Saturday, 31 May 2008

Saturday Photo: On Foot along the Seine

One of the amazing things about Paris is that apparently without affecting business, the number of motor vehicles using central city was dropped by 15 per cent since the turn of the 21st century. That’s only the beginning, though. By 2020, the number is supposed to be only 60 per cent of what it was in 2001. Paris has accomplished this without the access fees charged in the City of London, but by increasing and improving public transportation—and by such playful methods as abolishing vehicle traffic along the Seine on Sundays.

The down side seems to be an increase in the number of scooters and motorcycles. When I get back I'll have to do some googling to see what I can find concerning the pollution effects of this shift.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

May 1968 Forty Years Later: More from Paris

Our favourite Frenchman turns 40 today, May 28. He has great stories about how his parents were deeply involved in the revolutionary activity of Mai 1968, and that his mother had quite a time making her way through the barricaded streets to get to the maternity hospital to give birth to him.

Glad all went well then. Much has changed in Paris since , but the same effervescence is present everywhere. The events--and the soixanthuitards--are still very much in the news these days too. A recent poll indicates that 77 per cent of French population today think they would have been on the side of the students and strikers, had they had the chance. Of coure, the unpopularity of Nicolas Szarkozy and his rightist government have heightened the contrast between the ideals of then and today's problems.

We have been affected slightly by some demonstrations protesting Sarko's policies, but it's kind of fun to see how people hear work out their problems.

And now to do something interesting on the streets of Paris. No manifs today though.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Paris Apartments: When Less Is More

Don’t expect much from me for the next little while. Too much going on, too many fun things to do. The kids are taking turns looking after our elderly cat, Calie who will soon turn 21. How nice to know that she (and the house) will be looked after well!

European kitchens are often rather small: Adam Gopnik has a long riff on the size of cute French appliances in his book about his family's five years in Paris, From Earth to the Moon. Part of this has to do with the size of the dwellings most people live in--there are few 3,000 square foot apartments in Paris. Part also is linked to the custom of shopping every day for perishable food. Even people who could stock up on non-perishables tend to buy meat, fruits and vegetables daily or every other day. This means that refrigerators don't have to monster size.

The apartment we are stayiing in was last refurbished 20 or so years ago: the people who own it don't spend more than a few months a year here so they apparently don't feel the need to redo the kitchen. That's fine. The galley kitchen is perfectly adequate for cooking even rather complicated things, which I am frequently tempted to do since the market street, rue de Mouffetard, is a couple of minutes away on foot, and there is a huge open air market in the other direction three days a week.

The place doesn't have a dishwasher, which also is fine with me, since I don't have one at home either. But as we washed up, I was reminded of a line from Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking where she says at one point in the grieving process she was reduced to running the dishwasher daily even though it was half full so she could particular plates which linked her to her late husband John Gregory Dunne. Come on, I remember thinking, why don't you just wash the dishes by hand, lady? Sometime less really is more.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Saturday Photo: Everyone Likes to Hang out at the Jardins de Luxembourg

The Jardins de Luxembourg are a ten minute walk away from the apartment we’re renting. A grand place to people watch, and if you live in Paris, a good place to pass your afternoons. On my last trip here I had a long chat one afternoon with a woman about my age who was involved in media in some way, and who lived in a small apartment nearby. h convenience and the liveliness of the neighborhood was what made the small place her choice, and even though she now could afford to think of a larger apartment elsewhere she didn’t want too. “Why would I want a garden, she asked rhetorically. “I’ve got the Luxembourg across the street. “

Thursday, 22 May 2008

On the Fly: Good Books to Read; not that I' ve been doing very much

The second five

Here are the second five in my top ten. The first two of these are fiction (which I arranged in alphabetical order) but the last three are non-fiction, because I think good non-fiction is as interesting to read as fiction.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Oprah picked a new translation of this classic, and sent millions on a time travel into 19th century Russia. This is a vast, engulfing read, the perfect thing to start when you have time to spare.

The Dram Shop (L’Assommoir) by Emile Zola

This great novel from Zola’s series about an French extended family during the mid-19th century. English language literature has no equivalent, unfortunately.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Terrific nature writing, better than fiction, full of beauty and humour.

