Monday, October 29, 2007

Oops, seems like I might have gone a different way than most. I read Edens Lost and Found, the chapter on Philadelphia (my hometown). Many points were brought up which lead back to previous topics, as well as bringing up many new ones as well. For me it was interesting to read about the events, places, people, and organizations I grew up around knowing, and understanding them deeper.The chapter discusses the decline of Philadelphia as well as it's possibilities and positive actions being taken all over the city.

The chapter begins by displaying the Philadelphia flower show and its side project Philadelphia green. The Philadelphia flower show is an event which occurs once a year and creates massive displays of both flowers in artistic arangements (see above) and flower gardens. This is an interesting program because it covers multiple tactics. Most importantly the flower show does not work completely to educate, but mostly to amaze. And what better way for people to see the benefits of green in the city? Green Philadelphia continues this program by taking proceeds from the show and using them to create green spaces in the community. However they do not create spaces unless at least 85% of the neighborhood or block wants it. They they have everyone contribute (about $1). This functions as a commitment of the community to keep this space, it makes it theirs. It seems important to consider when doing any type of planning for a city to become part of the city instead of reaching to educate, or to recreate as Register would desire. Another interesting point the chapter brought up was how Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and the work is often done neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block. Once again we see the importance of bottom up activity, as well as starting small instead of attempting large scale restructuring which displaces people and communities, while putting in large risks which often fail. We also see how the work can be a slow process, but that doesn't mean it is not moving. Philadelphia is an example of cities that is working to solve it's problems through the benefits of of nature, not solve it's problems of nature. The West Philadelphia initiative is working to add green space and trees to the city, which in turn creates increased aesthetic value, causing more people to see the city as a viable place to live and therefore increasing density.What was most interesting to me was the use of art in sustainability. In a culture that is plagued by sprawl, privatization, and loss of communications, art has the power to unite and recreate community. Philadelphia has many mural programs which range from those created by artists, to children, to prisoners, all in different neighborhoods of the city. The murals often reflect some aspect of the community, creating community pride and an increase in people staying. These murals can also beautify the community without leading to gentrification.

One of the things I was struck by and disappointed with was how the book glossed over some nice little details of the past. For instance it mentions the West Philadelphia Initiative, a part of the University of Pennsylvania as being a revitalizing force of West Philly. While this is true and the organization does work to create a better community, it completely ignores the fact that Penn completely destroyed a neighborhood (not exactly unintentionally either) in order to create university city, a transient area (think collegetown). In my opinion the organization does not do nearly enough to account for the damage it caused, or to account for the incredible seperation between the two parts or types of West Philadelphia, the poorer neighborhood, and that of students and professors. There is a double edged sward to this revitilization as we see prices increase. So once again (I know everyone is getting sick of it) I bring up my point of the real effect that green cities have on it's lower class residents?

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