In Hindu tradition, the cosmic dance of Shiva symbolizes the cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death — a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy (creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion). While aiming to be the world’s Greenest City by 2020, Vancouver demonstrates some of these very concepts — and contradictions.
The River District (East Fraser Lands) is a current example, unfolding before our very eyes. Our fresh photos from “The Crescent” district (light green, upper centre in right image) of one of the largest developments ever approved in Vancouver depict what was a previously a forested area that recently saw “destruction.” It was scraped entirely clear of all topsoil and signs of life, in order to make way for the “creation” of a sustainable community.
The “before” aerial view here (left, credit City of Vancouver) shows lush forest. The planned “after” image (right, credit River District Vancouver) shows what developer Parklane and housebuilding Polygon Homes have planned for this site. In governmental decisions, do creation and preservation of the natural environment still come second in priority after destruction, required to meet the demands of urban development?
On July 21, 2014, the Vancouver Park Board adopted the “Rewilding Vancouver” plan, an inspiringly-written 66-page report with 49 actions for the next five years to develop a catalogue of available community resources and information on 28 identified biodiversity spots in the city that should be maintained and protected. That’s great.
In the preface, Park board commissioner Niki Sharma writes, “This work is ultimately inspired by the resiliency and beauty of the natural world that finds spaces to thrive even in the harshest urban environments.” In the foreword, J.B. Mackinnon writes, “We must care for the natural world… In Vancouver we have the opportunity to become not only the greenest but also the most ecologically literate city on earth: a model for the world… Yes, Vancouver has suffered de-wilding… Yet in these pages there is cause for optimism… By rewilding Vancouver, we will create a city that is not only more resilient, but also more exciting, more fascinating, more magical to live in—wilder in every sense of the word.”
Inspiring words, and Rewilding Vancouver is indeed a great action plan. But there is a flip side. Some say Vancouver is engaged in greenwashing. See “Greenest City” mostly greenwash, by Elizabeth Murphy, in Common Ground.
The media support the Greenest City image, and people love to hear about it, but how often do people get to learn about the other side of reality. Is it swept under the carpet? Are mainstream reporters and media doing their jobs right? By selective attention, are media helping create an illusion? How many reporters will cover the back side of the River District story? And is the construction industry also creating illusions? (The notification board for the logging operations at the East Fraser Lands was strategically placed at a quiet spot on Kent Avenue that ensured it would get minimal notice.)
In Vancouver perhaps we are witnessing the cosmic dance of Shiva — creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion — albeit in a different sequence. Vancouver is a microcosm of the world. Perhaps what we see here is symptomatic of what goes on everywhere. Something to think about as we consider planetary health and the human future. Yes, as J.B. Mackinnon wrote, “In Vancouver we have the opportunity to become not only the greenest but also the most ecologically literate city on earth.” Yes, bring it on!
Rewilding Vancouver: From Sustaining to Flourishing. An Environmental Education and Stewardship Action Plan for
the Vancouver Park Board. Download the entire 66-page report, plus staff presentation, from the 21-July-2014 agenda page for the Park Board. Highly recommended and inspiring reading. http://former.vancouver.ca/parks/board/2014/140721/index.htm
“‘Rewilding Vancouver’ aims to make city greener,” by Christopher Cheung, Vancouver Courier, 1-Aug-2014.
River District Vancouver web page about sustainability: http://www.riverdistrict.ca/about-here/sustainability/
Excerpt: River District is literally laying the groundwork for a sustainable community. A comprehensive rainwater management plan will improve the purity of the water that returns to the Fraser. With the health of the river in mind, the foreshore is being reconstructed to improve fish habitat. Throughout the site, green space is being utilized to offer habitat for songbirds that live near the water.
Previous coverage on CityHallWatch, including review of the consultation/approval stage of River District: River District Vancouver (East Fraser Lands): Large forested area was clearcut, development proceeds. https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/clearcut-east-fraser-lands/