American cities in decay.  Refugees not from New Orleans after Katrina.  This is a different kind of Hurricane.  A trifecta of climate change, high oil prices and the real estate bubble leaves abandoned holes from Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix and beyond.


I'm Alex Smith, this is Radio Ecoshock. We'll track the causes and the victims.


In our opening cuts, you heard video Blogger George4title in his You tube special called "Detroit Ground Zero for Opening Collapse".  An amazing drive-by of abandoned and burned out homes looking like Baghdad in America.  It's a 5 part series you won't want to miss. 


Our other voice was Clive Doucet, author and Councilman for Canada's capital city, Ottawa.  When I recorded his "Urban Meltdown" speech a year ago - I didn't believe it.  Now the evidence is in.  Cities all over North America are under stress, as they go into record deficits and collapsing tax collections.  Municipal bonds may be the next big default line in the economy.


We'll interview Clive Doucet to get the update.


We are talking millions of foreclosures already, and millions more to go in the next two years.  In fact, all the mortgage holding agencies, both government owned and private banks, have started a new wave of record foreclosures, after a brief Obama rest.  Where are all these people ending up?  Sure people some rent, but the latest stats show rentals are actually down.  Some new Americans go back to their home country.  Folks move back with their families, or share tiny spaces.


Too many become homeless - and our social system is in no way prepared for the homeless emergency now developing in almost every city.  A friend just told me their neighbours in a relatively upscale neighborhood in Phoenix both lost their jobs.  Professional people.  Suddenly the bailiffs show up and grab both cars plus the house.  A family with 5 kids now living in two tents on the desert outside of town, with no water or toilets.  Just like that.


Could it happen to you?  Are the homeless annoying you?  In this program we'll get a clue.  Our guest host Allart interviews Harold G. Joe.  Harold experienced a fatal homeless tragedy in his community.  He decided to try just three days and nights on the street.  As a documentary film maker, Harold took his camera along.  The result is the movie "Broken Down", and an interview that could move hearts of stone.


Let's get back to Clive Doucet, the person who opened my eyes, while I was day-dreaming in a still-functioning place, a city of refuge, so far, in the developing storm.


[Clive Doucet interview]


READ MORE....and find all the links to news stories for this show.


People fear the homeless.  Maybe you repress a worry that you could become homeless yourself.  At least 1 in 3 people in North America are just one or two paychecks away from being homeless.  For example, if both wage earners lose their jobs, where will the mortgage payment or the rent come from?  So many people are just getting by.  They have no savings, and a couple of credit cards already maxed out.  Big car payments and all those bills.  If the money stops, what happens?


At least 600,000 Americans lost their jobs last month, and the same the month before that, and every month all through this winter of economic crash.  Jobs have been crashing in Canada and the UK as well.  Big companies laying off, small stores closing.  An economist at the Urban Institute calculates that 700,000 Americans will run out of unemployment benefits by next Fall.


The ladder of homelessness begins with renting, or sharing rent somewhere, or maybe moving back with family.  As so many people moved around, and families broke up in divorce, people start living in their car, if they have one, or maybe a camper.  Others go straight to tents, if they can afford one, or the streets.  Get ready for millions of people to slide down this ladder.


If you still have a job, maybe you are sitting at home watching TV, as the cops slash up tents and force the homeless to drift to another hiding place.  While millions of houses, one in nine in the United States, sit empty, foreclosed, bank owned.


Alternative media makers are starting to catch this wave of new homelessness.  In Vancouver, the Pivot Legal Society and Simon Fraser University just held a film festival called "Reel Justice" spelled reel.  All the films were about the lives of homeless people.  Some were filmed by street people.


Maybe you've heard of the short film "Carts of Darkness" by Murray Siple.  A former snow-board film maker, Murray is now trapped in a wheel chair after a serious car accident.  He recaptures some of his extreme sports glory by filming homeless people as they race shopping carts down the steep dizzy roads of North Vancouver.  Carts of Darkness is available through the National Film Board of Canada, and you can catch snippets on You tube.  It's deeper than cart racing though.  He goes into the dark side of homelessness. 


On today's Ecoshock program, radio producer Allart from CFRO in Vancouver interviews the producer of another "Reel Justice" entry called "Broken Down."  First Nations Film maker Harold Joe lives rough for a few days, and introduces us to four homeless people.  Harold comes from the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, but this interview slices right to the core of homelessness everywhere.  Before you duck away from the next homeless person, hear this interview.


[Allart with Harold C. Joe ]  22 min Lo Fi


Find out more about the film "Broken Down" at


Allart is the producer/host of the "Dynamic Health" radio program, which airs live every Wednesday from 1-2 pm Pacific Time on CFRO 102.7 FM in Vancouver.  It can also be heard live online at  You'll find Allart's past shows there too.


We'll hear another interview from Allart next week, as we tackle the question: are homeless women becoming the next invisible people?  Look in those free dinner lineups, or out on the street, and you'll find plenty of men.  But women lose their jobs and homes as well.  Where are they?  Next week on Radio Ecoshock.


