Thinking Sustainability: ‘What if Can Do Can’t? The Vulnerability and Resilience of Cities’ 

Bill Rees, co-originator of the "ecological footprint" concept, explores how our green buildings, smart growth, hybrid cars, renewable energy, other hopeful techno-fixes alone won’t be enough to solve our climate and energy crises. He argues changes to our thinking and culture are fundamental to addressing them. 

You can access his presentation slides here. The video was shot in October 2009 at the 'Gaining Ground: Resilient Cities' summit in Vancouver, Canada.

Related:

(Source: Gaining Ground Summit)

Grow your own: ‘How we can eat our landscapes’ (Video)

From TED Talks via YouTube:

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.


Pam Warhurst cofounded Incredible Edible, an initiative in Todmorden, England dedicated to growing food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community.

(Photo source: Incredible Edible)

From The Vancouver Sun:

More than two dozen volunteers worked in the hot sunshine Saturday to transform a dusty parking lot in the Downtown Eastside into a vibrant micro-farm and compost hub.

By noon, the volunteers with Projects in Place, a not-for-profit organization, and the Strathcona Business Improvement Association were put-ting the finishing touches on eight sheds at the Strathcona Green Zone Resource Park site on East Hastings, west of Clark Drive.

Some of the sheds will be used for recycling while others will house com-posting systems capable of processing 40 tonnes of food waste a year.

The resource park is designed to help local businesses divert food, reusable and recyclable waste from landfills.

However, organizers also wanted the hub to be a place for members of the community, so they’ve included a gar-den and a mini public park facing East Hastings Street with benches so people can sit and eat lunch there.

Organizers say by next spring they could begin growing food on 36 raised planters to donate to local shelters.

Starting in the fall, the association will collect food scraps from businesses in Strathcona for a small fee to cover costs of the program. Agbonkhese said 21 businesses have signed on so far. The cost will be an estimated $5 per pickup, with one to three pickups expected a week.

Check out the rest of the article here

(Photos: Strathcona BIA)

Resilient Cities: ‘A group of visionary residents in the American city of Detroit are sowing the seeds of an urban farming revolution’ (Video)

From Al Jazeera English:

In the early 20th century the American city of Detroit was a booming industrial powerhouse and world leader in car manufacturing, with a population that reached nearly two million people.

But since the major car companies closed their factories, more than a million taxpayers have moved out of Detroit, leaving behind more than 100 square kilometres of vacant land, and nearly 40,000 abandoned houses.

Now after decades of urban decay, Detroit is undergoing something of a revival as a centre for a new trade - urban farming.

In this half-hour special Russell Beard meets a group of visionary residents who see the city’s vacant land as fertile ground for an urban agriculture revolution.

Check out the rest of the article here

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Getting Around, Cleanly: 'Transportation Transformation' (Video)

Because two-fifths of BC’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation, this means rethinking our reliance on cars and trucks that burn fossil fuels to move people and goods large distances every day.

Most people have trouble imagining what an alternative system would look like. Not only do we rely on these forms of transportation, but they have played a central role in our prosperity. Our society has grown and evolved around car-based mobility, culminating in the post-war dream of a single family home in the suburbs. 

We argue that a zero-emissions transportation system by 2040 is both desirable and achievable. It will rely heavily on renewable electric power, shifts toward electric vehicles, and expansion of public transit and cycling infrastructure. 

But for the transportation system to be as efficient and enjoyable to use as a private car, we will also need to develop complete communities.

Complete communities exist where people do not have to travel far to meet their day-to-day needs, making it possible to walk, bike and use high-quality public transit. Mobility may be supplemented by shared or private electric cars, but a large percentage of trips would not need them. These communities include a mix of housing types (including affordable housing options), decent jobs, public services, parks and other public spaces, and commercial districts with restaurants, offices and retail outlets.

You can read more over at The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The single most important issue facing cyclists today is the absence of proper infrastructure to allow cycling to prosper, as it should, as it must, in a civilized community. If we accept as a general proposition that our societies would be healthier if they had fewer cars and more cyclists, then it follows we need to dedicate our resources to infrastructure, change and development.

Accidents do not happen because cyclists were not wearing a helmet. Accidents happen because there is an unacceptable proximity between automobiles and cyclists. Until this changes, and our particularly North American consciousness evolves so that our minds can better anticipate the presence of a cyclist on a roadway, we will continue to see an unacceptably high level of cycling casualties.

We need to embrace physically separated bike lanes designated bikeways with traffic diversion, bike paths not shared with pedestrians and reduced speed limits on residential streets. These are but a few examples of progress achieved in jurisdictions with much lower rates of cycling casualties and fatalities

Above are few paragraphs from bike injury lawyer David Hay’s recent op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, 'The great debate over bike helmet laws'. There’s been quite a controversy stirred up over recent months here following news from that Vancouver will be joining more than 165 cities worldwide in getting a bike sharing system in 2013. The concern on the part of a lot of people here is that we have a provincial mandatory bike helmet law and in the two cities with bike shares and mandatory helmet use, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, the systems have not been very successful. Mexico City had a mandatory helmet law, but provided an exemption after the first year of their bike share system. There have been some workarounds proposed here in Vancouver, but nothing that seems like a sure thing at this point. That said, I think Hay makes a good point that the critical factors for improving safety for cyclists and making cycling a more mainstream way to get around is through better infrastructure and a change in thinking on part of drivers and cyclists alike. 

(Photo source: Open File)

From The Vancouver Sun:

The city’s urban fruit orchard is poised to expand steadily over the next eight years with new plantings planned for city parks.

The city has created new orchards in three city parks in just the past couple of years — Falaise, Gaston and Slocan — with the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute and a handful of neighbourhood partners. Its goal is to create at least seven more orchards by 2020 as part of the Greenest City Action Plan.

Although the city doesn’t have a complete inventory of fruit and nut trees in parks, the figure is believed to be around 425. The city’s inventory lists more than 600 fruit and nut trees on boulevards.

The biggest opportunity to expand the number of fruit and nut trees in the Vancouver is the city’s street tree planting program, which council has instructed to plant 150,000 trees to complement the 139,000 trees already lining Vancouver streets. But the city is hesitant to plant any more fruit and nut trees on the boulevards because trees that are not carefully maintained can create a tripping hazard on sidewalks and rotting fruit attracts vermin and wasps, according to Alan Duncan, environmental planner for the park board.

Planting fruit trees on the city’s boulevards would make sense for the city from a policy point of view as it satisfies the twin goals of increasing the number of street trees in the city and increasing food assets under Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, said Anthony Nicalo of FoodTree, a web- and mobile app-based local food sourcing system.

FoodTree has created an online map of the more than 600 fruit and nut trees already planted on streets and boulevards across Vancouver, which allows people to search for their favourite fruits in season and where they can be picked for free.

Nicalo said planting trees is just a first step toward creating a “food asset,” an accessible and sustainable food source for Vancouverites. Fruit trees need care, fruit needs to be picked and either eaten or processed.

“People need to adopt and care for fruit-bearing street trees,” he said.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo source: Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute)

Sustainable Communities | ‘Jennifer Keesmaat: Walk to School’ 

From TEDx via YouTube:

Jennifer Keesmaat is an urban planner and Principal at Design Dialog, an integrated planning firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Jennifer’s passion for building sustainable communities is evident in this TEDxRegina talk where she reminds us of a simple yet meaningful pastime — the walk to school. This talk was filmed May 16, 2012 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

It’s worth noting that Keesmaat was recently hired as the new chief planner for the city of Toronto

Related:

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 Atlantic Cities:

It’s no secret that American cities are trying all kinds of things to encourage bike commuting. Some are building bike lanes even if it means taking space away from cars. Some have authorized bike-share programs. Some are requiring workplaces to designate bicycle parking or, failing that, compelling them to allow bikes inside the building.

All of these efforts have resulted in varying degrees of success. But there’s a hidden factor in some decisions to ride or not to ride to work — or, if not quite hidden, at least overlooked by most statistical analyses of bike commuting — and that’s the presence of office showers and changing facilities. In an upcoming issue of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, Ralph Buehler of Virginia Tech quantifies just how important these seemingly small amenities can be.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo source: TransLink)