Social change for climate change—be conversant
Expressway for the Future
Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway is to be altered without increasing traffic congestion, a “hundred-year decision that we have to get right”, as the City’s planning team stated on the radio today. Citizens are offered many ways of contributing to the debate about what to do.
Will vehicles be whizzing over the ground in a hundred years? Might they not be flying, as they do in so many sci-fi movies? Isn’t any size of road for cars doomed to be overwhelmed—isn’t congestion inevitable
Human scale, which usually refers to a measuring of human space, can also be applied to how we think and feel. Although pharmacology or hardware may bring us ever greater capacity for handling stimuli, it’s also possible to imagine a future where life is more peacefully laid back.
Bicycle speeds are limited and riding in winter slush is a drag, but let’s imagine cars being obsolete a hundred years from now, commuting transformed into a pleasurable social event aboard public vehicles, and the current path of the Gardiner (above or on the ground) drawing thousands of self-propelled people through a village-like cityscape.
Future cityscapes could fit a lifestyle of leisure, one for which every aspect of healthy behaviour is part of the city’s design. Human limitations would be understood to enhance the senses, allowing our comfort zones to expand, our freedom to fuel creativity.
Regression and the illusion of control
The Gardiner is a legacy of a society that embraced consumerism, speed and convenience as signs of progress. The limits of Earth are beginning to impose new signs: progress is increasingly a measure of how well we reduce our ecological footprints. The injunction that we control things is also reshaped by the pressure to adapt to circumstances we can’t control, like violent weather.
These few words are an attempt to frame the question of the Gardiner’s future in a very broad context. The bias here, toward moving as deliberately as possible away from the mindset that brought us cars and expressways, is a sane and logical bias. We are contemplating a big change that would, if done wisely, give us a better road literally and figuratively.
The Gardeners’ Way
In the short term, a small step in the right direction would be to rename the expressway to reflect the wonderfully Quixotic goal of building something to last. “The Gardener’s Way” sounds similar but it carries more meaning (with apologies to the Gardiner family). Contemplate gardening, mindfulness, zipping along in a daydream as you grow.
This article first was first published on the discussion site for Green Movement Toronto (“Toronto’s first Green philosophy club”) on April 14, 2015.