Archive for July, 2009
The June 8th presentation by Dr. Rodney Tolley and Bronwen Thornton is now available on video:
Their talk was the third “Shifting Gears” lecture this last spring.
The obesity epidemic, congestion, pollution, peak oil and climate change are just five of the imperatives that demand we walk more — and walk more often. Yet the barriers to walking have intensified in recent years. This presentation will show how streets around the world are being opened up again to people on foot, with spectacular benefits for our personal health, and the health of our cities, our communities and our children.
These lectures were sponsored by the Bombardier Foundation and the Active Transport Lab at the University of British Columbia and BC Recreation and Parks Association.
Thanks to blogs (and search engines), it’s possible to circulate material that might otherwise get lost on the dusty shelves of archives (or more likely these days, on some deteriorating hard drive). Here, for instance, is a history of SFU’s Continuing Studies Division (of which the City Program is a part).
Of limited interest, perhaps, to most people – but here’s a quick taste, with the rest of the text ‘below the fold’, as they used to say in the dead-tree world of newsprint.
Provenance: Simon Fraser University. Office of Continuing Studies
The Division of Continuing Education was formed in 1971 in order to develop new academic programs and to improve the accessibility of Simon Fraser University to the community. Milton McClaren, Director of the new division reported directly to the Vice-President, Academic.
The original terms of reference for the Division of Continuing Education were very broad as the Senate had given it responsibility for courses of instruction offered at “times other than the usual times, in places other than the usual places, and in ways other than the normal ways.” A few years later the Senate passed a series of motions, which more precisely defined and described the role of the Division and established new procedures for offering and approving non- credit courses.
So which city – Seattle or Vancouver – has the best built environment?
It was the subject of The Great Debate – this year’s annual VIA Architecture Lecture on urban design, hosted by the SFU City Program. (Because the firm that sponsors the lecture is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and because it has offices in both Seattle and Vancouver, it seemed like a good way to acknowledge the occasion.)
Peter Steinbrueck, an ex-councillor in Seattle and an architect, faced off against Vancouver ex-councillor and City Program Director Gordon Price. But with a twist. Each had to argue the merits of the other’s city.
You can see the debate in Vancouver here:
And the Seattle debate here:
The now-online Seattle PI did a short piece – but the best part is the comments. Dozens of ’em, passionately argued. Here’s some coverage in the Province, and Global TV followed up a week later. There was also a pre-debate debate on the CBC.
Who won? As Peter Steinbrueck said, it was really about the merits of two great cities. But the Vancouver audience thought Peter won, and Seattle voted for Gordon’s argument – both by a margin.
Hans Peter Meyer at the Real Estate Foundation is putting out a blog (and the tweets to go with it) on Communities in Transition. He was reporting on last month’s B.C. Land Summit, including interviews with the Foundation’s past executive director Tim Pringle.
Here’s an excerpt from Tim’s observations that captures some of the most intriguing comments by keynote speaker Robert F. Kennedy Jr.:
Tim: what struck me about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presentation was the case he made for how socio-economic transitions happen. His first example was the abolition of slavery in England. When that was being debated the establishment, as it were, raised all kinds of objections. They saw economic decline and poverty as a result. In fact, the opposite happened. When the subsidies that were insinuated into the institution of slavery were no longer in the system, it created all kinds of room for innovation and change. In Kennedy’s view, this had a lot to do with spurring the rate of the industrial revolution.
Another example he gave had to do with computers, personal computers, and cell phones – and the deregulation of carriers of information: they could no longer hold monopolies; they had to allow other providers access to infrastructure. The result, in most cases, has been that the cost of using computers, and computer related services, and cell phones, keeps going down. Everything keeps getting cheaper. And providers find other ways of generating revenues, other than the actual equipment. They make their income from contracts with users, advertising, special services, and so on.
This led to his discussion of energy, and especially carbon-based energy, in America. He thinks this will go through a similar kind of change. He pointed out, for example, that research is showing that 85 square miles of desert could supply – through solar energy collection and technologies – enough energy to supply what the US currently consumes. The only challenge, other than the obvious one of getting people to agree that this should happen, is to have a grid to efficiently move the electricity generated from a location that isn’t very well serviced locally through an electrical distribution network that is in very bad shape in the US today. Canada’s is probably in a similar condition.
His point was that even in the case of oil and coal -the carbon molecule as a source of energy, the potential to change is not insurmountable; in fact, it is likely to be beneficial and a stimulus for new and “green” enterprise.