The Holland Marsh Highway proposed by the provincial government plans to increase connectivity in the region but at the expense of the wetlands’ well-being

C/O Bryan Hanson

Plans for the Bradford Bypass, also known as the Holland Marsh Highway, is an east-west, four-lane highway between Highways 400 and 404 that has been in the works for decades. The proposed highway would connect York Region and Simcoe Country, to ease traffic congestion and support commuters from both communities. Environmental groups say that these benefits would be at the expense of the well-being of the Holland Marsh Wetlands.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Stop the Bradford Bypass (@stopthebradfordbypass)

Initial studies were conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. All of the studies concluded that there was a need for this type of provincial highway.

The ministry studies cited expected significant population growth in the region. An environmental assessment was conducted in 1997 and the project received approval in 2002. 

The project was then shelved due to its incompatibility with the provincial A Place to Grow Act. It was not until August 2019 that the Ministry of Transportation approved its re-commencement.

The highway is one of two controversial transportation projects resurrected by the provincial government in 2019. The other was Highway 413 which was shelved by the previous Kathleen Wynne Liberal government due to similar concerns regarding its potential to harm the surrounding natural environment.

The Ford government sought to fast-track these developments by exempting them from the Environmental Assessment Act. It has also recently been reported that there are nearby large expanses of real estate owned by eight of Ontario’s most powerful land developers.

Half of these developers — which include John Di Poce, Benny Marotta, Argo Development and Fieldgate Homes and the Cortellucci, DeGasperis, Guglietti and De Meneghi families — are connected to the Ford government through former members of the party or current officials. Most have donated a great deal of money — at least $813,000 — to the Progressive Conservative party since 2014.

The Bradford Bypass had and continues to have strong support from municipalities, which have grown substantially over the past four decades. These areas are expected to continue to grow in the future. 

"For decades, commuters in York Region and Simcoe County have been demanding a connecting link . . . The Bradford Bypass will bring relief to drivers, support development in York Region and Simcoe County and bolster Ontario's economy following this pandemic,” said Natasha Tremblay, a spokesperson for Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, in a statement to the CBC.

While the main benefits of the highway will be less traffic congestion and the connection of York Region and Simcoe Country, supporters of the project have pointed to its economic benefits, particularly as part of the province’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The project will generate a number of jobs during its construction. Once completed, it would further support the creation of more local jobs by connecting communities to major job centres in the Greater Toronto Area and encouraging more business within the area.

However, the Holland Marsh Highway would pave over the provincially significant wetlands. It would impact endangered species, migratory birds, aquatic life and generate significant groundwater contamination.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by SC Greenbelt Coalition (@simcoecountygreenbeltcoalition)

“Lake Simcoe is stressed by development impacts, salt from the expanding road network and excess nutrients already. Historically, the Holland Marsh filtered pollutants from the waters that flowed into the lake. It is extremely sensitive and a wholly inappropriate place to put a highway,” said Claire Malcomson, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition's executive director in an interview with Barrie Today.

Local groups, including the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, have consistently voiced their concerns about the project and called on the government to reconsider, at the very least, conducting a more up-to-date environmental assessment.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (@ontariogreenbeltalliance)

Student organizations on campus, including Mac Climate Advocates and McMaster Outdoor Club, also have similar concerns about the project and its impact on the marsh.

“So because it's been in the works for quite a while, [because of] the connectivity issues, I think the actual standards that they've been using to conduct these assessments is probably even older [than the initial 1997 assessment]. As mentioned before, just to reiterate, so much has changed in the last 30 years or so,” said Vidushi Saxena, co-president of Mac Climate Advocates.

Students also raised concerns about how the construction of this project might encourage urban sprawl and new housing development, further damaging the wetlands and its impact on farms in the area. Holland Marsh is considered a significantly productive specialty crop agricultural area.

“[The highway] will encourage housing developments in rural areas and that will damage wetlands and farms and those are two things that have been really important throughout the pandemic . . . Having local agriculture is super important to climate change and it's been important throughout the pandemic because it's more affordable to transport food locally,” said Jenn Cross, the other co-president of Mac Climate Advocates.

