A Resilient Community?

This past Tuesday (July 22, 2014), I had the privilege of attending the kick-off brainstorming session for Hamilton’s Community Climate Change Action Plan. I really appreciated the overarching vision for the plan: there is a focus both on ways that we can mitigate climate change at a local level, while also recognizing the need to cultivate resiliency as we face the inevitable uncertainties that global warming will bring.

While there were many things that I appreciated about the meeting, I wanted to raise two issues/ideas here which I felt were overlooked:

  • First, Hamilton is far from a single community. Like most cities, it is incredibly diverse–both in its physical geography and its social/cultural make-up. For example, compare the neighbourhood of Westdale to that of Beasley. While these neighbourhoods are fairly close geographically (within a few kilometres of each other), their social/cultural composition, and the issues that residents living in each area face are quite different. For example, while a Westdale resident’s biggest struggle may be dealing with an absentee landlord, a Beasley resident might be struggling daily to put food on her table. Will a single community plan be able to take these major differences into account? How will the needs and characteristics of such diverse groups be acknowledged and addressed?
  • Second, although this issue was touched on tangentially, there was no real acknowledgement that one of the primary drivers of climate change (and, I would argue, one of the main reasons our communities are so fragmented and un-resilient) is capitalism–our Western addiction to consumption and production. If we truly want to mitigate climate change and build more resilient communities, we need to change our economy and realize just how unsustainable and in-humane it really is. I believe new local co-operatives such as The Mustard Seed (whose motto is to ‘beet the system’) will help west-end neighbourhoods do just that.

Overall, I am proud to be contributing to Hamilton’s Community Climate Change Action Plan and look forward to working with other concerned members of the wider community. However, let’s ensure we think deeply about the issues we will face–and are facing–and not be afraid to imagine alternative solutions.

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