Prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was generally acknowledged that both the traffic and the pollution in the city was out of control; in 2010, a traffic jam on the China National Highway 110 slowed traffic for 100 kilometres, and lasted for most of two weeks.

The Chinese government is still building and maintaining an impressive network of multi-lane freeways, highways, and flyovers — with regular toll plazas — to move large volumes of automobiles relatively efficiently, but the Chinese government has also tried to move the country (or at least the major cities) away from internal combustion engines.

As well as making lots of safe space for transit users, bikes, electric motorbikes, and pedestrians, the Chinese have done one other thing to improve the traffic mix in Chengdu and Beijing: they’ve made it really hard to own a car. Much like the licences and charges in London and Singapore, rules in China pretty much limit car use in the city to the very wealthy.

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It’s summer in Vancouver and time for a visit to Vancouver’s newest and much loved public space, the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library’s  rooftop garden created by landscape architect extraordinaire Cornelia Oberlander.

Even on one of the hottest days of the summer the outdoor space  is a cool oasis, with lots of corners to sit in and a cool breeze. There’s plenty of people up on the roof, but the space is big enough to accommodate students studying as well as people relaxing drinking coffee. (About that coffee~you still have to bring it in from outside the building, but it is perfectly fine in the library with a lid on it.I checked.)

There is apparently a challenge with the current landscape maintenance contractors  and they are no longer tending to the plants. Thankfully Cornelia’s palette includes lots of hardy plants and wild roses well adapted to dry conditions.

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Go back 40 years ago and there were two important events on university campuses~one was the  Fall used textbook sale; and the second was the Fall annual indoor plant sale. Everyone bought indoor plants for their rooms and apartments, and these sales were held at universities across Canada. Indoor plants were a  big “thing”.

As The Economist  writes, indoor plants which pretty much disappeared off people’s radar for decades are now back~and it is young people leading the trend towards houseplants. Even Greenhouse Mag describes the social media trend towards indoor plants, viewing the universally accessible Instagram and Pinterest as “democratizing access to high design”. That includes young people using houseplants in interiors as a fashion statement in keeping with “nature-infused design aesthetic”.

Google searches for succulents (a type of plant) have increased ten times in the last nine years. On a more practical level young people often live in apartment units without yard access, and while there is care involved for houseplants, “they are neither as demanding nor as costly as pets or children”.

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Just as there is growing interest in slow cooking with meals made from scratch, is there a return to thinking about doing other things in a more 20th century and long hand way?

Gayle Macdonald in the Globe and Mail talks about the “convenience-driven quandary” and asks: “What if we become so accustomed to computers and other AI-driven technologies doing everything for us that we forget the joy of doing things slowly, meticulously and with our own two hands?”

Take a look at the data. Online purchases have increased to 2.9 trillion dollars in 2018, from 2.4 trillion in 2017. And Canadians, who have been late to the online purchasing party have now  doubled their expenditures online from sales reported in 2016 to a  a cool 39 Billion dollars in United States funds.

That sum is more than what the current American president was going to spend on the southern border wall (that clocked in at 25 Billion dollars).  And here’s a story of what 25 Billion dollars will buy. 

Something else happens when goods and services are ordered online and delivered to your door. That is the isolating experience when you don’t have to walk or bike  or even go to a store, or have any interactions with people on the street or in shops.

As Macdonald observes ” loneliness – a close cousin of isolation – seems to be on the rise, with the U.S. Surgeon-General recently warning it’s an “epidemic” in United States and Britain appointing its first “minister of loneliness.”

While online shopping speaks to comfort and convenience, anthropologist Grant McCracken is wary of the ease of it, stating: “The industrial revolution declared war on space and time … and right through the second half of the 20th century, this war had no skeptics. Convenience was king. But in the last few decades we have seen a counter revolution. We saw the arrival of slow food, meditation, mindfulness, artisanal economies and a more measured approach to life by many people. All of which is better for humans and better for the planet.”

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A new brewpub in the old Fish House has opened in Stanley Park, next to the main tennis courts:

Isn’t the bike on the logo, front and centre, a nice touch?  It’s what you’d expect for a destination away from any major road, in a park, for an active, outdoorsy culture.

So how do you cycle to Stanley Park Brewing?

Officially, you don’t.  Go to the website for the brewpub, and here’s what you find:

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