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  • Mayan history

    The Dominican missionaries in Guatemala observed that the Indians were passionately fond of dancing and singing. The joyousness which originally existed in their nature or temperament has become extinct. The usual tenour of their lives seems to be accompanied by a quiet, subdued melancholy.

    • It is not improbable that, as a consequence of several centuries of Spanish domination, the aboriginal races have sunk into a dull and apathetic state.
    • It is however possible that other influences acted upon the taciturn and wild natures of these tribes. The innate disposition of the natives to worship idols in Guatemala was found to be equally existing with the Mayas in Yucatan, who also had the custom of making pilgrimages to the shrines.
    • It is mentioned by Landa that the pilgrims stopped when passing near any of the deserted or ruined temples, and were accustomed to mutter prayers, and offer incense. This custom was in accordance with the acts of devotion which I saw practised by the Tzendal Indians in Chiapas before the ruined walls of the church at Bachajon.

    There are circumstances connected with the domination of the Aztecs, and possibly also with that of their predecessors the Quiché-Toltecs, which require to be noticed. It is unquestionable that slavery would have been the fate of any tribe or race conquered by North American Indians. But the fact of slaves or captives being bought and sold for the purpose of being killed and offered to the gods is extraordinary. Great numbers of the natives were annually sacrificed, and astonishing acts of cannibalism were committed. Whatever may have been the hardships inflicted by the Spaniards upon the Mexican Indians, it is satisfactory to be assured that the discovery of America, and the conquests of Cortes put an end to the most horrible condition of things that has ever been known to have existed in any part of the world.

    There are, however, other facts to be taken into consideration. It has been assumed that there was a condition of comparative civilisation amongst the ruling tribes, which seemed to be in such a progressive state as to lead to the conclusion that there were elements of knowledge which might have been so far developed in the course of time as to have brought these Indians into the ranks of civilised nations. With regard to this subject it should be observed that when the Spaniards conquered Central America, the progress that may have been partially made had already ceased. The monasteries at Palenque and in Yucatan had been abandoned. Even when they were flourishing, the knowledge that was taught did not extend to the people. It was confined to the priesthood, the caciques, and the few scholars who were trained for the purpose of interpreting the signs and characters by which information was spread abroad. It was by one of these interpreters that Cortes was made acquainted with the conspiracy that was being organized against him by Guatimozin during the march to Honduras. How or in what manner this comparative intelligence arose suddenly in the land is a problem of the greatest difficulty.

  • Nunnery Quadrangle

    The main entrance to the nunnery is through a gateway placed in the centre of the southern part of the quadrangle. Upon each side of this entrance there are four chambers, and it is to be noticed, as an evidence of the conventual character of the building, that these are the only rooms that have direct access to the outer world. All the others are within and look into the court. They had a blank wall at the back, which excluded all communication with the exterior. The principal front looks towards the pyramids adjoining the Casa del Gobernador. The architectural proportions of the archway are symmetrical. The height and span, like all other parts of these Indian structures, are practically determined by the angle of inclination of the converging sides. In this case the arch is about seventeen feet high and nearly eleven feet wide. After passing through it, a wide court is entered. It is surrounded on four sides by long ranges of low stone buildings. The base, or lower part of them, is built of plain square slabs of masonry. The upper parts are covered with fanciful designs, sculptured with great skill.

    The whole of these buildings are exclusively arranged for the purpose of providing the greatest possible number of chambers or monastic cells. I did not count them, but it has been stated that there are altogether eighty-eight. It is perhaps important to note, with reference to this unusual number of rooms, that they are too numerous to admit of the theory that they were intended for the accommodation of the priests serving the adjacent temples, for according to the statements of Clavigero, the number of priests always corresponded with the number of the Teocallis. It is therefore presumable that these cells had some other purpose. The priests may have been lodged in the Casa del Gobernador. That building contains twenty-four chambers, the majority of which are of the same size and plan as these in the Casa de las Monjas. It is useless to attempt to conjecture the precise purposes of these buildings, for there has been no exact information obtained upon the subject, but everything points to the conclusion that the whole of the structures at Uxmal were connected with the worship of the gods, and had no relation to the ordinary lives of the Indians.

