Posts tagged ‘British Columbia’

July 18, 2016

Five cool (environmentally conscious) things about Vancouver

I recently spent a few days in Vancouver, British Columbia. Each time I visit this wonderful city, I am further struck by its positive and inspiring efforts to make sustainable living and alternative energy options a reality. This time around, I stayed in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, where I encountered these five earth-friendly ideas-in-action:

  1. Dedicated streets for cycling. Yup, nestled throughout this busy city, you’ll find a robust network of functional cycling routes designed for bicycle commuters and sightseers alike. Pedal these well-planned routes and you’ll cruise along peaceful, tree-lined, low-traffic streets, complete with bicycle-specific crossing signals at major intersections. Your ears will fill with the gentle whizzing of other bikes coasting nearby as you pedal safely and happily from Point A to Point B — or even 25 kilometres out of town to the Quay Market in New Westminster!
  2. Public petitions to save trees from development projects. While cycling though the Kitsilano and West Point Grey neighbourhoods, I passed several big old trees hung with colourful flags and eye-catching signs. The trees, I learned, stood on properties earmarked for new housing construction. The signs publicized this fact and directed residents to online petitions that they could sign in support of keeping the trees standing. People actively fighting to save trees in their city: the very thought makes my heart happy!
  3. North America’s first waste-water heat recovery system. Walk to the southeast corner of the Cambie Street Bridge and you’ll find five svelte, LED-lit smokestacks rising unobtrusively from below. These mark the Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), which is tucked neatly beneath the bridge. The NEU captures heat from neighbourhood sewage and waste water and transforms it into energy to provide space heating and hot water for almost 400,000 square metres of residential, commercial and institutional buildings. How cool (or hot) is that?
  4. Food isn’t garbage: 2015 organics ban. On January 1, 2015, the City of Vancouver banned food waste from its municipal garbage collection program. Residents now separate organic waste from regular garbage and other recyclables, and dispose of it via municipal green bin programs, private haulers or on-site solutions. My bed and breakfast had a strict green bin program in place for food scraps. And I found a few dedicated food-waste disposal bins on the street outside the Cambie Street Whole Foods Market. Way to go, Vancouver!
  5. Community housing in heritage homes. My guided architectural walking tour of Vancouver’s West End culminated at the Mole Hill Community Housing Society, a 170-unit housing initiative spread across 27 restored heritage homes on Thurlow, Pendrell, Bute and Comox Streets. The homes, several of them listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register, were originally built between 1888 and 1908 and together comprise one of the most intact surviving blocks of pre-World War I housing in the city. These beautifully restored houses have been given new life in this thriving housing project, set as they now are among gardens, green space and a very palpable sense of community pride.
October 17, 2014

Observed on the street: You are here

Here was a great place to be at the moment I was there. Anyone know where this is?

You Are Here

 

October 8, 2014

Observed on the street: It’s all about balance

“It’s all about balance.” I saw this scene at English Bay in Vancouver, British Columbia:

20141006_balance

What’s true in making balanced-rock sculptures is also true in life.

Balance is an art. Achieving balance requires patience and perseverance and a willingness to try and try again, even when things come tumbling down. Balance is a gift to enjoy while you have it. Balance is a mysterious and elusive force — one that often seems to defy the laws of the world around you. Balance (when you find it, or it finds you) makes everything around you beautiful.

February 3, 2014

Observed on the street: Winter in Canada

I know there’s a Jeep under there somewhere . . . .

Photo of a Jeep buried in snow.

And to think that here in Northern British Columbia, where this photo was taken, we’ve had a “low-snow” year!

January 24, 2014

Why I love B.C. — A province of paradox

British Columbia is a lovely land of vast contrasts and elegant extremes. Author and historian Terry Reksten highlights this wonderful incongruity in the following passage from her book The Illustrated History of British Columbia:

Whenever [the first people] came [to British Columbia], [they] found a land of great diversity. A “sea of mountains” with a broad Interior plateau. A land of dripping rain forests and dusty deserts. A land where the annual rainfall can be as much as 813 cm (Henderson Lake on Vancouver Island) and as little as 20 cm (Ashcroft). A land where temperatures can plummet to -58.9°C (Smith River near the Yukon border) and climb to 44.4°C (Lytton and Lillooet). They also found a land of stunning biological diversity. Of the 196 species of mammals found in Canada, 143 make their home in British Columbia. Of the 3,218 plant species, 2,500 are native to the province.

