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The Most challenging Blog Post I wrote was my last one.  I began to realize just how divide as people we can be despite shared awareness and knowledge of global issues and relative interactions with the world.  Should this make us more similar or more different?  I think that we try to hard to see differences in order to create understanding, when in reality seeing similarities is how things are connected.  However, noticing differences is what leads us on the path to creating connections, I think that the similarities are the next step.  This is what made that blog so hard to write, because it made me question my own abilities to understand other people rather than see them as “others.”  And how can anyone really tell where the balance is between familiarity, bias, withdrawnness and understanding since each are used together and separately to make social justice claims and to prove legitimacy in register. 

My favourite peer blog was by AnnaJustcity.  She spoke about the Facebook trend promoting breast cancer, which was meant to bring awareness to breast cancer patients, and instead prevailed as a self-centred incentive for many Facebook users.  I like how she brought awareness to a common  awareness issue and brought a new level of awareness to the issue in the process.  I think that this is how knowledge, awareness, familiarity and withdrawnness all become entangled and create a deeper level of understanding that can either get deeper and deeper, or more and more shallow, as her blog post demonstrates.  It also brings back the issue I have with trying to pinpoint an expert within the boundaries society puts up, between others and one’s self, and local and global. 

The favourite blog post that I wrote is probably the one about Jane and Eglington because it was most reflective of my childhood memories, my older perspective and my knowledge of the different communities in the area and the implications of public space locally and through research and class discussions.  This gave me the ability to confidently document what I had seen from a withdrawn perspective.  Although it was a very specific place I think that these dynamics of public space are always present everywhere we go, although it is less obvious who claims what, and what the varying significance of a public space may be. 

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Documentaries with unique social justice perspectives

1.  Dirty Wars

-Are the reasons/causes, actions/reactions, goals/results of war as straightforward as we would like to believe?  Highly unlikely.  War has changed, become more covert and less politicized.  We need to change our understanding of war as the documentary urges us to do.

2.  Serving Life

-Do prisoners deserve the opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life, do they deserve to show kindness and empathy?  A new program in a prison in Southern United States documents a few individual prisoners’ experiences as they do their best to care for sick and dying inmates.

  1. 2012: The Mayan World
  • What the 2012 ancient Mayan calendar and end of the world buzz means to contemporary Mayan people.  Interesting and important. 

4.  To Educate a Girl

-Documenting a struggle to gain the right to education by a few girls, each from a different country and each facing different obstacles, in many ways, but all sharing a similar goal to get education. 

5.  Food Inc.

-Showing us the complications that have arisen with the popularity of major corporations and their ability to shape laws that allow their businesses to thrive and other farmers to fail.  Social justice is implicated everywhere. 

 

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Viewing does not mean understanding.  Viewing stores full of food does not give one an in-depth understanding of food insecurity.  Here is a new perspective on the difference between viewing and understanding.  An interesting journal article by K. Nairn critiques  geography fieldtrips taken by students, and analyzes their experiences, in order to question the depth of their foreign-student experience while observing others.  She explains some significant differences between viewing the experience of others and being the “other” in an experience.

Her article has made me wonder, what defines a truly in depth perspective of a situation or a people?  I think that often times our media outlets give us a very targeted perspective that is lacking depth in some area or other, and that it is constantly influencing bias perceptions of the world.  And in our own experiences, how often have we felt we understood a situation, and then thought back and realized their was another element we did not catch or see at the time.  It feels like these targeted perspectives, followed by more in depth learning and reflective realizations happen continuously as I have tried to get a deeper understanding of social justice.  This in itself provides evidence that social justice issues are never transparent.

  Nairn provides examples of how the students she studied shaped their experiences; their “outsider” ability to make conclusions based on a withdrawn perspective, and their ability to distinguish differences and similarities between cultures using “face value” comparisons.  They were expected to make these comparisons from outsider viewpoints using face value judgements because these were the most straightforward and effective ways for them to understand something foreign to them.  However, they were not effective in creating mindful and in-depth understandings of the foreign cultures they were presented with.  Many students claimed that their foreign experience changed preconceived notions they had, resulting in a greater understanding of the world around them (Nairn, 2011).  However, this is not necessarily true as Nairn points out, since having a new perspective is a new awareness, not an explanation. 

