Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month, Instagramming and podcasting his way across the country.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (pricetags), as well as PriceTalks podcast when interviews are occasionally posted.

 

I’ve been following the news through the Sydney Morning Herald prior to the trip, and thought this was a particularly revealing item:

A conservative activist group – which bills itself as the right-wing version of GetUp – will target primary school children with a series of new resources designed to counter the “climate alarmist narrative” it says is being pushed in classrooms and the media.

Advance Australia’s national director Liz Storer said the resource packs being developed will be sent to schools, parents and grandparents, and could be used in the classroom or at home. The resources will say human-induced climate change “isn’t true” and “there’s a lot more to the story”.

It’s not so much that this initiative is new or unexpected.  The ‘counter-narrative’ strategy has been remarkably effective at seeding sufficient doubt to establish ‘both-sides-ism’ in media coverage and, importantly, delay any unequivocal action by government to address climate change.  Like the Harper Strategy described below, it doesn’t require outright denial, and hence doesn’t seem overly wingnut to those looking for the ‘moderate’ response to the issue.  Including those who decide what should be taught in schools.

Hence the response to this proposal by Advance Australia is what makes the story important:

But the New South Wales and Victorian governments have already indicated the materials in question would very likely be banned in public schools as they “would not be deemed objective”. …

The NSW Department of Education said Advance Australia’s resources would not be allowed in the state’s public schools because they would fall foul of the government’s policies and guidelines.

“This includes the Controversial Issues in Schools policy which says that schools are neutral places for rational discourse and objective study, and discussions should not advance the interest of any particular group,” a department spokesman said.

“Under the Controversial Issues in Schools policy these materials from Advance Australia would not be deemed objective and therefore not permitted to be used in NSW public schools.”

Likewise, the politicians in government feel comfortable in outright rejection:

Victoria’s Labor Education Minister James Merlino said he believed most principals in his state “will put this rubbish where it belongs – in the bin”.

“This organisation is a front for a group of ill-informed climate change deniers,” he said. “Our schools should not be used as a tool for a group like this to peddle their political agenda.”

A Labor minister of course.  But my guess is that the Liberals and even the Nationals will not run to Advance’s cause, much less say they would put their material in the schools.

And here’s why: doubt and denial can be planted and nourished when climate change is not catastrophic and unfolds slowly.  When catastrophic events do occur – fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes – and go beyond one-off extremes of weather, when the frequency of them becomes a pattern, and the pattern is consistent with prediction, denialists become irrelevant.  They have nothing to say in response to the reality of an existential threat – because that reality wasn’t supposed to happen.

The public and decision-makers then turn to those who have something to say about reality, and look to those who have a strategy of response.

That is where Australia is now, I believe.  And Ill be looking to see how it is playing out in real time with those engaged in “the reality that doesn’t go away.”

 

 

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Students, staff, faculty and the general public are invited to join us at KPU Civic Plaza in February and March to discuss mobility challenges facing the South of Fraser urban-region.

These two free ‘Mobilities 2020’ events are for anyone interested in transit, universal access, pedestrian, cyclist safety and transit justice issues, particularly in the fast growing urban-region South of the Fraser River.

Confirmed panelists include: Stan Leyenhorst (Universal Access Design); Andy Yan (SFU City Program); Sandy James (Walk Metro Vancouver); Patrick Condon (Founding Urban Design Chair, UBC); Douglas McLeod (City of Surrey, Manager Transport Planning); Todd Litman (Victoria Transport Policy Institute); Don Buchanan (City of Surrey, Transportation Planner); and diverse citizens/activists.

These evening Geo-Forums are on Thursday, Feb.27th (7-9pm) and Thursday, March 19th (7-9pm) at KPUs new Civic Plaza Campus (just North of the Surrey Central Skytrain Station). Both evening KPU Geo-Forums will feature panel and Q+A discussions with city public transportation officials, urban planners, scholars, transit, universal access, cycling and pedestrian activists.

All are welcome !

Mobilities 2020: Two Public Geo-Forums on transit, pedestrian & mobility issues
Dates: Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020 & Thursday, March 19th, 2020
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm.  Please click here for Free Registration
Where: KPU Civic Plaza – 6th Floor  Surrey Central Skytrain Station, 13485 Central Ave, Surrey B.C.

 

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When Prime Minister Harper visited the Arctic on one of his several trips – once for 16 days – the words “climate change” never passed his lips.  In the Arctic – where the manifestations of climate change are more evident and fast-changing than most places on the planet.

That was a very deliberate strategy: ‘Never deny climate change, just don’t recognize it as a priority.  Sign on to policies and protocols so long as the deadlines are decades hence.  And send a message: Government will not do anything disruptive, particularly with respect to the economy, especially the resource industries, like carbon taxes or game-changing regulations.’

That message was targeted to other leaders and decision-makers, public and private, as well as his own base.  In short: ‘I don’t believe climate change is a priority worthy of immediate or drastic action.  So you don’t have to either.’

