By NORA BEGORAY, EFCL Marketing Director
Oct. 5, 2015 – A big YES to Charles Montgomery and his talk at Happy City: Your City, Your Life, a well-attended event held at MacEwan University. It was a lovely fall Oct. 1 evening in Edmonton, and everyone seemed to be in a very good mood.
I was really inspired by the large attendance; some had even traveled in from Leduc to see Montgomery talk about his book, Happy City. So many of the concepts in the book speak to the very heart of what community leagues advocate for and believe in. Montgomery spoke about the well-known benefits of living more locally. Benefits for the environment in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and benefits for the residents in their physical, mental and social health.
He talked passionately about how we need to fix all that we had done wrong in the past several decades. Done wrong in the sense of how we have allowed our cities to grow and the urban design that we have built has made the citizens more reliant on automobiles, and the greater isolation caused by home designs and towering condos.
For a happy city, people need frequent superficial contact with strangers. We need to intentionally create space for short interactions because that is a first step to developing trust and friendships. Front yard space where you see your neighbours, social green spaces in townhouses or apartments. He advocated against population dispersal, against consolidating shopping all in one district, or massive multiple sport field facilities, but instead intersperse your shopping, your activities, your gardens within your walkable, bikeable communities.
He advocated for the grassroots to request these changes from our policy makers, and insist on regulations that will encourage increased mixed-density and mixed-use developments throughout our city – purposefully design many places to walk to, stop at or visit.
The slower we move throughout our city, the more opportunities to connect and the more generous, more patient and more content we become.
I believe in Edmonton, our civic leaders and judging by the crowd, our next generation are fully immersed in the Happy City vision of transforming our lives through urban design. Obviously some things we intuitively know, and community leagues are all about encouraging residents to gather, connect, live local, participate local, walk, bike and garden locally, but did we know that all those times we were serving hot chocolate, we were subconsciously encouraging people to think more warmly about each other just by holding a warm drink? We do now.
Thanks Charles Montgomery, and to Edmonton’s NextGen for hosting the event – we will keep the hot chocolate coming.