Green maps build stronger communities

Mariko Uda


img_1025_0When Mariko was about 13 years old she saw a video on global warming and it had an impact that's helped to shape her life. Now she’s pursuing a Ph.D. in civil engineering that's focused on the resillience of neighbourhoods to climate change. It’s a field that's moving as fast as climate change and she’s in a hurry to get her work published.


ward21greenmapwychwoodbarnsecofair Mariko, Madison Van West, Anice Wong, Geoffrey Singer.

Among the many volunteer roles that Mariko has taken on is the job of community mapping. When Transition Town Toronto hosted an Open Space brainstorming session with Green Neighbours 21 in March 2013, Mariko connected with people interested in community mapping. Before long she and four others had decided to map the green attributes of their ward. With a launch deadline in mind – the November Eco Fair at Wychwood Barns -- the team made their way through a long list of difficult decisions. One of the biggest challenges was who and what to include on their map. They decided on an eco theme, and that is a timely reminder that all Ward 21 residents are, as one of the mapmakers said, “A part of something bigger.”

What the Green map will do

Along with a theme, the team had to make was what they wanted the map to accomplish. They came up with four goals:

  1. Make newcomers aware of the green features of the ward. Sometimes even long-term residents don't know that there's a farmers market on Saturday mornings.
  2. Celebrate Ward 21 as one of the greenest wards in Toronto -- give all residents a sense of pride and identity.
  3. Find out what we don't have. (It turns out that there's a great opportunity in Ward 21 for someone to open a vegetarian restaurant!).
  4. Raise awareness of the unique natural features of the ward such as the ravines and rivers.



What other resources can be mapped?

"We chose to make a green map because we were doing the work as members of Green Neighbours 21," Mariko said. Others could make a map that's more directly focused on community reillience. They could map the places in the community where people naturally gather. Or show where to go and who to call in case of an emergency. The map could combine a variety of features. The most important thing is that it interests you and your group, and that it will reward you by enhancing your community's strengths. You can download a map template here [ ]  And because so many people have said that they'd like to make their own community map, Mariko's team is creating a  summary of their experience to help guide others.

You don't have to make a map to make a diffference

I asked Mariko what she'd suggest for people who want to do something about climate change but don't want to take on a big project. Here's her answer: "Start by doing things that are helpful in curbing climate change and also good for your health and well-being. For instance, take what you've been thinking of doing for your own personal improvement and link it to an action, or do it in a way that is also good for the environment; like getting your excercise by walking to work. That way the action is rewarding on two levels and will give you further motivation. You'll likely find that things that are truly good for you are also good for the environment!"