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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)

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

Related:

Transportation Transformation from CCPA on Vimeo.

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)

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.