April 27, 2018

Greenest City Update. Why the Yawn?

Councillor Andrea Reimer has Facebooked this:
Nine years ago today, the Greenest City Action Team made its first recommendations to Council. In the time since then we seen:

  • a 27% reduction in waste
  • 32% reduction in distance driven per person
  • 49% increase in green jobs
  • 42% increase in local food assets
  • 15% reduction in GHGs
  • more than half our residents now walk, take transit or bike.

At 3.9 T person, we have the lowest per capita emissions in North America and we’ve made longer range commitments to ensure we continue to get results on a range of green policy areas including transportation, green economic growth, zero emissions buildings, zero waste, access to nature, clean water, local food and air quality.
Questions: Do people care?  Will this kind of progress even get reported, much less registered in the public mind?  Have we moved on, caring more about housing to the exclusion of other agenda items?
Or do we simply discount progress, focus on the failures, and generally ignore or minimize the positives even as we raise the bar for the future.  Like this email that came in at the same time from Michael Alexander:
Time for Vancouver to leapfrog 50%?

San Francisco sets bold new goal: 80 percent of trips by sustainable modes
Last week, Mayor Mark Farrell announced a new goal to make 80 percent of all travel in San Francisco by a sustainable mode of transportation. That includes walking, biking, public transit, and carpooling. Having exceeded our former goal of 50 percent sustainable trips, San Francisco is well-poised to achieve this new goal—and we look forward to helping the city get there.
The new 80 percent goal supports another major pledge the Mayor made during Earth Month: committing San Francisco to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Learn more about San Francisco’s carbon reduction efforts.

I should clarify the purpose of the post (and why I changed the title.)
The Greenest City initiatives were an example of a government setting out priorities, establishing both vision and goals, and committing to a timeline. And then doing most of what it said it wanted to do – sometimes beyond the expectations of both advocates and critics.
The response? As far as much of the media and public: yawn. Too often Instead: cheap cynicism.
Critics are dismissive. Advocates raise the bar. Some give a quick acknowledgement and then move on – to the failures, the inadequacies, the missed opportunities.
It’s as though the achievements are inconsequential or inadequate to deal with more urgent matters.
This is not helpful at a time when we need positive examples and reinforcement to tackle the challenge, in particular, of climate change. The celebration of success is not unwarranted if earned; it’s essential if hope is to be maintained and continually renewed.

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  1. Some people care. Many don’t and are consumed with daily commute / traffic jams,, studying / getting their degree, raising kids in a very expensive region with zero government help or with high housing costs in general.
    Some are lucky enough to have a generous salary and benefits at a cushy low risk government job and bike to work, from a rent controlled apartment rented 25+ years ago or in a house they bought 20+ years ago. Perhaps those are the ones marketing this green nirvana to the world at large that is not so lucky as they are?

  2. It was a personal Facebook post on my personal Facebook page looking back fondly on what happens when one sets goals and pursues them. If you’d prefer not to get personal updates (and I am very much imagining most of my personal updates don’t warrant a blog post) you may want to unfriendly me check out my political page where you can find issues of direct public relevance. Have a great day.

  3. Thomas, as President Marcon of France told Donald Trump on his recent visit regarding America’s failure to sign the Paris agreement on climate change: “There is no Planet B.”

    1. Let’s not confuse clean energy or a clean environment with socialist wealth redistribution by ever larger governments, please !

      1. Let’s not confuse doing the right thing with socialist wealth redistribution, please! It’s the “right” that has fumbled this ball but not because they are right.

      2. Evidence-based appraisals of geo-political realities shows that ‘socialist’ gov’ts are doing a better job on clean energy and a clean environment. Let’s not confuse personal prejudice against whatever it is that you hate about socialism (not enough powerless workers to grind down on payday I suspect) with actual results in the real world.
        The more capitalist the country, the worse its environmental record. No better examples than the USA and its toadying little brother to the North.