    “The whole of the façades of the nunnery are elaborately sculptured, and the mechanical abilities of the builders are well brought into notice.”

    It is probable that places like Uxmal and Palenque with their temples and monasteries, were set apart for religious purposes, and the Indians assembled there from the adjacent country with the object of being present at the ceremonies, in the same manner as they are now accustomed to perform their pilgrimages when the patron saints of the churches have their festivals. When taking into consideration the question of the period when it may be conjectured that the temples at Uxmal were abandoned, it is necessary to direct attention to the design or emblem which is placed upon one of the walls of the interior of the Casa de las Monjas.

    Upon an examination of the accompanying illustration, it will be observed that the figure represented is that of a huge serpent or rattlesnake. A serpent was also the emblem or Totem of one of the tribes of the Mound Builders in Ohio, and there appear to be singular resemblances between the reptile carved in stone at Uxmal and that which is rudely made of earth and stones, and placed on high ground overlooking a valley in North America. Both reptiles have peculiarly large mouths, opened wide, ready to devour and swallow their prey or their enemies.

    It is perhaps not unreasonable to infer that the tribe who migrated from the north, conquered the unwarlike natives of Yucatan, raised the great pyramids, and built the temples in that region, were subsequently conquered by a more powerful tribe of the same race, also migrating from higher latitudes. The former tribe were forced to desert their buildings, and avoided slavery or extermination by escaping into the interior. The serpent stands out in bold relief. The whole of the façades of the nunnery are elaborately sculptured, and the mechanical abilities of the builders are well brought into notice.

  • Pyramid of the Magician

    My first day at Uxmal was employed in making a rough survey of the land occupied by the ruins.

    One of the most important of these is that known as the Pyramid of the Dwarf (or Pyramid of the Magician). I examined it with particular attention for the purpose of studying the character of a series of small stone vaults or cells placed round its base, which were similar in size and design to those that I had seen on the lower slopes of the Kue near the coast above Campeachy. Many of these cells were sufficiently perfect to enable their dimensions and shape to be verified. It seemed evident that they must have been made for sepulchral purposes. If this conclusion is correct it is probable that they were the burial places for the ashes of the caciques who ruled over this part of Yucatan.

    Upon an investigation of the outer parts of the pyramid, it is to be observed that it was not only carefully constructed, but its plan must have been accurately drawn and the relative mathematical measurements calculated with reference to the space that was required for the temple.

    The magnitude of the base could not be determined, on account of the quantities of fallen stones and other débris. In 1841, Mr. Stephens considered that it was two hundred and thirty-five feet long by one hundred and fifty-five feet wide. The perpendicular height to the platform was estimated to be eighty-eight feet.

    The steps leading up to the summit are broad, and must have formed an imposing approach, but in consequence of the angle of the slope they are necessarily steep, and are placed so close together that there is barely sufficient width for the foot to rest. At the base of the pyramid there is an open court, which I observed to be similar in shape to one adjoining the base of an altar built by the Quichés at Utatlan, but it was larger in extent. The court leads to the entrance of the Casa de las Monjas.

    This building may be considered to be the result of the greatest powers of sculpture and ornamentation that the Indians possessed, and judging from the condition of many of its chambers, it is probably one of the latest of their works. It is nearly quadrangular, and encloses an area of over six thousand square yards.

  • Modern history of the ruins

    It is considered that the ruins of Uxmal are, in extent and construction, the most important in Yucatan, and therefore, excepting in certain particulars, those at Palenque, the most remarkable in Central America and Mexico.

    The ground occupied by them is in length about six hundred yards. The width is slightly more than five hundred yards. Consequently the area within which Uxmal is contained, may be approximately estimated as being sixty acres. It therefore exceeds by twenty acres the space covered by the mounds of Palenque. The buildings are irregularly placed. The Casa del Gobernador (House of the Governor) with its adjacent pyramids form the principal group towards the south. The Casa de las Monjas (House of the Nuns) is situated towards the north. These are the two great structures upon which the other temples and mounds seem chiefly to depend. There are two smaller edifices called respectively, the Casa de las Palomas (House of the Pigeons) and the Casa de las Tortugas (House of the Turtles). There is also a detached pyramid with a ruined temple upon its summit, which has been given the name of the House of the Old Woman.

