Jane Jacobs, 1916 to 2006
Just 9 days shy of her 90th birthday, Toronto writer and "urban legend" Jane Jacobs died this morning in Toronto.
Mrs. Jacobs was a true hero of the little guy and she championed all her life sensible, liveable communities centred on people, rather than the high-rise downtown culture of the car-centric suburbs we have today. She was a brilliant thinker and her appeal seemed to have trancended labels like "left" or "right" - she is respected by libertarians and communists alike, as well as the rest of us in between.
Jane Jacobs is one of the few special writers and thinkers for me personally. I lived 2 blocks from her in Toronto's Annex nieghbourhood through the 90's (although, except for seeing her at the grocery store, I never actually met her). It wasn't until a year or so ago, when I heard the first chapter of "Dark Age Ahead" being read aloud on CBC's Writers and Company, that I became a fan. It was this book that gave me a greater understanding of both economics, politics and urban planning that turned me on to others in the field.
If you have never read this book, pick it up. It should be a required read in schools. It is at once a warning about the path we are on and a message of hope that we can, as we have in the past, overcome these problems. She presented inovative solutions and brought a perspective to our modern times that no one under the age of 80 could ever hope to.
So, my mission is now to read some of her other great books - "Systems of Survival" or "Death and Life of Great American Cities" - and know her better.
So, now, whenever I read David Warren's anti-science, ultra-religious tripe, I am reminded that the abandonment of science and reasoning is one of the signs of the impending Dark Age Mrs Jacobs warns about. I am inspired to fight harder for critical thinking being taught in schools.
Whenever I read revisionist-history and the yearning for an age that never was, as George Jonas likes to do, I am reminded that cultural amnesia and the forgetting of the truth is one of the signs and causes of a Dark Age. I am inspired to fight harder and remember history.
But more fundementally, when I pay my mortgage, I am reminded it was Jane Jacobs that taught me that rent controls don't work and that dual-income families need to be that way because of the high cost of realestate and housing.
Thanks Jane Jacobs. We will not forget you. And we will not let a Dark Age claim us.