        1. The environment in Canada and US is one of the best in the world exactly because it is not socialist, but market oriented democracies. Environmental practices in Russia, China, Cuba, South America or Africa are better why ? The Pacific plastic patch surely is not created by US or Canada, is it?
          How many more Europeans move to US or Canada vs the other way around? Is EU better, with their declining population, excessive taxation, massive debt, even bigger government, massive social housing slums, diesel oriented car & truck fleet & almost no EV pickup ?
          Will the new socialist sheriffs in town create more affordable housing and public transit, or just higher taxes, more debt and a weaker economy? Will they finally treat their capital city sewage before they pump into the ocean? Will car tolls or congestion pricing actually reduce congestion or make for an even more unjust society of pinning urban biking elites on government salaries & pensions vs sub-urban blue collar commuters with lower private sector wages?

        2. North American environment’s health is largely a result of population being low until a few hundred years ago. We’ve sure been making up for lost time.
          And even with that, we don’t register as champions of sustainability at present. Don’t even crack the top twenty. It’s this disconnect between perception and reality that hobbles real progress on environmental health in Canada. Don’t spread bad info.

        3. Our environment is cleaner than some of those places because we exploit their lax environmental, social and working standards. We export our pollution by getting them to make our cheap stuff as cheaply as possible. This is not something to be proud of Thomas. We should be taking responsibility for the amount of pollution that comes from our consumption no matter where it emanates from.
          We happen to be rich by dumb luck. We happen to be relatively powerful by the wealth that came from an historical anomaly. It won’t last. Just look to the south and see what kind of clown becomes president because Asia supposedly took away all the blue collar work.

        4. Thomas – Wow! That’s quite a rant! The first two paragraphs can be easily rebuffed, but then you write:
          “…or make for an even more unjust society of pinning urban biking elites on government salaries & pensions vs sub-urban blue collar commuters with lower private sector wages?”
          I don’t even know what that means. “urban biking elites”? I’m sure you can do better.

        5. Are we now using two of the most anti-immigrant countries in Europe, Finland and Norway, as a model for Canada ?
          The very fact that we allow loads and loads of folks to come here and improve their living standards means we create more environmental impact than them staying in the slums of Africa, China or the Philippines. My god, they might even make enough money to buy a car or a decent condo or house, rather than staying in a mud hut or a 200 sq ft apartment in an urban slum. Of course they will produce more GHGs. And we pretend that Canada needs to lower it? Where are the carbon sink ie forest stories, btw? Canada is probably one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. To wit: look out your window to the north shore & beyond .. 3000 km of forests going north ..
          Biking urban elite .. well the current mayor comes to mind and this 1300+ $100,000+ employee club at city hall http://thebreaker.news/news/city-hall-lucre/ . The $60,000/yr secretary or $75,000/yr plumber or $40,000 waitress/gaffer/stewardess needs to move further out, say to Langley or PoCo or Delta and commute in. Biking not an option for them.
          Everyone loves the city and it’s “Greeness” but the attraction comes at a hefty price. A playground for the affluent. Normal wage earners need to move further out. Tough to change this now although ample lip service is paid by the numerous aspiring city hall politicians or the new provincial government hanging in by the tiniest of margins, a one seat majority … but bending the needle will be tough to likely impossible in Vancouver. Only if we redefine “Vancouver” as the MetroVan region will we get more affordable housing. I’d say 25-33% of all new housing has to be 10-50% below market rental. All of them, starting with 4-plexes. Where is this discussed here on pricetags? A $1 toll on a bridge won’t suffice, or elimination of gas for hot waterby 2020. It’s green lip stick.

        6. Thomas – Re forests as carbon sinks – You mean the ones that got burnt last summer? The fires contributed way more CO2 than the surviving trees captured. This is one example of a global warming feedback loop. And we are now seeing Wildfire 2.0 – namely the washouts and flooding that are now only starting to happen. I predict a big Fraser flood as well. We either pay a small price now to reduce our GHG emissions of an incalculable cost further down the road. It is our choice and I praise CoV for taking a lead. And yes – more cycling is part of the program even for people in suburbia who should be provided with decent walking and cycling to transit hubs.

