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Vancouver’s thinkers, dreamers and doers share their vision for Vancouver's future.
Wednesday night I was one of 2,000-plus people attending an event called PechaKucha Night at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver. Pronounced “peh-chak-cha,” PechaKucha means “the sound of conversation” or “chit-chat” in Japanese, and each PechaKucha Night—held in cities all over the world, several times a year—features speakers from various disciplines sharing 20 slides each on a particular topic.
Sponsored in part by the City of Vancouver and UBC for Vancouver’s ‘Greenest City 2020 Conversation,’ the theme of this most recent PechaKucha event was ‘Walk the Talk, Green Your City’—and, judging by the large turnout (PechaKucha Vancouver’s largest to date), it’s obvious there’s great interest in Vancouver to go green.
Critical Mass is the last Friday of every month! Bring your bike and meet up at the Vancouver Art Gallery at 5:30 p.m. to demonstrate a more healthy form of traffic!
Vancouverdesignnerds.ca meets this Friday and everyone is invited to get creative over food and drink! Organizer Eesmyal Santos-Brault says it best: “Shared Values + diversity + brainstorming + (potluck + alcohol)2 = innovation.”
To this end, it was great to see the huge volume of people arriving by bike, including the mayor, three city councillors and a crowd of senior city staff. In fact, in Vancouver, Mayor Robertson told the crowd, “Driving is down 10 percent, walking is up 40 percent and biking is up 180 percent.”
Cause+Affect organized the event, bringing together 13 local change makers to speak on the subject of Vancouver’s pursuit to become the Greenest City in the World by 2020—including why, where we’re at, the challenges we face and how we’re going to accomplish such a lofty goal in less than 10 years.
Each speaker had only 20 seconds to per slide, which kept the show whipping along. Green inspiration radiated from the stage as Vancouver’s thinkers, dreamers and doers shared their ideas and vision for the future.
TheChange was a proud media sponsor of the event.
As Cause+Affect’s Stephen Cox put it, “inspiration makes us act” so prepared to be inspired!
Below is the list of speakers, with highlights and some of their most memorable quotes. (Look for upcoming features and profiles on Granville magazine about many of the speakers and projects below.)
Mayor Robertson was there to launch a new initiative called TalkGreenToUs.ca, a cool new website that allows us, the city’s residents, to get involved with the Vancouver’s greenest city goal! Login and share your ideas on how the city should go green.
“The quality of your life is inversely proportional to the time you spend in your car.”
I found Greenest City Action Team member and HB Lanarc senior planner Mark Holland’s talk bang on. “Activity is the new community,” he said, and ultimately the next level of sustainability. “It is play that will make us a lovable city,” he said.
He shared his vision of Vancouver as a place that will outrival Montreal in its live music scene; where you see boats being built on the sidewalks and everyone learns how to kayak or scuba dive; a city in which the arts are so rich and prevalent that “you can’t walk down the street without tripping over it” and a typical Saturday morning routine involved going to the local deli and farmers market; a place where “city parks were the front and back yards for thousands of people.” Essentially, a future that redefines our conception of community and family (including our furry friends).
“Vancouver … the city of accidental entrepreneurs.”
“Align corporate buying with values.”
“You can’t sell a product just by good values; it’s got to be good, too.”
Denise Taschereau, co-owner of Fairware and self-proclaimed “swag baron,” represented sustainable business with her presentation on using environmentally friendly and ethically sourced products to change the world. Coming from previous careers working as policy director at the Recycling Council of BC and sustainability director at MEC, she and her partners started Fairware, a Fair Trade corporate swag supplier, in an attempt to make a direct impact on the supply chain of manufactured goods.
Being a bit of an event addict, I get inundated with corporate swag—plastic water bottles, t-shirts made in Burma, pens/notepads, etc. How much cooler would it be if instead I got things that encouraged me to live green like reusable grocery bags, travel mugs, organic cotton t-shirts etc. That type of swag says that the company behind it cares about more than the bottom line—about people and planet—and that’s the kind of swag I’d be proud to sport! (Which is the point of swag anyway, right?)
Side note: Did you know “swag” is an acronym for “Stuff We All Get”?! Learn something new everyday.
“Build a community inside your business, and then out into your neighbourhood and the world.”
“Art is the expression of a city.”
Ernesto Gomez, founder of Nuba Restaurant Group, spoke of this famed local chain of Lebanese-inspired restaurants and cafes and the importance of giving back to the community, particularly the arts. At Nuba, he said, they look beyond food and make a “commitment to community, sustainability and art,” participating in cultural events in the Downtown Eastside and around the city.
Preet Bal and Poonam Sandhu
“Walk the talk.”
I loved Preet and Poonam’s presentation about their volunteer efforts through Sandhog Creations Society. Not only were they super entertaining—remember green education should be fun!—but these East Indian television celebrities proved they aren’t afraid to get dirty.
Every year, they and 150,000 others attend Vaisakhi, a traditional Sikh festival in Vancouver and Surrey that celebrates the harvest. It offers free food, drink and entertainment, but also generates a lot of waste. It also happens to fall on Preet’s birthday. Seeing the problem, Preet celebrated her 30th birthday with her sister Poonam by buying recycling bins, recruiting all their friends to man them and managed to divert a ton of waste (200 bottles/can per hour!) that otherwise would’ve ended up in the landfill.
Next year, their third, the Sikh Green Team hits the Vancouver Vaisakhi festival to celebrate Preet’s 33rd birthday with the support of the City of Vancouver behind them. And “you’re all invited,” Preet told the crowd. Email Preet to volunteer for the April 11, 2011 event.
