Monday, July 29, 2002

PMP 2002

SUSTAINABLE CYCLES (Hamilton, Monday, July 29, 2002)

Report on the Parking Meter Party and Esso leaflet
by Transportation for Liveable Communities.

In the relentless afternoon sun and heat, the sidewalk chalk almost melts into the pavement as a succinct message is scratched onto the asphalt entrance at the Esso station at Main and Leland: "STOP SMOG."

For 40 minutes people hand out leaflets about smog and Esso's attempts to discredit the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty on global warming which the U.S. has refused to join.

Greenpeace is calling for a boycott of ESSO (ExxonMobil in the U.S.)

The majority of people are happy to receive the information, along with a free bike-route map for the Hamilton region.

One customer suggests going after Ontario Power Generation (formerly Ontario Hydro) for their coal burning power plants in Nanticoke, which he describes as "a disgrace."

He is told about a peaceful protest last year at the Corporate Offices of OPG in Toronto where several people were arrested and criminally charged for demanding that OPG convert from burning coal to cleaner natural gas.(their trial is in Toronto in September)

One woman receives the leaflet on Esso, scans it, and decides to go elsewhere to fill up. A boycott is begun.

No one disputes the fact that humans are seriously messing up the air with hyper-consumption lifestyles.

One driver refused to accept any information. He apparently complained to Esso staff who finally ordered the leafletters off the property, tersely giving them a "one minute" warning and threatening to call the police.

The threat happened to coincide with the need to depart for a soon to begin Parking Meter Party just a few blocks away organized by local transportation activists in Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC).

TLC arranged the party to welcome a dozen members of the Cycling for Sustainability crew who had just arrived in Hamilton on their way across Canada.

About 30 people gathered to share food, listen to music, play hackey sack, decorate the asphalt's oil and grease stained ugliness with colourful sidewalk chalk, and hear a premierC4S recitation of Dr. Seuss's environmental tale" The Lorax."

As bicycles displaced cars in the parking spaces, people stopped by to say hello and share food with the C4S cyclists and take a leaflet.

C4S's Kevin Hamilton explained that they are hoping to raise awareness about simple steps people can take to live sustainably on the earth. They are cycling their message from coast to coast from Victoria B.C. to St John Newfoundland. On the way they encounter people in various communities putting sustainability into practice in their daily lives.

Yet even in the enjoyable atmosphere of people gathered in community to celebrate the possible future of sustainable living, the poisoned atmosphere of the current state of air quality lent a sense of urgency to the message.

1,900 people in Ontario go to early grave each year due to smog-related respiratory problems according to the Ontario Medical Association, 110 of them in the Hamilton area. Transportation accounts for 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada as well as being the single largest source of air pollution in the country, according to stats from Environment Canada.

While the message about air pollution gets into the news, (the day after the parking meter party the Hamilton Spectator ran a story on air quality, reprinted below) positive grassroots actions such as these by C4S and TLC are largely ignored by the corporate-owned media in Hamilton.

Yet it is citizens' actions that are necessary if we are to survive in a tolerable, liveable, breathable world.
The message? Don't wait for someone to do it for you, organize your own street party, a walk to school program, car-share club or car pool. Try the bus, bike, or walk to some of your destinations. Call your city councillor and tell them to make clean alternatives like the HSR bus service more available instead of cutting back - tell them to stop planning on paving the Red Hill Valley or the Mid Pen Highway. Write a letter to the editor in your local paper. Be the change you want to see!