Connexions Resource Centre:
Focus on Community & Urban Issues
Recent & Selected Articles
- This is a small sampling of articles related to community and urban issues in the Connexions Online Library. For more articles, books, films, and other resources, check the Connexions Library Subject Index, especially under topics such as
- Public Spaces, Private Control (November 3, 2018)
A look at the commercialization of public spaces in Britain and elsewhere in the industrialized world, where gentrification and increasingly troubling privatization of public spaces goes largely unnoticed by a populace caught up in the day-to-day grind of living.
- Barcelona's Experiment in Radical Democracy (August 9, 2018)
Issues that Barcelona en Comu is tackling come up against limitations set by Catalan and Spanish law. The city lacks authority to regulate housing, although the city has created new affordable housing, and has successfully limited the reach of Airbnb.
- What's it like for a social movement to take control of a city? (May 11, 2018)
Ada Colau surprised many when she won the election to become mayor of Barcelona. The housing rights activist was part of a deep social movement aiming for participatory democracy. But this latest article from the Symbiosis Research Collective examines how winning the election was just the first step
- Off the Map: Disabilities and Just Mobility (March 28, 2018)
An examination of the tensions between investment driven public transit improvements and displacement of less affluent residents; with particular reference to people with mobility issues or disabilities.
- No Fare Is Fair: A Campaign for Free Public Transit in Toronto (March 14, 2018)
Public transit should be a right for everyone in Toronto. Using subways, buses, and streetcars shouldn't require paying fares, or user fees, that penalize riders with lower incomes.
- Gentrification and Class Struggles in Barcelona, Spain: Interview with Etcétera Collective (January 14, 2018)
In an interview with the Barcelona-based collective Etcetera, the processes of urban development in one of the fastest gentrifying cities in Spain and their implications for potential movements and struggles are examined.
- Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen (2017)
The Grenfell tower disaster is a consequence of social housing policies dating back to the 1980's.
- Cities Need More Public Transit, Not More Uber and Self-Driving Cars (August 2, 2016)
In the near future, it is likely that cities will come under intense pressure to sacrifice public transportation in favor of new, private, car-dependent alternatives, even at a time when city planners are suggesting reducing or even eliminating car use in cities.The article looks into the benefits of the new technologies, as well as benefits of public transit.
- Transit Activism and the Urban Question in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (May 22, 2016)
The demand for free transit has been an important starting point of recent mobilizations in Brazil, notably those that shook the whole country in the summer of 2013. This interview with local activists and researchers João Tonucci and André Veloso zeroes in on transit organizing in Belo Horizonte, the third largest metropolitan area in Brazil.
- The Urban Green Wars (December 11, 2015)
Struggling for working-class control of cities is crucial to bringing down carbon emissions.
- The Secret History of Jaywalking: The Disturbing Reason It Was Outlawed - And Why We Should Lift the Ban (August 22, 2015)
Mangla narrates the origins of jaywalking and the reason why it was made illegal.
- Curitiba: the Greenest city on Earth (March 15, 2014)
Eco-savvy urban planners have been studying Brazil's seventh largest city for decades.
- Public space - we must defend our freedoms! (January 21, 2014)
Laws handing sweeping new powers to police and private security to restrict access to Britain's public space will extinguish the diversity of civic life. Time for us to rediscover and defend our freedoms.
- Bicycle Use Booming in Latin America (December 17, 2013)
I ride 43 km a day and I love it, said Carlos Cantor in Bogotá, Colombia. Five years ago I switched my car for a bike, explained Tomás Fuenzalida from Santiago, Chile. They are both part of the burgeoning growth of cycling as a transport solution in Latin America.
- Deputation to the Toronto Board of Health regarding proposed expansion of Island Airport (December 9, 2013)
The waterfront is a highly utilized collective space that we have highly invested in to be used for recreational activities that promote health and fit into the city's vision of increasing green space. Why would we destroy it with an expanding airport?
- How Cars Drive Inequality (July 9, 2013)
Studies show that in car oriented cities are poor are less likely to rise the socioeconomic ladder than in transit and pedestrian oriented cities.
- Free transit (2013)
A pamphlet which gathers together a number of essays on the struggle for public transit. It emerges especially out of the urban context of Toronto. But the essays speak also to the wider crisis of public transit in North America, and the importance of this demand to an eco-socialist vision of feasible futures.
- Ecosocialism and the fight for free public transit (December 4, 2012)
Mass transportation is intimately tied not only to the physical form of cities, but to the deeper social structures of imperial capitalism. A campaign for free public transit can be an important part of a broader fight to restructure society along ecosocialist lines.
