As late as the 1980s, the climate science conversation was still terra incognito within civic government. So, as with today, it came down to the people who decided to lead the conversations, and bring them to action — first and foremost, the City of Vancouver Task Force on Atmospheric Change.
Recalls Task Force member, and Vancouver city councillor (1999-2005) Fred Bass:
We met every Saturday morning for a year, to look at recommendations to the city about global warming. And I saw the CO2 curve going up like that.
And I’m enough of a scientist, and also I think a fairly good assessor of information, that when I saw the CO2 curve going out of control, I thought, “This is terrible. This is awful.”
Many of the people who participated are still around; a few, like Mark Roseland, principal researcher on Clouds of Change, former professor and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at SFU, and now Director of the School of Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University, are not.
A key part of the research I did for Clouds of Change is based on seeing what’s been done elsewhere.
So every time they said it was impossible, I could say well yeah but they’re doing it in Seattle. They’re doing it in Toronto. Or they’re doing it in Sweden.
That was really important — we weren’t just talking about stuff that was a green utopia. There are other places where they also have budgets to worry about, they’re also politically accountable at election time, and they’re doing it.
It’s very, very powerful to be able to lead by example. And that was the argument — let’s lead by example.
These excerpts are part of a new post on Van Bikes, exploring the people and culture of the time that led to Clouds of Change. Gord also makes an appearance in the story; many of those on the task force (page 29 here), plus those quoted in the post, are indeed still in the region, still talking about this.
It would be interesting to get a sense of how today’s process differs from what we’ve already seen in 2019, and what will unfold in the months and years to come.
Photo credit: James Crookall, 1937. City of Vancouver Archives.