Climate Change
May 15, 2019

As Climate Alarms Continue to Sound, Some Governments Prefer to Move Slow and Break Things

Like some unprecedented mass shooting, it’s the kind of record-breaking news one tends to think twice about discussing at the breakfast table.

As reported by Popular Science, among many other media outlets, late last week the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii measured carbon levels in the atmosphere at 415 parts per million. That’s more than 100 ppm higher than any point in almost 1 million years’ worth of atmospheric data available.

For nearly a million years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have maintained an average of about 280 ppm, not going above 300 ppm or below 160 ppm…the latest human-caused warming event is occurring over just a couple of centuries, which is so quick in comparison that the trend line appears vertical as it approaches today.

Do we actually still need to wonder why this is happening?

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During a recent trip to central California — bookended by a weekend in Yosemite National Park, and Passover/Easter break with family in Sacramento — I found the missing middle.

Yes, a barely-justifiable work-week in between, in San Francisco. A friend lives in Inner Sunset, a stone’s throw from Golden Gate Park, and I ended up getting a respite from household duties in Vancouver, and 40 hours of deep-focus on work. Most important, I found a few hours each day to explore the city. (#privilege)

Which, in turn, opened up a game of “got’em, need’em”. You may know it, and if you do, it might have been decades since you thought of it.

The gist: you and a friend sit down with your respective hockey or baseball card collection. (OK fine, but just go with it…) You pick up a stack of your friend’s cards, and proceed to flip through them — rhythmically, perhaps even trance-like — saying “need’im” for those you don’t have, and “got’im” for those you do.

“Got’im, got’im, got’im, got’im, need’im, got’im, need’im, need’im, got’im…”

Of course, they were always men in these trading cards, so it was ‘im for “him”, and not ’em for “them”. (In my youth, the only sport for women that seemed to get much mainstream media attention was tennis. I wonder why.)

Hence, “got’em / need’em” being an essential GenX meme that I believe can easily be used by urban travellers to other cities. What reminds you of home? What do you want to bring home?

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TransLink sums it all up in two conveniently tweet-able sentences:

Public engagement is a key component of rapid transit planning. We value your feedback and want to hear what you think about the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain, and rapid transit options for the 104th Avenue and King George Boulevard corridors.

They do indeed, but apart from the project team’s appearance at tomorrow’s Vaisakhi Day Parade in Surrey, opportunities to have your say in person are over.

Public engagement is only open for one more week (through April 26) via online survey.

Before taking the survey, be sure to check out the engagement boards, describing the project and the various options considered for transit over the past few years, including this handy graphic comparing the different modes and technologies considered.

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Kudos to TransLink, for making some space for Indigenous art that doesn’t shy away from engaging people on social and even political themes.

Marianne Nicolson is a member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations, an artist, and the creator of “The Sea Captain”, the new public installation at the recently upgraded Surrey Central Skytrain.

As she explains in the following short video, she’s interested in interactions between peoples, particularly related to colonial encounters, and bringing something different to the public realm.

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If you’ve ever wanted to see changes in how City of Vancouver parks — the public spaces themselves, as well as their facilities and services — are managed and delivered to citizens, now’s the chance to have your say.

On Sunday, April 7 from 1-4pm, Park Board Commissioners and staff are holding an open house at CityLab (511 West Broadway) to gather public input for “Vancouver’s Playbook” (also called VanPlay), a new plan intended to guide the parks and recreation strategy through to 2045.

Vancouver is home to world-class parks and recreation, and our population is growing and changing.

It’s essential we look to the future to protect and improve parks and recreation across the city.

VanPlay is a year-long conversation with you, our staff, partners, stakeholders, and experts to make this the best plan it can be.

Of note – the Park Board wants to define “Strategic Big Moves for a More Equitable and Connected future”. What does that mean?

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You may have caught wind of the District of No Vancouver’s — how shall we say — odd approach to doing their part on the region’s housing issue.

Young people, seniors, low and fixed-income folks are struggling to live near services, employment and schools. Without sufficient or reasonable housing options in town centres and near transit, these vulnerable segments of our society are not just experiencing the stress of housing insecurity, they’re getting pushed out.

