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  • 04 Apr 2016 1:14 PM | Karla Olson

    SPEC just received a small, but significant grant, to start the Environmental Elders Engagement Initiative, or the SPEC Elders Project, for short. In a recent interview on CBC, David Suzuki, considered one of Canada’s most dedicated defenders of the environment, spoke about his determination to awaken elders to the power of their wisdom role in society. (David Suzuki Turns 80, Reflects On Eco-Morality And Mortality, The Current)

    "Happy Belated Birthday to David Suzuki who turned 80 on March 24, 2016."

    In 1971, David Suzuki was SPEC vice president. As we embark on the SPEC Elders Project, we invite him to consider himself a SPEC elder by virtue of his amazing contributions and guidance he has offered all of us.

    In April 2012, he spoke about withdrawing from the Suzuki Foundation in order to speak out as an elder. While he’s seen as a passionate advocate, there’s a growing quality of unyielding frankness and wisdom that comes from this new role, which he refers to as the most important time in his life.  In the interview, he says that he is no longer trying to build a career, get a job or promotion, chase money or power, or play any other role than to freely speak his mind and share his wisdom. He says that he sees it as a responsibility of elders to troll through the successes and failures and to share from their hard learned/life earned wisdom, to speak truthfully from the heart.

    As a board member with SPEC, I was so grateful to hear this interview, as it fits so well with our initiative.  For me, I would like to encourage other seniors to reclaim their elder wisdom, to shift their priorities and recover this dignified role in society as “wise elders.”  Suzuki tells us to, “get off the golf course and get off our doffs and get on with the most important time in our lives!” I noticed, as I’ve aged, more and more conversations with retiring friends are travelogues.  I’m not against travel and pleasurable hobbies. But, is it not more rewarding and important to carve out a role of support and encouragement to younger generations?  They’re facing anxious choices and daunting odds and we have something to offer that is unique to our age – a long lifetime lived, which is not guaranteed, making it even more valuable to share.

    A friend recently told me a life lesson learned was to “stay in the process and let go of the outcome.”  That is an example of elder wisdom, in my view.  Suzuki’s response to those who say we’re doomed  is, “What the hell is that! If you really think it’s too late, then shut up and go away.  We’re going to fight right to the end!”  And the end can be just as important, or even more so than, the middle and the beginning.

    And here is an opportunity to get started. SPEC’s, Environmental Elders Engagement Initiative has three elements:

    1. A Core Team (Environmental Elders Circle) who will share their wisdom with the SPEC Board and Committees to strategically prepare for the next 20 years and guide the outreach to other elders.  

    2. A program Inviting community elders to volunteer in projects (both SPEC led and led by other community organizations) where they can share their knowledge, experience and wisdom. 

    3.  A larger pool of community elders who share occasional salons with the opportunity to discuss what it means to “reclaim elder wisdom” and to share difficulties with what we’re leaving behind for future generations to solve. 

    Does this resonate with you?  Email me at carolelchristopher@gmail.com

    —SPEC Board Member Carole 

    You can also support this project by making a donation here

  • 03 Apr 2016 2:39 PM | Karla Olson
    How to communicate with our audience?

    As many other charities and environmental organizations, we look for ways to communicate to the public the issues and solutions we think are important. One of our supporters, Rick Pollay, who is an expert in marketing and advertising, brought this recent ad to our attention and shared with us his impression of its effectiveness.  We thought this might be an interesting conversation and educational piece, so we asked the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition if we could share this image with our readers. What do you think?

    — SPEC ED Oliver

    Rick Pollay, Curator, History of Advertising Archives, UBC

    I applaud the eye-catching color and graphics, especially in a black and white newspaper context, with a strong use of the visual to dramatically convey the message concept of the “watershed moment” in the “go – no go” choice faced. This reliance of the visual, not the verbal, is vital as research shows that most ads don’t get noticed, and even for those that do get noticed, fewer than 10% of viewers get past the headline text.  Far too often advocacy ads rely too heavily on words alone to get their idea(s) across. In ads, as in life, the picture is worth a 1,000 words at the least, especially when the words go largely unread.

    The “go – no go” choice is treated with symmetry, splitting the entire image, including Justin’s face and necktie, exactly in half with “climate action” and “climate disaster” illustrated by symmetrical (natural, colored) rays of light vs. (industrial, black & white) smoke stack pollution, the latter visualising greenhouse gasses in a bit of poetic licence. This contrast is reinforced by a single forceful and credible quote for each half, wisely refraining from overkill with multiple quotes, evidence and argument best left to other modes of communication. Of lesser import, but adding to overall efficacy of the ad by resonance, are the word play of “watershed moment” with protecting a watershed; the symmetry of the whole fish and the fish skeleton; the visual references to both air and water issues; the placement of the “natural” choice of the left, and the “industrial” choice on the right.

