The city of Hamilton never ceases to surprise me; its people, so aspiring and purposeful, are committed to bettering Hamilton in every facet. At Hamilton’s Sustainability Professionals Networking event (SPN) on May 15th 2013, the collective enthusiasm of the city shined bright. I was unsure about what to expect from the event, as I have never attended something of this sort. The concept of sustainability was the focus, which I assumed was a very narrow topic. The idea of sustainability can be easily mistaken to be solely the domain of environmentalism. At the SPN, it was clear that sustainability goes far beyond ecological purposes, extending to the social and economic spheres. Becoming sustainable is not only the responsibility of environmentalists; rather there is a need for communal effort and an expansion of the definition of sustainability.
Anchored in Aboriginal teachings, the event stressed the importance of “bundling the arrows” of Hamilton in the name of sustainability. In such a unique city like Hamilton, there is potential for sustainability to become a common thread in business, ecology, and the community. If we were to gather all the available resources, passionate individuals, and the plethora of ideas, there is potential for serious change in Hamilton.
The SPN was filled with not only independents with a vision of a sustainable Hamilton, but also with professionals, who strive to make business sustainable. The commitment to sustainability by the professionals was inspiring, in particular Horizon Utilities. The presence of Ontario’s electricity provider was completely unexpected. I suppose I found Horizon’s presence so surprising because it is a company that ultimately profits from Ontario’s energy usage- the more electricity the province uses, the more money Horizon makes. The importance of a company like Horizon to stress sustainability is undeniable. Their influence, power, and connection to the city can stimulate public efforts towards sustainability.
The presence of Mohawk College’s Alan Griffiths, from the office of sustainability, was also notable. Mohawk College is surely an influential and important institution in Hamilton. Knowing that the college has strong desires to become sustainable, educate students in sustainability, and train them to become sustainability professionals is vital in the city’s development. Mohawk College’s sustainability efforts create the opportunity to transform students’ outlook by planting the “sustainable seed.”
The many projects and business cards circulating the event created a swirl of enthusiasm in the voice of everyone who attended. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, ideas, and motivations, we all came together to realize and anticipate a sustainable Hamilton. There was also stories of new residents of Hamilton who commended our efforts and were impressed by the passion of Hamiltonians. Those who organized the event were astonished by the attendance as they only expected about 30-40 people. As almost 100 people filled the Pheasant Plucker there was a sense of optimism and a strong appetite for change.
After reflecting on the night’s event it was easy to become overwhelmed by the many projects, opinions, and interpretations. Sustainability has become somewhat of a paradox- both subjective and objective. What I think of sustainability may differ from what you think of sustainability, yet there is a certain middle ground- community. Sustainability will not happen over night, which keeps us pushing stronger for transformation everyday. The SPN highlighted the potential for Hamilton to be a sustainability pivot point and a beacon for positive change.