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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

CONVENING FOR ACTION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “If we are going to tackle the huge challenge that is the climate emergency, then we are absolutely going to need to work with nature and put aside the idea that we can dominate it,” stated Laura Dupont, President, Lower Mainland Local Government Association


“Salmon brought me a strong sense of community, something I had never really felt before. That came as an unexpected surprise. I felt protective of what we share, and that the next generation deserves it as much as we do. I got political and ran for city council. I talked to everyone who would speak with me and found out that a lot of people shared those values. It was rare to come across someone who didn’t care about the parks and trails and nature we are so fortunate to have right outside our door,” stated Laura Dupont.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: “Floods will always come, but we can build better to prepare. How do we dispose of large volumes of water when they collect in inconvenient places is the question,” – Elizabeth Mossop, University of Technology Sydney


“Traditionally, we have tried to armour rivers and waterfronts with levees, barriers and sea walls to keep all floodwaters out. Increasingly, however, planners, designers and engineers are looking to new approaches. Instead of trying to keep all floodwaters out, we can design landscapes to accommodate the water without damaging cities or farmland. There are many examples around the world of buildings and landscapes where flooding is ‘designed in’,” stated Elizabeth Mossop.

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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN URBAN CENTRES: “Our goal was to design a course to have appeal and applicability for professionals from diverse disciplines seeking to understand green infrastructure’s potential for managing the impacts of urbanization and climate change,” said Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Simon Fraser University


“Whether it’s the community coming together to build rain gardens or adopt catch basins, dedicated volunteer streamkeepers who put in countless hours restoring and protecting important salmon habitat, or government decision-makers and employees enacting policies, everyone has a role to play in advancing Green Infrastructure implementation. There’s more work to be done as we collectively travel along a path to find upstream, proactive solutions to climate change impacts and growing urban centres,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008 / CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES: “In the first year of the Living Water Smart rollout, my lead-off presentation in the inaugural Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series traced the evolution of rainwater and stormwater management policies and practices in British Columbia. This provided a frame-of-reference and a common understanding for subsequent seminars,” stated Kim Stephens, series team leader


“In 2008, the Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series was held in both the Comox and Cowichan valleys. This program was the first step in building a regional team approach so that there would be consistent messaging regarding on-the-ground expectations for rainwater management and green infrastructure in BC. By spreading the curriculum over three sessions, this enabled participants to take in new information, reflect on it, blend it with their own experience, test it, and (we hoped) eventually apply it in making decisions,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: “It strikes me that we have created a new social norm; and it is being accepted by the development community as a whole,” stated BC Environment’s Maggie Henigman during a town-hall session when she commented on changes in rainwater management practice at the second in the Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series


“Since 1996 I have been working across Vancouver Island, both reviewing development proposals and monitoring project implementation. In the last couple of years I have been really pleased to see a huge shift take place in the way projects are being done. As I reflect on the current situation, the change in attitude is really gaining momentum. Everywhere I go I am seeing evidence of the new ethic. It is not that everyone is perfect, but the change is really coming,” stated Maggie Henigman.

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NEW REPORT: “The science is clear— natural infrastructure can provide significant, quantifiable levels of protection for communities from natural hazards, and is often more cost-effective than structural infrastructure,” said Jessie Ritter, Director of Water Resources and Coastal Policy, US National Wildlife Federation (released June 2020)


The report titled Protective Value of Nature summarizes the latest science on the effectiveness of natural infrastructure in lowering the risks to communities from weather – and climate-related hazards – benefits often described as natural defenses. “The use of natural infrastructure for hazard risk reduction has not reached its full potential. This is due, in part, to perceptions that conventionally engineered approaches are always more effective – despite numerous instances when they have failed,” stated Jessica Ritter.

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TREES, HEALTH AND WELLBEING: “The urban forest needs to be designed as a first principle, part of the critical infrastructure of the whole city, not just as a cosmetic afterthought,” wrote Professor Alan Simpson, Leeds Beckett University


“The scale and speed of urbanisation has created significant environmental and health problems for urban dwellers. These problems are often made worse by a lack of contact with the natural world,” stated Alan Simpson. “The creation of urban forests will make cities worth living in, able to function and support their populations: Treetopias. Our urban forest can give us the spaces and places to help manage our mental health and improve our physical health.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2011: “We are challenging those in local government: What do you want this place to look like in 50 years? To get there, you will have to start now. Actions ripple through time,” stated Kim Stephens at the FCM Sustainable Communities Conference held in Victoria, BC


Eight innovators from across Canada shared their breakthrough examples of municipal sustainability in a range of sectors. The format was interactive, which allowed participants to share and learn from each other. “Kim Stephens provided a water perspective, with an emphasis on designing with nature. His takeaway message was that water sustainability will be achieved through green infrastructure policies and practices. There was a great deal of excitement and energy in the room and delegates were very engaged during the roundtable discussion,” stated Azzah Jeena.

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GLOBAL CRISIS REPRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY: “The 2020 coronavirus pandemic may lead to a deeper understanding of the ties that bind us all on a global scale and could help us get to grips with the largest public health threat of the century, the climate crisis,” wrote Arthur Wyns, Climate Change & Health Advisor to World Health Organization


“The global health crisis we find ourselves in has forced us to dramatically change our behaviour in order to protect ourselves and those around us, to a degree most of us have never experienced before. This temporary shift of gears could lead to a long-term shift in old behaviours and assumptions, which could lead to a public drive for collective action and effective risk management. Even though climate change presents a slower, more long-term health threat, an equally dramatic and sustained shift in behaviour will be needed to prevent irreversible damage,” stated Arthur Wyns.

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PREPARE FOR TOMORROW: “When the dust of COVID-19 settles, we should look back at this moment as proof that our societies are not enslaved to fate, and find strength in the demonstrated ability of modern societies to react to global emergencies,” say Eric Galbraith and Ross Otto of McGill University


“Why do we sometimes rely on slow, deliberative, and effortful choices, while at other times we rely on fast, habitual, and reflexive choice? On one hand, making the best possible decision is effortful and time-consuming, but on the other hand, the benefits resulting from deliberative behavior may be small relative to its cost,” wrote Ross Otto. “My research investigates why we sometimes rely on slow and effortful choices, while at other times we rely on fast and reflexive choice.”

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