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
I read this for the first time on a long road trip across the United States when I was just becoming interested in geology. We were young, life was pleasant, and sleeping on the ground presented absolutely no problem at all. Darwin was about that age when he took his world-changing voyage, and it is absolutely fascinating to read his careful observations and his dawning understanding of what he was seeing.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

This seminal book in city planning also arises out of an inquiring, carefully observing mind. Jacobs’s ideas, as presented here, have had a great influence on my appreciation of the world. It’s no accident that my next book is The Walkable City: From Haussmann’s Boulevards to Jane Jacobs’s Streets and Beyond.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Canadian Holiday and Ancient History

Back in Canada yesterday--Monday--was the holiday when people plant because it is supposed to mark the end of frosts in most of hardiness Zone 5. This means that garden centres will be overflowing with people walking around with lists in hand, picking the bedding plants for their annual beds, being seduced by promises of flowering bushes later in the season, and hauling sacks of compost and manure from car to garden.

It was a holiday all over Canada, although it has different names, depending on where you live. May 24 was the birthday of Queen Victoria, and the date became a holiday to celebrate the monarch. Since her death in the early 20th century, the celebration ha gone through several transmutations, with the Monday nearest that date becoming the official holiday. For a while the holiday was called the Fête de Dollard in Quebec, commemorating a battle between early settlers and the Native Canadians who weren’t terribly pleased to have others claim their land. Recently the unfairness of linking a holiday with this kind of colonial exploitation caused a name change: it’s now the Fête des Patriotes. I’m all for this change because the Patriotes were the French ad English speakers who led the nearest thing to a revolution Canada ever had, the Rebellions of 1837-39.

But since we are in France all that seems very far away: we were at Chartres yesterday where construction on churches began long before any Europeans but the Scandanavians were anywhere near Canada. Now to go explore some more where the Parisii had a town before Julius Caesar came conquering in the first century BCE...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Saturday --or Maybe Sunday Photo: Being in Paris

The apartment we are staying in is on the first floor of a classic Haussmannian building in the Fifth District. Even though the building is on a busy street—Claude Bernard, which with Gay Lassac and avenue Monge forms a circle around the hill of the Sorbonne----inside the courtyard it is very quiet. On the other side of the wall is the hospital of Val de Grace whose grounds are full of trees and bushes. The sun rises about 5 a.m. these days, and the sounds of thrushes has been waking us up well before. Lovely sound, lovely city.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Greetings from Paris: Fun, Not Carbon Credits for the Moment

We are in Paris. The prospect of this trip has been something to think about all winter, and Lee has not only read a lot about cathedrals and the history of Paris, he’s just about finished Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. My preparation has been more geared to what I need to see and know in order to put the finishing touches on The Walkable City: From Haussmann’s Boulevards to Jane Jacobs’ Streets and Beyond. I’ve got a list of photos I need to take to complement the text, as well as some details I must check on before I can give the book the final edit.

But we’re here to have fun, and we certainly expect to. This is our fourth trip to France, and the fourth time we’ve been able to rent a lovely apartment in the heart of things. There are days when you feel that you should be touching wood at all times because you realize just how lucky you are. I can’t even get myself worked up about the fact that we’re responsible for a whole lot of green house gas emissions. Probably should look into trading carbon credits, but not today.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

My Top Ten Books: The First Five

As I said earlier, I’m doing a blog for iChannel this month, and one of the things they asked for was a list of my ten favourite books. What a task to come up with them!

Here are the first five fiction ones, with a short explanation of zhy I chose each:

Dobryd by Ann Charney

The first sentence of this gem is “By the time I was five years old I had spent half my life hidden away in a barn loft.” It begins as the Russians are liberating Poland, and the young narrator of this novel-that-is-perhaps-truer-than-fiction is taken outside for the first time in years. It ends as she and her family take the train north from New York to Canada. It is a ravishing book, written in a deceptively simple style, one which should be on school reading lists for its story, for its message and for its beauty.

