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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large,” stated Lois Jackson, former Board Chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, in her call for action (February 2022)


“Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large. One of the reasons that I ran for office in 1972, and why I served for 20 years as Mayor of Delta, and 7 years at Chair of Metro Vancouver was ‘to make a difference’. One of the first things I did when I became Mayor in 1999 was to introduce our community to caring about of our air, land and water. Many were opposed to this position. But we persevered and, as a result, I believe we have set a good example for stewardship,” stated Lois Jackson.

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THE STORY OF GUICHON CREEK: “Fifty years ago, few people felt that it was worth the trouble or the cost to try and bring degraded urban streams and rivers back to health. I believed very differently and would say, we must try. We can turn around almost anything when there is a will, a plan is in place, and there is commitment,” stated Mark Angelo – conservationist, author of The Little Creek That Could, and founder of BC Rivers Day and World Rivers Day


“I am such a believer in engaging the broader community as best we can. Going back 50 years ago to the 1970s when I was first starting as a streamkeeper, it was a lonely undertaking. Streamkeepers were few in number. One of the great steps forward that I have seen over the decades is that now there are many many streamkeepers and there streamkeeper groups attached to virtually every stream in the Lower Mainland. These volunteers put in thousands of hours, keep an eye on local waterways, profile issues when they arise, and approach local governments to help them deal with and correct those issues,” stated Mark Angelo.

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WHAT IS GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE, REALLY: “Cities are increasingly incorporating ideas for ‘green infrastructure’ into their planning, but what they mean by that can be unclear and inconsistent within and across cities,” wrote Maria Rachal, editor of Smart Cities Dive, in her article about recently published findings from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (January 2022)


City planners often fail to clearly define “green infrastructure,” although they tend to favor hydrological or stormwater concepts in such projects, according to a study by the New York-based Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. The report calls for a clearer and more comprehensive definition as part of a larger project assessing equity in cities’ ecological services. The empirical study is the first of its kind. It is part of a multiyear project assessing green infrastructure’s role as “a universal good.”

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RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: “The sponge city concept marks a transformative change of China’s water management from the engineering-oriented paradigm to a more holistic and nature-based approach, which aims to strengthen the sustainability of the urban water cycle,” wrote Genevieve Donnellon-May, researcher with the Institute of Water Policy, National University of Singapore (January 2022)


“Sponge cities, an integrated grey-blue-green solution for urban water management, are considered a paradigm shift for sustainable urban planning and management in China. Sponge cities seek to reduce the impact of urban surface-water flooding, water shortages, and the consequences of rapid urbanization by promoting water security, water environmental protection, and water ecological restoration. This concept is influenced by the ancient Chinese concept of human-nature harmony,” stated Genevieve Donnellon-May.

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WHY NEW YORK CITY IS UNEARTHING A BROOK IT BURIED A CENTURY AGO: “We need to be coming up with more innovative solutions that will ensure communities are resilient in the face of climate change,” stated Jenny Hoffner, a vice president for conservation strategies for American Rivers (December 2021)


The $US130M plan to daylight Tibbetts Brook would be one of New York City’s most ambitious green infrastructure projects. The brook would be rerouted above ground for one mile — including along a former railroad line that would be turned into a new greenway — before being sent back underground for a half mile in a new dedicated pipe to the Harlem River. “Restored waterways serve as a kind of natural infrastructure in cities, bringing benefits. Building for the storm of today won’t really work anymore,” stated Jenny Hoffner.

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COMMUNICATING WITH PLAIN LANGUAGE IS A GUIDING PRINCIPLE: “What I am trying to discover in my thesis is what are the existing trends in urban stormwater policy within developed cities. One area I am particularly interested in is communication, or the lack thereof,” stated Charles Axelesson, PhD candidate, University of Venice


“A lot of fantastic studies are misinterpreted outside of scientific circles because the language, style and meaning of science writing is very different to non-specialists. With climate change studies, this can lead to a serious disconnect between climate change policy and the supporting research. With other stakeholders also invested in management, good policy is reliant on strong communication of everyone’s interests. I am trying to take these competing voices and understand how these groups’ visions of future stormwater management differ from each other,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: Could ‘Sponge Cities’ Help Us Prepare For Our Flooded Future?


“Extreme weather, a changing climate, and impervious streets and roads have combined to create an urban disaster. All of this has seen cities begin to re-imagine their relationship with water. Rather than just designing systems that allow the water to drain away slowly and stably, they want to harvest and reuse it. This approach to urban design – where water is held in place to be called-upon when needed – is known as the ‘sponge city’, and it is rapidly growing in popularity,” stated Laurie Winkless.

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GENERATIONAL AMNESIA: “Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact,” wrote Richard Fisher, BBC Senior Journalist and member of the BBC Future team of writers (June 2021)


“Can a generation be forgetful? It’s certainly true that older generations can fail to remember what it was to be young. However, that’s not the only kind of forgetfulness that happens as the generations pass. There’s another type that is less obvious, called ‘generational amnesia’, which has profound effects on the way that we see the world. As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world,” stated Richard Fisher.

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“Deepening children’s interaction with nature addresses the issue of environmental generational amnesia. The solution we are putting forward is, in effect, ‘one small interaction with nature at a time’,” stated Thea Weiss, University of Washington


“Nature Language is a term introduced by the researchers as a means of speaking about deep and meaningful patterns of human interaction with nature. Ideas related to ‘big nature’ and ‘nature language’ can help mitigate the problem of environmental generational amnesia. Since lack of interaction with nature has partly caused the problem, deepening children’s interaction with nature is proposed as a way to help solve it. Children’s educational environments –and entire cities — can be designed with this goal in mind,” stated Thea Weiss.

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URBAN GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE STARTS WITH A RAIN GARDEN: “To scale up our response to climate change requires a concerted, connected and collaborative approach to finding a way to work together towards identifying solutions and taking action. This perspective provides the context for an ecosystem of teaching, interdisciplinary professional practice and research that informs the new Green Infrastructure course,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Simon Fraser University


“Every significant innovation results from a magical combination of timing, preparation and luck. So true for the creation of a new online course on Green Infrastructure, or GI, at Simon Fraser University. After several years of promoting the use of rain gardens in communities, including offering workshops, my colleagues and I were delighted when the Adaptation Learning Network, awarded funding for us to develop an online course,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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