Additionally, Cross noted that given the rise of remote work due to the pandemic that many have noted is likely to continue, it is possible that the need for such a highway is no longer quite as high.

“There'll always be a reason to go through with [projects such as the Holland Marsh Highway] but we have to be sure that we're looking at it holistically, looking at the big picture and recognizing the significant consequences that might arise . . . There is always an alternative as well” said Saxena.

“There'll always be a reason to go through with [projects such as the Holland Marsh Highway] but we have to be sure that we're looking at it holistically, looking at the big picture and recognizing the significant consequences that might arise . . . There is always an alternative as well.”

Vidushi Saxena, co-president of Mac Climate Advocates

Madeleine Hayes, the environmental coordinator for McMaster Outdoor Club, also stressed the importance of students being aware of developments and projects such as this highway.

“I think it’s important for students to get involved . . . There are students from that area too, right? The more you get involved in local [advocacy], the more — globally — different things are going to happen, right? Because that's how change happens, a little bit at a time. So by bringing attention to local issues like this, I think it really makes a difference,” explained Hayes.

Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano/ Production Editor

The threat of climate change was made clear by the fires that spread across Australia earlier this year. Heat waves and drought caused bush fires that permanently altered the country’s landscape, which were made at least 30 per cent worse by the impacts of climate change.

Australia’s devastating fires are only an early example of the consequences of the climate crisis. Although, across the world, Hamilton has its own possibilities for disaster. In November it came to light that 24 billion litres of sewage spilled into Chedoke Creek from 2014 to 2018, which the city kept hidden despite possible impacts on the local environment and residents. 

In addition to the Chedoke Creek contamination, the city was charged in late 2019 to clean up toxic chemicals that had been seeping into local waterways. The city-owned John C. Munro International Airport had years-old chemicals in surrounding soil which leached into nearby water during wet weather. The spills make it clear that Hamilton needs to be prepared for the environmental impacts of climate change, especially flooding, which will become the city’s main concern along with extreme heat. 

Rising temperatures bring the possibility for droughts. Conversely, increased precipitation could lead to flooding, rising lake levels and could negatively impact shoreline erosion. 

Hamilton also has to worry about greenhouse gases, which are largely produced in the city by burning fossil fuels, transportation and industry. In 2018 the city committed to five points of action which include creating a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and an emissions reduction target. 

In March 2019 Hamilton declared a climate emergency along with hundreds of other municipalities across Canada. Along with the declaration, the city committed to a climate vulnerability and risk assessment, which has yet to be completed. In December 2019 city councillors approved a climate action plan, but they have yet to include any deadlines or costs associated with the project.

One important change is that the city will try to apply a climate lens to future actions. According to Kate Flynn, the acting director at the centre for climate change management at Mohawk College, the city is using a climate lens to prevent some of the worst effects of climate change and adapt to impacts we can’t avoid. For example, when the city makes an infrastructure improvement, they must consider the future environmental impact of chosen supplies and processes. 

Flynn also pointed out that infrastructure changes are necessary to prepare for climate change, specifically in transportation and public works. She noted that over time Hamilton will be at risk for increased precipitation which would lead to flooding and harm water quality, so updates to city infrastructure and residential homes are necessary to avoid damages. 

“I think one of the things that's really important to dispel is this myth that Canadians are going to be okay,” said Flynn, “the thing about climate change is that it's a global issue, but the effects of it are going to be hyperlocalized.”

“I think one of the things that's really important to dispel is this myth that Canadians are going to be okay [. . .] the thing about climate change is that it's a global issue, but the effects of it are going to be hyperlocalized.”

While the economic and physical effects of climate change are becoming more of a concern for the city, the social impacts are still largely overlooked. Caitlin Thompson and Joann Varickanickal, volunteers with Climate Ready Hamilton, a community organization, stressed the importance of social cohesion for disaster preparedness. 

