Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 28th, 2009

Why Richard Florida’s honeymoon is over

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A rather catty little piece from the Toronto Star (Florida of course writes for the competition).

Honeymoons, typically, are short. For Florida, who arrived in Toronto just over two years ago to head the Martin Prosperity Institute, a University of Toronto think-tank created just for him, it’s officially over.

Shakir, a community advocate, was speaking at a public forum organized recently by the art magazine Fuse, and the group, Creative Class Struggle. Its website leaves little to the imagination: “We are a Toronto-based collective who are organizing a campaign challenging the presence of Richard Florida and the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, as well as the wider policies and practices they represent.”

Well actually there is a serious debate here between the social justice types and the economic development fans. I was just going to update my report on his visit here – but mindful that not everyone spends much time digging in my back lot, perhaps I should draw attention to the Toronto debate.

I really do hope that it is about issues and not personalities. Though a a quick glance at the comments under the Star piece is a bit depressing.  I also think that we need to be careful about what is descriptive – and much of Florida’s work (or rather that of his students) is in this category – and what is prescriptive. Yes cities that have had the creative class move to them have done well, on the whole, but that was in a different era. It may have even been a sensible strategy to adopt before the world changed. But America’s economy is now very different and some of us think it is not going to go back to what it once was. And we may very well have to get good at making things again – real metal bashing, log sawing kinds of industry – and not just the froth and frills of financial services and public relations.

As I said at the time, I do not think I would have gone to his talk if I had not won a ticket in a draw. And after I bought his book and read it, I wished that I had held on to my credit card a bit tighter. I suppose the market for an autographed copy may well not be now what it once was.

Richard Florida now (August 2017) admits he was wrong – and he is sorry.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm

The Transition Initiative

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I really do not have much to say about this. It came over one of the list serves – without any comment – and I read it with a growing sense of recognition. It is the first time I have heard of it – it is apparently British in origin but apparently has spread to Canada.

The article appeared in the July/August edition of Orion Magazine

I would be very interested to know if this has resonance with any of my readers – and it any knows of anything like this happening in  this part of the world

The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil …The initiative is set up to enable towns or neighborhoods to plan for, and move toward, a post-oil and low-carbon future: what Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Initiative, has termed “the great transition of our time, away from fossil fuels.”

The Transition Initiative describes itself as a catalyst, with no fixed answers, unlike traditional environmentalism, which is more prescriptive, advocating certain responses. Again unlike conventional environmentalism, it emphasizes the role of hope and proactiveness, rather than guilt and fear as motivators. Whether intentionally or not, environmentalism can seem exclusive, and the Transition Initiative is whole-heartedly inclusive.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm