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.
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