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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

BLUE AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: Vietnam has been selected as the study location for assessing effectiveness of eco-friendly flood schemes because its low-lying coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change


“In the last few decades approaches to dealing with flood risk in urban areas have typically preferred the adoption of hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts locally and further downstream,” stated Dr. Lee Bosher. “Loughborough University is supporting the work of the University of Stirling in assessing the role of natural capital and ascertaining the added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2013: Massive floods in Alberta and in the Toronto region provided the same kind of wake-up call that B.C. got in 2003, when it was hit by wild fires and drought (article published in the Globe & Mail newspaper, July 2013)


“In Canada, water has surpassed fire to become the leading cause of property damage, and now costs insurers about $1.7-billion a year, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The budgets and stakes are enormous,” wrote Wendy Stueck. “Over the past decade or so, there has been increasing use of so-called ‘green’ infrastructure, which involves using vegetation and soil to disperse rainwater as it falls rather than funnelling it into a storm sewer.”

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Truly Sustainable Cities Are All About Balance: “Smart urban growth hailed by global organizations is not always a smart move for nature,” wrote Vitaliy Soloviy in an article posted by Sustainability Times


“Yet the successes of sustainable cities show that progress is possible. Effective planning and urban governance, as well as a focus on livability, are all essential elements of sustainable cities. Emerging sustainable technologies promise a thrilling future. Still, even the most developed sustainable cities of tomorrow will have a few things to learn from ecovillages and slow cities that have already learned to live sustainably in the now,” wrote Vitaliy Soloviy .

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REALITY CHECK FOR MAINTAINING THE NATURAL WATER BALANCE IN URBAN AREAS: About 5.5% of developed land in the continental United States is covered by impervious parking lots! – a research finding by US Geological Survey


There were more than 275 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2018. Accommodating that number of vehicles requires an enormous network of parking lots, the vast majority of which are made of impervious pavement that rainwater cannot infiltrate. Until now, researchers have been unable to gauge the full extent of impervious parking lot coverage in a scientifically sound way. Findings from the model could be valuable for urban planners and watershed managers as they plan new developments or retrofit existing areas where runoff pollution is a major issue, according to James Falcone of the USGS.

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Researchers Link Climate Change to Urban and Suburban Stormwater Management: “What we design now is in place for 20 or 30 years, so we should design it with future climate conditions in mind as opposed to what the past rain has looked like,” said Dr. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman, University of Maryland


“This work puts emphasis on what’s happening in local upland spaces that has immediate implications for the people who are living in these watersheds for future flood mitigation, but connects this to the broader issues of how increased runoff links to the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” stated Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman. “It is really the bigger rain events where we are seeing things not work as well, and that’s concerning partly because we know that with climate change these more intense events are going to become more common.”

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BROOKLYN CREEK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “The asset that we call Brooklyn Creek watershed stands testament to the power of partnerships and the value derived from those relationships,” stated Al Fraser, Town of Comox, in a session on ‘Beacons of Hope’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (watch on YouTube)


“My story is both a personal and collective journey in keeping with the partnership theme; and ultimately building and nurturing relationships along the way,” stated Al Fraser, Superintendent of Parks. “When I look at the definition of partnership, and put it into the context of how it applies to the Brooklyn Creek storyline, the word that resonates most with me is participation. The participation that we have seen in Brooklyn Creek, and that continues to grow, is quite staggering. What we see today is truly a natural and remarkable community asset. It is loved and cared for by many.”

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MOVING TOWARDS RESTORATIVE LAND DEVELOPMENT: “It is not a sprint. We are in it for the long haul; and we all need to recognize that we are in it for the long haul. I wonder what Ian McHarg would think if he could be with us today, 50 years after he wrote Design with Nature,” stated Bill Derry when he delivered the opening keynote on behalf of Kitsap County’s Chris May, Surface & Stormwater Division Director, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium


The ‘salmon crisis’ in the 1990s was the driver for pioneer research at Washington State University that correlated land use changes with impacts on stream health. The resulting science-based understanding opened the door to the Water Balance approach to rainwater management in BC. “Data are fine, but you must be able to show decision-makers and the public that we are making a difference and being cost-effective with funding,” stated Bill Derry. “You must be able to develop and tell stories. If you can tell stories well, that is how to make the biggest difference.”

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How Ian McHarg Taught Generations to ‘Design With Nature’ – Fifty years ago, a Scottish landscape architect revolutionized how designers and planners think about ecology. His legacy matters now more than ever.


In the introductory chapter, McHarg framed his argument: “Our eyes do not divide us from the world, but they unite us to it…Let us abandon the simplicity of separation and give unity its due. Let us abandon the self-mutilation which has been our way and give expression to the potential harmony of man-nature … Man is that uniquely conscious creature who can perceive and express. He must become the steward of the biosphere. To do this, he must design with nature.”

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CHILDREN’S AFFILIATIONS WITH NATURE: Structure, Development, and the Problem of Environmental Generational Amnesia – studies by Peter Kahn, Professor of Psychology at University of Washington, describe why each generation regards a progressively poorer natural world as normal


How do children reason about environmental problems? Are there universal features in children’s environmental conceptions and values? How important is it that children and young adults experience natural wonders? Finally, what happens to children’s environmental commitments and sensibilities when they grow up in environmentally degraded conditions? The foregoing are questions that are addressed by Peter Kahn in his research into environmental moral conceptions and values. “My research findings articulate what may be one of the most pressing and unrecognized problems of our age – the problem of environmental generational amnesia,” wrote Peter Kahn.

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INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE SALMON: “It is not just about the salmon. It is what that organism represents that is fundamental to how we look at the landscape, especially when the climate is changing,” stated Nick Leone, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate


In embarking on this journey, British Columbians can learn from historical precedents and parallels. In particular, the “salmon crisis” in the 1990s was a game-changer in the way it was the catalyst for green infrastructure practices. A generation later, will lightning strike twice and will the iconic salmon again be the regulatory driver that spurs communities to raise the bar to ‘improve where we live’? “If we are to fundamentally restore or rehabilitate creeksheds, we must first recognize and understand the essential elements that make up a dynamic landscape. It is a system. Act accordingly,” stated Nick Leone.

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