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Bridges: Restoring Balance to a Wounded World

Posted by Cary Belling and Candace Seu on Tuesday, October 29, 2019

“With its flowing streams, lush vegetation, and preponderance of wildlife, this part of the Arroyo [beneath the Colorado St. Bridge] has the potential to be a wonderful natural area just a minutes away from Old Town Pasadena. But it has been seriously damaged with badly planned construction, dams, and drainage. As you walk along the trails you smell beautiful plants and flowers along with the stench of a sewer.

“Looking at the amazing and beautiful arching columns supporting the famous bridge, I thought that if we could create such a majestic and beautiful structure above - surely we could do better to restore the Arroyo below to its natural beauty. The conflict between technological progress and ecological treasures such as the Arroyo is what inspired me to compose ‘Bridges: An Ecological Tone Poem’.”

– Composer Cary Belling, March 2018 (SoundCloud)

When Cary introduced his ecological tone poem at our October 13th walk beneath the Colorado St. Bridge, he spoke of ascending scales representing the arches of the bridge, pounding steel rebar-derived percussion to evoke human-made construction and destruction, and musical leitmotifs layered backwards and forwards. He also asked a question:

How do we balance the immediate needs and desires of our human society with the long term health of our ecosphere and planet?

This is a question that more and more of us are now being asked to answer – too often only on an individual basis, and I think that the resulting dissonance between the enormity of our climate crisis and our tiny lives is cruel, crushing, and built on a lie. The conflict between now and future can only be resolved on a large scale – together, in concert, and with sweeping systemic changes on every level, from the international to the local.

The power and potential of local systemic change in our city is the reason I’ve spent so many hours with Pasadena CSC advocating for Complete Streets: safe, green, stress-free, and inclusive streets.

At this point, it’s impossible to pretend that we don’t need to change something. More than 50% of our carbon emissions here in Pasadena comes from the transportation sector, which is overwhelmingly associated with personal cars. We know that the pollution we generate by burning fossil fuels fouls the air and water we all depend on. And so we try to drive away from the dissonance and shame that weighs us down – some with denial, some in addiction, others in legalistic frustration and scolding – and we suffer all the more.

Complete Streets is about more than a bike lane or crosswalk -- it's about survival. It's about finding a way that will let everyone get home to their loved ones at the end of the day -- whether we're talking about one person's grandmother crossing the street tonight, or our future selves trying to make a living in 2050.

So it’s with ferocious love for ourselves and all of you that we, Pasadena CSC, say Enough! Our work, and Walktober, is about searching for a kinder, more life-affirming and forgiving way for everyone to get around the city, and reclaiming hope and joy in the process.

Complete Streets is about more than a bike lane or crosswalk – it’s about survival. It’s about finding a way that will let everyone get home to their loved ones at the end of the day – whether we’re talking about one person’s grandmother crossing the street tonight, or our future selves trying to make a living in 2050.

And it’s about finding a way to get there gracefully, like the arches soaring high above the Arroyo and the sage standing tall beneath it.

Arroyo

Watch a recorded performance of Bridges by the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra.

This is Part 4 of a series on Walktober 2019:

Part 1: Reflections on Why We Walktober
Part 2: Glenarm Power Plant: Seeing Things Anew
Part 3: People, Plants, and Water: Caring for the Future Together
Part 4: Bridges: Restoring Balance to a Wounded World

Tags: Arroyo Seco, Walktober, why we work

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