ve managed to cover these obscenities up, make them invisible. The BP disaster might change that, as Eddie Adam’s photo did.

Somewhere in the back of my head, my thinking was informed by feminist theory I read decades ago, but I had a hard time finding the right references online. Typing variations of a search string that included the words “obscene seen scene” into google wasn’t generating helpful links…

Finally, out of the googly blue, in Romanticism, Materialism, and the Origins of Modern Pornography, a 2001 article by Bradford K. Mudge (U. of Colorado, Denver) about George Eliot’s Middlemarch, a useful definition of the obscene-ness I was thinking of came up. Mudge quotes a passage from Middlemarch (p.92), in which Eliot describes Lydgate’s intellectual epiphany. The key sentence (from Eliot’s novel):

A liberal education had of course left him free to read the indecent passages in the school classics, but beyond a general sense of secrecy and obscenity in connection with his internal structure, had left his imagination quite unbiassed, so that for anything he knew his brains lay in small bags at his temples, and he had no more thought of representing to himself how his blood circulated than how paper served instead of gold.

From here, Mudge describes how the passage (it’s a longer passage than my extract above) offers “a series of artfully managed oppositions,” the most important of which is between the known and the unknown. Mudge writes:

Of particular interest is Eliot’s choice of the word “obscene.” (…) From the Greek meaning “off or behind the stage,” “obscenity” suggests that which is visually prohibited—because of its violent, coarse, or sexual nature—but that which is indispensable to, if not the cause of, the staged events.

Visually prohibited, obscenity belongs to the unknown (until it is seen, erupting as full-blown obscenity) – but, even though existing off-stage (un-seen, off-scene, ob-scene), it is “indispensable to, if not the cause of, the staged [seen] events.”

That’s the definition of obscenity I was looking for when I typed my comment, and it applies to Adams’s photo.

The photo is obscene: it reveals a visually prohibited aspect (full-frontal murder) of what was “indispensable to, if not the cause of, the staged events” conveyed by more traditional media representations of the war. And its obscenity made it an anti-war icon: it marks a watershed in what was henceforth allowed into mainstream representation, wrenched the goalposts into new territory by making it impossible to stop seeing the ob-scene. What was off-stage moved on-stage. …Of course we could now quibble and say, “well, if it’s no longer off-stage but on-stage, it’s not obscene,” but that’s just part of how the goalposts have moved. Obscenity is notoriously like art: you know it when you see it.

What’s the relation to BP and the oilspill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and why do I think appropriating Adams’s photo makes sense?

The current oilspill clusterfuck in the Gulf is obscene: an eruption onto the stage (into the scene/ the seen) of what was off-stage as far as the oil-guzzling public is concerned, even as its obscene-ness was (is) “indispensable to, if not the cause of, the staged [seen] events” (i.e., our habitual consumption of petroleum).

Now, however, we’ve all seen that huge obscene mess, and just as Adams’s photo made it impossible to pretend that obscenity wasn’t “indispensable” to the events on stage, the Gulf spill makes it impossible to pretend that our obscene dependence on petroleum can continue unchecked.

A bird is mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (source)

BP-caused oilspill: map overlay lets users relate to scale

June 2, 2010 at 10:22 pm | In green, just_so, scandal | 2 Comments

I think of Canada as a pretty big place. It’s the geography, to be sure, but it must also be because there are so few people here. Take Vancouver Island: my current city, Victoria, hangs on its southernmost tip. We’ve got a few people here (350,000 in the Capital Regional District), and a few more “up island” toward the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo. But overall, Vancouver Island seems like a vast wilderness. It’s possible to live here for decades without ever getting into its wild reaches.

Now take a look at this graphic overlay of the BP-caused oilspill in the Gulf of Mexico:

The spill covers all of Southern Vancouver Island, but that’s just a bit of it (too bad I can’t rotate the spill – it would slick most of the island): It covers Vancouver, Whistler, all of the Lower Mainland all the way to Chiliwack; it swamps the Gulf and the San Juan Islands, a huge chunk of the Georgia Strait, all of the Juan de Fuca Strait, and the entire southwestern coast of the island, including Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Oh, and the Olympic Mountains are covered, too.

