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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

STORY BEHIND THE STORY OF EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “There is a special type of courage that Council needs to have to say, ‘give us the naked truth’. There is not a lot of political up-side to shining a light on infrastructure challenges,” stated Christopher Paine, Director of Financial Services, District of Oak Bay


The big picture context for EAP is whether a local government has a strategy for its constructed assets. Success over the long-term depends on local government political commitment to the guiding principles of sustainable service delivery. Bridging the infrastructure funding gap for constructed and natural assets requires an intergenerational commitment. “Lack of a long-term financial plan to support asset management really forces an incremental erosion of the service level. That is why forward looking long-term financial statements are so important to inform Council decisions,” stated Christopher Paine.

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HOW GREEN IS THE METRO VANCOUVER REGION, REALLY: “By improving overall mental and physical health, urban greening also improves people’s resilience against extreme heat and wildfire smoke caused by climate change,” stated Melissa Lem, a family physician and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (August 2022)


A view from space shows how green Metro’s cities really are, and how much green space has been lost to development this century. Vegetation fell most in areas that experienced significant growth and development since 2000. “Research shows that just sitting in nature for 15 minutes can significantly drop cortisol, the primary stress hormone, while sitting on a city street doesn’t improve it at all,” stated Dr. Melissa Lem. “Easy access to trees and green spaces improves a large number of health conditions across the lifespan, including increased physical activity, longer life expectancies and improved pregnancy outcomes.”

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LAND DEVELOPMENT AND WATERSHED PROTECTION CAN BE COMPATIBLE: “1997, a presentation on the science of land use change by Kim Stephens and Bill Derry helped an inter-ministry working group realize that we needed more than a setback to protect aquatic habitat. The science shows that communities also need to tackle what is happening on the land that drains to streams,” stated Peter Law, Chair of the former Guidebook Steering Committee, on the 20th anniversary of Guidebook publication (June 2022)


“I found the opportunity to ‘look beyond the stream’ and address poor water quality from drainage runoff in the Waste Management Act. The opportunity resided in the non-point source provision for Liquid Waste Management Plans. The term non-point source pollution was used by my colleagues in the Waste Management Branch to highlight poor quality of runoff from developed and/or developing lands. But this provision was not being applied to the issue of how land is developed. So, I asked my colleagues, why not use this mechanism to connect the dots between changes to the land and impacts on streams,” stated Peter Law.

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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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