- Community Organising - A New Part of the Union (September 28, 2012)
A look at Unites community union organizing.
- Connexions Archive Case Statement (September 24, 2011)
Working together to secure a future for the past
- The Tent Intifada (August 2, 2011)
The bug that had spread from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Del Sol in Madrid now landed in Tel Aviv. The slogan coined in Cairo, "Social Justice!" became the main slogan in Israel.
- Organizing Around Transit: At the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Class Struggle (2011)
For the older big cities in North America, public transit is critical to their daily functioning. Organizing among workers and riders on public transit has a strategic importance.
- Cars and Class (September 10, 2010)
Making life difficult for cars could be, in fact, described as a form of class war, but one that works in the long-term interests of the poor and working class.
- Take Back The Land, Give Root To Democracy (September 8, 2010)
In many ways, Take Back the Land is a direct heir of the bottom-up, Black self-empowerment, civil disobedient, movement-building tradition, and is one of the most inspiring examples of a group renewing and developing that tradition today.
- Turning Estates into Villages (August 9, 2010)
How good planning can make us slimmer, fitter, safer and less lonely.
- Taking Back Homes From The Banks: Exercising The Human Right To Housing (May 12, 2010)
Most people recognize that international human rights guarantee all humans a right
to housing. With the millions of homeless living in our communities and the millions of empty foreclosed houses all across our communities, groups have decided to put them together. Organizations across the US are engaging in 'housing liberation' and 'housing defense' to exercise their human rights to housing.
- Connexions Archive seeks a new home (November 18, 2009)
The Connexions Archive, a Toronto-based library dedicated to preserving the history of grassroots movements for social change, needs a new home.
- Food Among the Ruins (August 1, 2009)
Detroit, the country's most depressed metropolis, has zero produce-carrying grocery chains. It also has open land, fertile soil, ample water, and the ingredients to reinvent itself from Motor City to urban farm.
- Take Back the Land (May 1, 2009)
It is immoral for human beings to be forced to live on the streets while perfectly good structures stand vacant, sometimes just blocks away.
- Urban Honey (2009)
In the winter of 2003, three Chicago beekeepers joined forces to create a bee farm on the former Sears-Roebuck property right in the heart of our city. We abut an old railroad embankment wall with both prairie remnant and concrete in equal amounts.
- Inclusion or exclusion (August 10, 2008)
People who advocate a vision of distinct communities that speak different languages, keep apart from each other, and communicate with the structures of the larger society only through interpreters, are doing more harm than good. What they are advocating is not diversity but entrenched division.
- Mistaken Identity (July 1, 2008)
Historically, antiracists challenged both the practice of racism and the process of racialisation; that is, both the practice of discriminating against people by virtue of their race and the insistence that an individual can be defined by the group to which he or she belongs. Today's multiculturalists argue that to fight racism one must celebrate group identity. The consequence has been the resurrection of racial ideas and the imprisonment of people within their cultural identities. Racial theorists and multiculturalists, the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut observes, have 'conflicting credos but the same vision of the world'. Both fetishise difference. Both seek to 'confine individuals to their group of origin'. Both undermine 'any possibility of natural or cultural community among peoples'. Challenging such a politics of difference has become as important today as challenging racism.
- Why both sides are wrong in the race debate (July 1, 2008)
For all the talk about culture as fluid and changing, multiculturalism, no less than old-fashioned racism, invariably leads people to think of human groups in fixed terms.
- Law and the wives of others (June 28, 2008)
How does a modern, plural democratic society deal with the desire of some minority groups to observe cultural norms at odds with the law of the land?
- Identity is that which is given (2008)
In this age of globalisation many people fret about Western culture taking over the world. But the greatest Western export is not Disney or McDonalds or Tom Cruise. It is the very idea of culture.
- Fare-Free Public Transit Could Be Headed to a City Near You (July 25, 2007)
It's time to give people a free ride on public transit. And here's proof it works.
- No Fares! (2007)
This series of articles in The Tyee takes a hard look at fare hikes and spending priorities by B.C.'s transit planners, as well as rising greenhouse emissions and pollution by the private automobile, and asks: Why are we creating barriers for people who might take public transit?
- Thinking Outside the Box (January 1, 2007)
Ignoring racism on the grounds that all citizens are equal and hence that racial or cultural differences are immaterial is clearly unacceptable. But so is labelling individuals by race, culture or faith and creating conflicts by institutionalising such differences in public policy.
