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Vibrant Communities Jane Jacobs

Everyday activist and author Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) turned a half-century of thinking within the field of urban planning on its head. There are few if any other thinkers in Canada today so original in their ideas, so influential in their legacy, and so vindicated by subsequent trends.

Jane JacobsOn June 2nd, 2004 over 650 people gathered at First United Church in Waterloo, Ontario to hear Jane Jacobs speak.

The event was organized by Wordsworth Books, an independent book store in Waterloo. Jane Jacobs was interviewed onstage by the KW Record’s Terry Pender about her book, Dark Age Ahead, and Tamarack was delighted to be able to capture this event on tape.

Jane Jacobs's previous books include The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) which redefined urban studies and economic policy, The Economy of Cities (1968), The Question of Separatism (1980), Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984), and Systems of Survival (1993). Since 1968 she lived and worked in Toronto.

This workshop offers a few clips from Jacobs's interview in Waterloo as well as reviews of Dark Age Ahead.

Jane JacobsWe know this workshop merely scratches the surface of Jacobs's ideas and work, but we hope it provides a good launching pad for further learning. We hope you enjoy!

On this page you`ll find:

Jane Jacobs: Dark Age Ahead

"Visionary thinker Jane Jacobs uses her authoritative work on urban life and economies to show us how we can protect and strengthen our culture and communities.

In Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs identifies five pillars of our culture that we depend on but which are in serious decline: community and family; higher education; the effective practice of science; taxation and government; and self-policing by learned professions. The decay of these pillars, Jacobs contends, is behind such ills as environmental crisis, racism and the growing gulf between rich and poor; their continued degradation could lead us into a new Dark Age, a period of cultural collapse in which all that keeps a society alive and vibrant is forgotten.

Video Description Select Format
Family & Community - Jacobs discusses the inter-connectedness of family and community.
Encountering each other - It's impossible, says Jacobs, to have community if people do not encounter each other.
Addressing the decline - The Dark Age can be stemmed with small, deliberate steps.

Jane JacobsBut this is a hopeful book as well as a warning. Jacobs draws on her vast frame of reference -- from fifteenth-century Chinese shipbuilding to zoning regulations in Brampton, Ontario -- and in highly readable, invigorating prose offers proposals that could arrest the cycles of decay and turn them into beneficent ones. Wise, worldly, full of real-life examples and accessible concepts, this book is an essential read for perilous times." (Source: Random House of Canada)

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Reviews & Discourse

The May 2004 issue of the Literary Review of Canada featured three reviews of Dark Age Ahead. In recognition of the breadth of Jacobs's ideas, the reviewers included an architect and urban planner to consider Jacobs's work on cities, an economist to ponder the merits of her arguments on economic systems, and an ethicist to examine Jacobs's approach to society as a whole.

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The Avenger of Cities - Ken Greenberg is an architect and urban designer currently involved in the renewal of Toronto's Regent Park housing project.

In this essay, Greenberg argues that Jacobs's motivation is to "unmask unhelpful dogma, to debunk myths and to show that there are other modes of thought." Jacobs, he says, "convincingly demonstrated that there were sophisticated processes at work in the city as a perpetually unfinished, intensely interactive web of relationships."

The Avenger of Cities

Micro-Enterprise Rules the Day - Economist Mark Lovewell is director of Ryerson University's humanities-based Arts and Contemporary Studies program and co-publisher of the Literary Review of Canada.

In considering Jacobs's writing on the nature of economic systems, Lovewell accuses her of "typically overlook[ing] the posible advantages of large firms, consolidated markets and standardization."

Micro-Enterprise Rules the Day

A Prophet for a Toxic Age - Michael Valpy writes on religion and ethics for The Globe & Mail. Dark Age Ahead, writes Valpy, shows us "an observant Jane Jacobs who has left abstract theory to return to the experiences of real people, and a prophetic Jane Jacobs whose finger-wagging outside the tents of the corporate and government elite has become very agitated indeed."

A Prophet for a Toxic Age

Ideas that Matter - In conjunction with the LRC, Ideas that Matter recently hosted an event to promote discourse on Dark Age Ahead. They also sponsor the annual Jane Jacobs Award. More information is available at their website. Click to view website.
Turning Conventional Thinking on its Head - Jane Jacobs - Helen Walsh's article on Jacobs for Engage! Turning Conventional Thinking on its Head - Jane Jacobs

With thanks to the authors and the Literary Review of Canada for permission to post these articles.

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