Climate Change
July 20, 2020

Free Webinar~Preparing for Climate Change, American Planning Association

American Planning Association’s (APA) Sustainable Communities (SCD) and Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (ENRE) Divisions are asking planners how they prepare to face the climate crisis.

Over 300 members responded to our survey on how planners address climate action, how their jobs are changing due to climate policy, and what assistance, training, or tools planners need.

This webinar presents the survey results, places the Sustainable Communities “climate champions” programs in the context of new policy initiatives and research, and engages participants to contribute to the ongoing effort to build the planning toolkit to meet these new challenges.

Brian Ross, AICP, LEED GA, Program Director at the Great Plains Institute
Jessi Wyatt, Energy Planner & Analyst at the Great Plains Institute
Jim Riordan, AICP, LEED AP, Division Chair of APA’s ENRE Division, SCD Sustainability Champion, and Senior Project Manager at Weston & Sampson
Matt Bucchin, AICP, LEED Green Associate, Division Chair of APA’s SCD Division, Director of Planning with Halff Associates, Inc.

Date: Tuesday  July 28

Time: 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

You can register at this link.


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A gardener’s adage  is “right plant, right place” to ensure that plantings remain and thrive with the right amount of light, exposure and water. One of the more surprising Vancouver trees that survived for ninety years in Kerrisdale was a sequoia that somehow was planted in the 1930’s in the 2300 block of West 41st Avenue. Over the years development on the block was setback in order for the tree to flourish, which it did for many years.

Giant sequoias live in Northern California, Oregon and Washington State  and can grow to nine meters in diameter, and 76 meters high. The biggest Sequoia is known as General Sherman. It stands  a towering 84 meters tall with a 31 meter girth. It is the largest tree on earth by volume.

When the building occupied by Bill Chow Jewellers located at 2241 West 41st Avenue was constructed,  there was some allowance for increase building height due to the positioning of the sequoia.  I could not find the decades old City of Vancouver document which would have referenced that.

Over the decades there have been all  kinds of efforts to maintain this tree, and in the final years it had care by an arborist. Sadly the tree became very stressed at its concreted over  location and  it was taken down in 2019. The huge trunk was carted away by flatbed truck to be milled for eventual reuse as benches in the Arbutus Greenway.

It was intended that the students at Magee Secondary would be making the benches this year, but that would have been delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

As Terry Clark with the Kerrisdale Business Association statedWe intend to affix a modest plaque on the benches to give reference to this once woody sentinel that was at the village’s heart for 90 or more years. It seemed appropriate to me that its heart would remained with the community that was heartbroken at its demise.”

In the interim, the wall behind the tree’s stump has been turned into a blackboard for chalked positive affirmations in the face of the Covid crisis.

And there is news for sequoias too~with climate change, there has been a rethink of what to replace native tree forests with,  when faced with demise by pests (like the mountain pine beetle) or by fire.

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The Pandemic & Climate Change
Can COVID-19 get us to respond to the climate crisis?

City Conversations continues in a live online format while we continue physically distancing!

The international response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that humans can react quickly when their health is threatened. Another great threat to humanity–and to the planet–is climate change. But unlike COVID-19’s immediate threat, most people and governments have been unwilling to take action against a threat whose current impacts may be less apparent. So, is it time to rethink and reframe climate change as a threat to public health?

At this online event, we’ll hear from urbanist and former Vancouver City Councillor Gord Price and economist/entrepreneur Michael Brown, who both contributed to the 1990 report Clouds of Change, one of the earliest civic studies of global warming. Representing a newer generation of climate activists, we’ll also hear from Adriana Laurent-Seibt of UBC Climate Hub and Rebecca Hamilton of Sustainabiliteens.

This event will be hosted online. After you register, you will receive instructions for logging into the online event via email.


Wednesday, June 17

12:00 PM

Hosted online.
Free event | Registration required




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Everyone has been enjoying bluer skies, better views, great sunsets and better air quality with the reduction of vehicular and air traffic during the Covid crisis. ,Mount Everest is visible from the city of Kathmandu for the first time this century, even though it is 240 kilometers away.

In short, air quality has vastly improved in cities during the time of quarantine. BBC News reports that vehicle drivers are also willing to change their behaviour to maintain cleaner air and to be more environmentally prudent.

In Britain the lack of vehicular traffic resulted in a  17%  reduction in carbon dioxide emissions  recorded in  early April. Surface emissions from industry and brake dust were reduced by 43 percent.

In a survey of 20,000 drivers conducted by the British Automobile Association, fifty percent said they were willing to walk more, and forty percent intended to use their car less frequently. Remarkably 80 percent of those drivers surveyed said they would “take some action to reduce their impact on air quality”.

Just as in the national  Canadian survey  conducted by  Mario Canseco,  many Britons expect to continue working from home. While 73 percent  of Canadians expect to continue to  work from home, 25 percent of Britons driving said they would work more often from home, while twenty percent said they would be cycling more.