By the way, we'll also have a special interview from Australia, with one of that country's top scientists, Andrew Glikson.  Dr. Glikson is one of the most outspoken climate experts.  He warns the world is headed toward a catastrophe, with climate conditions not seen for millions of years.  The new world system may not be suitable for mammals.  Our breathing apparatus is not adapted for extreme heat worlds. 


Don't miss that, because no matter what happens to our economy, the big climate change has already arrived.  The National Climatic Data Centre for the United States has confirmed that March 2009 had the 10th highest combined global land and sea temperature since records began in 1880.  Hard measurements, hard to deny.


This is Radio Ecoshock.  I'm your host Alex Smith.  Download this program as a free mp3 from our web site,  In fact, you'll find all our past programs there, plus tons of free audio on the environment, Peak Oil, and the economic crisis.  Load up your computer, IPOD or mp3 player with information you need to know. 


Let's go through some quick news that hit me between the eyes this week.




Remember this one?


[BBC Costing the Earth clip 060427 Dongtan Eco City]


This new British designed Eco City was supposed to almost built by now, near Shanghai.  The goal was completion of an energy efficient new city for 50,000 people by the opening of the Shanghai Expo in 2010.


Since cities use up to 80 percent of the world's resources, and produce about that much waste - it was a great hope that China's new urbanization would begin with a sustainable model - something that would allow the Earth to survive hundreds of millions of new Asian urbanized consumers.


According to an April 6th report published at a Yale web site, "almost nothing has been built."  The article is titled "China's Grand Plans for Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned".  The politicians pushing the idea were booted out in a corruption scandal, and permits were not approved.  Anyway, Dongtan, as the imagined city was called, was projected on a marshy area used by birds. 


Another Chinese green model project, called Huangbaiyu in China's Northeast, has also failed.  The green hay and pressed earth bricks were too expensive, and the design called for garages, though the villagers didn't have cars.  The tiny yards didn't allow for animals necessary for subsistence.  Basically, it sounds like a Western vision that didn't meet local Chinese needs.


Meanwhile, General Motors is selling more cars in China than in the United States.  In fact, China has become the largest market for new automobiles.  From a green perspective, this transfer of the deadly car/carbon culture to Asia sounds like a death knell for our atmosphere, and for millions of Chinese people who will die of smog.


[Ren and Stimpy Happy Happy Joy Joy]




Do you care about the world's forests?


Remember Biosphere 2 - the big dome where scientists tried to create a completely self-sustaining inner environment?  That project failed because too many gases leaked in and out of the structure, but mostly because Nature turned out to be too hard to duplicate.


The Dome is now used by the University of Arizona.  Scientists led by Henry Adams planted Pinion Pines inside, and then ramped up the temperature by 7 degrees, or 4 degrees Celsius, to study the impact of global warming on trees.  On current levels of carbon pollution, we can expect such temperature rises.


The study, published in the April 13th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, found that temperature change led to a 28 percent faster die off rate, compared to today's climate.  Even higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air did not help the trees, which shut down to prevent high water loss in the higher temperatures.


The general message seems to be: the world's forest may die off at a high rate as global warming proceeds.  That was predicted by various computer models, as forest turned to grasslands or even deserts.  Other studies found even the great Amazon rainforest could dry out and burn.  But now we have a real world test of future conditions, and the verdict is very serious.





Climate deniers are always talking about the Medieval warm period, when Greenland was greener, and wine was made in England.  That shows temperature gains are perfectly normal, they say.


A new study by the Swiss Federal Institute in Birmensdorf analyzed tree rings in Morocco, and a stalagmite in a cave below a Scottish peat bog.  They discovered that the warm period was not global during medieval times, but localized to Northern Europe.  The cause appears to be a change in ocean currents, called the North Atlantic Oscillation. 


The scientists studied records from other parts of the world, and found that there was no truly global warming during that period, just a localized event.  Which knocks the socks off the argument made by deniers.


Look for that article in New Scientist, published April 2nd, 2009.



BOO! TO AUSTRALIAN COAL - from our speaker Peter Newman


Radio Ecoshock featured a speech by Professor Peter Newman. in our Ecoshock Resilient Cities Show for January 16th, 2009, at  Now Professor Newman is working to advise the Australian government of Kevin Rudd.  Yet Newman says the government's plan to double it's coal export capacity should be given up.  Perversely, in a country so damaged by climate change, the government continued with costly plans to enlarge coal plants and build new heavy rail lines to coal mines.  To make a buck, they are willing to drown their Northern half, while the populated southern coast dies off from drought and fire brought on by climate change.


Newman also says the government's $500 million dollar promise for clean coal tech is a big waste of money.  He is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald for April 1st on supposed clean coal "I don't think the science on that is anywhere near that happening," he said. "In the US it's already disappearing … it's going to disappear along with nuclear fission."


"Scrap coal plan, says Rudd's man”


Find Peter Newman's speech on Resilient Cities in the Radio Ecoshock Show for January 16th, 2009, at  It's a free mp3 download.