I think that her argument is very valid.  Awareness of a situation is never convincing enough on its own, knowledge is what is key to speaking about a subject.  Yet their is a current trend in our society, online especially, promoting awareness of certain causes or other subjects, as a way for people to demonstrate knowledge or belonging.  It is hyped up to the point where having awareness or experience of “others” makes one eligible to speak from an authoritative perspective.  Even businesses and governments do it, but this does not mean that their perspectives are valid.   In a society we try our best to be understanding and relevant to everything current, however, this had made the ways that we create differences and use our prior knowledge to assume awareness quite deceiving and more difficult to pinpoint amidst the illusion or misrepresentation of good intentions.

An example of this that comes to mind and related to social justice is the GMO issue.  Some people and organizations are completely pro GMO, some are completely against GMO.  They each convincingly give a perspective of the impact GMO foods could have in changing global food security.  However, one thing rarely discussed is the validity of BOTH arguments, and the fact that each are somewhat well-intentioned.  How can the debate over GMOs be solved if we continue to speak of its affects on us (North Americans) and third world country dwellers as two separate issues which is often the case.  We see GMOs as negative for us, and positive for others, or negative for our health and negative for their food sustainability. 

Therefore, I find it ironic that as we become a more globalized world we still try to narrow our awareness of issues to be place specific.  This allows us to easily create boundaries between us, and them, in order to make face-value comparisons and make other peoples’ experiences seem more foreign and less related.  Yet, these comparisons are still legitimized because they demonstrate awareness on food security, or whatever the case may be, despite a lack of reflection demonstrating an understanding of how the issue may be different in different contexts yet still exist elsewhere and have important relevance.    Such as how GMO foods provide business incentives for distant farmers, local grocery stores and organic food investors. 

In conclusion, I believe that many of the boundaries that we create do not need to exist. 

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“Obama Signs Monsanto Protection Act”

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/03/29/obama-signs-monsanto-protection-act/

Obama did it, he gave Monsanto, the genetically modifying leaders in the food industry, all the power possible for Monsanto to have, by signing them off as invincible to U.S. government control.  What does this say of a governments responsibility over its citizens if they so easily sign off responsibility to an institution that is completely business orientated?  It shows a complete neglect of a social justice issue which was quickly raised and spread as such all over the internet.  The publicity resulted in the cancelation of the Monsanto Protection Act.  The issue provides evidence that perhaps the government is working towards more self centred goals than we, the people of the world would like.  We would undoubtedly all been affected by the change in Monsanto’s freedom to alter their food products to whatever ill consequences they desired.  This a scary concept, which HAS been done before. 

After watching the documentary Dirty Wars (http://youtu.be/5KpzBAKJmig) it was made clear that the U.S, one of the greatest powers in the world today, had deferred its responsibility for human rights before.  To the extent that they have created a section of military intelligence beyond U.S control to do the dirty work that the U.S. cannot take responsibility for. This military project disrespects all aspects of human justice and was knowingly provided with all the freedom that the American government could offer. 

My knew understanding of the American government, thanks to Dirty Wars, topped with the article on the Monsanto Act, opened my eyes to the nerve of large institutions.   Because, even in a country like America where people are firmer believers of social justice, and they expect no less than what they demand, their institutions are still corrupt and irresponsible.  One must accept this reality before anything can be done to change the situation, and I believe that this is what happened with the spread of the Monsanto article on the internet to the general North American public.  And as a result change was created. 

 

Lake Ontario, Our Lake

Estelle Copyright

Estelle Copyright

Our city resides along the long stretch of Lake Ontario, and over the years it has grown farther and farther out from its proximity. However, going east from the centre of the city, along the stretch of the Lake there is a lot of empty land, that is shut off from the public but is not in use. much of this land still shows reminiscent of the old docking ports, big empty spaces with rubble around, that use to navigate these spaces. Now, this area is definitely worth exploring from Sherbourne to Cherry Beach, as long as you don’t mind edging across a couple fences that must be crossed at the junction of the waters edge. Right now it is a very quite area if you want to get away from the city while being very near to the downtown area.
However, what to do with this area along the water is now up for debate since it is no longer used as regular port. Over the years the waterfront has become used as a place for the general public to use, so now the implication to use this area as a ‘recreational’ location is there (Malone, 214). At the same time, the urge to create housing or retail developments is strong as well due to our growing city (Marlone, 214).
These thoughts have got me wondering if our city is balanced in its considerations of residents comfort and development projects. Although it seems like development is meant to accommodate us in the long run, this is not always the case. There is a difference between development and accommodation since one seeks to further success while the other seeks to make the best with what one has.
We must be aware of the things our city promises us, and question what kind of development we need and what kind is not the best.
How long will it be till our city is so congested that our only views available are of other buildings and our waterfront is completely surrounded by businesses and private residences? As has happened in other areas of the world where huge sections of waterfront are privatized and therefore inaccessible to the general public.
Lets stay aware and promote public space.

