Hamilton can become the city of the future if we can bravely face the reality of the future.
By Trey Shaughnessy
Published April 30, 2008
Back in 2004, when our meetings and email discussions turned into the website you're reading today, one of main topics of discussion as it related to the City of Hamilton was energy.
Even four years ago, the evidence of peak oil was not as obscure as you may think. There were many books and energy experts warning the world that the current situation and consumption was not sustainable and very nearing a crisis situation.
The mainstream media and the status quo supporters did everything possible to ignore the subject, but the internet - the best thing to happen to democracy since Pericles - contained a wealth of information and a variety of studies from petroleum experts.
Raise the Hammer was born in part from the imminent Peak Oil crisis and the necessary paradigm shift in living and city planning to mitigate the crisis. The City of Hamilton was 'planning' for a future based on cheap oil/gasoline and to some extent still is.
Almost four years have passed and the denial of an energy crisis is still steering the city planning, even with surmounting evidence of present a $120 barrel of oil.
The City of Hamilton still believes that box retail centres with supply chains and business models based on cheap oil will be the employment opportunities that keep the next generation in the City.
Employment land use in Hamilton: new box-store near the Red Hill Expressway.
Much of the status quo denial is finding blame in anything but the obvious - supply not keeping up with demand.
The deniers chose to lay blame in an area of the world that is experiencing 'turmoil', as if the Middle East and Nigeria were ever 'stable' in the 20th century and striking workers in Scotland apparently is a new phenomenon.
Or they point blame to speculators who are driving up the cost of oil, as if capitalism didn't exist in the 20th century.
Or they claim that the tax on gasoline is too high and needs to be lowered to make sure we can continue our lifestyles of happy-motoring in our car-dependent cities.
Any gas-tax cuts will have to made up somewhere else. The best place for taxing gasoline is at the pumps as a user fee, and not another subsidy for automobiles by taxing everyone - including people who don't drive.
I'm afraid that the 'good old days' of $0.39/L or even $0.89/L will not return. No, it will more likely be a return to even older 'good old days' of the milkman, streetcars and walking.
Circa 1935: A milkman chats with a father holding a baby, as he leaves the daily quota of milk on the doorstep. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Ironically, it is the staunchest free-market advocates who are in favour of socialist-style regulations and who lay blame at the oil companies for making too much profit in a capitalist society.
It's time to make the necessary changes to our city now, changes that will include creating higher density, walkable, and mixed-use neighbourhoods (something that is illegal given the City's current building by-laws), light rail transit, and an immediate stop on City boundary expansions and greenfield development.
The City's current layout still has plenty of room to grow upward and inward for many generations. Just visit a European city to see how much further we can intensify Hamilton, resulting in a city that is more livable. Former industrial and underused 'brownfields' are an opportunity, not a blight, for Hamilton to reinvent itself.
Hamilton can become the city of the future if we can bravely face the reality of the future. If we were brave enough to have started planning for this crisis ten years ago, the pain of the adjustment would have been less painful and the paradigm shift more gradual.
Instead, the world's population risks being stampeded off a cliff like the American Bison hunts due to our shortsighted planning. The food-crisis is a domino from the Peak Oil reality and even now mainstream media was quick to say that it won't affect 'us'.
The truth is, this is how things start. They start small and almost seem insignificant until we are over the cliff and wondering what to do next.
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