The strategy assumes two conditions: (1) The public believes you’re doing enough to take climate change seriously (but not crazily).  That you are still taking care of us.  And (2) Nature does nothing too disruptive.

It worked for Harper.  Unfortunately, it’s not working for the Prime Minister of Australia and his coalition party.

Nature did not hold up its end of the bargain.  And so the public isn’t either.

 

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For the next month, I’ll be in Australia, returning to the island continent for the 11th time, and to the four cities in which I have spoken over the last two decades – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

In the past I’ve talked mainly about Vancouver, particularly about urban design and how we accommodate growth.  (Our Commonwealth cousins love exchanging views and advice on our similar cities.)

But this time, I’m there to ask the people I meet one particular question: How is Australia changing now that climate change is your new reality?  How are Australians changing?

I’m not the only outsider to be asking questions like that.

 From Damien Cave, the Australian bureau chief for the New York Times:

“We have seen …the unfolding wings of climate change,” said Lynette Wallworth, an Australian filmmaker … in Davos, Switzerland, last month.

Like the fires, it’s a metaphor that lingers. What many of us have witnessed this fire season does feel alive, like a monstrous gathering force threatening to devour what we hold most dear on a continent that will grow only hotter, drier and more flammable as global temperatures rise. …

In interviews all over the fire zone since September, it’s been clear that Australians are reconsidering far more than energy and emissions. They are stumbling toward new ways of living: Housing, holiday travel, work, leisure, food and water are all being reconsidered. …

Climate change threatens heavy pillars of Australian identity: a life lived outdoors, an international role where the country “punches above its weight,” and an emphasis on egalitarianism that, according to some historians, is rooted in Australia’s settlement by convicts. …

Since the fires started, tens of millions of acres have been incinerated in areas that are deeply connected to the national psyche. If you’re American, imagine Cape Cod, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Sierra Nevadas and California’s Pacific Coast, all rolled into one — and burned.

It’s “a place of childhood vacations and dreams,” as one of Australia’s great novelists, Thomas Keneally, recently wrote.

Tourists in Lake Conjola, a popular vacation destination, took refuge on a beach on New Year’s Eve.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, Australia’s most famous tech billionaire, called it part of a broader awakening.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes said Australia could seize the moment and become a leader in climate innovation. Ms. Wallworth, the filmmaker, echoed that sentiment: What if the country’s leaders did not run from the problem of climate change, but instead harnessed the country’s desire to act?

“If only our leaders would call on us and say, ‘Look, this is a turning point moment for us; the natural world in Australia, that’s our cathedral, and it’s burning — our land and the animals we love are being killed,’” she said. …

Near a bus stop, I met Bob Gallagher, 71, a retired state employee with thick white hair. He felt strongly that the criticism of Mr. Morrison for not doing enough about climate change was unfair.

“The first thing the government needs to do is run the economy,” Mr. Gallagher said. “I just don’t understand what these climate change people want.”

I asked him to imagine a version of Ms. Wallworth’s dream — an Australia with a prime minister who shouted to the world: “What we all love, this unique country, is being destroyed by inaction. We’ll punch above our weight, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help.”

Mr. Gallagher listened without interrupting. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said. “I could support that.”

Full article here.

 

For the next month, I’ll be Instagramming my way across Aus (pricetags) and sending interviews back to be posted on PriceTalks and the blog.

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From the Downtown Waterfront Working Group:

In 2015, Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview attempted to get approval for a 26 storey office building at 555 Cordova, shoe-horned up against the east side of Waterfront Station in Vancouver. Cadillac Fairview owns Waterfront Station and the proposed building site has been the eastern access and parking lot for the Station since it opened in 1914.

The proposed site is not a separate building lot and far too small to accommodate a giant office building. The building, dubbed the Icepick, was turned down at City Hall in 2015, following wide-spread objections from neighbours and the public.

Now Cadillac Fairview is back with Icepick 2, a slightly revised version of the original. Responding to design objections, the developer rotated and pushed the building a little further west and north, slightly reduced its footprint, and made it possible to see and walk through the ground floor.

With these changes, the developer seems intent on getting approval at a Development Permit Board Meeting scheduled for May 25, 2020.

The proposed building is not consistent with the existing 2009 Council-endorsed Central Waterfront Hub Framework. In October 2017, Council approved a program to update the Framework and resolve implementation issues. This work has only just begun.

Does it make sense to put approvals before planning? Should a private developer be able to sabotage a public planning and design process?

The proposal does not conform to planning guidelines for the area. The most recent proposed building is more than twice the suggested height of 11 stories, and six times the recommended floor space. It overwhelms heritage buildings on either side and provides an uninviting gateway to Historic Gastown.

Most disturbing, Cadillac Fairview has not agreed to an extension of Granville Street to the waterfront. The developer owns the parkade at the foot of Granville. Removing part of the parkade’s top level was a central concept of the original Hub Framework. It would open the street to the waterfront, and provide an opportunity to build a public walkway connecting Stanley Park, the waterfront, Gastown, Chinatown and False Creek.