Try out the map overlay for your region.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the scale of it (see previous tweets about scope, despoliation in Nigeria, and how the current spill is scandalous but also not news …sadly).

And it’s not over.

Gertrude Stein might agree: -ectomy is an ectomy is an ectomy

May 26, 2010 at 11:07 pm | In architecture, cities, heritage, land_use, real_estate, scandal | 5 Comments

File this one under “why not?”

It’s not a new item, but it made me go wow…

A while back, I read that Vornado Realty Trust left a big hole in Boston’s Downtown Crossing …after demolishing Filene’s Basement.

That was “wow” #1 (not a good wow): Gertrude Stein smelled a rat when she wrote, “there is no there there,” which I’m freely marrying to her “rose is a rose is a rose” to say that “-ectomy” is an ectomy …is an ectomy …is an ectomy.

In another context, we might easily just call it a hatchet job.

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Realize, dear reader, that Filene’s Basement was surmounted by a venerable piece of architecture, … namely Filene’s. (… ^Illustrated above)

Alright, I admit to an attachment to traditional (old) department store architecture: it’s a built form that has tons of embedded intelligence, and yep, it’s one of those built forms that, once you tear it down, it’s gone. And it takes a huge chunk of civic and urban history with it.

But alright, let’s move on: since it is already torn down – and the new project is not being built – at least (for the love of it all) put something interesting and striking (and bloody useful!) in its place (even temporarily).

Like this:

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Arthur Dent, faced by a Vogon destroyer, might wonder, “what the hell is that?” – but you, dear reader, can rest easy knowing that it’s made-by-humans it could be made by humans (if, that is, it weren’t left unbuilt, and if, that is, humans could overcome their imagination-deficit). What is it? Bio-Fuel Growing Eco Pods [to] Rejuvenate Stalled Boston Project (Sept. 2009).

One can dream. In the waking interim (knowing it’s not gonna happen), some juicy links to the doings of Vornado (and its CEO Steven Roth):

Mayor Battles Vornado in Boston

Downtown Crossing’s money pit

Menino threatens to oust Filene’s site developer

Boston Mayor Blasts Vornado’s Roth Over ‘Blight’ Speech

Is City Truly Wise to Vornado’s Roth Deliberately Stalling Filene’s?

Curbed New York’s articles tagged “Vornado”

All in all, if you read through those links you’ll see that Steven Roth and Vornado have done a heck of a job – the company has given development a very very bad name. That by itself should get them a black eye. That this company has taken out department stores (like Filene’s and Alexander’s) and the social history they embody makes it even worse.

PS: I was going to write a “part 2″ to last night’s post about Salim Jiwa’s talk at Social Media Club Victoria. It will have to wait until a later date – I want to gather my thoughts about this, and have had no time to do so today.

Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge scandal just keeps going

April 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, johnson street bridge, local_not_global, politics, scandal, victoria | Comments Off

It’s mind-boggling. The scandal of how the City of Victoria has tried to bum rush the historic Johnson Street Bridge into oblivion just keeps growing.

If you’re interested in questionable municipal shenanigans as a spectator sport, check out FOCUS Magazine‘s latest issue (May 2010), now available online as a PDF download, and go to page 26, where Sam Williams dissects in excruciating detail the FOIed email exchanges between City of Victoria engineer Mike Lai and his colleagues at Delcan Engineering, specifically Mark Mulvihill.

I am ashamed to live in such a banana republic of a city.

The current council and mayor (imo lame duck, with the exception of Geoff Young); from L to R, standing: Chris Coleman, Phillipe Lucas, Pam Madoff, Dean Fortin, Sonya Chandler, John Luton, Geoff Young; seated: Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Lynn Hunter

Keeping the Johnson Street Bridge

June 27, 2009 at 12:25 am | In heritage, leadership, local_not_global, politics, scandal, victoria | 20 Comments

Reading and watching the Vibrant Victoria forum thread on Victoria’s famous Johnson Street Bridge – also known as The Blue Bridge – is keeping me up at night.

