Upcycling is the process of turning materials from the wastestream into new materials of higher environmental value.
Upcycle Yourself is a similar concept on a human scale, turning from agents of pollution into agents of environmental change.

May 25, 2010

We reached the outskirts of Toronto yesterday. It's a strange phenomenon when country meets city. Until this point, we had been riding through eastern Ontario, where meadows and forests were contrasted with clearcut farmland. Now that we're approaching more populated areas, clearcut farmland is contrasted against new subdivisions. In one vantage point, there is a farmers' field, a golf course, and a row of cookie-cutter houses. It's the first time since leaving Ottawa that we saw industrial parks followed by rows of commercial franchises: the McDonald's, the car dealerships, the donut shops. I wanted to take pictures of this bastardization of land and culture. But, the photos would simply show what we see every time we're on the outskirts of a large city.

This has reminded me why I don't want to live in southwestern Ontario. Even if we find a small tranquil town, it will likely be overtaken by new land developments within my lifetime. There is nothing glorious in clearcutting habitats. As a culture, we keep increasing our vision of what constitutes an appropriate size of house. We need to downsize. Generations of people before us got by with far less indoor living space. The tiny houses movement, the intentional communities movement, discovering the joys of living with roommates, the acceptance of voluntary simplicity in our own lives... these offer an opportunity to have comfortable living spaces while also putting land aside for natural spaces and habitat renewal. It's all a matter of changing our expectations, of gearing our mindset toward finding fulfillment in an ecological future.

Eastern Ontario has much more to offer in terms of natural beauty. It's true that these areas of glorious lakes and forests have been designated as tourist destinations, though at the very least they retain much of their original ecological structure.

When deciding where to live in life, I will likely find my place by bicycle. Where the cars are infrequent and the drivers are polite, where the trees line the path providing shade and comfort, where you can freely pee at the side of the road, where you can stop at a farmhouse and ask a friendly stranger if you can fill up your water bottle, where someone thought to designate bikepaths so you can ride in a carefree way lost in daydreams... that's where I want to live.


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