With over 3,400 acres of parkland, 137 kilometres of hiking trails, and more than 120 waterfalls, Hamilton has a diverse and unique natural environment. Hamilton is becoming increasingly known for its fascinating environmental features; however, it wasn't long ago that the city was considered the ‘industrial armpit of Canada’. This is one Hamiltonian's story.
I just recently returned to my first career aspiration in writing, and with it I began to scrutinize the way I live and teach about food because my five year old knew nothing about the world that sustains us beyond that it “comes from the store.” I wish I could say it was because he was five, but the reality is that as a society we're becoming increasingly disconnected from what it takes to live on this world without taking it for granted and destroying it.
I know this because I wasn't always all that connected myself.
Hamilton does some things well. Revitalizing the downtown core. Great. Huge, sudden suburban development in a few areas taking up more farm lands and green space on the south end (causing infrastructure and planning problems to boot)? Not so great. It's a complex problem, because a need for higher density (to improve public transit and combat traffic and all problems car related) is going head to head with the need for the property taxes and personal desires for more space. Not to mention, the human “inconvenience” factor. It's part and parcel of changing priorities, and we as residents have to stay involved and keep the focus on building a better city.
It's not easy being green. You have to be proactive, mindful, and vigilant. And there are growing pains, transitional difficulties, and new processes to get used to. The important thing is to be willing to make sacrifices and learn new things.
I gave up my car, and now rely on my feet, the HSR (Hamilton Street Railway; Hamilton's transit system), and the occasional taxi to get around. I made friends with farmers in the region, to reconnect myself to food and support business locally. I built a large planter and started a garden, to teach myself and my son how derive both nourishment and satisfaction from the earth itself. Now I tell stories about rediscovering love and respect for food; recapturing lost traditions; and gaining better understanding of the world through science on my blog.
Each step has been a revelation. I understand better what Hamilton's community gardens represent, and enjoy seeing food growing in the “flower” beds around downtown. I no longer take transportation for granted and plan my journeys better. I have heard the complaints from orchards and butchers who feel the pinch of space and the wavering market for local goods, and make a conscientious effort to keep more of my money within the community.
And, as I continue to reach out, I'm learning to speak for others in need of an voice. I write to promote education. I have also become involved at my son's school, and the teachers and I are working to promote healthy eating, environmentally-friendly thinking, and engage young students in a love of science.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My family and I have only just begun to walk the path, learning to be greener people. I want to find and teach others of like mind to walk with as well. I want to become involved together in the direction our city decides to grow. And, arm in arm, young and old, we can forge a community that's stronger, smarter, and greener than ever.