Thompson and Varickanickal suggested that students get to know their fellow community members and think about how vulnerable populations, like elderly, homeless and low-income community members, will be disproportionately impacted in times of climate crisis. One project CRH worked on sought to map out spaces open to the public for food and shelter in times of disaster. If a heat wave occurred, vulnerable residents without air conditioning could find a place to cool down through the community-sourced resource hub. 

Beyond cases of climate disaster, CRH also works to help communities improve the environmental conditions brought on by local pollution.

“Look at communities that are in the industrial core . . . we know that they have poor air quality, but a lot of people in those neighborhoods don't know that they can work together and you can report those things to the government . . . part of this project now can be going into neighborhoods and supporting neighborhoods and understanding their rights,” said Thompson. 

Thompson and Varickanickal also noted the importance of preparing a 72 hour kit

“If there's a massive emergency . . . aid will begin [about] 72 hours after,” said Thompson. “Basically you need to be able to be prepared and stay okay by yourself for 72 hours because you may not get help.”

According to the city of Hamilton website, residents should prepare a 72 hour supply of food and water, along with a “go bag” with items like a first aid kit, blankets and more. 

Preparing for 72 hours only works in case of an emergency, but we have to prepare for a future where climate disaster is a regular part of our lives. According to the Centre for Climate and Emergency Solutions, climate resilience is a framework for thinking about climate change and our ability to prepare for, and bounce back from, climate-related disaster. Climate resilience accounts for the irreversible damage already done to our climate, along with possibilities for mitigating some of the worst effects we could see in the future. Flynn noted that climate resilience isn’t only about infrastructure, but also how we can improve our social systems to better support one another through the impacts of climate change. 

“If you're talking about climate resilience, well we should be talking about resilience in other ways too? Like making sure . . . everyone has access to good food no matter what happens, right? So it's kind of a framework for thinking through solutions through the lens of equity,” said Flynn. 

Despite possibilities for climate resilience, the state of climate change is dire and sometimes frightening. Flynn reflected on how she continues to work in climate change management despite the cataclysmic effects on the climate. 

“I think why people are like, how do you get out of bed every day and think about climate change? And I'm like, because believe it or not, there's so many opportunities within climate change to just like do all the things that we've always thought about doing, but never really prioritized. There's no more excuses,” said Flynn.

"There's so many opportunities within climate change to just like do all the things that we've always thought about doing, but never really prioritized. There's no more excuses."

Hamilton will face unique challenges from climate change that the city will have to manage. To create a climate resilient city, community members will have to come together to care for one another. Whether it’s creating a 72 hour kit or a map of resources, knowing who needs help in your community and how will be integral. 

By: Nature at McMaster

In 1941, McMaster Chancellor Howard P. Whidden said that the Westdale property’s “beautiful surrounding and natural setting” was one of the most important reasons that McMaster University relocated from Toronto to Hamilton.

The vision for this move, as summarized in a quote published in the Hamilton Spectator in 1929, was that academic pursuits would be supported by Cootes Paradise.

It is this co-dependent relationship that intended that McMaster students would be able to enjoy cool ravines and marsh meadows in their backyard to meditate and muse.

At the time, Hamilton proved itself a generous host of higher learning in having McMaster be located where it is now.

I believe that both McMaster and Hamilton are still very much the “generous hosts of higher learning” that these early writers hoped for, however, it seems that higher learning did not traverse outside the classroom walls, despite the increasing amount of stewardship and conservation work pursued by these two parties.

The nature surrounding McMaster has become a dumping ground for student trash instead of academic contemplation.

For instance, in a September letter, the Royal Botanical Gardens expressed their alarm regarding the amount of litter accumulating on Chegwin Trail just behind Brandon Hall.

At the time of this discovery, RBG was monitoring and collecting data about at-risk species, and unfortunately filled a full clear bag of single-use recyclable drink bottles and half a bag of non-recyclable garbage, including broken glass and four reusable drink bottles from the trail.

Unfortunately, the more litter there is, the more people feel it is acceptable to add to the pile.

The nature surrounding McMaster has become a dumping ground for student trash instead of academic contemplation. 

At this rate, the RBG does not foresee themselves being able to keep up with the current garbage deposition rate before “McMaster’s less respectful students turn Chegwin Trail into a landfill”.

