A Walk In The Neigbourhood

Is this our fate, to live in our own closed universes where our needs and wants take precedence over the most pressing of issues?

By Lorne Warwick
Published March 13, 2016

Having pretty much recovered from a nasty stomach bug that laid me low for about 24 hours, I thought it might be a good time to get out and take a brief walk to the local plaza, situated about seven minutes from my house.

The first part of my perambulation depressed me. One of the homeowners on my route decided, for reasons not apparent to me, to cut down an old fir tree enisled in their circular driveway. At least 50 feet high, its desecration thus far had left it with only the top three or four feet of branches, the rest already consigned to a shredder.

Aesthetics aside, I saw this termination as yet another flagrant example of how we like to mouth the right platitudes about climate change, but whenever doing something to mitigate it encroaches upon our personal freedoms and choices, our truer, more selfish natures come to the fore.

I wondered, as I passed by, if the homeowners had given any thought to the stored carbon that this tree's termination will see released into the atmosphere. Even if it is relatively little, the choice to cut it down does not, in my view, reflect mindful stewardship of our environment.

The same could be said of other aspects of my Dundas community. Although it is a very walkable one - e.g., a pedestrian trek to our library takes about ten minutes at a brisk pace - I would classify only a handful of people in my neighbourhood as walkers.

The young couple who moved in next door, having abandoned the dream of home ownership in Toronto where they were renting, are out and about on a regular basis, often with their little girl in her stroller. I suspect their sojourn in Toronto taught them that walking is often the best way to get about. The other person, on the street over from mine, regularly walks to the plaza. And, of course, my wife and I do much walking as well.

Only five people, living in a very walkable community, regularly walk. What is wrong with this picture?

My own affection for the pedestrian way is longstanding. However, as I get older I think more and more of my father who was a lifelong walker, frequently perambulating to his place of work which must have been at least 40 minutes from where we lived. Despite two heart attacks and crippling pain in his later years, he still got about with his walker.

When he died four years ago at the age of 90, he was still compos mentis, a fact that I believe had a lot to do with his walking habits. Indeed, research tends to support that hypothesis.

Perhaps I am rambling a bit here. My point is not to suggest that I am some kind of exemplar of environmental consciousness; indeed, in my working years I drove pretty much every day (about a 15-minute car-trip) to the school where I taught.

I could probably have arranged car pooling, but I never felt it would work very well, given that teachers operate on different after-school schedules, some staying late to mark, coach, etc., others leaving earlier. But the point is I never even tried unless my car was not working.

Is this our fate, to live in our own closed universes where our needs and wants take precedence over the most pressing of issues?

This article was first published on Lorne Warwick's personal website.

Lorne Warwick is a retired high school teacher who spends his time reading, traveling, doing crosswords, volunteering, and becoming increasingly concerned about the state of democracy in Canada.


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By Stinson (registered) | Posted March 14, 2016 at 18:29:33

Thanks Lorne. I recently discovered a love for walking and biking my neighborhood. So much to see once we get out of our cars.

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By Angela (registered) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 14:42:25

Thanks, this was great to read. City needs to be more pedestrian and walker friendly... better transit to be more livable... less pollution... Ward 7 Candidate Jeanne Pacey met her neighbours the old fashioned way in the last month by walking through the Ward, knocking on doors, speaking at churches and meetings and discussing residents' concerns. Pacey wants Ward 7 to be a healthy environment to work and live in with better transit. Pollution (lead pipes and sprawl) is one of Pacey's concerns.

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