Ulysses by James Joyce

This vast epoch can be seen as a dead end in literary experimentation, but also as a whole literary universe. I read it for the first time in an English class, with the professor guiding us through. That is perhaps the best way, but doing it on one’s own is worth attempting. Since that first experience I’ve read it twice more, and been astounded every time

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

In general though I like realistic fiction, and this book about a family who spends a crucial period in Congo is a brilliant and accessible story which explores the relation of Americans with Africa and with their souls.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

O’Brien’s short story collection about the Viet Nam war is the best book to come out of that terrible conflict. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the second half of the 20th century. It also throws light on what is happening now.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Roy has written little fiction, having devoted herself to political and environmental causes since its publication.. But the novel is a marvelous story which evokes Kerala, colonialism and consuming passion.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Serbia: Film to See, Situation to Watch

Last week we had the uncomfortable pleasure of seeing David Homel’s film about Belgrade and a psychiatrist who treats the souls of people damaged by the long conflict in the Balkans. Called Le Psy, la victime et le bourreau, in French and Is My Story Hurting You? in English, it focuses on Vladimir Jovic who has worked with people haunted by the civil war and its aftermath at IAN Center for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims.

The film has been shown several times before, but Lee and I were very pleased that we waited to this showing because Jovic was present, and there was a chance to discuss the film and the situation with him. The man has seen and heard much from the dark heart of humanity, and yet conveys great calm and strength. He has not given up on humanity or his country, although he expressed concern that elections will see the right wing nationalist parties returned to power. Glad to ssee that the "party of Europe" seems to have come out ahead.

Definitely a film to see, and a situation to watch.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Philosopher Kings Are Pretty Thin on the Ground: Why Liberal Democracy Isn't Dead

A good part of the last couple of days was spent struggling with The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy by two Australians David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith. Shearman is Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide and Smith is a “lawyer and philosopher” according to his bio.

Their idea is that given the environmental challenges facing the world, liberal democracies will be manipulated by special interests so that they do little to address the big issue of climate change. What is needed, they say, is government by specially trained, environmentally aware specialists who have the power to enforce whatever solutions they find to our problems.

This would be nothing like Soviet-style Communism, they say, but in line with Plato’s ideal of government by philosopher kings.

I first heard of the book when Le Devoir carried an article called “The Temptation of Green Dictatorship”. One of the things mentioned was a decree by the Chinese outlawing plastic bags which is supposed to go into effect this June. No liberal democracy has been able to do that so swiftly and completely: more of this kind of action is necessary, runs the book’s argument

Hmmm. Certainly watching the Harper and Bush governments stumble around, choosing very bad paths to follow, is discouraging. And I also am an admirer of many of the things accomplished in Singapore during the 40 years when Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister. I agree with Nicolas Kristof that he comes as close to being a philosopher king as we have seen in the last century.

But Harry Lee is an exception, and absolute power does corrupt. I have no faith that the technical wizards Shearman and Smith would put in power would do as well. Better, I am almost certain, to stumble along, making imperfect decisions with the will of the people entering into the equation in some measure. The democracies we have are very imperfect, but what they have done is better than what dictatorships have, on the whole.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Petroleum Dependance Is Unhealthy Department: Quebec Study Shows Higher Obesity Rates outside City Centres

It’s official: living in the suburbs can make you fat.

Last week Francophone academics from Canada and elsewhere met in Montreal to present their latest research in Quebec City. It’s the 76th edition of the Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS) and the results have been well reported and are very interesting.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing is a study of obesity rates in various areas of Quebec by Robert Pampalon and Alexandre Lebel of the Institut national de santé publique. They find that certain rural areas and suburbs have much higher rates of obesity than center cities. In fact, in a jazzed-up story on their findings in the tabloid Journal de Montréal, they say that residents of the center of Montreal are far less likely to have unacceptable weights than people living in other areas of the province. They attribute the difference to the need to drive outside of center cities, the available (and temptation) of fast food outlets in suburbs, and lack of physical activity among men employed in some industries.

I haven’t read their entire paper yet, but it sounds like another piece in the growing mountain of evidence indicating how unhealthy our petroleum way of life is.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Saturday Photo: The Violets of Outremont

The violets are blooming in front now. The spring progression begins with snowdrops, then scilla, followed by daffodils, tulips, violets, forget-me-nots and columbine, in that order. It's taken a number of years to arrive at a point when there is something in bloom from the start of spring (whenever that is) until early summer.

After that--well, it depends upon the year. The progression in late summer is almost right, with rudebeckia, michaelmass daisies and the like but in the middle of the summer I haven't found the right combination of plants to have something always in bloom. The fact that the big maples block sunshine doesn't help: there actually is more sun in the fall because the sun in lower in the sky and so shines under the leaves in late afternoon.

