Introduction

Welcome to my Wiki! In my Wiki I discuss whether or not Kingston, ON should receive the title of “sustainable city”. I talk about who has an interest in this issue, the advantages and disadvantages of sustainable cities, the economic, environmental, social, and political aspects and consequences of sustainable cities, and I tell you why I do not think Kingston deserves to be called a sustainable city.


The Issues

One of the issues that I am discussing is global warming. This is the theory that we are creating too much carbon dioxide the way we are living and that this is leading to the thickening of the atmosphere and the increase in temperature on earth. Another issue is that our main sources of energy- non-renewable sources like fossil fuels are running out and will soon be depleted. The solution to these problems is sustainability.
Canada is a massive country, is very spread out, and has been designed to be travelled by car. This means that most of our cities have not been well planned and makes it hard for Canadians to live as sustainably as those who live in places like Europe, where one can easily commute to school, work, or the grocery store by foot, bike, bus, tram, or even train. But even though it is harder for us to live as sustainably as people in other countries can right now, we can look at how these countries work and see how we can change our cities to make them more sustainable.
An example of what a sustainable city can look like (www.youtube.com).
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Stakeholders

Ontario government:

The Ontario government is very supportive of sustainable cities. Ontario’s Sustainable City Innovation Network wants to connect city builders, researchers, innovators and others in order to integrate clean technologies into our cities. A national charity created to overcome urban and suburban environmental challenges called Evergreen has changed Toronto’s old Don Valley Brick Works into a sustainable and well planned community; Ontario is supporting this project with $4.75 million(www.thegreenpages.ca).
The new Don Valley Brick Works even has a farmers market now, supporting local and sustainable food sources (www.evergreen.ca).

part of Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works before renovation (www.blogto.com)
part of Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works before renovation (www.blogto.com)
farmer's market at Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works after renovation (www.spacingtoronto.ca)
farmer's market at Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works after renovation (www.spacingtoronto.ca)


The city of Kingston:

The Kingston is trying hard to become a sustainable city. FOCUS Kingston (who has now passed on this task to Sustainable Kingston’s first Board of Directors) has the goal of becoming Canada’s most sustainable city. In FOCUS Kingston’s point of view, a sustainable city or community is one that is active, safe, well planned, well built, thriving, and provides good services to everyone (www.sustainablekingston.ca). Kingston has already taken several steps towards becoming a sustainable city such as: the installation of windmills on Wolfe Island which provide Kingston and the rest of Ontario with sustainable energy (www.theurbancountry.com); green bins which create a more sustainable waste management system in Kingston; and the “Rack and Roll” program offered by Kingston Transit which allows commuters to take their bikes on the bus, making Kingston Transit more accommodating to commuters so more people will want to travel in more sustainable ways (www.thecityofkingston.ca).


Advantages and Disadvantages of Sustainability



Advantages:


  • a well-planned city with easy-to-use transit can diminish or get rid of traffic congestion; rush hour traffic is a major problem in big cities like Toronto or Montreal
  • the creation of public green areas, waste being properly managed, more efficient ways of commuting, controlled water consumption, and sustainable management of the environment all cut down on a city’s greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce global warming (international.stockholm.se).
  • sustainable cities are economically stable because they are able to support/sustain themselves and because jobs are created to design and manufacture sustainable technologies; this would make Canada’s economy more stable since our economy greatly relies on Alberta’s tar sands
  • sustainable cities are “healthier” because people can easily and safely walk, bike, run, or otherwise exercise
  • sustainable energy is not only good for the environment but it also means that the city does not have to fear running out of energy like cities that are powered by fossil fuels; this is good for Canadians since so many of our cities rely on the tar sands which will one day be depleted

Disadvantages:


  • it is at first more expensive to carefully think through and then build a sustainable city or to even have to rebuild a city in order to make it more sustainable


Aspects and Consequences


Economic:


The initial cost of rebuilding parts of a city and making it more sustainable is expensive and therefore bad for the economy. But redesigning a city to make it more navigable by bike will mean more people biking and therefore bike stores will be doing better business. Other businesses that would start up or do better are green technology businesses, like businesses that manufacture solar panels or wind turbines, because of the sudden demand for more sustainable energy. Although the economy will have to suffer at first, new businesses or those that are doing better will rebuild it. Another example would be fuel efficient cars. In Europe many people drive diesel cars because they are more fuel efficient than cars that run on gas, which is good because gas is extremely expensive in Europe. Since gas is so cheap in most of North America people can afford to not drive fuel efficient cars and therefore it is difficult to find car dealerships that sell diesel cars. Though if the demand for diesel cars were to rise, companies would come to North America and start manufacturing them which would be very good for our economy.

