UN-CHANGING THE CLIMATE,
ONE PARKING SPACE AT A TIME
Combining the motto "live as though the revolution has already occurred" with Emma Goldman's "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution" members of the Climate Change Caravan and Hamilton's Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) ate, played and danced in the parking lot in front of Westdale businesses for several hours Saturday (July 28, 2001.)
Children are twirling, running and playing, chalking the bare asphalt with images of beauty or hopscotch squares; music is playing through loudspeakers, people are talking and dancing, handing out leaflets, writing in journals, hanging out.
The Climate Change Caravan (CCC), a group of 30 cyclists on a cross Canada mission to educate and activate citizens to take responsibility for global climate change, has arrived in Hamilton and a parking lot in Westdale has been transformed into a pedestrian play zone.
Car drivers stare blankly, trying to figure out why people are not moving out of their way: they want to park where they are accustomed but bicycles and moving bodies are in the way.
Cars reverse, and look elsewhere for a place to deposit their cumbersome metal shells. About 60 people are reversing expectations by holding a parking meter party in celebration of the potential for Canadians to change: rather than continue to change the climate with unparalleled levels of fossil fuel combustion, the Climate Change Caravan is betting on the actions of citizens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are heating the planet.
At around 3:30 pm, TLC scouts Christine and Andrew started laying down orange traffic cones to reserve five parking spaces for the CCC support bus. They managed to stave off the parking commissionaire who approached them and gruffly inquired as to whether or not they had a permit. Since the spaces were paid for (with quarters in the meters) and the dilemma of finding a location for leaving the ticket was too much of a quandary, (neither Christine or Andrew where wearing wiper-blades at the time) he left them to attend to the more usual routine of ticketing automobiles.
Then around 4:00 the bus pulled in, just as other cyclists from TLC arrived to claim other empty parking spaces for the party.
In all, about 15 spaces were made temporary pollution-free zones.
Onlookers could be seen staring, dumbfounded; cyclists cruising through the area changed their course to stop and check out the inviting scene which included soap bubbles; children with faces painted with flowers, buses and bicycles; a table laden with food; parking spaces filled with bicycles and lawn chairs; people dancing, playing hacky-sack; and the rather impressive deep-red Climate Change school bus replete with solar panels, wind turbine and a store of vegetable oil (used to fuel the bus.)
People from as far away as the Yukon happened upon the party and joined in the fun.
The sight of children liberated and able to play without fear of being run down by automobiles was inspiring. Children are too often the victims of North America's obsession with cars, either as fatalities, or as prisoners in neighbourhoods over-run with motor vehicles and roads.
Children are also going to bear the brunt of global warming. As Canada's top climate change expert says, "we can expect temperatures in the Toronto-Hamilton area to top 30 C -- often 35 C -- more than 50 days each summer by 2050, unless we cut global greenhouse gas emissions. That's up from the present 15 or 16 days each summer."(Hamilton Spectator)
Increased temperatures will result in more smog (the heat from the sun "cooks" pollutants from motor vehicles, industry and power plants to create smog) which means more people dying from bad air. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that 1900 Ontarians die prematurely each year due to poor air quality.
As this article is being written, yet another smog advisory has been issued by the Ministry of the Environment, making this the worse year on record for smog alerts.
Are we going to be hostages to our hyper-consumption lifestyles, or are we going to learn to tread lightly on the earth?
Cyclists in the CCC began their journey in Tofino, B.C. and have been raising awareness in cities and towns along the way about personal consumption habits which drive the damage of climate change. Check out their web site at www.theBet.ca