But a garden is always a work in progress. Last fall I planted bulbs a little early--lots of daffodils, I thought. But my tulips are lovely: I think I bought the wrong thing without knowing it! The encouraging thing is that the squirrels didn't eat the bulbs and so far haven't attacked the flowers either. In back it is another story, as there are more squirrels as well as some maurading skunks and racoons. One of the day lilies must be particularly succulent because some critter nibbled off the tops of the leaves as they emerged from the ground. And this is the middle of the city!

Just a note: there is no relation between African violets and the common violet found outdoors in North America. The former are genus saintpaulia (after Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire who sent them back to German from the East Usambara mountains of what is now Tanzania) while the latter are genus viola. The ones growing in my garden are the descendants of three plants I got from a neighbor who had them growing in her lawn. Their colour ranges from year to year: sometimes violet, sometimes mauve, blue or even white. But always a pleasure to see.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Best Love Story Ever: Great Summer Reading

“The best love story I ever read,” I found myself saying last night as I led the first of a series of book discussions in an assisted-living residence not far from where I live. The Outremont library is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week and part of the festivities involve a number of activities bringing the library into the community. The Résidence Outremont, on the top two stories of a five story office and apartment building on a major shopping street, is home to about three dozen people with an average age in the 80s.

Head librarian Christiane St-Onge and I thought the works of François Gravel, who also lives in Outremont, would be a good place to start talking about books with the residents. She arranged for multiple copies of the writer’s many books be checked out to the residence several weeks ago. The idea was that the women—and they were all women last night—would have a chance to read at least one book each and we’d discuss from there.

But obviously the idea wasn't quite grasped and only two of the 20 women who showed up had read one of the books. So I found myself winging it a bit, essentially giving synopses of several of Gravel’s books, rather than guiding a discussion as I had prepared to do.

Gravel, a former junior college economics teacher, has written about 10 books for adults, plus twice that many books for children and young adults. The heart of his adult work lies in a trilogy about the Filion family. They are very ordinary people whose circumstances improve during the second part of the 20th century, and whose lives reflect the great changes which took place during that period. The stories are small scale though, intimate, funny, tender and, I think, completely engaging.

The “best love story” is The Extraordinary Garden, the second in the trilogy. It is about the desperate love between a man and a woman, both happily married and thrown together by the tasks and travails of suburban life. For seven years they long for each, and for three days they consummate that love. Then they renounce each other because they can not break up their families or destroy their very admirable spouses. It is a book about adult love, responsibility and hard choices. Highly recommended summer reading, in short.

Before we left several of the women had chosen books from the display, and I hope they enjoy Gravel's work as much as I do. We agreed to meet again in the fall, in the meantime reading from a selection of books on a theme which we'll work out over the next couple of weeks. Looks like they'll have good summer reading too.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Trash Cans in the Walkable City

There are now five trashcans in the little woods I usually walk through at the edge of my district and the beginning of the next, Côte-des-neiges. Once upon a time there was an orphanage on the land, but part was sold off about 20 years ago and luxury condos built. A sizeable portion was preserved as an undeveloped park, which now serves as a dog run and pleasant short cut for hundreds of people every day.

Tuesday morning I met a small covey of city workers, armed with spike tools to pick up trash, plastic garbage bags and the task of deciding where to put trash cans. I stopped to talk to them because they were seemingly very surprised to see that the woods had so little trash. Probably, I said, that was because for most of the winter through access was cut off due to a construction project on the water system. Before the work started last fall, it was easy to walk through the woods from several residential neighborhoods to the Université de Montréal and two big hospital complexes. The aqueduct work entailed digging a huge trench, though, and when the site was closed down when temperatures fell below freezing, it was fenced off so far fewer people used the path.

"There was so much snow too," one of the city crew said also, as if that helped explain things.

"Well, no," I said. One of the interesting things about Montreal as a walkable city is that snow doesn't stop people walking. In normal years there are paths tramped in the snow within two hours after a storm, and even this year people quickly tramped alternate paths around the edge of the woods.

The foreman listened to me politely and then explained they were trying to find the best places for the trash cans--where people walked, but not too far from a road so the clean-up worker wouldn't have to carry trash sacks too far to his truck. Avoiding walking seemed to be high on their agenda.