DNV is quite simply saying no to efforts to accommodate people in need. Repeatedly. Over and over again.

But Councillor Jim Hanson of team “No Vancouver” (pssst….this domain is available) has a solution.

Since it doesn’t look good to say no to people in need of housing, try saying yes, but in a different way. As in — “Yes, we’d like to give housing to people in need. We’ll just take it away from others.”

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Much continues to be said and written about the District of No Vancouver’s compulsive nixing of social and non-market housing projects.

In particular, current Councillor Mathew Bond is a frequent critic of the actions of his counterparts on Council. His Twitter feed serves as running commentary of No after No after No…somehow, he manages to keep an even and rational tone. Maybe just a hint of strain. The sound of one head slapping. Do you hear it?

Bond can’t afford to flame out at his colleagues too hard, because, much like a certain Federal ex-cabinet minister, he still has to work with these people, no matter how ethically challenged.

The parallel ends there, however; he’s member of an elected council, not of a party. He can’t hand in his card, cross the floor, and still keep his power. It’s a District council, and there’s no aisle to cross. He’d have to climb over the Clerk, and then where’d he be?

But he’s not the only one speaking out. Steven Petersson is a former DNV planner, and not only did he write a Master’s thesis on affordable housing provision, he worked as a residential support worker for disabled people for seven years.

In a recent letter to Mayor Little and his NIMBY cohorts — Councillors Muri, Curren, Forbes and Hanson — Petersson lays it on the line:

There’s a desperate community need for social and affordable housing.

Why put the needs of elites who already have homes over the disadvantaged who need your help?

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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the subject, last night the District of North Vancouver council did what it was expected to with the affordable housing file — continue to sit on it.

Councillors voted along ideological lines, with five votes against two, declining to provide $11,512 in ongoing core funding to CHAC, the housing action arm of North Shore Community Resources.

The non-profit must now pursue alternate funding from the municipality by way of smaller grants, or discontinue plans to tackle affordable housing in 2019.

The qualities of the debate around housing in DNV have become simultaneously evidence-based, emotional, and partisan. This was on full display yesterday, demonstrated by some of the combative words from Mayor Little and other council members in their fight for or against the motion. Here are some highlights/lowlights from a watcher of the broadcast:

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It’s a motion that could be considered a little too on-the-nose.  The District of North Vancouver’s new council — which previously nixed a non-market and seniors housing project in order to preserve a parking lot —has set itself up to vote tonight on whether to grant operating funds to a housing affordability advocacy group.

Development planner Chuck Brook called out the motion in the latest episode of the Price Talks podcast, highlighting the potential for DNV to make yet another decision that not only exemplifies but exacerbates the housing problems on the North Shore.

The Community Housing Action Committee (CHAC), part of the North Shore Community Resources Society (NSCRS), provides “a tri-municipal voice and platform for discussion, sharing of ideas, advocacy, and research into housing affordability on the North Shore”. Like many other volunteer or non-profit groups — such as NS Childcare Resource & Referral, Family Services of the North Shore, or Hollyburn Family Services Society Youth Safe House — CHAC has relied on core funding from the District to fund its research, policy development and outreach activities, all focused on affordable housing advocacy.

Yet at a January 21 council meeting, DNV council passed a motion to review the CHAC funding request of $11,517.

Council has since received a report from DNV’s senior community planner Natasha Letchford, and the debate — and a decision — will likely occur this evening. (Live broadcast begins at 7pm.)

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On Friday, March 1, the Province of BC’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will launch the public engagement portion of their 10-month active transportation strategy, in what could be considered a stealth effort to catch up to years of progress made by municipalities across the south coast.

Public feedback will help identify and prioritize new investments in safe and convenient active transportation infrastructure, education, incentive programs and safety improvements — for modes like walking, cycling, scootering, and skateboarding — for people of all ages and abilities, in communities across the province.

This week, however, as the Ministry encourages stakeholder groups via a widely circulated email to “bring ideas about ways governments can work together to build new infrastructure or better support existing network connections in your community,” news of the strategy and the overall development process is absent from the Ministry’s website.

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