        7. Thomas – the article you mention is an opinion piece and totally devoid of factual information. It is quite easy to ask Professor Google to obtain factual information. For example, http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pubwarehouse/pdfs/27501.pdf
          This shows that Canada chose not to include forests in calculating net GHG emissions because they are very likely to be a carbon source. This is particularly true recently due to the huge wildfires. As a result it is even more urgent that we reduce our emissions much more rapidly. Carbon levy should be $200/tonne and tar sands need to be shut down very soon.

        8. Trees are a carbon source now, eh ? Pine beetles may have made a difference for a few years but the math is flawed not counting its billions of CO2 absorbing leaves.
          Neither $200/ton nor oil sands shutdown will happen in our life time. In fact we will see a pipeline and oil tankers to Asia in the 2020s after more consultation and concessions re ocean spills.
          Oil is far too important a resource for the world and as a tax generator by the billions that even socialists in power like to tap into it for their many many social programs like schools, hospitals, transit, universities, homeless shelters, policing, roads, pensions etc .. The $s collected by both Ottawa and via, redistribution all provinces in Canada is just far too large to tamper with it: CPP, EI, GST, federal corp taxes, federal personal incomes taxes .. plus royalties, land sales or provincial income taxes are massive.

        9. “Are we now using two of the most anti-immigrant countries in Europe, Finland and Norway, as a model for Canada ?”
          No. don’t move the goal posts. You made a claim that market economies are the reason for environmental friendliness. That is what you wanted to discuss. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Leave your anti-immigration rants for some other website please.

  4. Post

    I should clarify the purpose of the post (and why I changed the title.)
    The Greenest City initiatives were an example of a government setting out priorities, establishing both vision and goals, and committing to a timeline. And then doing most of what it said it wanted to do – sometimes beyond the expectations of both advocates and critics.
    The response? As far as much of the media and public: yawn. Too often Instead: cheap cynicism.
    Critics are dismissive. Advocates raise the bar. Some give a quick acknowledgement and then move on – to the failures, the inadequacies, the missed opportunities.
    It’s as though the achievements are inconsequential or inadequate to deal with more urgent matters.
    This is not helpful at a time when we need positive examples and reinforcement to tackle the challenge, in particular, of climate change. The celebration of success is not unwarranted if earned; it’s essential if hope is to be maintained and continually renewed.

    1. Gordon, thank you for the post and your comment. It is not in your nature to “whine” about certain political realities, but you have in your time communicated very well the real difficulties of the art of the possible. Positive political achievements are missed, or don’t get their due. Mistakes back to the mists of time are dredged up for eternity.
      The results in your post read like something from a successful business organization, setting and achieving SMART goals. The mainstream media would never celebrate these results, thank you for sharing.

    1. Nine years ago – 2009
      Total Number of Registered Vehicles in Metro Vancouver 2001 – 1,443,717
      Total Number of Registered Vehicles in Metro Vancouver 2016 – 1,632,402
      source, Metro Vancouver.
      An increase of 13%.
      Meanwhile, we read this in February: StatsCan’s population estimates for sub-provincial areas, released Tuesday, show that Vancouver saw a net 9,926 people leave its census metropolitan area — which encompasses Metro, an area that stretches from Lions Bay to Langley — between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, and settle in other areas of the province. The migration losses were most pronounced among those aged 25-64 years and children under 18.
      There are more vehicles, less people.

      1. If you look at the increase in vehicles registered in Metro Vancouver over 15 years, then look at the increase in population over 15 years. 13% in vehicles, 24% increase in population (from 1,986,965 to 2,463,461). If you look at the change in households in Metro Vancouver over those 15 years it’s a 27% increase – (from 758,710 to 960,895).
        And if you’re going to use the Vancouver Sun as your source of Statistical data, at least read to the end of the article. “Even as Metro Vancouver lost residents to other areas in B.C., it saw “sustained population growth” overall, due to a high rate of international migration. A total of 31,541 people migrated to Vancouver from other countries in 2016-17.