    “Looking at these ruins as a group, they appear to have consisted of quadrangular residences with pyramidal mounds attached to them, raised for the purpose of obtaining lofty sites for the altars of the Indian gods.”

    One of the most important of these is that known as the Pyramid of the Dwarf. I examined it with particular attention for the purpose of studying the character of a series of small stone vaults or cells placed round its base, which were similar in size and design to those that I had seen on the lower slopes of the Kue near the coast above Campeachy. Many of these cells were sufficiently perfect to enable their dimensions and shape to be verified. It seemed evident that they must have been made for sepulchral purposes. If this conclusion is correct it is probable that they were the burial places for the ashes of the caciques who ruled over this part of Yucatan.

    Upon an investigation of the outer parts of the pyramid, it is to be observed that it was not only carefully constructed, but its plan must have been accurately drawn and the relative mathematical measurements calculated with reference to the space that was required for the temple. The magnitude of the base could not be determined, on account of the quantities of fallen stones and other débris. In 1841, Mr. Stephens considered that it was two hundred and thirty-five feet long by one hundred and fifty-five feet wide. The perpendicular height to the platform was estimated to be eighty-eight feet.

  • Additional research

    Upon a review of the facts ascertained by the conquerors in the sixteenth century in Mexico and Guatemala, and by the Franciscan and Dominican missionaries in Yucatan and Chiapas, together with the researches made since that time by archeologists and explorers, it appears to be possible to form certain conclusions.

    The architectural and mechanical knowledge, and the advance towards writing characters, forming calendars and reckoning time by astronomical observations must have been reached within a period of less than four centuries.

    It is therefore probable that the priests of the Toltecs became acquainted with their arts and sciences not long after they had left North America and had migrated to the regions around Téotihuacan in the direction of the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

    In what manner and under what circumstances their knowledge was obtained, is a problem which requires to be given a careful investigation.

  • I Don’t Trust Doug Ford on Electric Vehicle Policy – and Neither Should You

    With less than 100 days until Ontario’s next provincial election, Doug Ford’s incumbent conservatives are now pitching themselves as champions of the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The government’s “Driving Prosperity” plan – which is at the heart of the province’s economic agenda – intends to make Ontario a juggernaut in EV and battery manufacturing. Additionally, investments have been made to equip Ontario’s ONroute locations with electric chargers – although interestingly, the money was put up by the federal Liberals – not the province.

    Supporting EV manufacturing in Ontario is undoubtedly a good policy choice, as the province is ripe with blue-collar talent and remains a hotspot for auto-related infrastructure. Logistically, it’s a sound decision. 

    My problem, however, lies in the  Conservative Party’s shrouded view that EVs are not a tool to address climate change, but rather a means to provide cover for their other, highly destructive environmental policies. While Doug Ford speaks of the climate benefits of supporting the EV industry, he does so out of a need to publicly acknowledge the issue of climate change – not out of concern for ecological degradation, of which his government has been more than happy to speed up.

    Doug Ford – the leader of a government that’s waged a nonstop war on Ontario’s greenbelt, climate agenda, and species diversity – understands that environmental voters do not hold the path to his reelection. Pushing unnecessary highways (GTA West Corridor and the Bradford Bypass) through ecologically sensitive wetlands, egregiously using MZOs to bypass environmental regulation, and attempting to open the greenbelt to development to benefit his party’s donors made sure of that. 

    Strategists at the consulting firm StrategyCorp suggest that the Progressive Conservative’s (PCs) EV pitch is aimed at locking down manufacturing voters in Windsor and Oakville. But by playing up the climate benefits of their EV agenda – despite its disingenuous nature–the PCs can shield themselves (to some extent) from criticism of their environmental policy. This is despite the fact that the government is nowhere close to meeting its climate goals and was condemned by Ontario’s auditor general for its war on endangered species. Since the defeat of Kathleen Wynne in 2018, no new endangered species have been added to the province’s protection list. Meanwhile, all sorts of environmental regulations have been gutted, paving the way for construction and real estate firms to do as they please. 

    According to Ontario Nature’s website, “those with a vested, short-term economic interest in sprawl development now have free rein to bulldoze, dig up and pave over the habitats of our most vulnerable plants and animals. 

    Changes to Ontario’s environmental policy have been so severely damaging that on two separate occasions, the federal government has reached out requesting amendments be made – as the policy was not in line with federal environmental statutes. At the time of writing, the PCs have not complied with these requests. 

    The final major giveaway that the Ford government’s pivot on EVs is nothing more than a reelection ploy is that they refuse to re-implement the incentives they scrapped in 2018. Supporting the supply but not the demand side of the electric vehicle equation is the height of hypocrisy – and evidence of the Conservatives’ true intentions.

    The Ontario Liberals are promising to implement an EV rebate of up to $8,000 for vehicles under $55,000. The Green Party has pledged $10,000 in rebates, and the New Democrats have promised unspecified amounts for non-luxury EVs.

  • The 3 top-performing solar stocks right now—and why they’re gaining so much momentum

    In 2020, clean energy demand proved resilient as renewables and storage recorded declining costs and rising capacity and usage factors. Other analysis indicate this trend will continue in 2020

    As solar photovoltaic technology continues to grow in popularity, with a progressive U.S administration and Canadian government focused on climate change, investors are turning to solar stocks for portfolio diversification and revenue growth. There is the ESG angle too, but that’s a different story.

    The attention and investor interest, increase funding required to inject more resources into R&D and capacity deployment. As a result, there are 3 hot stock options on the market right now—which is what we’ll be looking at in this article.

    1. First Solar: FSLR (NASDAQ)

    First Solar is an American manufacturer of solar panels that offers utility-scale PV power plants and supporting services, including finance, construction, and end-of-life panel recycling.

    The company utilizes proprietary thin-film technology to boost panel efficiency and, as such, has become a robust industry player. At the time of writing, First Solar’s stock is worth USD $83.49 (7/18/2021). The company’s products have entirely sold out in 2021 and are more than 70% sold out for 2022, demonstrating a level of market confidence seldom witnessed in the solar industry.

    One of the catalysts for First Solar’s strong market performance has been the continuation of Trump-era tariffs on imported solar by the Biden administration. This has provided domestic manufacturers in the United States a significant competitive edge over international players, specifically those producing cheap PV models in China.

    2. Generac: GNRC (NYSE)

    Generac (GNRC), a fortune 1000 American manufacturer of backup power generators and energy storage technologies, is another company that has seen great success as of late, with company stock doubling throughout 2021.

    While increasingly unstable electrical grids have boosted Generac’s market prospects, the most significant opportunity for the company lies in energy storage, a critical component towards making green energy — known for its intermittency — reliable enough to power the world’s economic activities. The company recently announced its entrance into the solar inverter marketplace. This could be a defining move for the company.

    Generac’s stock currently trades for USD $430.34 (7/18/2021), making it the most expensive opportunity on this list. That is not to say that this stock is not worth picking up; if you can afford it, that is. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that Generac hasn’t even come close to reaching its stock ceiling yet, such as its stellar management record.

    3. Enphase Energy: ENPH (NASDAQ)

    Enphase Energy, a home energy storage company with a focus on microinverters, is the final stock option we’ll take a look at today.

    Solar panels produce direct current (DC) electricity which needs to be converted into alternate current (AC) electricity through an inverter to be utilized by homeowners. This process can be accomplished in many ways, such as having one large inverter connected to an array of solar panels.

    Increasingly, however, solar professionals prefer microinverters, which enable each solar panel to become a self-contained electrical system. In addition, decentralizing solar inverters helps ensure reliability in electricity production, as technical problems that arise are contained within singular units. At the time of writing, Enphase is trading at USD $163.45 (7/18/2021), almost tripling since July of 2020.

    Moving forward, companies like Enphase Energy are primed to take advantage of this ongoing solar industry adaptation.

    There’s never been a better time to pick up stock in the solar industry, thanks to the public’s growing support of climate action and a series of industry breakthroughs in recent years. The resiliency and strength of solar stocks is evidence that green energy is quickly becoming mainstream, a feat worthy of celebration.