Living in a city where it is easy to bike, longboard, walk, or otherwise commute in a more physical way then driving would create a healthier population in a city. This is good for the economy because it means less people would be going into emergency because of their health problems. Less people with health problems would save the Canadian government a lot of money and greatly improve our economy.

Environmental:


Sustainable cities are great for the environment. Cities that have an efficient transit system help cut down on greenhouse gases because citizens are likely to use a transit system when it is fast, on time, and easy to use. Bike paths, sidewalks, parks, and recreational areas that are safe and within reach also help fight global warming by encouraging people not to drive. Sustainable energy in a city greatly reduces the production of greenhouse gases as well. Stockholm, named European Green Capital 2010, is even aiming to be fossil fuel free by 2050 (international.stockholm.se) and seeing as much of Canada relies on fossil fuels, this would be a giant step forward in the fight against global warming for Canadians. Sustainable waste management is also important for sustainable cities. Recycling programs and composting programs like Kingston’s green bins all benefit the environment. In Stockholm, 100% of domestic waste is recycled (international.stockholm.se); this means far fewer landfills that destroy valuable habitats for many animal and plant species. Sustainable cities are also less spread out and have a denser population than other cities, so instead of building out to house a rising population, the city is built up which results in less urban sprawl. A good example of this is Vancouver where there is no room for the city to expand outwards because of the surrounding ocean and mountains so tall apartment buildings are built.

Social:


Sustainable cities bring people together because they are planned to have green spaces and parks within close reach of everybody, so communities are more likely to come together and socialize. A denser population also means that people will half to interact on a more regular basis. In a suburb you can stay in your house or on your lawn all day and get in the car to go shopping but never have to talk to anybody; if however you live in an apartment building you are constantly having to talk to people as well as if you take the bus or walk to the market. One consequence of the social aspect of sustainable cities is with greater varieties in modes of transportation come conflicts and disagreements. There has long been much friction between cyclists and drivers on city streets and more bike paths would mean more people cycling on the roads and interacting with drivers. But more and better planned bike paths can also help this conflict because instead of sometimes having to cycle on the shoulder of the road, cyclists can be sure to always have their own space. In Germany and much of Europe there are often bike paths separated from busy highways or roads by a strip of trees. So cyclists can be safe and stay safe plus enjoy a nicer view by not being able to see the road. There are also many sidewalks in Germany that are split in half, one lane for pedestrians and one lane for cyclists.

Political:


One of the biggest problems of creating a sustainable city is that many members of parliament are afraid to go forward with or even suggest things like more bike lanes or more windmills. The reason for this is that they are afraid that the majority of the population will not want that and therefore will not elect/ re-elect that Member of Parliament. So if a city is to become sustainable, then its citizens have to show interest, because the government is supposed to be there to do things that are in the best interest of the public and if nobody wants something to happen then the government will be unwilling to risk it. The Wolfe Island windmills are an example of such a risk because many residents of Wolfe Island are unhappy having windmills on their property while many others are happy about having this source of renewable and sustainable energy.


Conclusions

I have lived in and travelled to many places in both Canada and Europe, so I am lucky enough to have experienced how well planned and well run cities work. Last year I lived in Freiburg im Breisgau in southern Germany. Freiburg has only a slightly larger population than Kingston so I have been able to easily compare the two. Last year I biked to school every morning from the outskirts of Freiburg to my school on the other side of the city. It was a 5km cycle and it took me about 15-20min. To get downtown from my house was about 4km. In Kingston it would be a 10km cycle for me to get to KCVI/downtown, and most of the way I would be on dangerous roads with no bike lanes and lots of traffic. That just goes to show you how much more spread out Kingston is than many European cities; Kingston has a smaller population than Freiburg but is twice as large. People at my school thought it was crazy that I biked 5km to school every day, because in Germany you go to the school that is closest to you, so you don’t have kids being driven across the city when they live two blocks away from another school. Probably the coolest thing about my school in Germany was the underground parking garage that was just for bikes, and every morning there were always a few hundred bikes locked up there!
P1140953.JPG
view of the underground bike parking lot (empty because it was during the summer holidays) at my old school in Germany (photo taken by David Zechel)
P1140954.JPG
the school and underground bike parking lot (photo taken by David Zechel)