Just another reason why British Columbia is a truly fantastic place to live, explore and protect!

January 6, 2014

If time is a circle, can you live on the edge?

We may not realize it, but the concept of linear time is very much a construct of Western civilization. The idea that a person can physically exist in only one temporal dimension — the present moment — without the ability to move between the past and the future worlds, does not hold sway in many other cultures, where time moves at a different pace or even on a different continuum.

Take, for example, the Haida First Nation living in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), a remote archipelago off the northwest coast of British Columbia. For the Haida, writes author John Vaillant in his 2005 book The Golden Spruce, “time operates more like a spiral, or like the rings of a tree.” Vaillant continues:

There is a saying among the peoples of the Northwest Coast: “The world is as sharp as the edge of a knife,” and Robertson Davidson, [a well-known Haida artist and carver], imagines this edge as a circle. “If you live on the edge of the circle,” he explained in a documentary film, “that is the present moment. What’s inside is knowledge, experience: the past. What’s outside has yet to be experienced. The knife’s edge is so fine that you can live either in the past or in the future. The real trick,” he says, “is to live on the edge.”

It’s an intriguing concept, this idea of time growing outwards like a tree. In this case, time is circular, but the plane is horizontal, not vertical, and the direction of movement is outwards in radial lines from the centre, not in loops around the circumference. Here, the countless “rings” of past life and experience accumulate in the centre of the circle, pushing the present — and the future — ever outwards, but remaining close at hand, consolidated and strong, in case of need. This circle, it seems, would collapse without the foundation of the past to keep it strong; yet the circle would also cease to expand and grow if not for the present moment always moving towards (and into) the future.

As novel as this concept may appear to a linear mind, the Haida perspective does share one thing in common with its Western counterpart — and that is the difficulty of staying in the present moment. The present moment is a knife-edge, says Robertson Davidson; it is easy for a person to slip off that edge into either the past or the future. Whether you slip off that edge in a physical sense or a mental one doesn’t really matter, I’d argue. In the end, the trick is the same:  to live on the edge — not in the sense of embracing risk or pushing boundaries, but in the sense of existing in that hair’s-width space of the present moment.

December 26, 2013

Why I love B.C. – Geography on a grand scale

Everything about British Columbia is big — so big that the province’s physical dimensions, geographic features, cultural diversity and biological plenitude often defy imagination. Author John Vaillant pays fitting homage to the grandeur of this fair land in his book The Golden Spruce:

By any measure, British Columbia is an absolutely enormous place; it occupies two time zones and is bigger than 164 of the world’s countries.* All of California, Oregon and Washington could fit inside it with room left over for most of New England. From end to end and side to side, the province is composed almost entirely of mountain ranges that are thickly wooded from valley bottom to tree line. Even today, it is a hard country to navigate; the drive from Vancouver, in the southwest corner, to Prince Rupert, halfway up the coast, takes 24 hours — weather permitting. There are only two paved roads accessing its northern border, and one of them is the Alaska Highway. B.C.’s coastline — including island and inlets — is 21,000 kilometres long, and all of it was once forested, in most cases down to the waterline. . . . [T]his landscape exudes an overwhelming power to diminish all who move across it.

* There are 196 countries in the world as of this writing. 

October 8, 2013

Why I love (northern) B.C.– Harbingers of snow

Today I heard my first set of studded snow tires crunching down the street.

And I saw my first wisps of wood smoke curling up above the tree tops, evidence of fires burning in wood stoves somewhere below.

Here in Northern British Columbia, winter is most certainly on its way.

September 25, 2013

Why I love (northern) B.C. – Sidewalk art, wildlife style

The walking and cycling path leading to the university in the Northern BC town where I live is littered with muddy moose tracks. Fresh sets, small and large, criss-cross the asphalt each morning after the previous night’s travellers have wandered to and fro. We really do co-exist with the wildlife up here, and it is a wonderful feeling.

April 4, 2013

Why I love (northern) B.C. – A peculiar sign of spring

From a local newspaper in my northern B.C. community:

Spring is in the air.  One way to tell is the number of people you see shovelling snow from their lawns back onto their driveways.

Ha! 🙂

(For those of you who don’t know:  Snow melts faster when it’s spread out in a thin layer rather than piled in huge mounds.  Moving snow from the tall piles alongside your driveway — where you shovelled it during in the winter — back onto your clear driveway surface — where it will melt and evaporate during the day — means that you’ll see your lawn a heck of a lot sooner than you would otherwise!)