Ecological restoration work on this sensitive and world-renowned wetland is unattainable unless the McMaster community adopts a co-dependent attitude between our community and nature.

Unless this happens, it seems that the “Chegwin Trail landfill’’ will inevitably become a reality on this campus and students will no longer be able to enjoy this beautiful trail.

The solution I personally foresee i the theory of “placelessness”, a philosophy that re-imagines how people should view their relationship to the land that Dr.Coleman suggests in his book, Yardwork.

As placelessness suggests, our relationship to nature depends upon good manners: courtesy, respect and gratitude.

As students, we belong to McMaster, Hamilton and Cootes Paradise, which is a large part of our community and our location.

By doing this we will better ourselves and the environment we interact with.

As our ancestors believed, learning and nature come hand in hand.

As an institution that prides itself for innovation and respecting our land, students at McMaster should learn to live up to McMaster’s reputation by showing greater effort in respecting their environment and appreciating the ground that McMaster was built on, because at this rate, McMaster’s beautiful backyard may not be there for our future generations.

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Over the last decade alone, the world has produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Nearly half of that plastic is only produced for a single use.

It can be overwhelming to think of all the ways we can change our habits to be a little bit greener and it can be difficult to believe that just one person can make a difference. As easy as it may be to get discouraged when reading about the effects of climate change, Hamilton businesses are making it easier to make the first step into a more sustainable lifestyle.

You can find just about everything at some Hamilton businesses looking to make an eco-friendly impact, from vintage and antique furniture, Canadian-made clothing and even plastic-free alternatives to everyday hygiene products. Not only do these stores specialize in sustainable practices, but they also make an ongoing effort to become educational sources for those within the community.

Pale Blue Dot

The Pale Blue Dot is one of the newest additions to James Street North, supplying safe, high-quality, ethically sourced and earth-friendly alternatives to plastic or single-use products in addition to vintage and antique furniture.

Founder and co-owner Mary Luciani launched the Pale Blue Dot with the belief that it can be easy for people to live more sustainably when given the opportunity to find products that help protect the environment from unnecessary waste. The team at the shop conducts extensive research into the products they sell, from the process in which they’re made, the people who make them and where they come from.

“We work with companies that share our core values,” said Luciani. “Our customers can feel confident that when they purchase an item from PBD, they’re supporting great businesses and lowering their environmental impact while doing so. We don’t bring in any products with plastic parts or plastic packaging, and we do our absolute best to work with our suppliers to reduce unnecessary packaging during shipping.”

The Pale Blue Dot is focused on bringing people everything they need to live a more sustainable lifestyle from everyday necessities like bamboo toothbrushes and compostable silk floss to pre-loved vintage and antique furniture to furnish your home. Their selection of earth-friendly products is high quality, mindfully designed, locally and ethically sourced and fair trade.

After being open for a full month, the Pale Blue Dot is now looking to become a community hub where customers can learn different ways they can contribute to a sustainable lifestyle. Starting this month, the store plans to offer different kinds of workshops to the community with topics ranging from learning different ways of using essential oils, making natural cleaning supplies and nutrition.

“One of our main goals is to become a space where people can come and learn, from us and each other,” said Luciani. “We recognize that we are all at different stages of the path to living a sustainable lifestyle, so it’s important to us that we create a welcoming, non-judgemental space.”

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="75" gal_title="Pale Blue Dot"]

White Elephant

White Elephant is an independent and female-run clothing and lifestyle store co-owned by Hollie Pocsai and Jane LaBatte. Opening their brick and mortar boutique on James Street North nearly 10 years ago and since expanding to a second location in Westdale, the duo are passionate about supporting the community while providing sustainable quality goods.

With products that are independently made by artists, designers and crafters, White Elephant focuses on classic pieces that will not go out of style as seasons change. As long as a single or team of independent craftspeople makes the product, all but two of White Elephant’s clothing lines are made in Canada, reducing pollution from shipping and supporting local artists.   

“Shopping local is so important. You’re supporting people in your community, and in turn, they can continue to support the local economy,” said Pocsai.

