Friday, February 27, 2015

Envisioning a Greener Kingston

(Editorial Note: Rather obsolete in the wake of the election results, but this endorsement of the Green candidate in Kingston is what started it all.)

      The Limestone City has rarely been regarded as forward-thinking; perhaps due to its old-fashioned architecture and institutional character, Kingston has long been a bastion of the establishment. Deprived of its former importance in trade and industry, the city’s economy has chugged along from the consistency provided by prisons, universities, and the military. The downtown has managed to retain its lively character but many vacancies and empty lots exist. Fortunately though, there has been a strong wind of change blowing through this city in the last few years.

      Faced with an unstable world and climate, our society’s grassroots has chosen to confront our local economic crisis and the general climate crisis. Complemented by the response to injustices such as the closure of the rehabilitative prison farms, there has been a massive movement towards local food and agriculture in the city and surrounding region. Community supported agriculture operations, or CSAs, have become a newer way of allowing urban residents to access local organic produce and reduce their carbon footprint, along with the long-standing city market, and relatively new farmer’s market. Restaurants catering to this trend and serving up cuisine using closely-sourced ingredients have also contributed. These individuals and groups are to be congratulated for assisting in the transition to a post-carbon future.

      While many would chose greener transportation and living options, the economic situation often makes this unfeasible. Rising rents in the core for businesses and residents alike have strangled growth and make it even harder to prosper. Policies of suburbanisation, despite their short-sightedness, have continued unabated: former farmers’ fields are now cookie-cutter suburbs. Though public transit ridership and efficiency is improving, zoning and development continue to favour car-centric designs; high rates of vehicular use now result in traffic snarls across the city.

      Kingston must embrace its green future by creating green industry, spurring job growth for young graduates, finding ways to densify the core of the city, and provide options to draw commuters away from the almighty automobile. Growth and development can be achieved in a more environmentally friendly manner; by becoming a walkable, prosperous, ethical community, we can provide an example in how to face the climate crisis. Kingston’s new mayor and relatively fresh city council should take this chance, rather than bulldoze parks to build more roads.

      In October – or perhaps sooner – voters of this city will face a choice in a federal election. The Conservatives have seemingly sought to punish Kingston for its resistance to their overpowering parliamentary majority. The Liberals both locally and nationally seem to believe that leadership is genetically sourced, have too often followed the Conservative lead, and lack the bold vision required for change. While the New Democrats have the potential to be part of the big solution, their resistance to cooperation with other parties in the face of the global climate crisis undermines their commitment to the cause. Residents of Kingston and the Islands should choose hope over cynicism, get to the polls, and select newer and Greener alternatives for our political representation.

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