- The Capitalist City or the Self-Managed City? (July 20, 2004)
The opposite of gentrification should not be decay and abandonment but the democratization of housing. Community land trusts may be a way of working towards this goal.
- Against multiculturalism (2002)
Multiculturalism is an authoritarian, anti-human outlook. True political progress requires not recognition but action, not respect but questioning, not the invocation of the Thought Police but the forging of common bonds and collective struggles.
- The Real Value of Diversity (2002)
The real failure of multiculturalism is its failure to understand what is valuable about cultural diversity. There is nothing good in itself about diversity. It is important because it allows us to compare and contrast different values, beliefs and lifestyles, make judgements upon them, and decide which are better and which worse. It is important, in other words, because it allows us to engage in political dialogue and debate that can help create more universal values and beliefs. But it is precisely such dialogue and debate, and the making of such judgements, that multiculturalism attempts to suppress in the name of 'tolerance' and 'respect'.
- Reclaiming the Commons (2002)
Why we need to protect our public resources from private encroachment.
- A Self-management Approach to Housing (2002)
Community land trusts (CLTs) have been formed in a number of communities in the USA in response to either disinvestment or gentrification. The CLT acquires land to take it permanently off the market and make it available for the use of the community. As a democratic organization, the CLT is intended to empower the community in determining what is done with land in that area. The CLT may rehab existing buildings, build new houses or apartment buildings, or do other types of development work.
- A Race Struggle, a Class Struggle, A Women's Struggle All at Once (2001)
In Los Angeles, the Labor/Community Strategy Center is carrying out a difficult Left experiment in the age of the omnipresent Right. The center is an explicitly anti-racist, anti-corporate, and anti-imperialist think-tank focusing on 'theory-driven practice'the generation of mass campaigns of the working class and oppressed nationalities, in particular the black and Latino workers and communities. These campaigns are historically relevant on their own terms, but also have real relevance to any transition to an uncharted socialist future.
- Abandoning the Public Interest (October 7, 2000)
The neo-liberal drive to cut red tape is costing lives. Exposing the hidden costs of deregulation and privatization.
- Cities for People (1999)
How two experiments in participatory democracy have transformed the political culture in Brazil and Uruguay.
- Privatizing the Public Realm (1998)
Public spaces are the arenas where the collective, common life which defines us as a society is acted out, and where we come into contact with those who are like and those who are different from ourselves. They are the places where we are all equal and where we are all "home." They are the places where our freedoms of speech and assembly are protected, where we can exercise the precious right of criticizing the government. In public spaces we are reminded of the most important civics lesson: We are all in this together. When private agendas of stratification and control are imposed on those places, the very heart of democratic principle is threatened.
- Principles governing municipal/provincial financial relationships (March 20, 1997)
In past decades, provincial governments have generally recognized the separate nature of local government and have not acted unilaterally in the field of financial relationships, but have attempted to reach amicable agreement.
- Snake Oil in a Computer: The Pseudo-science of Transportation Modeling (August 16, 1991)
Planners, politicians, and other decision-makers want to know what effect their projects will have on the environment. In many cases they don't really want to know, but want to convince their constituents that the results will be beneficial, or at least neutral. In both cases, computer modeling is being used to "answer" the questions.
- Connexions Annual Overview: Community, Urban, Housing (October 1, 1989)
- Bain Co-op Meets Wages for Housework (1977)
The story of the struggle that gave birth to a housing co-operative and destroyed the credibility of the 'Wages for Housework' sect.
- Grassroots Cells, Devil's Architects Defend Communities (February 2, 1973)
Organizational principles and campaign tactics communities can use to fight projects or developments being foisted on them.
Selected Organizations, Websites and Online Resources
- This is a small sampling of organizations and websites concerned with community and urban issues in the Connexions Directory. For more organizations and websites, check the Connexions Directory Subject Index, especially under topics such as
- Canadian Cohousing Network
Resource for the cohousing movement which seeks to create and maintain neighbourhoods which emphasize a supportive, inter-generational community, common facilities and participation by all members using a consensus process to make decisions.
- Illegal Signs
The site of a team of volunteers who fight illegal billboards in Toronto. They say:" Half the billboards in Toronto are illegal. Help us bring the vast, unlawful privatization of our public visual environment to an end.
- Intentional Communities
Resource for intentional Communities including ecovillages, cohousing, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives and other related projects.
- spacing: whose space is public space?