As the most important transportation hub in the region, this site is critical to the future of the city.

Surely Vancouver, which prides itself on progressive planning, can find a better solution.

Approving Cadillac Fairview’s latest proposal will preclude the current planning process and seriously undermine future options for the City’s waterfront.

Icepick 2 must to be stopped.

 

Community Open House & Feedback Session

Tuesday, Feb 18

3 –7 pm

Fairmont Waterfront Hotel
900 Canada Place, Mackenzie Ballroom

 

 

 

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Last week Jill Bennett in this  Global News video story  talked about the state of disrepair of the public sidewalk outside of Canada Place. It’s worth looking at the video which shows how shocking the existing conditions are.

The attention to detail for walking is fundamentally important to all cities. No matter who you are or where you live, the Metro Vancouver sidewalk is an extension of your public space, and it is equitable that sidewalk users receive the same level of treatment afforded to users of bike lanes and of roads. Everyone no matter their age or ability or level of accessibility should be able to travel easily and comfortably on walkable smooth surfaces, with drop down curbs at intersections, clean and readable. It just makes sense to provide people using the most sustainable way of travel the easiest and most effortless experience. This is no budget trade off instead of  housing affordability or density, it is an essential part of accessibility and movement at the most basic level to support a growing population.

One thing that has been an utter fail in the last decade in the City of Vancouver has been the management of the pedestrian environment, the sidewalks, and the standard of maintenance of the walking environment.  Even well respected urbanist  Larry Beasley has pointed out that Vancouver’s pedestrian public realm needed to be cleaned and polished up, and garbage off the streets. Right now several parts of the city have dangerously cracked sidewalks and supporting public realm infrastructure that looks like nobody cares. Repairing sidewalks was even offered as a voted on potential  “contribution” to the Denman west end neighbourhood.

Sidewalks and sidewalk repair are never an extra~it is part of the infrastructure of a well functioning city to maintain accessible and safe walking facilities. Pedestrians are supposedly the first priority in the City’s transportation plans. It’s time to invest in that.

Every Mayor likes to have their own stamp on things, and despite the fact that Greenways came out of an Urban Landscape Task Force of members of the public led by renown Landscape Architect Moura Quayle, greenways (and its budget) were squelched in favour of other new programming identifiable with the Vision council majority in 2008.

The creative Doug Smith  Greenways Engineer had left his post in 2005  to undertake important work in the City Works Yards and then the Sustainability Office. It was under his guidance that “greenways” became synonymous with great street design.

These were actually  streets where walking was the first priority. There was a network of 140 kilometers of streets that joined important destinations like services, schools and shopping that were strengthened by pedestrian public realm improvements.

You can see some of the work along 37th Avenue in the city, and also take a look at the map of greenways. Greenways were really “green streets” in that Doug Smith’s team explored innovative ways of creating infiltration bulges, baffled daylighted storm water,  public art, fountains, and  of making walking the first priority, followed by cycling. Vehicular use of these greenway streets was blocked or slowed by different means. The intent was to trial new ways of creating sustainable infrastructure that then could translate to other pedestrian and public space areas.

In the Greenways staff were several individuals whose job was to visit and walk every sidewalk and every street in Vancouver to rank the sidewalks needing repair work, and identify where new sidewalks needed to be place. Having them embedded with Engineering Greenways staff meant everyone had a real sense of “ground truthing” in how to create the best walking environments.

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Another example from Ian Robertson.  From Commercial Real Estate:

As public transport usage among Sydney’s CBD workforce surges, and the number of cars entering the city each day falls, developers and landlords may soon face the challenge of figuring out what to do with basement spaces that don’t meet modern building codes. …

At the same time public transit patronage among the CBD workforce has been undergoing a significant increase.  Transport for NSW estimates that between 7000 and 8000 fewer cars entered the city each day over the three years to 2018 …

Developers and building landlords nowadays are less concerned with onsite parking provisions, opting to use more of the building’s floor plan for office space or building infrastructure like end-of-trip facilities or gyms in an attempt to future-proof buildings against declining demand for parking spaces. …The City of Sydney has planning controls which encourage the reduction of parking spaces as part of redevelopment plans for existing sites, allowing developers to pursue additional height levels in exchange for adaptive reuse of basement spaces.

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Go to Times Square on the Red Steps:

 

RENEWAL OF VOWS

Say “I do” all over again.

At 6pm on February 14, 2020, couples are invited to celebrate romance, passion, and each other in a one of a kind tour-de-love — the Vow Renewal Ceremony, taking place on the iconic glass Red Steps. Couples of all ages and backgrounds will profess their love once again, with a special invitation extended to lovebirds whose kisses bridge boundaries, be they religious, political, racial, or national, as well as couples in wedding attire.

Friends of Price Tags, Michael & Dianne, happened to be in NYC, so of course:

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