Marlone, P. 1997. Capital, City and Water, Routledge, Manchester.

 

Problem: Access to food, South Africa

African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) recently analyzed 11 cities in Southern Africa in order to better understand the situation of food insecurity.   

Using this research John Crush and Bruce Frayne (2011) expose the supermarket revolution in Southern Africa, how these super stores are popping up everywhere, and how they are causing change in the organization of the food system, and as a result influenced South Africans ability to gain food (782).   

“Consumption patterns are becoming more universalized even as poorer socio-economic groups ‘drift towards poor-quality, energy-dense but cheap and affordable foods’ (Crush, Frayne 783). 

Urbanization and mass marketing are named as the two main reasons giving a platform for supermarkets to enter into the economic system, which previously was only available to upper class residents (Crush, Frayne 782).  Now there is an eagerness to expand supermarkets in order to be formally available to all classes.  

Even though there is plenty of food on store shelves in Southern Africa food insecurity is still occurring. And if we look back at last week’s discussion on the studies done by Kirkpatrick and Tarasuk, http://neighbourhoodchange.ca/2011/06/13/assessing-the-relevance-of-neighbourhood-characteristics-to-the-household-food-security-of-low-income-toronto-families/    we can see the same is true of Toronto where we are highly stocked on food from around the world, but nevertheless there are still hungry families and individuals amongst us.   

And although there are many organizations in place to help alleviate poverty who feel inclined to “Corporate ‘social responsibility’, an important sideline of agribusiness in Southern Africa,”  their main interest is still the business which is decreasing the mobility of local access to food (Crush, Frayne 785). Even the World Bank is devoted to saving the world with a business mentality which places the importance of profit as crucial to success. 

  In relation to development, it is made clear through the research in Southern Africa that the urban poor need money in order to survive the development of their economy. The research shows that the urban poor are worse off then the small time farmers outside the city who do not have to interact with the global raise in food prices and the growing reliance on food corporations who offer cheap food that lacks nutrients (Crush, Frayne 793).   

Much of the local produce that is offered at the supermarkets in Southern Africa is from large, corporate owned, commercial farming estates, who are taking opportunity away from small time farmers, who’s production is not large enough to provide for a super market (Crush, Frayne 785). 

As well, the opportunity for whole sale food distribution in Southern Africa has been cut by supermarkets who’s system, from production to store shelves, is tightly contained in a formal well organized and inclusive business (Crush, Frayne 788).  These supermarkets appear to have creates an image of legitimacy that makes informal food vendors and suppliers seem out of date, and as a result these informal players appear unable to meet the high demands of formal super stores and their consumers. 

  However, Crush and Frayne (2011) emphasize the continued importance of informal, local food suppliers, who are able to serve the lower class community since they are not inclusive in their means of accessing and distributing food, unlike the supermarkets.  Yet, the informal marketers are highly affected by the supermarkets who take away business and in many areas, and have become the place to access whole sale food deals to be sold by informal vendors(Crush, Frayne 789).  

These affects of food corporations on the urban residents of Southern Africa seem very similar to the events taking place in Ontario. Are local, small time farmers are also finding it very hard to stay in business with corporate competition, who offer lower food prices, are occupying large quantities of the dwindling farm land available, and are often more accessible than small time produce to the public. And our reliance on supermarkets has become extensive, more so than in Southern Africa, showing how development does not necessarily improve living standards, in contrast, supermarkets seem to decrease the access of quality food, diverse business and economic support creating an unbalanced economy.  An unbalanced economy such as ours has widened the gap between the rich and the poor and will probably work to do the same in South Africa if supermarkets continue to grow in popularity and gain economic power. 

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A chart portraying the issues that are contributing to food insecurity,  most of which are being experienced in every country in the world.  Do you recognize any from your daily life?