    2. The Greenest City Action Plan doesn’t use journey to work data. It uses annual survey data from Vancouver residents about chosen transportation modes and distances travelled.
      It surveys city residents because it’s a City of Vancouver goal, and how the population of the rest of Metro Vancouver travel isn’t within the City’s power to control. They can be influenced a bit by adding more opportunities to use non-car modes within the city.
      Journey to work data for 2016 for City of Vancouver residents shows 45% drive to work, down from 55.1% in 1996. For the rest of Metro Vancouver, in 1996 76.8% drove to work, and in 2016 that was down to 71.4%.

      1. translation:
        If the existing standard statistics don’t fit your storytelling, make your own (*)
        Intra city Journey to work by car is 45% in 2016 according to ChangingCity.
        it was 48% in 2006 and 52% in 1996 according to StatCan.
        It seems to take lot of spin to explain that the Greenest City Action Plan has been more effective than Business as usual in that matter.

  5. Probably the best thing about it is that other places can look at Vancouver as an example to pattern themselves after.
    The entire world knows that the path we followed in the past is harmful and cannot continue. There is inertia in any change so things are taking time. If someone is in another place and advocating for a green initiative and there is opposition and fear of change they can point to Vancouver and say “See. They did it and they’re fine”. then they can hopefully get something done.

  6. Voony – Your post shows that the mode share for commutes by car into the city has dropped even quicker than commutes within the city. Cycling/walking has doubled! We must be doing something right.
    Do you have number for commutes out of the city?

    1. yes it is a good trend, but my post shows the evolution between 1996 and 2006: but what the “Greenest city action plan”, which got introduced only circa 2010, has to do with that?
      could it had make the trend even more dramatic? not really:
      so nothing special to celebrate with the latest administration. That is the point.
      don’t have number for commutes out of the city . usually we face a real paucity of indicator.

      1. ◾a 27% reduction in waste
        ◾32% reduction in distance driven per person
        ◾49% increase in green jobs
        ◾42% increase in local food assets
        ◾15% reduction in GHGs
        ◾more than half our residents now walk, take transit or bike.

      2. You don’t have a number for the journey to work by car within Vancouver – or not from my comment. Statistics Canada have only published Metro Vancouver data for flow – showing where people start and end their journey – by mode. They have published data on mode used to travel to work by residents of each municipality – that’s where the 45% proportion driving comes from for the City of Vancouver’s residents. (It’s down from 55% twenty years ago). But that’s all residents working anywhere – there are no published data that I can find on residents who live and work in the city.

  7. I’ve just downloaded the data for how City of Vancouver residents who work in the city get to work in 2016. (It’s Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-400-X2016329 for anyone who wants to check other municipalities).
    I’m not sure how you classified passengers in your 1996 and 2006 data, but assuming you combined them, then 52% were in cars in 1996, 48% in 2006, and only 37% in 2016. That’s a significant drop – in fact the 68,820 people in cars is less than the 70,000 you show twenty years earlier. (34% were drivers, and 3% were passengers).
    32%, took transit, 59,620 people, so a significant increase on the 40,000 in 1996, and 4% more than in 1996 or 2006. Almost as many either walked or biked – 55,325, pretty much double the 1996 number, and 30% of the total commute trips within the city.
    For the residents who work in the city, hat’s a pretty significant shift to transit and active forms of transportation, and away from cars. Unlike many other municipalities, a high proportion of Vancouver residents work in the city – in 2016 it was 70%, almost unchanged over twenty years.

    1. But in the same time the population of the CoV increased by almost 100,000 people. That makes an increase in the amount walking or biking by 26k and transit by 15k seem less impressive. Fewer people working at all it seems, bearing out the Resort City label.
      Without meaningful data on those from out the city, the stats are petty much worthless. If indeed a huge number of working people have been forced out of the city by high prices then the city is missing a huge and important data set.

