May 22, 2006

This, to my mind is a HEROINE. Virginia

Jane Jacobs 1916-2006
Friday 28 April 2006

Jane Jacobs, Toronto activist and prolific writer, died this week a few days before her 90th birthday. She was one of my heroes.

I never saw her in person but I did watch a seminar of sorts on the CBC a couple of years ago where she was being interviewed by Ann Medina. In her mid- to late- 80s, she lost her train of thought and, for a moment, looked confused. Ann Medina, professional that she is, did a calm recapitulation of what Jane had said and instantly, Ms. Jacobs was back on track. It was a tender moment in the sometimes harsh world of media.

Her books, however, were of great interest to me. The book which inspired me the most was her last, Dark Age Ahead. Grim of title, it is a reality check for us who are surviving Jane Jacobs, she who outlines what the hell is wrong with our civilization. She chooses five pillars which are vulnerable: family and community (she uses the chapter title, Families rigged to fail); the pitiful state of post-secondary education (she calls it "credentializing"); the abandonment of science; dysfunctional government representation; and, the subversion of self-regulation of professionals.

If it all ended there, the only thing I would want to do is jump off the Qu├ębec Bridge. But Jane Jacobs is hopeful -- with the determination of citizens, each and everyone of these pillars can be restored.

The solution, to Jane Jacobs, seems to be increasing our capacity to remember who we are and where we've been. What does she see as an effective way of ensuring a culture is passed down through the generations? Songs. Imagine that! Songs. She feels that the emotional power of songs learned in early years -- songs that have staying power, obviously -- are central to any culture.

May you sing throughout eternity, Jane. May you hear our songs (sometimes lamenting, sometimes filled with joy). May we rediscover the songs of our history and may we teach them to our young.

Posted by Ann Jarnet in Environmental Learning

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