Edmund King, president of the British Automobile Association stated

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The Public Sector Digest is co-presenting this webinar with the international landscape design firm Arcadis.

Climate change can pose considerable physical and economic risks to local governments. To reduce the impacts of climate change, organizations must seek ways to adapt to the changing climate as well as mitigate their contribution to climate change. PSD has partnered with Arcadis for this webinar to define the importance of integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation. Low carbon resilience (LCR) is an approach that focuses on integrating adaptation and mitigation strategies by reducing vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Experts from PSD and Arcadis will share how local governments can build LCR while maintaining regulatory compliance, financial efficiency, and expected levels of service.

Moderator | Tyler Sutton, General Manager of Research & Marketing, PSD


Erin Orr, Research & Policy Analyst, PSD
Nichole Chan, Sustainability & ESG Lead, Arcadis

Live webinar – Thursday May 21,2020 | 11:00 to 11:30 Pacific Time

You can register by clicking this link.

Images: Medium & Huff Post

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PT: As predicted, the rationale for more driving (and priorizing road space for it) is underway – this one from our own Bob on whether to keep the Beach flow way:


Bob: This Bloomberg article suggests that the last thing we should be doing is removing road space:

…..The auto industry is already seeing a couple of positive signs in this regard. In the first two weeks of April.’s unique visitors bounced back from late-March doldrums. According to a recent survey by the vehicle-shopping website, 20% of people searching for a car said they don’t own one and had been using public transit or ride hailing. They might buy a set of wheels to be safer from a pandemic that could linger well into the year, Chief Executive Officer Alex Vetter said.

“Covid has pushed more people who don’t own a car to consider purchasing one,” Vetter said by phone. “The primary reason given was to avoid public transit and because of a lack of trust in ride sharing.”…

PT: Maybe if we try we can beat our previous record for carbon emissions.

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A totally confident prediction: those opposed to increasing density (any multi-family development), using road space for bikeways and greenways (Granville Bridge changes will be a target), reducing priority for cars (expect another fight over viaduct removal) and priorizing transit (why build SkyTrain extensions) now have a sure-fire argument: density whether in buildings or transit is how disease spreads.

Sprawl is safer.  Cars are safer.  Single-family homes are safer. Anyway, new development, especially the remaining need for workplaces, will be in lower density suburbs if not actually in our homes, but certainly not in concentrated urban centres.

So the last half-century when Vancouver led in designing and building livable high-density, mixed-use, less-car-dependent and more sustainable communities was just a diversion.

Fight the virus by returning to the Sixties!

This is an important debate, not just an argument, especially when governments will be under fiscal stress.  Budget slashing is a great time to reverse the hard-fought progress of what the last three generations of designers, developers, planners and aligned political leaders have achieved in building more livable and higher-density cities, with a priority on transit and active transportation, especially when considering the consequences of climate change.  One need only watch how easily the Trump administration is reversing that progress.

To begin with, let’s first call bullshit on the notion that the Covid virus is less controllable in highrise high-density environments than suburban ones.  Just ask: which cities have been the most successful so far at not only bending the curve but keeping it from escalating in the first place?

These ones:



Hong Kong:






Notice anything in common?


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Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr).

More evidence from the Sydney Morning Herald on how deeply unserious some decision-makers can be, even after declaring a climate emergency and living through a national trauma that validates the urgency.  It is the gap between lack of action and the desire for strategic change that makes this story extraordinary.

The world’s largest coal port wants to transition away from coal – but because of government policy, can’t do it.


The world’s largest coal port State deal blocking world’s largest coal port from fossil fuel exit

The head of the world’s largest coal port says it must transition away from the fossil fuel and diversify Newcastle’s economy before it’s too late, but controversial NSW government policy is stopping it.

As the government worked to improve its climate policy following a summer of drought and bushfires, Port of Newcastle chief executive Craig Carmody said $2 billion of private investment was waiting for the green light to develop a container terminal and move the Hunter away from coal.

However, a once-secret facet of the Baird government’s 2013-14 port privatisation deal – which would force Newcastle to compensate its competitors if it transported more than 30,000 containers a year – could keep the local economy tethered to coal for decades.

Mr Carmody said the port had about 15 years to transition away from the resource, which makes up more than 95 per cent of its exports. He added that a changing climate and struggling regional sector compounded the situation.


Here’s the kicker:

“It doesn’t really matter what governments in Australia want to believe, the money we need to do what we need to do have already made their decisions,” Mr Carmody told the Herald.

“There is a reason why businesses, particularly in the energy space in Australia, are saying, ‘Well, if the government won’t provide a policy direction, then we’re going to go off and do it ourselves’.”



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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 (gordonpriceyvr), 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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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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