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What's Your Version of Vancouver as 'Greenest City'?

Eight experts cut through the rhetoric. You can, too, at Thursday's free Spur event.

By David Beers 19 May 2014 |

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

Vancouver as World's Greenest City by 2020. It's a lofty goal, set by the city's mayor and his party, and we'll hear about it a lot more as November's civic election approaches.

But what does "greenest" mean? How will we know when we get there? What would it feel like to live in so green a city? Would people of all incomes in all corners of the city have access to the benefits? Would green turn brown at the city's borders? And how does a port city that acts as throughput for oil, coal and other greenhouse gas growing products get to make such a bodacious brag?

Those are some of the issues we'll be exploring Thursday evening when I have the privilege of moderating a fascinating range of thinkers and doers tackling sustainability issues related to Vancouver. The free event, "This City in Seven Years: My Greenest City," is part of the multi-city Spur Festival produced by the Literary Review of Canada.

We'll be keeping it provocative, fast-paced, and audience interactive, as eight diverse panelists quickly sketch out their version of Vancouver as "my greenest city."

Then we turn to audience members to contribute their own answers to the proposition: "Vancouver will be my greenest city when... "

Think of this less as a gabfest, more as what designers call a charrette -- a collaborative attempt to create something new in a limited space of time, each participant lending his or her special expertise and insights.

By evening's end, we hope to have created a robust list of criteria for Vancouver as greenest city -- which we will then publish on The Tyee, moving the conversation here so that any who can't attend will be able to add their own voices.

A range of ages and perspectives

Here is the lineup of Thursday evening's speakers who will speak briefly to a single projected image they have selected to represent their top requirement for making Vancouver truly "greenest."

Michael Ableman, author and urban agricultural pioneer, founder of the Sole Food Street Farms project in Vancouver.

Geoff Dembicki, Tyee reporter, a 20-something whose quest to answer his generation's question "Are we screwed?" lately has landed him with green economy thinkers in Beijing, New York and Washington, D.C.

Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, a major player in the transformation of the heart of Vancouver's public realm.

Sadhu Johnston, Vancouver's Deputy City Manager, formerly chief environmental officer for the mayor of Chicago, where he pioneered environmental programs, strategies and regulations.

Mitra Mansour, designer and founder of Creative Room, a collaborative studio and research lab for cooperative creative studio business. She helps steer Vancouver Design Nerds and volunteers for Architecture for Humanity, Women in Architecture, and Laboratory of Housing Alternatives.

Christine McLaren, freelance journalist, lead researcher for the 2013 book Happy City about the emerging science of happiness and urban design, and co-author of an interactive online glossary and book series, Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends.

Gordon Price, director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, former Vancouver city councilor and board member of Translink and Metro Vancouver, winner of numerous urban planning awards, and columnist for Business in Vancouver.

Christianne Wilhelmson, executive director of the Georgia Strait Alliance, which works to protect and restore the marine environment and promote the sustainability of Georgia Strait, its adjoining waters and communities, the place where 75 per cent of British Columbians live, work and play.

That's eight people with quite the wide range of ages and specialties -- many entry points into the question at hand. See them picture their ideal future, hear their perspectives, then lend your own. I hope you will join us and add your "my greenest city" criteria to the list of "truly greenest" criteria we create together this Thursday, May 22, at 7 p.m. at the David Mowafaghian Cinema, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, in the Woodwards Building at 149 W. Hastings Street.

"This City in Seven Years: My Greenest City" is co-sponsored by SFU Public Square and The Tyee.

For more details on this free event, click here.

Oh yes. This is but one of 10 interesting events mounted by the Spur Festival in Vancouver from May 22-25. Find out more about them here.  [Tyee]

Read more: Environment

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