A trio of contrarian viewpoints caught my attention over the last month:
- Oatly: The New Coke (via Hacker News)
- Small Family Farms Aren’t the Answer (via Citizens Alliance of PEI newsletter)
- Small Businesses Are Overrated (via Lou Eastman on Facebook)
In each case, the authors take something that, at least in progressive circles, is taken as motherhood gospel–oat milk, small family farms, small business–and suggests that not everything is as it seems.
Contrarian dissonance is important; it’s so easy to get trapped inside an echo chamber where certain truths are forever declared self-evident.
I thought of this when I was sent links to to petitions regarding the proposed development of a 99-unit apartment complex on the Charlottetown waterfront.
Both petitions mention the character of the neighbourhood as a reason for opposing the project.
Preserving Our Waterfront calls out the “heritage view”:
The proposed concrete and steel structure is not compatible with lower Water Street and the surrounding area. The heritage view was not considered!
While Charlottetown City Council: Deny a Building Permit for 8 story waterfront development mentions the “aesthetic of this quiet, residential neighbourhood”:
If this development is allowed to go ahead, it will change the aesthetic of this quiet, residential neighbourhood. The scale of it will overwhelm the existing surrounding buildings, many of them Heritage properties.
There may be other perfectly valid reasons for opposing this project, and both petitions contain bullet points of them, but if we’re going to increase urban density in Charlottetown, we need to get ourselves to realize that this will mean the scale, shape, and character of the city has to change. No, we shouldn’t have torn down Penn Station, but that doesn’t mean that nothing should ever change. And it means that “quiet residential neighbourhoods” and “heritage views” may need to be reconsidered.
Increased urban density is the clear ecological path forward for its decreased commutes, decreased need for parking, decreased urban sprawl, increased efficiency of public and commercial services. It makes sense to pack more of us together in closer proximity in more energy efficient ways.
I don’t know whether the building that’s the subject of these petitions should go forward, and my knee-jerk reaction, given my antipathy toward the developer, was to oppose it.
But, like a love of oat milk and deification of small businesses and small family farms, perhaps we need to give our assumptions a check from time to time, and realize that progressive change comes in all sorts of packages, and sometimes a knee-jerk reaction is a signal to stop and take a second look.