“Break down stereotypes.”
“See yourself through the prism of other people.”
“East Van is more than just poor immigrants.”
Vancouver multimedia artist Ken Lum is famous for his public art installations around the city (and the world), including Four Boats Stranded: Red and Yellow, Black and White and Offsite at the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as the neon East Van cruciform Monument for East Vancouver on Clark. At PechaKucha Night, he spoke about the role of art in defying stereotypes—including that of Vancouver as merely a beautiful place—and portraying trauma and the immigrant experience.
“Difference. Identity. Sustainability. There terms are problematic,” he said.
He left the stage challenging the audience to reconsider how they perceive the city’s somewhat contentious west-east division of haves and have-nots: “East Van is more than just poor immigrants.”
“Shared values + diversity + brainstorming (potluck + alcohol)2 = innovation.”
Green building expert Eesmyal Santos-Brault gave a rousing presentation about his various green building and collaborative projects. A partner in the green building consulting firm Recollective, the brains behind the LEED-platinum Southeast False Creek Community Centre, he is a champion of open-data and the founder of the Green Building Brain, an open-source database for sharing strategies and solutions for sustainable design and development.
As well, Eesmyal invited everyone out to the next meeting of the Vancouver Design Nerds, a network of collaborating designers and artists who share a desire to engage design opportunities with a spirit of creative play and to challenge the normative environment of the city. They meet on the last Friday of every month.
Catch the debut of their latest project, The Gramorail, at eatART Powers the VAG, Sunday, June 27, 2010.
He also pitched the audience on a new collaborative workspace called The Hive, which will be hosting a get-to-know-you with the people who are making things happen in Vancouver. Learn more here.
“What kind of city do you want to live in?”
“You can’t walk down the street without tripping over one of the city’s sustainability initiatives, but they are non-integrated one-offs…”
“We can’t change the world without changing all sectors of society, including the private sector.”
“Cities should see themselves as carbon sequestration engines.”
Heavyweight Dr. John Robinson, executive director of UBC’s Sustainability Initiative and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, presented on the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), a research, collaboration and outreach hub at UBC dedicated to finding workable, integrated solutions for the challenges of urban sustainability. Currently under construction, the CIRS facility will be a model of sustainable design for the whole world, going beyond LEED, using for example rainwater for all water needs and serving as a carbon trap. One of the goals of the building is to prove that you can build above LEED Platinum for no more cost than typical construction.
“If you want to change a culture, change its stories.”
Photographer Jaime Kowal, who in 2006 produced Waking Up the West Coast, a collection of 120 interviews and portraits of BC movers and shakers, spoke on the importance of the story for shaping our culture. To that end, she announced the launch of her newest project, GreenTheCityVancouver.com, a “visual tapestry of the city” comprising theme-based user-generated photography to serve as record and anthropological study of where we’re going and where we’ve been.
Submit your own entries for the first assignment “How would you like to see Vancouver over the next 10 years?” to the site. Email for more information.
“What do you value? Do you value our food producers? Do you know where your food comes from? What is your intent?”
Teaching assistant and masters candidate at UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems/UBC Farm, Tegan Adams had a simple message, and she framed it with food and the human compulsion for order, categorization and predictability. Seeing our own and our planet’s challenges stemming from such obsession—such as monocultures of specific crops, and their related chemical pesticides, that get shipped all over the world and involve massive over-consumption of resources and fuel—she challenged us to simple eat with intention.
“If there’s one thing you can do, simply state an intention and ask why are you eating this.”
“When we carry our own weight, we carry our own potential.”
Diane Roberts, artistic director at the First Nations theatre company Urban Ink Productions, was a standout, delivering a powerful spoken-word poem about how ancestral stories bind us to ourselves and each other.
“The future will not be a mega project; it’ll be incremental projects.”
“Building beyond the property line is required to solve the big challenges we face.”
City of Vancouver sustainable development program manager David Ramslie announced the city’s goal to make all city buildings carbon neutral by 2020, pointing to the Net Zero Building in Southeast False Creek, which uses an entire network to achieve carbon neutrality, as the model.
Did you know: The green building movement began in Saskatchewan in 1977, launching the concept of the “passive house.”
“Cycling is a social lubricant. We need a city were we can ride the talk.”
“Healthy communities are communicating communities.”
“Wild card,” cycling advocate and community organizer Ifny Lachance drove home a common theme from the event: cycling to save the world. She spoke hard and fast about the community-building potential of riding your bike and promoting cycling in your city. “Just on my ride over here tonight, I had multiple conversations with people I don’t know,” she said.
She then called on all 2,000 in the audience to walk, talk and ride the talk and show up at the June Critical Mass, Friday, June 25, 2010. Listen to Pedal Revolutionary Radio at her blog, www.pedalrevolutionary.org.
“Live like you plan on staying.”
“This is the U-turn generation.”
“Vancouver to be a Beacon of What’s Possible.”
Kevin Millsip, the sustainability coordinator for the Vancouver School Board, spoke of eco-equity, calling it “the only option that can sustain us and that we can sustain.” Through a hilarious assemblage of photos, his message was to be “Bold, Determined and Resillient” and to do it collaboratively and without ego. Leaders work together in this new era; no longer can they simply go it alone.
Annalea Krebs blogs about the organizations, people and ideas that are moving Vancouver forward. She is founder of TheChange.com, a social media platform that helps people discover local organizations committed to sustainability.
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