  • After years of waiting, Canada finally has a federally-funded solar incentive program

    The Leaders Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden represented a critical step forward in the fight against climate change. The summit underscored the urgency of the climate crisis, along with the breadth of economic opportunities associated with decarbonization.

    Throughout the summit, countless nations committed to more aggressive carbon emission reduction targets, including Canada, which pledged reductions of between 40-45% of 2005 levels by 2030 (compared to a 30% reduction).

    Not long ago, I wrote about the need for a federally implemented solar incentive as a way of kickstarting Canada’s post-pandemic recovery and fighting climate change. Canada now appears to be moving forward with such a policy, according to the recent announcement regarding the creation of the Canada Greener Homes Program.

    This initiative offers homeowners grants of up to CAD $5,000 to be put towards energy-saving projects, including high-efficiency water heaters, smart thermostats, improved insulation, upgraded windows and doors, and photovoltaic solar panels.

    As of right now, there is no specification regarding whether ground-mounted solar panels are covered by the program, but more details are expected in the coming weeks. The amount of CAD $600 is earmarked to cover the cost of energy evaluations, a requirement for homeowners to access the grant funding.

    In total, the Canada’s federal government expects to award 700,000 in grants, at an overall cost of CAD $2.6 billion over seven years.

    Eligibility for the program is broad, including detached homes, townhouses, mobile homes, rowhouses, and residential units in mixed space zoning with no more than three floors and 600 metres squared. Additionally, buildings must be older than six months to qualify for the funding.

    Homeowners have to register online via the Greener Homes Grant Portal, after which they will be able to book an EnerGuide Evaluation. This evaluation involves measuring the property’s existing energy efficiency status and to determine the homeowner’s grant savings potential.

    The program now has over 30,000 applicants (at the time of writing this article), which is likely to cause mild delays, as the government is still training 2,000 new energy advisors to support its deployment.

    The program is exactly what’s needed to invigorate the cleantech economy throughout Canada.

    Prior to this federal announcement, solar incentives were only offered through provincial programs; subsequently, partisanship represented a significant barrier to growing Canada’s clean economy. With the removal of political obstacles, the solar industry will likely witness substantial market growth in the coming years, especially as the program will run for the next seven, ensuring a level of market stability not seen to date.

    “This program will be critical to the success of Canada’s broader national climate plan,” says Derick Lila, pvbuzz Founder and Managing Editor. “A reinvigorated commitment to climate action from the Canadian government is cause to celebrate for cleantech firms and enthusiasts, who’ll have an excellent chance to cash in on this opportunity.”

  • Automakers Choose Silicon as Key Li-ion Battery Material to Boost Electric Vehicle Performance

    Silicon represents 27.7% of the earth’s crust, making it the second most abundant substance after oxygen. This plentiful material is a hard metalloid, and in crystalline form, is characterized by a metallic lustre.

    Silicon metal‘s stable tetrahedral configuration makes it incredibly useful in a wide range of industries, such as aluminum, where it’s used to strengthen alloys, personal electronics, where it’s used as a semiconductor, and cosmetics, where it’s used in hair conditioners and face washes, among other things.

    In the past few years, electric automakers have pivoted towards silicon, a growing trend that sends the message that the transportation market is quickly favouring electrification. Li-ion batteries that are poised to power this market are also rising sharply in demand.

    The global EV battery market is expected to hit 1 trillion dollars in market value by 2030. With so much at stake, a technological race has sparked between battery manufacturers. The race involves developing pathways to find efficiencies, cut costs, and boost EV battery performance, and silicon well positioned to become the key material needed to achieve the high performance required from next-generation Li-ion batteries.

    The metalloid is far more energy-dense than graphite (9-10x to be exact!), meaning it holds more Lithium ions and is, therefore, more efficient as an energy storage material. Far less silicon is needed, relative to graphite, to achieve the same storage capacity. This reduces the overall cost of the battery supply chain in addition to negative environmental externalities, as fewer minerals are needed to supply the battery demand.

    The abundance of silicon makes it a highly economical choice for battery manufacturers looking for the next breakthrough, and several companies have already begun to compete for just that.