Public space is at the heart of democracy. It's where people interact, teach, learn, participate, and protest. Spacing covers the numerous political, cultural, and social issues affecting our lives in the public realm.
- Web Networks
Web Networks is the online home of many non-profit and social change groups in Canada.
Other Links & Resources
A partnership of Jewish and Arab eco-builders, architects, academics, and farmers promoting social and environmental justice in Israel/Palestine. BUSTAN cultivates sustainable models to effect change by combining advocacy and in-depth political analysis with strategic action. BUSTAN utilizes the principles of permaculture and non-violent direct action across ethnic divides.
- Citizens on the Web
Coverage of news and events, mainly in Ontario, from a progressive perspective.
- The Communitarian Network
A coalition of individuals and organizations who have come together to shore up the moral, social, and political environment.
- Community Topic Index in Sources Directory of Experts
A subject guide to experts and spokespersons on topics related to community issues in the Sources directory for the media.
- Connexions Library: Transportation Focus
Selected articles, books, websites and other resources on transportation.
- Deutschsprachiges Kommunitariernetz
German-language communitarian site.
- Facility of the Month
A regular photo feature on the Warrington Cycle Campaign's Web site, featuring photos some of the worst and most bizarre examples of 'bicycle lanes' to be found.
- Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market
Information about pedestrian-only days in Toronto's Kensington Market.
- Transport Action Canada
Promoting environmentally-sound transportation options.
- Urban & Housing Topic Index in Sources Directory of Experts
A subject guide to experts and spokespersons on topics related to urban issues and housing in the Sources directory for the media.
Books, Films and Periodicals
- This is a small sampling of books and films related to urban and community issues in the
Connexions Online Library. For more books and other resources, check the Connexions Library
Subject Index, especially under topics such as
- Building Bridges
The Emerging Grassroots Coalition of Labor and Community
Author: Brecher, Jeremy and Costello, Tim (ed.)
- Building Sustainable Communities:
Tools and Concepts for Self-Reliant Economic Change
Author: Benello, C. George; Swann, Robert; Turnbull, Shann; Morehouse, Ward (ed.)
Presents the underlying ideas and essential institutions for building sustainable communities. The major sections of the book deal with community land trusts and other forms of community ownership of natural resources, worker-managed enterprises and other techniques of community self-management, and community currency and banking. Also included are a lexicon of social capitalism and a bibliography of key works on self-reliant economic change.
- The City and Radical Social Change
Author: Roussopoulos, Dimitrios
A collection of essays dealing with the dynamics of the new forces for social change in our urban milieu, discussing how new ideas are contributing to an urban insurgency which could lead to a new city and a new concept of citizenship.
Means of Livelihood and Ways of Life
Author: Goodman, Paul & Percival
Visions of urban life.
- Community Dreams
Ideas for Enriching Neighbourhood and Community Life
Author: Berkowitz, Bill
A compilation of vignettes, fragments and thought starters that provides stimulating ideas for practical community transformation.
- The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Author: Jacobs, Jane
Jacobs' iconoclastic and brilliant observations on why cities work, and why they don't.
- Dialectical Urbanism
Social Struggles and the Capitalist City
Author: Merrifield, Andy
Life in the city can be both liberating and oppressive.This book explores both sides of the urban experience, developing a perspective from which the contradictory nature of the politics of the city comes more clearly into view.
- Down To Earth People
Beyond Class Reductionism and Postmodernism
Author: Secombe, Wallace; Livingstone, David W.
Working class women and men offer their analysis of the world today and its multi-dimensional inequalities.
- The Economy of Cities
Author: Jacobs, Jane
Ideas about what makes cities rich or poor, how cities grow, and how city growth affects national economies.
- Green Cities
Ecologically Sound Approaches to Urban Space
Author: Gordon, David (ed.)
Visions from around the world for an ecological urban model. Argues that putting wilderness in cities is good for conservation of wildlife.
Towards A Sustainable Toronto, uTOpia Volume Three
Author: Wilcox, Alana; Palassio, Christina; Dovercourt, Jonny
The third volume of the uTOpia series features a collection of essays that look at innovative and imaginative ways to promote sustainability in Toronto. Also included is a directory of resources, organizations, incentives and programs in and around the GTA.
- The Hidden Injuries of Class
Author: Sennett, Richard; Cobb, Jonathon
Sennett and Cobb look at human relations between people of different classes and analyze everyday life and ordinary situations to identify class signals that make people feel inadequate.