The clash of culture between walkers and non-walkers is something very real. Jane Jacobs said in the introduction to a later edition of The Death and Life of Great American Cities that the reaction to her book varied greatly between people who walked and those who didn't. Walkers agreed with her analysis because they saw what happens when streets are lively and lived in, while non-walkers didn't understand at first what she was talking about.

As for this week's city crew: it looks like they found a solution. Certainly the woods looked pristine this morning, as people hurried to work and school and I strolled along.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Taxes Are What We Pay for Civilized Society Department: Gas Tax Holiday Has Minimal Effect on Democratic Campaign, Thank Goodness

Last week the Democratic presidential campaign reached a new low when Hillary Clinton proposed a summer-long gas tax holiday. She should know better . That’s the bad news.

The good news is the reaction the plan got. A number of prominent Democrats spoke out against the idea, like George Miller, the California representative who is a stalwart of Nancy Pelosi. Some influential media also came out against the idea, pointing out that the gas tax holiday would counter attempts to conserve gasoline and undo our petroleum dependency, while oil companies would likely gobble up the saving for themselves, leaving prices at the pump high.

Perhaps even more importantly, it seems that the voters in Indiana weren’t swept away by the idea either. Hillary Clinton’s slim win there is not what she had hoped for, particularly after 10 days when Barack Obama had to struggle to cut himself loose from his former pastor. He appears to be have not badly damaged by that, and she was not helped much by the stupid gas tax idea.

All right, super delegates. Time to come out and say who you are voting for, so that the party can make the convention in August just a major rally in a roll to victory. If the convention becomes a battle field, though, look for a McCain win and more real wars to fight with real people dying for the chimera of American—and oil—security.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Wind Power and Wood Waste: New Energy Projects in Quebec

The Quebec government made it official yesterday: $4 billion in wind power projects around the province will proceed to the next stage of development in hopes of producing 6 Tw of electricity by 2015. Private consortiums get the lion’s share of the 15 projects, chosen from 66 submissions.

Hydro-Quebec, the public utility, will oversee and buy the electricity, but is involved in the construction of only a few projects. That has prompted criticism from several opposition politicians who decry such a large involvement of the private sector. Not only has the current provincial government been eager to enter into public private partnerships, Hydro Quebec, which was formed in the 1960s by nationalizing private utilities, has long be a symbol of Quebec know-how and identity and should remain resolutely public, they say . But environmental groups in general applauded the announcement.

Hydro Quebec will buy the electricity for an average price of 8,7 cents/ kWh, to which will be added 1,3 cent for integrating the power in the existing hydroelectric system, and .5 cents for storing the electricity. The projects still must pass several obstacles. In some cases, they must be approved by the agency regulating the use of agricultural land, while two others in rapidly suburbanizing areas south of Montreal are expected to be opposed by neighbors.

The wind power announcement came the same day as researchers at the Université de Sherbrooke reported a seemingly economical way to use waste from the forest industry to produce both ethanol and biodiesel fuel. Using branches and imperfect logs from poplars which now sell from $50 to $80 a dry tonne, the researchers used two separate procedures to produce the fuel, as well as an adhesive that could be used in making fiberboard.

Both news items are interesting, and even hopeful. If we are to avoid the massive breakdown of society because of oil prices and shortages--as James Howard Kunstler and othes predict--we must make sure that electricity production continues without interruption. This will probably mean a massive shift toward renewable sources, as is happening in Europe, particularly Denmark and Germany. It is no accident that German companies are deeply involved in the Quebec projects. We would do well to devote resources to research in these fields so we don't end up buying the technology from elsewhere. And that, of course, what makes the forest waste product research so valuable.

BTW, it looks like the wind power project I mentioned earlier is not among the ones given the go-ahead.

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Story Behind on The Violets of Usambara on IChannel, and the Power of Blogging

Ichannel, a specialty cable channel, has asked me to do a blog this month as part of their book club. I'm the first writer to do this for them and so the parameters are pretty much up in the air. It took some thinking, but I decided the most interesting thing I could write about was the story behind The Violets of Usambara. Heaven knows, if you get me started talking about the travel and reflection that went into writing the book, I can go on for a couple of hours. There should be enough to keep me going for the month of May! Please check it out and tell me what you think.