    General Motors (GM)

    GM, for example, has begun experimenting with a variety of battery chemistries and manufacturing processes to slash production costs. One of these experiments has been with silicon-rich lithium metal for their next-generation of Ultium batteries, which are projected to be finished in 2025.

    Ultium-branded-battery
    General Motors reveals its Ultium at the Design Dome on the GM Tech Center campus in Warren. This new battery technology includes silicon anodes and lithium metal anodes, which will improve vehicle range, affordability and reduced dependence on rare and costly metals  (The Detroit News).

    The company has repeatedly made it clear that they feel as though EV battery cost has replaced horsepower as the vital issue that will determine the winners and losers in the EV market.

    The company aims to reduce the manufacturing cost of their Li-ion batteries to “well under $100/kWh by 2025,” a dramatic drop from the current price of $150/kWh. GM estimates that these battery improvements will provide their vehicles with a range of between 805-965 kilometres on a single charge, drastically more than EVs on the market today.

    Part of GM’s commitment to silicon is borne out of the company’s desire to reduce dependence on precious metals, such as nickel and cobalt. Whereas silicon reserves are plentiful, many of the world’s accessible mineral deposits have already been depleted to some extent, translating into higher procurement costs.

    Porsche

    Porsche is another high-profile company that’s committed to using silicon in their future EV batteries, with the Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, Oliver Blume, saying, “the battery cell is the combustion chamber of tomorrow.” Porsche’s next-generation batteries will initially be limited in production, used only for rare, high-performance vehicles and custom motorsport.

    The addition of silicon will enable fast-charging potential that hasn’t yet been seen on the market. Porsche has also committed to ensuring their production chain for high-performance batteries is entirely based in Europe, ensuring a high environmental standard is met.

    Though few specifics have been released regarding Porsche’s silicon anode batteries, the company is clearly betting heavily on their success.

    Porsche plans to install fast-charging stations equipped with branded lounge spaces and innovative self-service facilities along the busiest motorways in Europe. Each location will feature between six and 12 charging ports with a capacity of 350kW or greater and will join Porsche’s existing European charging network that stands at over 135,000.

    High-performance batteries with silicon anodes and Porsche fast-charging stations (Porsche)

    Tesla

    No conversation about EV battery innovation is complete without the mention of Tesla, and as per usual, the company is well ahead of its competitors when it comes to R&D. Silicon has already been used in Tesla vehicles for a few years.

    However, these solutions, such as silicon nanowires, are highly engineered and expensive. As a result, they can’t be scaled. Tesla’s new silicon anode method, dubbed “Tesla Silicon,” costs just $1.20/kWh — roughly 6-10x cheaper than current or other methods used to date. Tesla Silicon begins with raw metallurgical silicon, no engineering required.

    The battery is designed to account for the expansion of silicon, rather than constrain it. Tesla describes their silicon as featuring an “elastic binder and electrode design” in addition to an “elastic, ion-conducting, polymer coating.”

    These changes alone are projected to increase Tesla’s battery range by 20% and decrease costs by 5% per kWh. One of the most significant benefits of using raw metallurgical silicon is that manufacturing costs can be significantly reduced by forgoing early engineering processes. This also means the solution is easy to scale, as it doesn’t require any high upfront capital expenditures.

    As quickly as the vehicle market is moving towards electrification, the EV industry is evolving towards silicon anode batteries. The capacity limitations of graphite make the material ill-suited to underpin a global economic revolution, whereas silicon offers a cheap, abundant, powerful, and environmentally friendly alternative.

    Expect to see more automakers join the silicon bandwagon and announce plans for Li-ion battery innovation in the coming months.

  • The Role of Municipal Government in Fighting Climate Change

    Discussions of climate change mitigation strategies are often centered around provincial and federal initiatives. Municipalities are often excluded from the conversation altogether, which is unfortunate, as they play an important role in developing environmental public policy. If Canada is to achieve the aggressive, time-sensitive emission reductions needed to maintain a healthy biosphere, all levels of government must be included in strategizing decarbonization processes. Discussing the policy tools available to municipalities is also important as it will help Canadians identify the importance of local government. In doing so, Canada’s democracy can be strengthened through the mobilization of voters in municipal elections, which will be necessary to facilitate rapid change.

