Thursday, February 03, 2005

Waverly Gables

Tonight i went to see the documentary The End of Suburbia put on the by U of W's Institute of Urban Studies. It dealt with the peaking of oil production, and the crisis this poses to the suburban life. So much of it was stuff i have already read about, or realized through everyday experiences in urban and suburban settings. Just the same, the film really blew my socks off.

What also got me was how i showed up to the lecture hall five minutes early and barely found a spot. I don't want overestimate the numbers, but the hall probably held 250-300. By the time the movie got going there were people sitting in the aisles. Far more people than i would have expected. Aside from the usual "delegates" you would find at something like this, the place was filled with the typical white U of W student. You know what kind of woolen-touqued person I'm talking about don't you? There were so many of them! Were they getting credit for attending? Or is there an unspoken but significant population who are interested in this kind of thing, that I am totally unaware of?

Maybe I am just stereotyping, but I don't think I'm being unfair by assuming this, given the lack student protest towards sprawl/auto overuse in our city, and only a few token "suburbs are cookie-cutter, Osborne Villiage is funky" articles in the student papers. I've always thought that these are the kids who don't think about oil in any other terms than Iraq or the ozone layer; the guys that curse SUV soccer moms, but couldn't give up their own '92 Caveliers or Superstore bargains for a day.

What I hope is that this film will get people thinking the next time they're out driving or walking (where it is easier to do so) around the city. It only takes a few blubs spoken in a doc like this to completely shift the way you think about so many things.

In regards to the way cities have been built up and torn down since 1945, for example, it doesn't take much to realize what a good place is and what is not. Everyone knows that Albert or Walnut St are enjoyable and uplifting places to be, and why McPhilips Street or Lindenwoods Drive are not. But not everyone could tell you why. For example, I walked up and down Winnipeg for a few years without having any terms to describe what made the "old areas better than the suburb areas".

So hopefully everyone who saw that movie took what James Kunstler and Peter Calthorpe said about the need to truely live locally, and build better places that will make life livable in the post-oil age.