There is a good article in this week’s New Yorker, written by Ian Frazier, on the efforts of Jennie Romer (and others) to get a ban on plastic grocery and retail-store bags in New York City. It is in-depth and provides insight into both the ecological problems of plastic bags and the tactics of those opposed to banning them. The concluding paragraph suggests that the bill may finally pass in May of this year.
You can read the article in full here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/02/saving-america-from-plastic-bags
I have just added the UK National Retail Planning Forum as a link in the blog roll. The Forum brings retail, investors, planners, local government, academics and others together and has a key aim to promote a better understanding of the nature of the retail trade and commerce and the impact on these of the planning system.
The site has an excellent knowledge base – run jointly with the University of Stirling – and many other resources, including reports and publications about UK markets.
There are two new publications out this week that look at the current state of UK high streets. The first, ‘Health on the High Street’, is published by the Royal Society for Public Health as part of a national campaign. The report includes a league table ranking 70 of the UK’s major towns and cities based on the proportion of businesses found in their main retail area that either support or harm the public’s health.
The second report is called, ‘British High Streets: from crisis to recovery?’ and is by Neil Wrigley and Dionysia Lambiri at the University of Southampton and funded by the ESRC. As the authors say, this is more about the narratives of high street change rather than a report of research findings, focussing on the ‘cultural shifts powering the seismic changes in consumer behavior ‘ that are leading to change on the high street.
A recent article by Anne Karpf (UK Guardian 15 March) and a new book by Susan Pinker called ‘The Village Effect’ (Atlantic Books) look at how being social can affect longevity. These are interesting reflections; Susan Pinker – a developmental psychologist –argues that face-to-face contact, not virtual contact such as Facebook, Twitter etc., is what increases longevity and reduces the risks of illness; for her, the loss of physical, personal contact in the internet age, is shortening lives whereas the benefits of close-knit communities extend it.
Anne Karpf – a writer and sociologist – touches on related issues when she writes about how cities can be inhospitable places for people as they age. She suggests that increasingly only the more affluent venture in to city centres to go to theatres, museums, concerts etc. in what has become a form of ‘spatial injustice’. This makes ageing ‘a problem’, with older people ‘confined’ to their homes which can lead to a deterioration in their physical and mental health. Although these are problems that can be experienced by anyone, her article recognises the benefits of ‘age-friendly changes’ in our local communities, where negotiating everyday activities such as shopping, gardening and even sitting in public is thought about and made easier for older people; she stresses the importance of ‘third spaces’, where the boundaries between public and private spaces are blurred, allowing people to rest and chat.
For me, both writers are exploring issues that have resonance for food shopping and sociality (a regular topic on this blog) as we contemplate the effects of internet shopping and the loss of local shops and markets on not only older shoppers but many other marginalised groups.
There is an interesting article (and full audio recording) by Noel King on Marketplace (26 Feb). She talks about the changing use of many US shopping malls as traditional anchor stores relocate back in to city centres and on to busy urban streets. Noel King talks about ‘retrofitting suburbia’ and visits Duluth, Minnesota to find malls also being used by walkers as exercise ‘yards’ and she talks of others being used to house police precincts, health centres and fire stations. There are others that target specific groups of shoppers as ‘ethnic malls’ and she visits the Santa Fe mall that targets Hispanic shoppers, providing its own radio station, a large food precinct, health centre etc.
If you want to hear the full audio version, it is here
I have just been given a copy of the graphic novel ‘Market Day’ by James Sturm. The book is promoted on Drawn and Quarterly as follows which, in my opinion, sums it up very well:
A timeless meditation on art and commerce seen through the life of an early-twentieth-century Jewish rug maker
An expectant father, Mendleman’s life goes through an upheaval when he discovers he can no longer earn a living doing the work that defines him: making well-crafted rugs by hand. A proud artisan, he takes his donkey-drawn cart to the market only to be turned away when the distinctive shop he once sold to now only stocks cheaply manufactured merchandise. As the realities of the market place sink in, Mendleman unravels. Sturm draws a quiet, reflective and beautiful portrait of eastern European in the early 1900s, bringing to life the hustle and bustle of an old-world market place on the brink of the Industrial Revolution. Market Day is a timeless tale of how economic and social forces can affect a single life.
You can find out more here
I have just come across the short animation ‘Sausage’ by Robert Grieves on the Dutch Food Film Festival website. It’s a really great film – winner of many international awards – that shows the trials, tribulations and, ultimately, the triumphs of artisan food traders when fast food (with a lot of bells and whistles) tries to take over their trade in the market square. It’s well worth spending a few minutes watching it. You can access it here