The transit system in Germany is also incredible. Since I couldn’t bike in the winter, I got a bus pass that I could use for one month and then renew. With this bus pass I could take the bus (which was never late) to school, get on a tram in the more downtown parts of the city, and even take the train to some of the surrounding towns or to go downhill skiing. The amazing part was that taking the bus was as fast as or faster than driving. My family and I lived one whole year without owning a car! And we didn’t just stay in the city the whole time, we went to Berlin, Venice, Paris, the Swiss Alps, the Italian Alps, Stuttgart, Zürich, Basel, and many other places and cities. That would be almost impossible to do in Canada right now, and it would not be easy or fun. The bus ride from KCVI to my house takes over an hour (by car it takes 15min) and the bus is always 10-15min late. In Freiburg the main train station (with 10 platforms) is conveniently situated right downtown whereas in Kingston the train station is far away from everything and everyone (it only has 2 platforms). Although Canada was shaped by the train, Canadian trains are slow, late, and old. But it’s not that we don’t have the right technologies in Canada to make good trains because most of the modern German trains are made by Bombardier!
What Kingston does well is sustainable waste management. Most plastics, cans, tins, and bottles can be recycled as well as paper and cardboard, and now all food scraps and yard waste can be thrown into the green bin. Also, Kingston has become a more sustainable city by installing the Wolfe Island Windmills so that we are more reliant on sustainable energy sources.
So should Kingston receive the title of sustainable city? Well, Kingston has:
  • a sustainable waste management system
  • a nearby source of sustainable energy
  • a municipal and provincial government supportive of sustainable cities
  • plans to become Canada’s most sustainable city (www.sustainablekingston.ca)
Kingston doesn’t have/isn’t:
  • an efficient public transit system
  • enough bike paths (not a very active city)
  • laid out so that it is easily and quickly navigable (Kingston is too spread out)
  • enough safe pedestrian areas (although the downtown is pedestrian-friendly, the further away you get from downtown Kingston the less safe it is; much of my neighbourhood does not have sidewalks)
In my opinion Kingston is not yet a sustainable city, not even on Canadian standards when compared with Vancouver or Ottawa, but we already have a great start and are well on our way to becoming one. Kingston is a sustainable city in the making.


Works Cited

Bus. "Evergreen Brick Works | Historical Timeline." Evergreen Brick Works . N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://ebw.evergreen.ca/about/site/history>.
"Eco-Towns." Eco-Towns-YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=v37f5odx6ZM>.
Hague, Matthew. "A Saturday morning walk to the Don Valley Brick Works « Spacing Toronto." Spacing Toronto. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://spacingtoronto.ca/2008/06/22/draft-a-saturday-morning-walk-to-the-don-valley-brickworks/>.
Kids, supporting P.R.O.. "City of Kingston, Ontario, Canada - Kingston Transit - Buses ." City of Kingston, Ontario, Canada - Official Web Site - Home Page . N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <http://www.cityofkingston.ca/residents/transportation/transit/index.asp>.
"Ontario's Sustainable City Innovation Network: Building Green Communities - thegreenpages.ca." thegreenpages.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <http://thegreenpages.ca/ca/2011/06/04/ontarios-sustainable-city-innovation-network-building-green-communities/>.
"The Urban Country Bicycle Blog: Wolfe Island Sustainable Energy Haven." The Urban Country Bicycle Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <http://www.theurbancountry.com/2009/08/wolfe-island-sustainable-energy-haven.html>.
experiences, sharing, and ideas with other cities. "European Green Capital - international.stockholm.se." Start page - international.stockholm.se. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <http://international.stockholm.se/Stockholm-by-theme/European-Green-Capital/>.
"sustainable Kingston: Designing our community's future...together." www.sustainablekingston.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <www.sustainablekingston.ca/images/files/sk-plan-final-f-112310.pdf>.
teriyakidonut.. "Don Valley's Abandoned Brick Works Finally Coming Back To Life." blogTO | Toronto blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://www.blogto.com/city/2009/10/don_valleys_abandoned_brick_works_finally_coming_back_to_life/>.


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