  8. April 30, 2018
    The view from Hope is crystal clear. On a hot day you can ride the thermals up high in a sailplane, trace the course of the mighty Fraser River, watch the lazy trains snaking their way along with loads of silver and gold ore, and black coal bound for Delta Port. You can see out on the horizon container ships, bulk carriers, log haulers, new car transporters, cruise ships and ferries bound for Washington State. You can trace the Trans Canada Highway all the way to the turn off to YVR where swarming Boeing 747’s spiral up and down on their way beyond the bubble formed by the horizon line in 360 degrees.
    Ever since the last ice age when the mountain waters started flowing there has been a great commotion down there where the Fraser River meets the Salish Sea. There is a different sort of commotion going on now down there and at every port city around the globe, it is one that is changing the biosphere. We have evolved so it seems, we are still sentient beings but fast becoming cyborgs ruled by AI which does not give a whit about natural human beings.
    I love my sail plane. It is elegant and sleek. It is an eagle of my own making. It takes me to places where I have never gone before, places where the view is crystal clear.
    The message from Hope, Jackie Dawn, Detective.

  9. Ultimately it is land planning that makes the biggest difference. I think of the Sim City zoning in so many areas – like Renfrew station – home to a big office park, but what if anyone wants to live within walking distance of their job in this office park next to a skytrain station – nothing but 2mn+ single family homes as far as the eye can see.

  10. Vancouver is home to Greenpeace. Vancouver has a long and proud history of environmental activism. Many of the Councillors that enacted the SEFC Policy Statement over ten years ago came out of the environmental movement. At the time these policies were the most forward looking ones to be found anywhere. They helped to secure the 2010 Winter Olympics. That event helped to disseminate these new ideas all across the globe where they became a blueprint for many other cities, and a foundation for future policy development everywhere.
    Now here we are a decade later and happy with our progress, and we should be. But we are talking about a very tiny place of our making on the surface of a much larger planet. We need to understand our humanoid impact beyond our borders. Our ancestors bequeathed to us a natural world that sustains our biological being. This present generation is busy squandering our common inheritance.
    The petty arguments that often appear here on PriceTags are very disheartening. They drive away enlightened discourse. I hope that the “new guy” can find a way to manage the discussion beyond the “comment deleted as per editorial policy” statement.
    I have all these ideas on good authority, as for myself I am merely Jackie Dawn, Detective.

    1. Hi Jackie – thanks for your comments. I haven’t yet had much time to keep up with all comment threads, but per our Comment Policy, there are some comments that may be beyond disheartening and violate the spirit and principles of this policy. These comments will often be removed.
      All posts merit open and honest discussion, and while some may be snippy or exhibit some of the author’s emotional response to an opposing opinion, we hope this is not so disheartening as to drive you away. While I will not attempt to mediate discussion – we want to encourage open discourse – I may add in my own opinion in an attempt to balance out a debate or show another perspective.
      Price Tags authors have the ability and are given responsibility to moderate comments, and use their judgement in adhering to our Comment Policy. I welcome feedback on this.

      1. Roger that Colin.
        I have a few follow up questions.
        In the interests of open discussion, I am curious to know the intention behind the revised format, namely the short list of 5 recent posts, and the short list of 5 comments where before there was 15(?) or so. Being a detective by nature I observe that it is now virtually impossible to follow a particular commenter and therefore to follow a discussion beyond the five recent posts. This is important because a particularly respected commenter may appear infrequently and then easily missed with this new format. This makes it rather unproductive to write a comment at all. In addition, “re-blogged (5 or more) posts by Sandy” completely obliterate the record (no offence Sandy as I know this is your process). This all seems counter productive to open discussion.
        I am also curious to understand why “Mortgage Slaves” from Jan. 29, 2018 appears on the most liked list since it only received one like some three months ago.
        Something wrongme thinks.
        Jackie Dawn, Detective

        1. Hi Jackie,
          Good sleuthing. The intention behind minor changes to the website interface is to improve the user experience – generally, less scrolling and smaller blocks with more relevant information = better. However, we do want to provide effective search/navigation features to serve our visitors, within reason. (A planned site upgrade will provide better search and way-finding functions).
          How many “recent” are enough? It’s subjective – you prefer 15, we’re trying 5 for now.
          There are other ways to find content from the distant or recent past. You can easily opt-in for updates (new comments on posts or replies to your comments), or use our Search function for keywords on specific issues covered in past blog posts – especially helpful if you want to revisit favourite comments/commenters.
          Lastly – I’ll suggest the primary intention of comments is to engage on a specific issue, not wth other commenters generally, as it tends to get off-topic and into personal exchanges. If you want to follow a particular commenter, Twitter may be better suited to your purpose. Many PT commenters and authors use their real names and can be found there. Others, like yourself, do not; hence, I think we first need to all agree what we mean by open discussion.
          P.S. “Mortgage Slaves” from Jan. 29, 2018 appears on the most liked list because it is one of the most liked posts of all time. It’s only one measure of quality and engagement, and certainly not the best; I appreciate your dedication to spotting new features and welcome more feedback as we go forward.

