By Ian (Team Deep Earth)
Earlier this year I went up the CN Tower for the first time. Despite that fact that I’ve grown up my entire life in Pickering and Waterloo, just a short commute from downtown Toronto, I had never even considered going up the tower. I’ve traveled across Canada and to places in Europe and Africa before going to an international tourist landmark in my own backyard.
Exploring Sudbury this past week I was amazed by the incredible experiences and connections we were able to make it just such a short period of time. Simply by coming into the city with the intention of meeting new people and exploring, we were able to gain insights into many different aspects of the city. Our two teams met with representatives from municipal and federal governments, health centres, community NGOs, Science North, Laurentian University and the regional innovation centre. We got to do everything from going into the NORCAT underground training mine to sitting down with the Sudbury mayor.
We talked to students, doctors, government officials, at-risk youth, community leaders, researchers and more. My team got to learn about the history of environmental degradation and regreening in Sudbury, Green Economy North, the Sudbury Protocol, NORCATs innovations in training as well as many other projects, programs and insights. In one week, we met with parts of the city that I bet many people from Sudbury have never even heard of.
Now this was only a sample of Sudbury and there were some giant holes in our learnings. Much of our insights are only surface level as we had little time to build strong connections with those we met due to our limited time in the city. And yet I am still struck by how much we were able to learn about and from Sudbury in such a short period of time. Having the MaRS name behind us certainly opened a number of doors, but often people did not recognize the name and simply were willing to meet because we were a group who were interested in their work and the issues they face.
It took me 23 years of living in and around the GTA before checking out something that is often the first stop for tourists from around the world when they come to Toronto. Precisely because it was in my backyard I never felt the urge to explore or learn about it. There is something about travelling to a new place that forces you out of any routine and encourages you to learn and explore in a way that we don’t often do in our own communities.
After Sudbury, I realize that someone could come to Toronto for a week with the intention of exploring and potentially meet more people and learn about more projects than I have in my past couple months working in the city. I am stuck thinking about how many things I have missed out on in Toronto and Waterloo just because I got into a routine and did not venture out to explore my community.
Heading back home, I find myself wondering if I can do the same thing we did in Sudbury back in Toronto (and wherever I end up next). By taking a step back from the hustle and bustle of work and daily life, can I set out to explore the city I live and work in everyday?