Not only are the products sold at White Elephant supporting the local economy, but each purchase makes an impact on a global scale as well. As Poscai notes, there are several things to consider when making purchasing decisions, especially in fashion.

“Thinking critically about what kind of practices are behind your purchases is a good way to start thinking on a global scale too — questioning whether people have adequate working conditions, are getting paid fair wages, or trying to contribute less to global landfills are all good things to keep in mind.”

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="76" gal_title="White Elephant"]

Small change, big impact

By making small changes within our daily routines, we can make a huge difference in our world.

“Just remember that nobody is perfect, and you don’t have to be either,” said Luciani. “Sometimes you’ll forget to ask the waiter for no straw, sometimes you’ll forget your water bottle on the kitchen counter. It’s okay, just keep trying.”

While it may take time to turn it into a consistent habit, it’s important to start small and to do what you can, where you can. Being conscious about where you are buying and who your supporting can be a great first step in living more sustainably.

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

By: Adrianna Michell

While living on residence for the first time, I had come to think of on-campus housing as a rite of passage for university students. I thought of communal bathrooms, the inevitable roommate conflicts and the disappointing dining hall foods.

I anticipated these to be an unavoidable part of residence living. However, despite my generally low expectations of the conditions of campus living, I was shocked by the lack of foresight in McMaster’s residences and the daily functions that come with housing thousands of students.

Given the number of students living in residence, McMaster cannot afford to ignore the reckless and unsustainable waste practices on campus.

The potential impact of creating a sustainable waste reduction process is great, as McMaster is known to house almost 3,600 students in 12 buildings.

In lacking a responsible and effective waste reduction policy, the university has failed students. McMaster has left gaps in residence students’ education. Adequate waste removal and sorting services are not available to students; Mac’s environmental education policies point the finger at students.

The culture of disposability that pervades on-campus housing is apparent in both the personal choices of residents and the administration’s lack of policy. Dining halls are littered with students eating in disposable containers. Reusable cutlery is hard to come by, and correct waste receptacles are difficult to distinguish. There is little incentive for students to implement waste reduction practices, as hospitality services does not seem to be prepared for such regulations.

Given the number of students living in residence, McMaster cannot afford to ignore the reckless and unsustainable waste practices on campus.

According to the most recent Waste Reduction Work Plan created in 2015, the university hoped to expand compost and increase sustainable packaging.

The waste audit leaves something to be desired as most recyclable products have no waste reduction plan in place, the only goal being to “continue to recycle.” One goal was to include recycling bins in washrooms, which, as any student can attest to, has not happened in residences.

In the 2016 Sustainability Annual Report, one objective is to increase the amount of waste diverted from landfills. However, reducing this number is only a quick fix for a larger, systemic problem. A near 20 per cent increase in waste diversion sounds good, but it fails to account for the amount of waste produced that could have been avoided in the first place.

McMaster’s sustainability policies broadly ignore the root causes of issues and put the onus on students and individuals, rather than taking accountability for institutional actions.

“Awareness raising” policies have been implemented across campus, from educational materials to ever-changing signage on waste receptacles; using passive tactics that do not have any measurable goals makes the university look better without doing much. No matter how many people look at a poster or recycle their plastic, the real problem is being ignored.

In residence, the problem of waste production is daunting. There are no compost bins in residence. While student groups have had success in getting green bins in the student centre, no such initiatives have taken place in residence, nor should there be. It should be the responsibility of the University to establish composting facilities in residences, not individual students.

Dining halls do participate in a program where reusable Eco-Takeout containers are provided. Students pay a one-time fee of $5 to get into the program, and then can use the green containers for their food. This program does not seem to be widely used, as a quick walk through Centro will show that most students do not participate in the program, evidenced by their lack of green plastic containers.

The Eco-Takeout box also repeats the mistakes of other initiatives, placing all of the responsibility on the student with little incentive or reward. The containers are small and tend to be stained from time spent sitting in student’s rooms.

Residences have the potential to be a laboratory for innovative sustainability practices at McMaster, but are instead areas of immense waste production.

