25 August 2012

Poverty you can see from space

The gap between rich and poor is so big that one can see it from space. Literally. It's stunning. And inspiring. I'm not clever enough to come up with an idea like that myself, but I can sure as hell rip it off for all it's coolness.

Canada is a very wealthy nation. Our poorest neighbourhoods in our urban cities anyway are nothing like the poorest areas of Mexico City or Abuja or any number of other places. We have a safety net, that while it has some holes, at least it's a bit of a net. It needs some darning though. So I thought I'd do much the same as the above project, but only for cities in Canada, and see if I could literally see the disparity from space. Turns out, yes, in some cities, no in others.

Toronto shows a lot of obvious differences between rich and poor.
Forest Hillhome of Upper Canada College, and zillions of trees.
You'd think I was monkeying around with the zoom, but no. It's a neighbourhood in an industrial area. Bet that's healthy.

In Ottawa, it's not as obvious from the geography. The first picture is of a wealthy neighbourhood, the second is quite impoverished. The biggest difference, apart from the trees, is the roads. Curved street slow down traffic, and are a necessity on hills - views rather rely on hills, and views are expensive.
Vanier's lots seem to be smaller, but there does seem to be a fair bit of greenery. I don't know Ottawa at all. Is this area as bad as people make it out to be? Does the river stink or something?

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Well known to be a area in crisis. Concrete hellhole.
 Just a few miles away, West Point Grey. The picture really speaks for itself. Look at how much bigger the houses are, how many more trees there are. The parks and the trees. Swimming pools in backyards.

Bridgeland is a poor neighbourhood in Calgary. It's not far from downtown.
 Mount Royal is a wealthy neighbourhood. Water and three golf courses. Not so many highways.

 Halifax is one of the cities where I could really see the disparity. Look at the difference in the number of trees and recreational areas.

 South End

 Winnipeg, rich and poor. There's more green, more water, and no industry in the wealthy area of Tuxedo (aptly named, I'd say).
 And here is the West End. Grid roads, lots of trees on the grid, but no obvious play areas. No parks.

Regina is the city I grew up in, and where my Mom still lives. It is definitely the city in Canada I know the most about.

Here are the curves I was talking about. Even in a city like Regina that is built mostly on a grid, there is this neighbourhood, called The Crescents. It's an older neighbourhood, but it's been very well maintained. It may not be the richest area of Regina, but it does have the highest property tax rate.

 Actually, I couldn't come up with "the richest" in Regina, because Regina isn't a really rich city. While there is a big disparity between rich and poor in Regina, it's not like that in Vancouver or Toronto, because there are simply no billionaires in Regina. The VERY rich don't live in Regina.

But the poor do. This is North Central, an area called "one of Canada's worst". It doesn't look that bad from space, but I wonder how much of that is because Regina is a pretty socialist city in a province that is often run by socialists. That's my speculation for the day. :) The green area, that looks like it could be a park (2nd row from the bottom, 6 columns in) is a high school. There's really nowhere for kids to play in this neighbourhood.
 Just for fun, this is the neighbourhood I grew up in. It's pretty middle class (Mom stayed home with us kids until we were old enough to come home from school on our own, and then worked for the city in a administrative assistant type job. Dad worked in farm equipment, and then as a Commissionaire). The schoolgrounds are larger than in North Central (bottom middle below and the two rectangles in the bottom row of the grid in above), it's not on a grid, and there's far more greenspace.

 Victoria is my new home. We moved here in 1998 when I got a fellowship at UVic.

This is my neighbourhood. It's most certainly not a wealthy neighbourhood by Victoria standards, but it is solidly middle class in most areas.
 The little A below is George Jay elementary school. It is an inner city school with lots of poverty issues. However, in this area, there is also some heavy-duty gentrification going on. There are lots of trees, but not by Victoria standards. The stadiums have very large fences so no one can play in them.

This is the richest area of Victoria. It's zoomed out for perspective. Look at how much of the richest real estate is wasted on a golf course. It's sickening.

Tell me about your city! And if you're from one of these cities, tell me what you think!

Update: Check out Uphill's take on Montreal. You can see the difference between rich and poor divided by a boulevard! http://caitlinuphill.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/wealth-and-inequality-seen-from-space/