Community | Editors’ Letter Winter 2018/19

CSL’s editors explore building a community in this global age.

City Style and Living Magazine Winter 2018 Editors Letter Community Wales Pub scene
/ K&S Media

CSL’s editors explore building a community in this global age.

Remember the old adage, think global, act local? It’s advice worth remembering these days when trends span the entire expanse of earth. Cranes dot the skyline of cities once considered dilapidated — their downtown areas transforming into exact carbon copies — trendy cafes, restaurants, residential skyscraper towers, and culture centres. From Cardiff, Bombay and Porto to Calgary, Auckland and Prague we’ve seen it all first hand. Call it gentrification, a boom, or new urban planning—it ends up looking pretty much the same once finished. There are a few concessions to local taste, a nod to history perhaps, but the general makeup is proscribed. The think global part seems to have been done for us these days; the act local part is another matter.

Humans thrive in communities generally numbering about 250 people. Although modern life has enlarged that number substantially, we are all still apt to regard our communities as some sliver of the whole. It’s why in megacities like New York and London, residents describe themselves as members of a community, not the entire city. I’m from Brooklyn they will say, or, I’m a North Londoner. These are still large communities, but it is a way to break up the city into a more psychologically manageable part.
It doesn’t take a lot to foster a sense of community, even in today’s world. Thinking in smaller terms is one way to do this. Another way is to be polite to your local merchants. Or, say hello, good morning, afternoon, evening to fellow pedestrians. Part of building a community also means reconnecting with nature— finding a green space, a park, a garden to replenish. It takes time, it takes a little effort.

In the old days, it also meant seeing the same faces. Familiarity was another means to establish that rapport. An old timer from a small town could even to this day recount all the farm owners he would pass on his way to work. He described it this way: to the southeast, the McGovern’s farm and next to them old man Bishop’s place. It was a landscape of people converging with the place itself. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers speak in those terms — reciting the names of neighbours and acquaintances they passed on their way to school. It was that way perhaps the world over. No more.

When we were last in Porto, there was the great stirring of modern construction. We hoped that it would not supplant the real charm of the city’s crumbling architecture. That somehow as Porto and Portugal for that matter grows, it does not outgrow its very authenticity, the thing that made it special in the first place.

The profit imperative has done much to erase love in labour. Let us not let it erase character and community as well.

This original editors letter article first appeared in the Winter 2018/19 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.

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