- The Householder's Guide to Community Defence Against Bureaucratic Aggression - Review
A report on Britain's Government Machine
Author: Diemer, Ulli
Organizational tactics communities can use to fight projects or developments being foisted on them.
- Houses and Homes
Housing for Canadians
Author: Sewell, John
Canadians need access to sound housing in decent neighborhoods, writes author Sewell. And in order to achieve this, all ideoligical freight is to be jettisoned and deliver nothing but the straight goods. One solution is to build diverse neighborhoods and abolish the many building and planning codes that suppress the creation of affordable housing.
- Land and Community
Crisis in Canada's Countryside
Author: Sim, R. Alex
Sim's thesis is that rural society is overlooked due to urban dependence upon "great associations," economies of scale, and other socio-cultural institutions of unmanageable size.
- Liberal Dreams and Nature's Limits
Great Cities of North America Since 1600
Author: Lemon, James T.
An exploration of city life through time, focusing on the life [economically, socially, politically, etc.] of five large North American cities at various times in the past - Philadelphia during the time of Benjamin Franklin (1760), New York in the mid nineteenth-century (1860), Chicago at the beginning of the Progressivist Civic Movements (1910), Los Angeles during the immediate Post-war boom (1950) and Toronto at the beginning of its own ascendancy in the 1970's. (1975).
- Local Places In the Age of the Global City
Author: Keil, Roger, Wekerle, Gerda R., Bell, David V.J. (eds.)
The contributors to Local Places look at the complex social, economic and political contexts of cities in the 1990s and suggest that cities and urbanity, while part of the problem, also need to be considered as part of the solution.
- Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter - March 18, 2017
Author: Diemer, Ulli (ed.)
Public transit - good affordable public transit - is key to a liveable city. Around the world, there are movements of transit riders fighting for better public transit. A key perspective guiding many of these struggles is the idea that transit should be free, that is, paid for not by fares, but out of general revenues. This is how roads are normally funded: their construction and maintenance are paid for by taxes, rarely by user fees. Free public transit by itself would not be enough, however. We also need good transit, transit that runs frequently and goes where people want to go.
- A Paradise Built in Hell
The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Author: Solnit, Rebecca
The most startling thing about disasters, according to Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides.
- The Politics of Urban Liberation
Author: Schecter, Stephen
A broad-ranging study which covers the political economy of the urban question and the importance of the city in the history of social revolution. Schechter's evaluation of libertarian insurgency highlights the importance of movements from below dealing with housing, transportation and other issues of daily life.
- Reclaiming Our Cities & Towns
Better Living with Less Traffic
Author: Engwicht, David
Cars destroy the environment; people should embrace alternative modes of transportation like bycycling and walking to make urban areas safer and enviromentally sound.
- Society of the Spectacle
Author: Debord, Guy
An analysis of modern society and how it can be changed, written in the form of 221 theses. The first thesis reads: "In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation." Translator Ken Knabb describes the book as "an effort to clarify the nature of the society in which we find ourselves and the advantages and drawbacks of various methods for changing it. Every single thesis has a direct or indirect bearing on issues that are matters of life and death."
- Squatter Town: The South's urban explosion
New Internationalist January/February 2006
A look at squatter communities and the social injustices they face.
- Toward Sustainable Communities
Resources for Citizens and their Governments
Author: Roseland, Mark
The way our urban communities develop will largely determine our success or failure in overcoming environmental challenges and achieving sustainable development. Toward Sustainable Communities offer practical suggestions and innovative solutions to a wide range of municipal and community problems.
Author: Hustwit, Gary (director)
A documentary about the design of cities, which looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the worlds foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers.
Learning from our History
Resources for Activists
The Connexions Calendar - An event calendar for activists. Submit your events for free here.
Media Names & Numbers - A comprehensive directory of Canada’s print and broadcast media. .
Sources - A membership-based service that enables journalists to find spokespersons and story ideas, and which simultaneously enables organizations to raise their profile by reaching the media and the public with their message.
Organizing Resources Page - Change requires organizing. Power gives way only when it is challenged by a movement for change, and movements grow out of organizing. Organizing is qualitatively different from simple “activism”. Organizing means sustained long-term conscious effort to bring people together to work for common goals. This page features a selection of articles, books, and other resources related to organizing.
Publicity and Media Relations - A short introduction to media relations strategies.
Grassroots Media Relations - A media relations guide for activist groups.
Socialism Gateway - A gateway to resources about socialism, socialist history, and socialist ideas.
Marxism Gateway - A gateway to resources about Marxism.
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