Archive for the ‘Green City’ Category

Community Connections

Recently, I attended the Metro Vancouver Sustainability Dialogues, with the discussion centering around the fact that even though we are living in closer and closer proximity to each other in cities, people are less likely to know their neighbours and feel connected to their communities. One of the interesting discussion points was whether social media contributes to this problem, by encouraging people to stay home on the computer instead of going out and interacting with people.

Growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver, I knew all my neighbours. I babysat for them, took care of their pets, and borrowed the proverbial cup of sugar. Since I’ve left home, I’ve lived in a variety of apartments, and I’ve rarely known my neighbours more than to say hi.

I miss those connections. For a variety of reasons, I have no interest in moving to the suburbs (though rural life has great appeal). So, in this denser urban environment, how do we connect?

It does seem to me that social media can contribute to this separation. I am a confessed introvert. Put me in a room with a bunch of strangers, and I will stand in a corner and try not to look awkward. Social media suits me this way – I can converse with people who are also interested in the same topics I am, without the stress of trying to make small talk. It’s difficult for me to move offline and connect with these community members. And how many others, like me, would prefer to sit at home on their computers in their pajamas, rather than go out there and make new friends? Or, more accurately, would love to make new friends, it just seems to hard.

Even as an introvert, I crave those connections. It’s just much harder to make them. My mother’s best friend was 3 doors down from us – I can’t help but feel that the loss of community that we experience in urbanization is a major problem. Security, environmental health, and happiness are all affected by the lack of community, when neighbours don’t know, don’t care, or abdicate responsibility for what goes on in their neighbourhoods.

How do we connect, in an increasingly urbanized world? When density is what is needed in order to prevent more urban sprawl and land destruction, how to we create the kind of urban environments that encourage neighbours to care about each other?

So Disappointed by my Government; So Inspired by my Community

Sometimes, when I listen to the news, see the mass consumption marketing, I feel like I’m standing alone on a little island, that I just don’t connect with how my world is portrayed. But today, I joined hundreds of other Vancouverites on Kits beach, to stand together against the pipelines and tankers of Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan. I felt like I was part of something big, that there are a lot of people who care. And I felt hope at that.

As an environmentalist these days, it certainly feels like my government doesn’t care the slightest bit about me or others who care about something bigger than profit and money. The planet and those who want to protect it are becoming targets for the big guys to take shots at, and I see this reflected by a government pushing through laws and regulations that make it easier for industry to develop the tarsands, and remove protection for water and fish – unless, of course, those fish have some kind of economic value. We hear the government ministers calling us “radicals” and positioning us as the enemy of Canadians.

Tomorrow, organizations and individuals across Canada will be blacking out their websites as part of the BlackOutSpeakOut campaign to “speak out against changes introduced in the federal government’s budget act (C-38).” 

Alone, I feel powerless. But when I see that I’m not alone, I have hope. We may all come at these things with different backgrounds, interests and ideas, but as long as we stand together, there’s a chance we can all make it.

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From 24 HOURS article, photo by CARMINE MARINELLI

Earth Day Green City Race

This past Saturday, I participated in the Evergreen Foundation‘s Green City Race. Along the lines of the Amazing Race and City Chase type of activities, we had a bunch of clues that we needed to follow to find different community landmarks, ranging from East Van to Cambie and False Creek to Gastown. It was a really cool opportunity to run around town and visit some pretty cool “green” places in the city.

Some Vancouver Green City highlights:

The Neighbourhood Energy Utility

This utility in False Creek uses “waste heat recovery from untreated urban waste water.” I had no idea this was nestled under the Cambie Street bridge, providing renewable energy for the area.

At the Vancouver Convention Centre, a LEED certified building

Bandidas Taqueria

I love Bandidas. Not only do they serve awesome vegetarian food, but they have a sustainability credo that I love – they bike their produce around, and use sustainably sourced ingredients.

My Own Back Yard Community Garden

Cool little community garden just off Commercial Drive, with a shed made out of cob.

Other highlights:

Random strangers cheering us on.
Friendly people submitting to our requests for photographs of their reusable mugs and shopping bags.

Thanks for biking!

Planting an apple tree in Evergreen’s Urban Orchard.
Leaving a thank you note for a cyclist on their bike.
Proving to myself that I have a pretty good knowledge of the Vancouver transit system.
Running around in the beautiful sunshine.
Winning second place!

Even without a smart phone (thanks to some helpers at home on computers), we were able to navigate the clues around the city.

If you’re interested in green places in the city, having fun, and getting a little competitive, try this race out next year.We’re aiming for first next time!