The power of blogging was brought home this morning when the news came out that a much-heralded investment by Morgan Stanley in a high-tech center in Montreal is actually something of a smoke-and-mirrors. The new installation which was supposed to create 500 well-paid jobs will actually only involve about 300: 200 were already here and will only be transferred from one company to another. The contradiction was pointed out last week by a blogger and La Presse followed up.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Saturday Photo: New Leaves and Bird Song

Leaves usually come on trees here during the first week in May. For a while 10 days ago, it appeared they might burst out earlier because the weather was so warm, but the current cooler temperatures have prolonged the delicious period when trees are clouds of tender, not-quite foliage.'

A good thirty people, binocs and bird books in hand, had gathered at the entrance to Mount Royal Cemetery as I left the mountain to head home from my walk this morning. It probably will be a good day for bird observation. Certainly the cheerful song of the white throated sparrow could be heard everywhere as I walked.

The bird's call is variously said to be, "Oh Sam Peabody, Peabody," O, cher Frédéric, Fréderic," or "O sweet Canada, Canada," depending what language you speak and whether you're north or south of the Canadian border. The birds, of course, know no borders, and sing only to be understood by each other. The message they convey is clear to us all, however: winter is over.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Exxon Reports Huge Profits, While Wind Power Finds Opposition: How to Get out of Our Energy Quandary.

Louis-Gilles Francoeur, that great environmental reporter for Le Devoir, has an interesting rumination on public consultation, wind power, and government transparency this morning. He begins by writing about opposition for a wind mill project in the Charlevoix region. The project is one of 200 being developed for possible development by Hydro Quebec throughout the province. It would put 37 large wind mills on mountain tops within view of the summits of mountains in a provincial park, and would require the acquisition of rights-of-way through currently-protected land.

Nature Québec, la Société pour la nature et les parcs du Québec (SNAP) and the association representing ZECs (zones d’exploitation controllée, or areas where development like hunting, fishing and logging are controlled by the government) are all opposed, but Francoeur argues that the sight of windmills is not necessarily a bad thing. While using public and semi-public land is certainly debatable, a worse problem, in his opinion, is not getting local areas involved in planning projects like this. If the hydroelectric utility had announced from the beginning that it would give priority to wind power projects developed by rural governments, the emphasis would have been on getting locals on board.

Worse yet, he says, is holding public hearings when projects with environmental impacts are only sketches, like the liquid natural gas ports proposed for the St. Lawrence at Gros Cacouna and Rabaska. Neither may finally come to pass because the Russian natural gas may never be exported, but the projects have pitted one region against another. It would have been far better to get assurance that the natural gas was available before going ahead with hearings.

Public hearings at this point of individual wind power projects won’t solve the problem he concludes.

There’s a certain irony that the press conference protesting the Charlevoix project was held the day that Exxon announced that it had made $10.,9 billion US in the first three months of 2008. Members of the Rockefeller family
say its high time the company began using some of that enormous profit for funding renewable energy. Their argument isn’t all altruistic, because, says economist Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, the company needs to adapt to survive in a rapidly-changing industry, and this means getting into clean energy.

Photo: wind power in central Montreal.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Jack Ruttan's Great Take on What May Happen to Griffintown's Calèche Horses

The Montreal City Council approved plans for the Griffintown development Monday night with only three dissenting votes. Two came from Marvin Rotrand and Warren Allmand from the ruling Union Montréal and the third from Robert Bergeron, head of Projet Montréal. Rather sad to see such unanimity about a project that should be studied--and probably modified--much further.

There has been considerable comment, but none more eloquent than Jack Ruttan's terrific cartoon, which he posted on his website yesterday. Griffintown has been home to horses since it was first laid out at the turn of the 19th century. Recently the equine residents have been limited to those horses which draw calèches in Old Montreal, but their stables are threatened by the $1.3 billion redevelopment project.

The developers have made some improvements to their plan--see Henry Aubin's article in The Gazette: "Better, But No Cigar"--but it is far from what a sustainable, walkable city like Montreal needs. As I said before, however, making sure Devimco does what it says it will do is perhaps a bigger problem than what will happen if doesn't. The danger is that it will build the shopping center complex and then beg off on the nearly 4,000 dwellings it says it will build. That would be a real catastrophe, and I'd like to know what kind of assurances the city has that Devimco will follow through.