Simcoe County Groundwater Threatened, Again

Remember the battle to stop the Site 41 landfill in Simcoe County? Writing in the fall of 2009 Joe Friesen characterized it this way:

After 25 years of fruitless opposition, it appeared as though the people would never vanquish the mighty defenders of the dump, a scarred parcel of land called Site 41. Until one day they did, in one fell swoop banishing the memory of disappointing protests past.

Water is Life

Well, it seems that the “world’s purest groundwater” is again threatened this time by a quarry expansion in the Waverly Uplands which happens to be the “recharge area for this pristine aquifer in Simcoe County, Ontario.”

Why does short term commercial gain seem to take precedent over our long term health and well-being?

According to Mark Calzavara’s post on the Council of Canadians blog last week, it’s because the “regulations governing quarries and gravel pits are badly skewed in favour of the industry and communities have little influence in the approvals process.” This has got to change.

It’s great to see this again has the support of the Council of Canadians. They were instrumental in this fight with Maude Barlow, who “sat in the front row” with her documentary crew, helping to raise an awareness that led to a 22-10 victory when Simcoe County held their vote.

It’s 10 years later and we’ll have to fight and “do it again!” Are you ready?

Send your support to to the Council of Canadians for this and the many other campaigns they are fighting for to ensure we have a future worth living.

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Remembering the Ross Building Ramp

As I walked from the newish subway station yesterday morning, across York Commons toward Vari Hall, I was reminded of how different this space used to be when I was an undergrad here in the early ’80s.

Instead of Vari Hall there used to be a rather large concrete ramp that ran up to the Ross Building.

Ramp at the Ross Building, York University

I grabbed this picture from the York University Photograph Collection that’s part of Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections. I wonder who that is on the bike?

Apparently, as described in L. Anders Sandberg‘s article, “The Ross Building Ramp and Terrace: Curse or Promise?“, the then York President Harry Arthurs, “hated and cursed the ramp,” he found it to be “ugly, useless and totally misconceived” and planned to have it removed.

As undergrads we used to wonder if they had tanks in mind when they built it. 🙂

But I do fondly remember my convocation ceremony taking place in the courtyard at the top of that ramp. We may have walked up that ramp to take our seats in the folding chairs that awaited us: don’t remember if that was true or not. If you’d like to see what that might have been like there are a couple of convocation photographs included in Sandberg’s article.

But Sandberg writes that Arthurs “neglected its symbolic and other utility functions, including the activities that took place underneath it and the emotional attachment it held to many members of the campus.” He provides a wonderfully different perspective and tries to “make the case that these spaces have some promise and endearing qualities that should be celebrated, remembered and perhaps even serve as an inspiration to do things differently.”

He begins by talking about the “modernist-brutalist” architectural style of the Ross Building. I particularly like this passage describing the symbolic shift away from a university education that “promoted critical thinking amongst students [preparing] them to be engaged citizens rather than mere professionals or workers”:

Brutalism does not sound very people-friendly but it was in fact part of a post-war movement to provide inexpensive housing to the masses, but also architects with large budgets adopted the style because of its ’honesty’ and sculptural qualities, and even, perhaps, its uncompromising anti-bourgeois nature (Wikipedia, 2014). To me, it is an illustration of the enlightenment university, the university that fosters citizenship and a broad-based liberal arts education. Vari Hall, by contrast, was built in a postmodernist style in 1992 and named after George Vari, a wealthy businessman who built and sponsored part of its construction. It is part of the neoliberal or enterprise university, the university where students are consumers and an education is conceived of as a commodity that yields a good job.

It’s funny what you think about as you make your way to your office.

Goodbye Facebook

Just a quick note to confirm that I did officially delete my Facebook account. Not so much because of the recent Cambridge Analytica “scandal”, it just seemed like … I don’t know … it’s become so all encompassing, manipulative and untrustworthy. It just felt like time to move on.

Anyway, as a result I’ve been looking around for places I can share photos. I did give Instagram a try, but I think that’s really more of a take-a-picture-and-post-it-immediately type of a platform; not really what I was after, but I’ll see how that goes.

I remembered my old Flikr account. I haven’t used that for a long time. Amazingly, I was able to recover the old site and it turns out it has been a long time: my last upload was in 2010, almost exactly 8 years ago. Thank you Flikr for keeping this around for so long!

So eventually I will upload my archived FB pics and I guess I’ll use this for new things worth sharing.

This was my last FB background pic for my profile. That was a great day … 🙂

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York Strike Continues

What a mess …

We are into week 4 of the CUPE 3903 strike and there seems to be absolutely no progress with bargaining. As a member of the York U Faculty Association it makes me wonder about how things will go when our next contract negotiations start.

YUFA’s latest post on the situation provides a good summation of what’s been going on including the administration’s challenge to Senate’s authority expressed in last week’s chaotic Senate meeting:

Senate Executive stated that “Decisions regarding the business and affairs of the University are vested in the Board [of Governors] even where they may have an impact on academic policy.” Furthermore, they added, Senate “policy does not give express authority to Senate or Senate Executive to take the action of cancelling all classes at the commencement of a disruption.” However, this was Senate’s undisputed role in past strikes, and the statement about jurisdiction combined with the blocking of a vote in Senate raised alarms among many Senators. In denying the Senate’s power to decide on course cancellations on the basis of academic integrity during labour disruptions, the administration described labour disruptions as equivalent to weather disruptions, which like other “business matters” are under the purview of the Board of Governors.

You might also be interested in CUPE’s account of that meeting where they condemn the “use of violence and repression against our members – including a Senator – and undergraduate students.” The University’s response states that “security officials were on hand to manage crowds due to Fire Code regulations.”

This of course would not have been an issue if, as YUFA notes in their post, the meeting had been moved to a larger venue. There were no “no scuffles with security or violent incidents” when this was done in the past. And, unlike being sequestered into a Curtis lecture hall to watch a streamed version of the proceedings, a larger venue would provide an opportunity for non-Senators to voice their concerns and opinions and be heard.

What a mess …

Push to Protect Canada’s Freshwater

Emma Lui, the National Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, suggests that the federal government should establish a Water Minister who could be a voice to protect all of our waterways. A fantastic idea! That would likely have improved the flawed Bill C-69 which does not restore protections and implement the necessary safeguards for our lakes and rivers.

Let’s help Emma and her colleagues continue this campaign to get parliament to take action to protect our water.