  11. It was the first day of May when I heard the radio call: “May Day, May Day……………At first I thought Jackie was kidding around like usual…………” Gravity has got a hold on me,” he shouted frantically …… “tail spin……broken wings, going down…….” “Dam it Jackie I am about to give birth, pull the chute, pull the chute.” The radio crackled with static. “I love you Billy Jo, I surely do………….”
    I must have fainted. No one could explain anything. It was a shocking accident and it brought on the birth of our daughter. I named her Jackie Hope.
    The skater boys down at the Ovaltine Cafe organized a wake. Lots of people showed up along with some strangers I had never met. I wore a black dress and veil, swaddled up our baby girl in bright white muslin.
    A fellow wearing a bow tie was the first one to speak. “If I had known that he was an immigrant I wouldn’t have said all those terrible things about immigrants. This is a real lesson about how important every human being with a name is, even if they are fictional”, and then he sat back down. Then somebody who I did not recognize stood up, “He caused me a great deal of consternation. He was tenacious. He was truthful and I had to respect him for that, even if I could not agree with him. I will miss him. He made me question my thoughts.” A voice from the back of the café volunteered this thought: “I have to respect his architectural sensibilities being that I am in the trade, but we had a big disagreement about demolishing houses, I didn’t know he was homeless sometimes. Jeeze, why did he waste money flying around in a sailplane? Sorry for your loss Mrs. Dawn.” Then came Fingers, who admitted that he had stolen far too many bikes, and out of respect he would start stealing other things instead. “People need to get around on the pedals”, he said, “and it’s just not fair to rip them off.” “He was passionate about saving the viaducts, I will grant him that,” said a guy wearing a bike helmet.
    A very distinguished gentleman said, “I gave him my card when I first started out. He asked me what a blog was. I never heard anything from him for the first five years, then he started writing comments now and then, experimenting with humour and the art of writing, getting used to being knocked around by others. I guess that’s how he learned to be very precise with words. He refined his writing craft as time went on. He was an artist filled with curiosity and given to intellectual exploration more than anything else and a passionate environmentalist to boot. That he was. He could see things far out on the horizon, things yet to come. He led a double life. Not many people know that. He disliked the bickering that sometimes flares up on PT so he reinvented himself, gave himself a new name, let his alter ego have the floor, people could not find a way to argue with Jackie Dawn, it was pure genius as far as I am concerned. Out of respect I am going to see to getting a permanent marker for him, ‘Bicycle City’ on the sidebar for everyone to see. It was one of his best pieces as far as I am concerned. Maybe ‘Idea House’ too, it’s historical you know, started the trend of factory housing in the city and in the small towns across the Province.………
    A guy named Ken said, “I like taking photo’s as some of you might know. I think he appreciated my work because sometimes he tried writing poetic commentary in response, poetry, but frankly, he wasn’t much of a poet …… he was far better with prose.”
    Beans Johnson was on his meds and did a thoughtful recitation about, what else? Numbers. “Everybody has so many weeks he said, and then ‘your number is up’ as they say, as sad as that is, as we gather here today. So it is wise to set aside a few days to think about how you are going to use your weeks…………are you going to spend them trying to win petty debates and playing wack-a-mole? ……….. are you going to try something big and legendary like saving the planet?……….somebody does need to do that…Amen”, he whispered, “I am running out of time…………………” There followed a long silence.
    I felt I had to say something so I stood up with little Hope in my arms, “He was the love of my life. Thank you all for the flowers and for paying your respects.”
    Mrs. Billy Jo Dawn

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