Looking toward solutions, McGill University seems to succeed where Mac has not, as they have successfully implemented composting in its residences, and has tried to “build a culture of composting” at the university.

Raising awareness about composting will not make sustainable, impactful change. The university needs to create policies that take responsibility for waste, and residences are the perfect place to start.

The original image used online for this article was uploaded without the subject's consent, and has been taken down.

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]


By: Saad Ejaz

In an effort to engage in more sustainable practices, the McMaster Students Union has stopped selling plastic water bottles this month, while pushing for boxed water cartons and re-usable water bottles.

Originally proposed as part of Justin Monaco-Barnes’ MSU presidential campaign, the union is further developing existing initiatives to make the MSU more sustainable.

“Roughly 41 per cent of universities in Ontario have switched to a model where it’s single use plastic water bottle free… and we thought we would do the same as it is a pretty significant step in the right direction,” said Monaco-Barnes.

The new program is different from programs at other schools that completely phase out single use water bottles. Monaco-Barnes referenced previous applications of phasing out all single use water bottles to the increase in soft drink sales.

“One thing we noticed from other schools and consultation was that when they got rid of plastic water bottles there was a spike in pop and other juices which is obviously counter intuitive to a healthy active lifestyle,” he said. “So we wanted to make sure that if we were taking out single-use plastic water bottles… we were putting in something that could still reach that demand but also be more sustainable.”

To compromise, the MSU-run Union Market introduced boxed water cartons in September alongside the store’s existing plastic water bottle selection. But as of earlier in Feb., Union Market has phased out single-use plastic water bottles.

While the boxed water containers are more expensive than the cheaper plastic bottles, they match the price of higher end brands.

"We are hoping that if we can have enough students commit to not buying plastic bottles, that will be a driver for the university to not stock them,"
Blake Oliver
McMaster Students Union
vice president (Education) 

There is more to the increased sustainability of boxed water cartons than just their material. The cartons are square in shape, allowing more to be packed within a truck, creating a means to save on travel and gas. The boxed water cartons also require less input of water to be made. Currently it takes nearly three litres of water to make a single water bottle, whereas boxed water cartons only require one litre.

Blake Oliver, vice president (Education) of the MSU explained an upcoming campaign that will focus on how students can be more sustainable in their practices on campus.

“We are going to be encouraging students to not buy plastic bottles on campus. We are hoping that if we can have enough students commit to not buying plastic bottles, that will be a driver for the university to not stock them,” said Oliver.

Monaco-Barnes also mentioned further sustainability efforts, but that these would be issues tackled in the future.

“That is a down the road thing that I am going to stress to the incoming president… that it is something that would benefit students and the environment in an impactful way,” he said.

I’m used to hearing about natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes. Of course, they have always occurred in other places. Somewhere tropical, along a coast, or over a fault line. I would shake my head sadly at the news broadcast, feel deeply for the suffering people, and thank my lucky stars that I live in Canada. And then, out of nowhere, Alberta.
Their tremendous floods added weight to the conversations I was privileged enough to have over the days leading up to this issue. Conversations with people who care deeply about environmental conservation, accountability, sustainability and clean-air transportation. Their voices, heard throughout this issue, speak to the little things that make big differences. Differences I have often faced cynically. How does my small effort to switch off the lights not be rendered futile by the office highrise that leaves every single light on? So what if we plant trees to improve the air if the factories will keep pumping out more poison than we can keep up with?
On a daily, individual basis, the bigger battles - against business practices, industry standards and global politics - cannot be won. And if those are the only pieces of the puzzle one focuses on, then disillusionment and infantilization are instant byproducts.
But if we make room in our lives for the little things - the recycling and the composting and the biking instead of driving - and make room for them successfully, then inpiration, determination and a collective desire to start tackling the big things will follow.
Yes We Cannon, the Street Tree program and LEARN-CC are just a few of the initiatives happening in Hamilton that are worth learning more about in this issue. Yes, they’re local, little things. And together, with other similar movements around the city, province and country, they’ll make a big impact.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.