Continuing the series “The Future We Choose, on Earth Day 2022, we have just obtained The Spec editorial for Earth Day 2050 through the magic of time travel. We thought readers would be interested in reading it.
Hamilton and Burlington are great places to live in 2050 because we all worked together to make it this way. Tough choices were made, and we have weaned our economy and way of life off fossil fuels.
2022 was the end of an era – an era that was out of balance with nature. We saw the dying gasps of the old global fossil fuel-based economy amid obvious signs of climate change such as melting arctic ice, intense storms, floods, fires, and drought.
In 2022 people woke up and said YES to building a brighter future. This became a rallying cry for our cities, resulting in plans to create green jobs, cut poverty and rise to the challenge of a low emissions world.
In 2050 Ontario leads in providing green energy with use of hydro, wind and solar power. Stringent conservation – lead by new marketplace standards – has led to drastic improvement in the energy efficiency of our factories, homes and appliances. We only need a fraction of energy to get the same results as someone back in 2022. We are learning to happily live with less.
Buildings have come a long way. For two decades now all new buildings have been designed as net zero, producing as much energy as they consume. Most existing buildings needed deep retrofits which created lots of green jobs. Solar technologies and district energy systems made it possible for us to greatly reduce our energy demands.
The most noticeable change is in how we get around. 80% of us live within a short walk of an urban centre, a main street, or a transit hub. We made strategic public investments in affordable housing, residential care, early learning centres and community health care which combined to bring people, jobs, stores and other amenities close together. Density is higher but neighbourhood planning took great care to create vibrant public spaces and parks where people could gather and socialize with their neighbours.
As a result, half of all trips are made on foot or by bike. Transit underwent a renaissance with LRT and electric buses. Fewer people own cars. It is easier to use car-sharing for more difficult and out of town trips. All cars are fully electric with a two-way connection to the charging network creating a massive battery which manages peak demand.
Flying is rare. There is only so much aviation biofuel to go around, so flights are reserved for essential long-haul trips. People fly less. No more weekends in Vegas. We still travel a lot within the country, but by high-speed electrified rail. Most industrial goods travel this way too, not by road.
Investment in re-building our infrastructure was made possible by the recently abolished carbon tax. But in the early days, it brought in billions to re-shape and rebuild our homes, schools, hospitals and transportation systems. Our vibrant steel industry uses green hydrogen as a fuel source along with electric furnaces. And all the work involved in this rebuilding greatly reduced unemployment.
Much more of our food is local and our farmers are sequestering lots of carbon through changed methods; in both cities and rural areas, reforestation is helping to capture carbon. We’ve hardened our infrastructure and developed resilience plans to guard against the new climate reality. Those efforts helped instill a deeper sense of solidarity and purpose in our community – a feeling we are all in this together.
Overall, life is good. People rediscovered citizenship and abandoned consumerism as a dead end to well being. People spend more time with family and friends and less time commuting and shopping and are healthier as a result.
Time travel is amazing. Let’s strive to make sure life really is better for Hamilton and Burlington in 2050.
Dave Carson lives in Dundas and hopes for this better future for coming generations.