What makes Calgary a great city?

For me, it’s always been about the special places that give the city its character. One such place here in Calgary that holds a special spot in my heart is Fish Creek Park.

 I moved to Calgary when I was 5 years old to a river side community, and thus I spent a lot of time along the river’s banks throughout my childhood. As a kid the Bow River was a playground to me. I would cycle along the pathways, or go exploring through the woods with friends. As a teenager the river became a place of self-discovery, somewhere I could go to hang out and be free from the prying eyes and ears of my family. And now as I grow older the river has become more of a spiritual refuge for me. It is a place that I can go to escape from the urban environment, a place that helps me relax and appreciate the natural beauty that the world possesses. One of my favorite things to do is to sit along the banks and watch the water flow by at thousands of gallons an hour, while the birds chirp overhead and the trees sway around me. There is something truly beautiful about being present in a moment of complex simplicity.

My most recent trip to the Bow River was on Saturday to do a garbage cleanup with a group of my fellow Ecoclub members. Before the river cleanup, garbage had never seemed as a important to me as other environmental problems, but my perspective changed while picking up enough garbage to fill a half-a-dozen bags. This cleanup was about so much more than just keeping garbage out of the environment; it was about protecting and cherishing one of the city’s best features. I realized that this place I valued so highly would not be what it is if people didn’t take care of it. If we just let this garbage accumulate, then the river would be no better than a grimy downtown street. It would lose its beauty and natural wonder, the qualities that makes it special, and people would suffer because of it. A dirty river would change the way we think about the city and its people. It would become a reminder of the negativity of human impact, of how selfish people can be, and it would negatively alter our perceptions of the city and the people who live in it. I realized that if we didn’t protect the sanctity of the river then we would slowly start to lose the soul of this city. All of a sudden the idea of cleaning up the river became so much more important to me than it had been in the past.

So while I sat in a clearing along the river watching the water stream past, I was reminded of why personal action is so important to making this world a better place for all. It may not always seem important at the time, but out actions have huge impacts on how we and other people experience the world. If we can find a way to decrease the amount of ugliness in the world, perhaps we can uncover a new world that we can all be proud of, a world that we will want to cherish and protect.