From Reuters:

The world’s urban areas will more than double in size by 2030, presenting an opportunity to build greener and healthier cities, a U.N. study showed on Monday. Simple planning measures such as more parks, trees or roof gardens could make cities less polluted and help protect plants and animals, especially in emerging nations led by China and India where city growth will be fastest, it said.

“Rich biodiversity can exist in cities and is extremely critical to people’s health and well-being,” wrote Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, scientific editor of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook.

The world’s urban population is expected to surge from just over 3.5 billion now to 4.9 billion by 2030, according to the assessment by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. At the same time, the area to be covered by cities will expand by 150 percent, it said.

“Most of this growth is expected to happen in small and medium-sized cities, not in megacities,” according to the report, issued to coincide with a U.N. meeting on biodiversity in Hyderabad, India. More green spaces in cities can filter dust and pollution and soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Some studies have shown that the presence of trees can help reduce asthma and allergies for children living nearby, it said. And the study said that cities were also home to a wide range of animals and plants.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Related:

(Photo: The High Line)

Seen around town: Three of the signs posted on BC Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office earlier this spring by about 200 university and high school students rallying to oppose the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline is intended to transport bitumen (i.e. heavy oil) west from Alberta’s tar sands through British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest to the province’s ecologically rich coast before being shipped to Asian markets.
The pipeline is currently going through a federally mandated joint review panel process, but there is an incredibly diverse movement growing here in BC to stop the pipeline and speed the transition to a climate resilient, clean energy economy. Here are two recent examples: Yesterday, green groups sued the federal government to protect four endangered species living along the proposed pipeline and shipping route. Today, the province’s local governments passed a resolution opposing oil tanker expansion on the BC coast. Interesting times in BC, Canada, and on this planet we call Earth.
Related:
'Pipeline to prosperity or channel to catastrophe?' (Globe & Mail)
'Great Bear Rainforest: Pipeline through paradise' (National Geographic)
Dr. David Schindler: ‘The Canadian oil sands: economic saviour or environmental disaster?’ (key points) (YouTube)
‘First Nations warn of civil disobedience if Northern Gateway pipeline goes ahead’ (Times-Colonist)

Seen around town: Three of the signs posted on BC Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office earlier this spring by about 200 university and high school students rallying to oppose the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline is intended to transport bitumen (i.e. heavy oil) west from Alberta’s tar sands through British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest to the province’s ecologically rich coast before being shipped to Asian markets.

The pipeline is currently going through a federally mandated joint review panel process, but there is an incredibly diverse movement growing here in BC to stop the pipeline and speed the transition to a climate resilient, clean energy economy. Here are two recent examples: Yesterday, green groups sued the federal government to protect four endangered species living along the proposed pipeline and shipping route. Today, the province’s local governments passed a resolution opposing oil tanker expansion on the BC coast. Interesting times in BC, Canada, and on this planet we call Earth.

Related:

Tools for Change: ‘Smart Environmental Policy with Full-Cost Pricing’

From The Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions via YouTube:

Canada’s natural resources, ecosystems and wildlife are indispensable to the sustainability of our planet and economy. Despite this, both the public and private sectors do not adequately consider the environmental consequences of production and consumption when calculating their bottom line. There is a growing need for full-cost pricing, a system that adjusts market prices to reflect not only the direct costs of goods and services, but also their impact on our country’s natural capital. Presenting the findings of a March 2012 paper, Dr. Olewiler argues that the onus is on the federal government to create the conditions for full-cost pricing to succeed.

Nancy Olewiler is the Director of the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Her areas of research include natural resource and environmental economics and policy. She has published extensively, written two widely used textbooks (The Economics of Natural Resource Use and Environmental Economics), and produced numerous reports for the Canadian federal and provincial governments, including studies on energy and climate policy, natural capital, and federal business tax policy. Nancy is the Chair of the TransLink Board of Directors, and has previously served on the boards of BC Hydro and several of its subsidiaries. She is also a member of advisory committees for Statistics Canada, WWF-Canada, Sustainable Prosperity and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. 

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions has lots of other great solutions oriented talks here

Related:

(Graphic source: TEEB4me)

From The Tyee:

Fifty years of ‘environmentalism’ and we’re less sustainable. So what do we do now?

Click here to read the article. 

