2012: The Year to Stop Playing Nice.

© Raiders of the Lost Ark

I wish I could take credit for that headline but it goes to Michele Simon at Civil Eats. Michele writes about the battles against big corporations:

And it’s not just because corporations have more money to lobby, of course they do. It’s that too often, we’re not even in the game. Or, we tend to give up too easily.…. Too many nonprofits, foundations, and professionals are playing it safe, afraid to take on the harder fights.

I had the epiphany last week when I read about myself in the morning paper, after being interviewed about the difficulty of saving old buildings. (I am past President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and get interviewed a lot) I lost a battle against the Federal Government last year and was being drawn into another, and was quoted in Canadian Press:

Lloyd Alter, the past president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, admits it's tough to try to save industrial heritage buildings like hangars. He was unsuccessful in attempts to protect two other Downsview vintage hangars where Mosquito airplanes were built for the Second World War. They were demolished.

Alter is not optimistic about efforts to save the home of the air and space museum: "It's hard for me to get worked up and excited because you just can't fight the feds."

What a wimp. Michele of Civil Eats is made of stronger stuff, and updates the old line about bringing a knife to a gunfight: “You may be out-gunned, but you have to bring a gun.” We have been the guy with the sword in Raiders, stuck in our traditional ways, all show and bluster and gone in an instant against Indie's pistol.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

There are activists out there who are taking action when the authorities don't, such as Toronto's Urban Repair Squad, installing bike lanes where needed as a message to the authorities who didn't.

reoccupy main street/CC BY 2.0

Then there is the example of the #occupy movement. They may not be in the parks anymore, but their impact has been substantial and has changed the tone of the discussion completely. And it is not going away; #occupydallas activists came up with a campaign to #reoccupy_MainSt that has been taken up by preservation activists across North America, in support of local shopping, local and sustainable food. This movement has legs.

Smart growth, public transit and historic buildings are under attack across North America by a right wing pro-car, pro-sprawl, pro-unfettered property rights agenda. They are not playing nice and they are winning.

Whether it is food policy, environmental regulation, saving transit, bike lanes, architectural preservation or any other issue of significance, Michele is right. 2012 is the year we have to stop playing nice or we will lose it all.

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Tags: Activism | Preservation