Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Affordable Housing Task Force

The provincial government's Affordable Housing Task Force will be in Calgary for two community meetings today:

1-3PM and 7-9PM
in Hall B of the MacEwan Student Centre at the University of Calgary

It's very important that as many of us as possible attend these sessions to advocate for serious positive action on the part of our government. They need to be told, over and over again, that housing must not be left solely in the hands of "the market" and that it is in fact a critical social infrastructure that we, as a society, must take collective responsibility for.

These sessions are "open mic" - speakers will be allowed 2 minutes each to speak.

Also, whether or not you attend the sessions, please send your feedback to the task force through their website or by email to:

The deadline is today!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Where is your focus?

“Whether you are offering a workshop or a website, it’s not about you being smart or cool, it’s about the audience being smart or cool.”
This closing remark from Tara’s blog post really struck me as being quite on the mark.

We often get off-target in so many things. In activism, there’s a strong tendency to narrow our focus to tightly defined issues, or to shift our attention to process and tactics rather than goals.

There’s a phrase that I keep coming back to in much of my thinking around activist efforts (and life as a whole):

The map is not the place.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ticketing SUVs for environmental offense: ATSA Art Attack

Ticketing SUVs on CBC’s “The National” A few of the Calgary Culture-Jammers went out around downtown Calgary this afternoon, ticketing SUVs (and limos) for their high inefficiency - with additional penalties for idling vehicles.

We used the tickets ("Citizen's Statement of Offense") that the Montréal arts collective ATSA gave us last month when they were presenting in Calgary.

Some folks from CBC television's The National news program came along, with their reporter Mark Kelley joining us in ticketing vehicles.

They're filming a documentary on Hummers to air on The National - probably in March.
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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Odd little connections ... Community building

So I'm reading a post on Tara Hunt's HorsePigCow blog about community building when I come to a part where she's quoting from the Wikipedia article on Community building. The quote strikes me as oddly familiar, so I go dig into the article history (have I mentioned how much I appreciate Wikipedia's data setup?).

Sure enough, the quote is something I wrote back in April of last year when I created the first version of the Community building article. It's always neat to see how things come back around.

BTW, Tara's blog is worth checking into if you're interested in how community building has become important in the technology sector (and some other businesses), as well as how technology is supporting community building.
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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Revised Activist Network

I think it was just last month that I ported the website over to my new Wayground software (using the Ruby on Rails web application framework). That enabled me to add discussion forums to the site, and look to adding more modules as I expand the Wayground code.

Now I've 'refaced' the site, giving it a (hopefully) cleaner look than the raw dump of web links it was previously. This is in preparation for a possible revival of the site into an active part of local activist organizing again.

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Friday, February 9, 2007

My speech at ACAD on February 7, 2007, day of action

A students national day of action was held across Canada on February 7, 2007. I spoke as part of a panel at the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary.

One thing reviewing the recording of this has made clear to me is that I say "you know" far too much. You know?

Here's a cleaned-up transcript (with most of the "um"s and "you know"s omitted. Contact me if you want the uncleaned transcript...):

Poverty is a reflection of many of the problems that we face in this society and, more-so, a reflection of the core problem that we face--which is the way we dissociate everything, the way we separate things, the way we distinguish between us and them. Left and right, Calgary - Edmonton,… At every opportunity we're dividing things into separate notions. And it is in creating those separations that we're able to allow ourselves to not be together, and in that space is where all these forms of oppression--such as poverty--emerge.

We fail to recognize as a society that everyone in this society is all part of the same thing. We're all a part of the same thing. Our molecules are even together. We're all breathing in air that's been in everybody else. We've all got water in our bodies that's been in everybody else.

In choosing as a society to ignore that reality, to see each other as separate beings--with "I've got my own interests and your interests are somehow completely separate from that"--is where we allow things to come to the point that they have now. Where Calgary has the fastest rate of growth in homelessness in Alberta if not the country. (I haven't seen the numbers for the country, so I can't say for certain. Although I, I would hazard a guess that we're the worst.) Where we have among the highest tuitions. Where we have students being turned away from school--not because of an inability to perform in school, but--because of an inability to afford it.

I worked recently with a youth group in town here where a number of them graduated about a year or so ago from high school. And, you know I, I don't think it was even 10% of them that went on to post secondary. And the thing I kept hearing--and these were some pretty bright kids--the thing I kept hearing from them was "can't afford it--it's too expensive." "Why would I burden myself with so much debt for so long." So, they're now in the workforce--but their capacity to be fully engaged in the wide variety of things that our society needs to deal with is diminished because their education has been cut short.

So, poverty is a critical issue in education. Because if students are being prevented from going into education because of money, or if they're being burdened with extreme stresses because they're having difficulty with housing, they're having difficulty getting food. I mean, to me, the clearest sign that we have utterly failed as a society in dealing with our long-term responsibilities is the fact that campuses now have food banks.

What kind of barbaric society are we when we're putting things in a situation where students are having to go to a food bank—just to get food.

It is true. We are a society that has failed to recognize that education is not a cost. Housing is not a cost. Food is not a cost.

The costs are when we fail to educate, when we fail to house, when we fail to feed the people of our society. That is where the costs are.

So we need to turn around that thinking. Bring the perspective that every time we fail to feed someone, every time we fail to educate someone, we are costing our society a lot and that's a debt we cannot afford.

So, I'll wrap it up there and leave it for the questions later.

Thank-you very much.