It wrenches my heart (and my head) to know that our city leaders, “incentivized” by engineers and the possibility of getting some Federal infrastructure grants, are benighted enough to plan tearing down a bridge that people around the world recognize as a heritage-worthy and unique signifier in Victoria’s urban landscape.

Take a look at these photos, and marvel at the “ugly” bridge that’s supposed to be replaced by a slab of concrete:
Johnson Street Bridge, taken by

Vibrant Victoria forumer “gumgum” took this photo while approaching the bridge in his canoe.

Here are two more:
Johnson Street Bridge by VV forumer

and

Johnson Street Bridge, in

(See the rest here.)

I wrote about the bridge in the current June issue of Focus (read the article, Blue Bridge Blues) and I’ve blogged about the impending disaster of tearing the bridge down (here, here, and here). And now I just joined two Facebook groups, formed to Save and Keep the Blue Bridge.

The whole issue is complicated by the fact that the usual spokespeople for heritage preservation (often enough a NIMBY and anti-development crowd to boot) are NDP stalwarts (even at the Federal level – ex-Victoria City Councilor), and since plans to tear this bridge down were proposed by our reigning NDP mayor, who has an NDP majority on council (including the alleged heritage advocate, Councilor Pam Madoff), the partisans have all closed ranks and decided to just not say anything at all …which is very curious indeed.

The only explanation that comes to my mind is that it’s all about partisanship, which infects and clouds local politics in the worst way. I would like to say to the partisans: for once, forget about party affiliation and just do the right thing already. If the BC Liberals had proposed tearing the bridge down – no matter how good the reasons – the heritage preservation crowd and every NDP-inflected City Councilor would be on the barricades.

Instead, we get this:

Victoria City Councilors (allegorically)
But this (the image ^ above) shouldn’t be a civic leader’s inspiration.

It also creeps me out that our leaders are listening quite hard to the City’s engineering department, which (from what I gleaned at an April committee of the whole meeting) seems intent on building a new bridge (boys will be boys, and these boys want to build something new). City engineering furthermore hired a consultant (to assess the condition of the old bridge), but this consultancy is in the business of building only new bridges, so why wouldn’t they furnish the City with a report that recommends building a new bridge?

Add to all this the galling fact that most Victorians are blissfully unaware that the bridge is even in danger – and that worst of all, they have no idea what they, what we, stand to lose here.

Here’s where Vibrant Victoria’s forumers are keeping me up at night… Forumer “aastra” has diligently compiled the numerous examples of other North American cities – some much smaller and poorer than allegedly “quainte” and oh-so-cash-strapped Victoria – that not only celebrate the value of trunnion or bascule bridges from this era, but that actually spend significant piles of dough in refurbishing them and then in addition have the audacity to express civic pride in their preservation.

Incroyable, you say? Well, it’s not unbelievable. Take a gander at these, courtesy of “aastra”:
3rd Street Bridge, San Francisco
This is a photo of an almost identical Strauss-built bridge in San Francisco – restored and preserved. (See source.)

Next, there’s this image, of the same bridge:Third Street/ Lefty O'Doul Bridge, San Francisco

Same bridge, different photographer (source).

Toronto also has a Joseph Strauss designed trunnion bridge, and they restored theirs and are keeping it, while we plan to nuke ours. aastra wrote:

So did we all know about the Cherry Street Trunnion Bridge in Toronto? Built in 1931 by some bozo named Strauss.

Quote:
…designated under the Ontario Heritage Act by the City of Toronto in 1992 as Architectural Historical.

That’s the problem with Toronto. It’s such an impersonal big city that’s lost all connection with its past.


(The bridge is green. Good call by Torontonians. If it were another colour it would probably be gone by now.)