(Infographic source: MV)

From Triple Pundit:

Janine Benyus, noted biologist and author of the book Biomimicry, describes nine laws that nature seems to consistently follow in developing sustainable ecosystems. Modern designers, in their desire to create sustainable products are increasingly becoming aware of examples from nature, which has so often displayed the most elegant solutions to problems of design. These laws include:

  • Nature runs on sunlight.
  • Nature utilizes only the energy it needs.
  • Energy fits form to function.
  • Nature rewards cooperation.
  • Nature banks on diversity.
  • Nature demands local expertise.
  • Nature curbs excess from within.
  • Nature taps the power of limits.
  • Energy recycles everything.

This last one can be rephrased to say that, in nature, all waste, either directly or indirectly, becomes food. For example, leaves falling from a tree, if they are not raked up and put in plastic bags, decompose and enrich the soil, with the help of earthworms and soil microbes, eventually feeding the tree from which it fell or perhaps a different one.

The folks in the Brazilian city of Jundiai, north of Sao Paulo, have found a unique way to apply this law. Their program, “Delicious Recycling,” provides food to residents when they bring in recycling. The food comes from a community garden which boasts more than 30,000 plants. Now, instead of streets and waterways strewn with trash, they have healthy, well-fed residents. The program, a brainchild of the city’s Municipal Utilities department, has been running successfully for ten years.

As long as we’re talking trash today, another Brazilian city, Curitiba, near the coast, has run a similar program for twice that long. This city, which won a UN Environmental Program Award in 1990, exchanges transportation passes for the recycled materials. The program, which employs shantytown people to collect the trash, uses proceeds from the sale of the recyclable material for social programs to further assist those in need.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo source: Cities Without Hunger)

Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.
Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicistcosmologist, author, and science popularizer. 
Public Space: When they built the urban plaza in the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood (2010 Olympic Village) here in Vancouver they "put a bird on it." Actually, they put two birds on it, but you can only see one of them in this photo. I’m a big fan of artist Myfanwy MacLeod’s 'The Birds'. Every time I’m down there I see people and kids especially reacting to them in such fun and curious ways, as if they are trying to figure out if they are friendly, menacing or something in between. I also like the reminder that they offer that nature is larger than us humans. As for the official explanation of the piece:

The work highlights both the lighter and graver sides of what can happen when a non-native species is introduced to an environment, how the beauty of birds can sometimes mask their threat to biodiversity.

If you’re interested, I’ve got more pics here.

Public Space:

When they built the urban plaza in the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood (2010 Olympic Village) here in Vancouver they "put a bird on it." Actually, they put two birds on it, but you can only see one of them in this photo.

I’m a big fan of artist Myfanwy MacLeod’s 'The Birds'. Every time I’m down there I see people and kids especially reacting to them in such fun and curious ways, as if they are trying to figure out if they are friendly, menacing or something in between. I also like the reminder that they offer that nature is larger than us humans. As for the official explanation of the piece:

The work highlights both the lighter and graver sides of what can happen when a non-native species is introduced to an environment, how the beauty of birds can sometimes mask their threat to biodiversity.

If you’re interested, I’ve got more pics here.

From The Vancouver Sun:

Most of the world’s polar bears are likely to disappear in the next 30 to 50 years if the Arctic continues to heat up as climatologists predict, two University of Alberta scientists say.

They conducted an exhaustive review of the scientific research that has been done on the bears.

In the recent issue of the journal Global Change Biology, Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher suggest that the bears of Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea in Canada and Alaska are likely to go first. And while they believe a small population of bears in northern Greenland and the Canadian Arctic islands could persist in the foreseeable future, they warn that the long-term well-being of those animals is in doubt as well.

“I have been concerned about the longer term future, not just for polar bears, but for the whole of the arctic marine system for quite a while,” says Stirling, who has been studying polar bears longer than anyone else in the world.

“When I see the trends and projections for the future for warming and sea ice loss for the long term, I think the outlook is not good for ice-breeding species … It may be possible for a remnant population to survive for quite a while but that will also depend on what survives for them to eat.”

“The threat to polar bears is driven simply by habitat loss,” Derocher says. “It is no different than the situation in the Amazon. If you cut down the forest that an Amazon parrot relies on, most people grasp that the species is at risk. Unfortunately, sea ice is a much more foreign habitat for most people and its dynamic nature means that most fail to see it as a habitat.

“We can no more have polar bears with too little sea ice than we can have a forest without soil. Nobody expects a specialized parrot to suddenly adapt to a deforested habitat, yet some confer special adaptation abilities on polar bears. It’s wishful thinking for some but more often, it’s ignorance; it’s a malicious strategy intended to confuse people to create an illusion that everything’s fine.”

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: ENS - News Service)