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Sustainability

On the bright side

North Saskatchewan River Valley from Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge

North Saskatchewan River Valley from Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge

Fall is a bit unfair. It teases us about the end of summer. The temperature drops, the days get shorter, the leaves change colour and technically it is still two days before the end of summer. Winter is coming and regardless of whether or not you like winter, which I do, it is still hard to watch summer end.

At the same time, Fall is beautiful. Golden yellows dominate the river valley, with a few reds interspersed for variety. A few plants still hold onto their green, as if resisting what is next. The wind rustles through the leaves, knocking too many of them to the ground where sad as they are, they also produce the most delightful crunching noises as I walk.

In so many ways, Fall is like protecting the environment. There are so many reasons to despair that it can be difficult to find any hope. This seems to be the way of much communication about the environment. It focuses on the negative, the darkness that may happen, will likely happen, if we fail to take action. I have issues with this approach, I don’t know about you, but despair rarely brings me to act. When the weather gets to me, I tend to wrap myself in blankets and stay at home. When I am hopeful, I will go out cross country skiing at -30 Celsius.

So, applying a view of hope to an event today I would like to tell you about Park(ing) Day in Edmonton. Park(ing) Day is a global event, organized since 2005. It engages artists, designers, and citizens to turn metered parking spots into temporary parks. It’s goal is to raise awareness for the need for more urban open spaces. I love the idea of it. It is that positive hopeful take that I support. The challenge is the implementation.

There were some interesting stalls, one in particular that got my attention was one where you could write a postcard and they would send it to a stranger. I wonder what that stranger thinks when they get a postcard from someone they have never met. What would you write on a postcard to someone you don’t know?

The event was relatively small and a bit tucked away on a side road blocked on one end by construction and without a lot of hope of foot traffic, but those who were there put time and effort in and really isn’t that what we need, time and effort?

I would say that one of the best indicators of success is how people respond, and that was perhaps the most hopeful. As I walked over to the site there were two ladies behind me. One asked the other if they had seen what was going on, indicating Park(ing) Day. She explained the premise, indicating that she had stopped by earlier, and that they should walk by it on their way to where they were going.

Fall happens on a small scale – trees changing colour, single leaves falling, the temperature dropping just a touch – and on a large scale – the Earth’s rotation, the angles of the sun, the evolution of the plants that has allowed them to change colours – at the same time. Changing our relationship with the environment needs to occur at every scale as well. Perhaps Park(ing) Day in Edmonton isn’t achieving change on a large scale, but drops in a bucket are still drops in a bucket, and any one of them might be the tipping point.

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About Peyto

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities. Peyto is a reference to Bill Peyto who was an outfitter, trapper, and eventually a park warden in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier are both named after him. He is also a distant relative of mine.

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