    Toronto City Hall: Photo by Filip Mroz

    Under the Canadian constitution, municipalities bear no direct power. Instead, they are given autonomy by the province to create bylaws, though provincial legislation can overrule them. Typically, provinces leave local affairs to municipal governments, meaning the ‘traditional’ jurisdiction of municipalities is generally respected and clashes seldom occur. Even though provinces grant a host of powers to municipal governments, their impact is often overlooked on headline-grabbing issues, such as climate change. The scale of this issue in particular has likely contributed to the disconnect of what voters think municipalities can do, and reality. The notion of “thinking globally, acting locally” has merit to it, yet the inability of individuals to recognize the importance of being a part of a collective still poses a challenge. The frequent repetition of the “act locally” line has also diminished its meaning, reducing it to little more than an eco-friendly platitude. Increasing awareness of municipal responsibilities related to environmental preservation is key to encouraging disillusioned voters, particularly young people, to participate in their local democratic process.

    One of the most effective ways municipalities are able to reduce emissions is through the use of energy efficiency standards. Updating building codes to require new residential, commercial, and industrial units to use less energy is a critical step towards reducing a city’s carbon footprint. These policies should also be introduced alongside retrofit incentive programs, which allow for older, more wasteful buildings to reduce their electricity consumption. Policies promoting energy efficiency are quite palpable, politically speaking, as they offer savings on electricity bills, in addition to decreasing negative environmental externalities.

    Municipalities also have a great deal of control in planning their land usage. Under Ontario’s Planning Act, cities are responsible for submitting land use planning regulations to the province for approval. Regulating how land within municipal boundaries is used provides a myriad of options for local politicians to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Urban sprawl has spread like a plague throughout much of North America, and as a result, carbon sequestration is far lower than is necessary. This unregulated, poorly planned growth has led to the culling of much of the world’s forests. The protection and expansion of urban and suburban carbon sinks are well within the municipal mandate, and represent an extremely cost-effective climate strategy.

    For this reason, many countries, including China, Pakistan, Ireland, and Japan, have undergone massive reforestation campaigns. Weaving green space (both shielded from and welcomed to human activity) throughout cityscapes, and generally improving the biodiversity and density of vegetation cover in urban settings can help a municipality reduce the threat of climate change significantly. During floods and storms, vegetation helps prevent erosion and soaks up vast quantities of water. The “heat island effect” experienced in city cores throughout the summer can also be reduced through vegetation cover — this has the potential to save lives, especially as heat waves become more prevalent and Canada’s population ages. The World Health Organization (WHO) writes that “green spaces are [also] important to mental health, as they aid in the treatment of mental illness, reduce health inequalities, and improve well-being and longevity. Moving forward, it is critical that municipal planners consider how social, economic, and environmental factors interact with each other in urban environments.

    Transportation is another policy field where municipalities have an opportunity to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, cities have been designed to favour personal vehicle transportation, rather than public transportation, which represents a more equitable and environmentally friendly alternative. Further investments into transit combined with the reduction and eventual elimination of transit fees will encourage growth in collectivized transit usage. It is imperative that public transit is not used to balance the books of a municipal budget, as transit fees are disproportionately collected by low-income individuals. The funding for these projects therefore, will have to come from both municipalities and the provincial or federal government. There is simply not enough in municipal coffers to cover the necessary costs.

    Increasing the availability of bike lanes is also vital in promoting alternative transportation methods. Not only does biking promote active living and a low carbon lifestyle, but it’s also free! Currently, many cities have entire neighborhoods devoid of bike lanes, which is negligent on behalf of municipalities, and has led to countless preventable deaths. The introduction of no-car zones, which are usually oriented around physical marketplaces, should also be explored as a way of moving cities into the 21st century. These spaces increase local economic activity, improve air quality, and provide a temporary retreat from cognitive overload, often brought about by excessive noise pollution.

    It’s more important now than ever before that millennial and generation Z voters understand the functions and tasks of local government. Mobilizing environmentally conscious voters is needed in all levels of Canada’s democracy if climate change is to be successfully combatted. Change starts from the bottom up, and municipal governments are uniquely positioned to be facilitators in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

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