The sarcasm and his last sentence expresses frustration over earlier banter about whether our bridge was always blue and whether it was always famous, or famously blue. His point was that the color hardly matters. It’s like saying it matters whether ivy or roses clamber up the Empress Hotel on Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

aastra finds another bascule bridge – preserved, not torn down (and it’s even blue!):

Quote:
The Ashtabula lift bridge (also known as the West Fifth Street bridge) is a Strauss bascule bridge that spans the Ashtabula River in the harbor of Ashtabula, Ohio. Built in 1925, it is one of only two of its type that remain in service in the state of Ohio. In 1985 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was restored in 1986, and was also closed from March to December 2008 for repairs and repainting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtabula_lift_bridge

In Ohio it’s history. Something to be proud of. In Victoria it’s junk. Hallmark Society, where are you?


http://www.flickr.com/photos/83132978@N00/1364138744/

The really amazing thing is that it’s blue and yet they still decided not to replace it.

And there’s more… Chattanooga, Tennessee has one (slightly different design):

Market Street Bridge in Chattanooga, TN:

Quote:
The Market Street Bridge construction began in 1914. It is a bascular-type draw span bridge and is owned by the State of Tennessee. Because of its current condition, the bridge is currently undergoing a major structural renovation which will cost $13,060,428.85.
Quote:
Once construction is complete, travelers will enjoy sidewalks measuring three feet wider on either side of the thoroughfare making walking safe and easy. The bridge design will also provide architectural attributes and lighting in keeping with the historical significance of the Market Street Bridge. The renovated bridge will look much like the original – only stronger, safer, and ready to be put into use for another 90 years!

http://www.marketstbridge.com/facts.html

…As does Mystic, Connecticut:

Mystic, Connecticut:

Quote:
River Road – Running beside the Mystic River, this scenic road offers terrific water views of the ships of Mystic Seaport and Mystic’s famous Bascule Bridge.

http://www.mystic.org/landmark-trail.asp

Quote:
Not to be confused with Olde Mystic Village, this is the “real” downtown of Mystic – it includes the Mystic River Bascule Bridge, one of few operational bascule bridges in the country. For those of us who are unfamiliar with bascule bridges, this is a fancy drawbridge. Feel free to gawk either at the bridge itself or at the tourists gawking at the bridge.

http://www.starrmurphy.com/shopping.php

Quote:
Historic 1922 marvel delights bridge fans — its mechanical parts are all out in the open.

http://www.mystic.org/p/highlights-tour.asp

Mystic River Bascule Bridge (1922)

Meanwhile, Rob Randall, Chair of the Downtown Residents Association, added this comment:

I want to mention the importance of the bridge in relation to the time in which it was built–the 1920s–and the fact that this time coincided with the dawn of what some call “the Precisionist Movement” in American painting.

Some of America’s most famous artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Charles Sheeler tackled the subject of the industrial landscape, painting stunningly detailed pictures of factories, skyscrapers and yes, bridges–even ones designed by none other than JSB designer Joseph Strauss.

It would be fair to say they have influenced modern artists as well.

Our bridge is a real link to this vanishing historical age of engineering and artistic genius.


Elsie Driggs (1898 – 1992) Queensborough Bridge, 1927
Oil on Canvas, 401/2 x 30 ¼ inches
MAM Purchase: Lang Acquisition Fund 1969.4

So there you go, city leaders. But are they listening? According to forumer CharlieFoxtrot, they’re not and it’s already too late:

Word on the street is that various contracts have been awarded within the past few days – the replacement moves forward. Expect grunts in high-vis vests to be hanging around the JSB and starting the preliminary work soon, most likely ASAP.

Sadly, looming federal infrastructure funding dependant on fixed deadlines for completion (and these other things called “fish windows” with regards to construction) are Serious Things that wait for no one, or (apparently) little or no opposition…

I could go on to disparage Ken Kelly of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA), which apparently supports replacing the bridge because replacement will be less disruptive to traffic. Yes, you read that right. But I won’t right now, because this post is already too long and it’s getting quite lugubrious.

Just one last thing: if you’re a heritage/ history/ bridge/ industrial design buff, consider writing a letter to The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6. There are Federal funds to preserve heritage like this bridge – the city should have applied for this, and applied for infrastructure grants to replace the Bay Street Bridge, not the Johnson Street Bridge.

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