Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Montréal: big city, lots of churches, Le Chateau stores and French people!

Nov 3rd:


I'm spending a few days in the city of Montreal, trying to remember the few words of French I learned traveling in Paris a few years ago. I`m staying with a wonderfully friendly French girl, Farah, who lives about 10 minutes by subway outside of the downtown area. Her apartment is one of the most colorful, vibrant, and culturally-diverse dwellings I`ve ever been in. Farah has traveled a lot and we've had so many great conversations about all the important things: traveling, food, social consciousness, love, and life-work.

My first day here I walked around much of the city - from the old port Montreal area, with its cute expensive shops lining old cobblestone streets a la France to the very gay Village area to Little Italy for some fresh produce at one of the largest markets in town. Walking around I couldn`t help but whistle the first song from Beauty and the Beast all day!

Tues night I went out to Green Drinks Montreal: a small group of about 10 as it was Halloween, and met some interesting folks as can be expected at most Green Drinks events. Some of you may know that I've been giving more and more thought to getting a diesel vehicle sometime soon and driving `cross country on vegetable oil from restaurants - I met someone at Green Drinks who will share some info with me about students at a university up here who drove from Montreal to Mexico on straight veggie oil. Connecting with people and sharing ideas/resources, that's what it`s all about, eh? (by the way, "eh" has entered my vocabulary at this point!)

I also checked out the biosphere, an environmental education center geared toward teaching kids about water: water pollution, water ecosystems, water as a natural resource, etc. especially as relates to the St. Lawrence River. Among some interesting facts, the St. Lawrence is the world's longest deep-draft inland waterway, and only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water than the Great Lakes. Water pollution is so obviously an important environmental issue when you consider the fact that of all the world's water, only 3% is fresh water and of that, 75% is locked in the ice caps. Despite the fact that the ice caps are melting, which will of course comes with its own environmental concerns, we cannot access or create more clean fresh water. It is imperative that we start using water wisely - and the biosphere tries to teach kids this through interactive games and activities.

[I wanted to include a photo of the biosphere here but Blogger is giving me trouble, so you'll have to go here to see it.] The geodesic dome structure was designed by Buckminster Fuller for the Expo 67 in Montreal, after he failed at previous engineering inventions. According to wikipedia, the geodesic dome appealed to Fuller because it was extremely strong for its weight, its "omnitriangulated" surface provided an inherently stable structure, and because a sphere encloses the greatest volume for the least surface area. Fuller had hopes that the geodesic dome would help address the postwar housing crisis. Geodesic domes are also much more efficient uses of materials than traditional building techniques.

Speaking of architecture, Farah and I checked out an exhibit about the environment at the Canadian Center for Architecture and found it to be very interesting. One exhibit was on Third Landscapes, a term coined by the artist I believe, to refer to transitional/underused/unused areas of land found anywhere from abandoned parking lots to the strip of grass alongside a highway. At least that is my interpretation. In one exhibit he picked up everything he found in one Third Landscape near the museum and created a chandelier with it. Much of what is inside the sphere is "trash", but as the text along with the chandelier explains,
Each plant and animal is connected to all the others, and thus to a behavioral system that has evolved over time. In the same way, each found object produced by human industry is connected with a habit of use, an ancient practice preceding its presence on the site, a use in fact connected to the site's very existence. Take together, these object arrayed in the Chandelier reflect societal behaviors as much as the urban environment, and invite reflection on the notion of the 'citizen gardener' who assumes a cooperative and participatory role in the maintenance of the urban ecosystem.

An interesting take on urban ecological systems - because, of course, you cannot take the human out of the environment to look at their ecosystems separately...

Off to Sherbrooke by bus to meet up with a friend Jeff, whom I met at the Sustainable Living Workshop.

1 comment:

whistlinginthedark said...

On a trip to Montreal (at age 15) bought a slutty dress at Le Chateau - too funny that you mention it.