Sustainability

RTH Recognized by Canadian Association of Geographers

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 24, 2009

The Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) has recognized Raise the Hammer as one of its ten featured websites promoting the relationship between geography and transportation issues for its 2009 Geography Awareness Week campaign.

As part of its mandate to promote geographic education in school and among the public, the CAG has run an annual Geography Awareness Week since 2006 (Geography Awareness Week started in 1987 in the USA).

Geography awareness encompasses understanding the ways that geography - the shape of the land, the presence and position of mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, forests, fertile land, mineral deposits, and so on - have shaped and continue to shape where and how people live, and how we move around and interact.

In this year's campaign, which runs the week of November 16 to 20, each day represents an important dimension of geography: Weather and Climate (Nov. 16), Water (Nov. 17), Energy (Nov. 18), Transportation (Nov. 19) and Food and Health (Nov. 20).

Transportation Day [PDF link] focuses attention on ten websites that, as the organizers explain:

promote more trips by walking, cycling, and transit [and] include changing planning and zoning practices so that sprawl is replaced by intensification of existing neighbourhoods, and increasing the densities of new developments and re-developments in downtown and inner city areas.

Further, sustainable transport advocates are increasingly calling for much more money to be spent on sidewalks, bike paths, and bus and rail transit, and much less on roads.

Among the governmental and institutional websites here recognized - which include the Trans-Canada Trail website, the Federal Government's ecoACTION website and the Government of Saskatchewan's Highways and Infrastructure plan - the CAG gives a much-appreciated nod to Raise the Hammer.

Raise the Hammer has a healthy regard for the geography-transportation connection, and it is illustrated by text and video items in Recent Articles as well as in such Blog Archive Categories as aerotropolis, climate change, environment, light rail, neighbourhoods, sprawl, sustainability and transportation.

The CAG also notes that RTH is "a medium for personal, that is, individual opinions, and as a result its overall content differs from those of institutions such as governments,or enterprises such as businesses."

Raise the Hammer is honoured and delighted to be recognized by this association for work that most of us probably do not regard as being geographic per se. Yet there is no question that geography is central to the questions we examine in terms of land use, transportation and sustainability.

Whether we are pointing out links between the paving-over of watersheds and increased flooding, arguing that the distance or proximity of destinations impacts individual choices on where to go and how to get there, or even promoting Hamilton as a distinct city of waterfalls, possible in a city that exists both above and below the Niagara Escarpment, we're really talking about geography.

Geography is a subject that just doesn't get a lot of love. Many students dismiss it as merely the dreary act of recalling capital cities and goods export profiles, and that dismissal extends into adulthood. As a result, we don't pay enough attention to the ways in which our geography informs our lives and impacts our decisions on where to live and how to get around.

We ignore our own geography to our long-term detriment, as the flooded residents of Northeast Hamilton are discovering. We also ignore our own geography at the risk of missing opportunities to leverage its advantages or respond to its challenges.

Today's single-use building model is profoundly anti-geographic in its prefabricated, one-size-fits-all approach to development. By removing every last tree, scraping away the topsoil, leveling the rise and fall of the land, and compacting the substrata into concrete with heavy machinery, we destroy the very geographic distinctness that makes one place over another worth choosing.

Similarly, by imposing a monolithic, unimodal system of automobile-based transportation on our cities, we replace the embodied geography of local places and pathways with a generic pattern of arterial roads and directionless culs-de-sac that (big surprise) turn out to be unsustainable.

If we are going to find a way out of the impasse, a clearer, better, more detailed understanding of our geography is essential.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Geog101 (anonymous) | Posted August 24, 2009 at 13:34:17

Congrats and kudos on some very well deserved praise! I have to say, geography education in school is a LOT better these days than it was a couple of decades ago when I was a student, now it's very applied and project oriented, with lots of field work, modeling (inc. computer modeling), studying systems not just collections of geography facts (the capital city of Latvia is...), and the ways that geography affects culture and even power and governance.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted August 24, 2009 at 16:05:23

Awesome news!

This Site sure has got it's name out there within the last year-or-so!

Way to go, Ryan & Co.!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 24, 2009 at 18:13:42

Wow! Congratulations!

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 25, 2009 at 08:23:11

this is the best statement of the entire thing:

"The CAG also notes that RTH is "a medium for personal, that is, individual opinions, and as a result its overall content differs from those of institutions such as governments,or enterprises such as businesses."

It's no wonder resident trolls with screen names like 'capitalist' and 'asmith' can't stand what goes on here. it's people with no connections to big business or government, which flies in the face of their beliefs on who runs the world.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted August 25, 2009 at 15:58:13

congratulations - the quality of work put out on this site on a variety of topics has always impressed me (it was one of the first truly helpful resources i found after moving here), and the civil nature of the resulting dialogue has been why i return to this site.

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By Ye olde geographer (anonymous) | Posted August 30, 2009 at 01:34:31

The capital of Latvia is Riga.

Great news for the RTH. I used to be a member of the CAG early in my career and they know quality when they see it.

Perhaps the "award' will awaken contributors' minds to thinking about how the "geography" of what they are commenting on informs them and lead them to include their geographic perspectives in what they are trying to say. Truthfully, many people's comments are diminished by their lack of inclusion of spacial relationships and human impact considerations in their contributions.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted August 30, 2009 at 05:24:22

Jason >> it's people with no connections to big business or government, which flies in the face of their beliefs on who runs the world.

Every member of the executive committee of CAG is a government employee (they all work for public universities). On the other hand, I am private citizen, not affiliated with either government or big business.

>> It's no wonder resident trolls with screen names like 'capitalist' and 'asmith' can't stand what goes on here.

Jason, I don't hate RTH, in fact, I hope all of the lefties on this site get everything they're calling for. More bike lanes, less sprawl, more public transit, etc. Just remember that people who do nothing but take from others, will always pay a price for doing so. If you're prepared to pay this price, then go ahead and steal what others have earned.

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