Positive News From The Gateway City
November 01, 2017
St. Louis residents are understandably distressed about news coming out of their town in recent weeks. It may be a bit Pollyanish to underscore positive developments in our Gateway City, but they deserve a little ink, too.
First, the $176 million renovation of the Gateway Arch's museum and the grounds is nearing completion. The national park's renovation and museum expansion are to be completed by July in time for the 2018 Fair St. Louis.
Local media were recently treated to a look at what's going on underground with story galleries, video walls and much more – and what is going on above ground is pretty impressive as well. The curved glass entrance to the visitors center with a circular fountain and infinity pool is a sight to behold.
The Popular Culture Association (PCA) was recently in town for a major conference at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis which is on the north side of a lush green carpet of grass leading to the Arch museum entrance way. I saw many visiting PCA members taking photos of the sparkling glass museum entrance framed by the towering legs of the Gateway Arch.
Another plus for St. Louis is news on the proposed Chouteau Greenway. This landscaped trail for hikers and bikers will run from Washington University and Forest Park on the west to the Arch grounds on the east. And at the Arch, this greenway will provide access to the trail network that grows continuously along our great Mississippi Riverfront.
More exceptional news comes with the announcement of a new Living Earth Collaborative for St. Louis. A collective conservation effort of Washington University, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden, this will give St. Louis even more recognition for its role in combatting extinction of plants and animals around the globe.
The Living Earth Collaborative will be a focal point for interdisciplinary research among plant and animal biologists and other scholars across a wide range of fields. The need for this effort has never been greater.
In less than half a century, the global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have been reduced by half. This has prompted many scientists to ask: Is a sixth mass extinction event now underway on our planet Earth?
This writer was a speaker at the recent Popular Culture Association conference at the Hyatt Regency. My topic was St. Louis crime writing with special mention of the books by writer Tim Richards, a retired detective with the St. Louis Police Department.
The PCA conference boasted many panels on writing genres, music, the arts and popular culture. One panel that caught my attention was composed of black professors speaking on the topic of Afro-futurism in America and beyond.
When it was time for questions, I noted that the AFL-CIO convention was meeting a few blocks away at the Convention Center. I said labor folks were asking whether too much emphasis on "identity politics" in Election 2016 served to alienate working people.
Simply put: Did Clinton and the Democrats go down to defeat by ignoring their labor constituency and spending too much time championing the rights of gays, blacks, Latinos and women?
One professor, who has been involved in union organizing for teachers on college campuses, replied in the affirmative. He said people should be treated as people, not labeled with this or that identity. He said younger people these days tend to be color blind – and identity politics just gets in the way of useful deliberation and action.
Related to this, there was a discussion of whether the "Black Lives Matter" movement has been a net positive or, in fact, a net negative for racial progress. The slogan itself has been misconstrued to suggest that other lives don't matter.
Another professor took a different tack. She said identity politics have to be understood to know what's going on in America now. She said that historically, an entrenched white power structure has defined black identity so as to scare working class whites. This has divided Americans who actually should be working together toward common goals.
It was a calm, frank and interesting discussion. We need more of that in St. Louis. Not to be Pollyanish, but reasonable discussion of sensitive issues just might usher in a better future for a living collaborative called – St. Louis.