    The message is very personalized to Justin Trudeau in its headline, portrait rendering, direct quotation and “Dear Justin” salutation in the body text from the sponsoring organization.  Their identity, skeenawatershed.com, is left to the very fine print at the very end. While this might have been larger, showing self-confidence and pride in this ad, it is entirely reasonable that the focus of the ad stay on Trudeau and the decision he and his government face, not on the organization authoring the plea, as this can easily be become a distraction. More important, in my view, is the appeal to Justin to “stand with science” and make a policy decision based on evidence, not ideology, and that the evidence weighed include the decision’s impact on First Nations, fish habitat, and greenhouse gasses.

  • 16 Mar 2016 1:25 PM | Karla Olson

    Hello fellow SPEC friends, donors and volunteers, Jamie here.

    I started my internship at SPEC about a week ago.. I am a student from Sweden, and I´m on my last semester in school. Doing an internship is mandatory, and I wanted to do something different. Coming to Vancouver was easy to decide when I started to read about it. Now I can help out as a research student — see below for a document on Canadian climate indicators that I found — as well as learn about SPEC and the work SPEC does. I’m so excited to be here. 

    On Tuesday, I participated in two SPEC Climate Change workshops at Kitsilano Secondary School for ninth graders — and that was something let me tell you. I went there not knowing what to expect.

    First of all the school is huge. I got lost. It´s not that I haven´t entered a big school before, but this one was a maze. I turned two corners, then I looked back and I didn´t recognize my whereabouts. It all looked the same to me. 

    When I finally arrived, my next surprise was that the class was taught in French. Oh dear. I know two more languages besides English, being Finish born in Sweden. I had both languages taught to me, not bragging at all, but French is not one of them. So again I felt a little lost.

    Amelia was holding the Climate Change workshops (in English luckily) and she´s really sweet. She was the facilitator and is a SPEC volunteer. In this workshop, secondary school students learn about climate change and our current methods for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.  

    We all have experienced an increase of storms, flooding and drought. So, it was really interesting to hear what we, as humans, have done to make the environment go haywire, or as we say in Sweden,gå åt skogen." 

    Some of the information Amelia shared made me feel like a participant on the TV show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” And, I didn’t know what to answer. I felt clueless.

    In the second workshop I felt more comfortable in my shoes and was able to participate in the group activity. The students, in groups, discussed and decided how they thought we could help the Earth not exceed the 2° pre-industrial temperature limit.

    The group activity is a game adapted from a Princeton University developed workshop, the Stabilization Wedges Game. The students pick 8 of 15 carbon reducing strategies that they though would keep carbon emissions flat for the next 50 years.

    We could use, for instance, wind electricity or nuclear energy wedges. It was really interesting to see how the first class was for nuclear energy and many in the second workshop were against it. One of the boys looked at me and whispered, “I don´t think nuclear energy is as bad as everyone says.”

    This was another surprise for me that the boys in the classes had such strong opinions. Many of the girls were all for being as green as possible; whereas the boys thought nuclear energy has had more success over the course of years, and it is not as harmful as many let on.

    Sometimes the discussion got a bit heated (pun intended). That's when I decide I should help out. 

    When I mentioned my country, Sweden, as a good example of different ways to produce energy, according to the students this wasn't a fair example. According to them, Sweden has the best living standards and is one of the leading countries in reusable energy. 

    First of all, I didn´t know that they knew so much about Sweden. Second of all, as a Swedish citizen, I still think we have a lot to learn. Not everything is perfect in Sweden. 

    This workshop has given me a really good recap of what I learned in school, so I noted to myself that maybe we, as a country, need Climate Change Workshops too.  

    I found it really meaningful that volunteers like Amelia can remind us about climate change, not to go over the 2° limit, and to think twice before taking the car.

    I mean, after two World Wars and the Industrial Revolution, in just the last one hundred years, we have changed the way we live quite significantly. If we are going to continue to use cars the way we do now AND even increase their usage, yes then I think we are on a slippery slope, and it’s raining.

    Here is the document I found, Indicators of Canada’s Changing Climatewhich identifies changes to Canada’s climate over the past 50 to 100 years, along with some selected impacts on Canadians and their environment.

    All the best,

  • 03 Feb 2016 1:15 PM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)

    The Fraser River needs your help.  LNG, Coal, Jet Fuel... numerous proposed industrial projects in this sensitive estuary hinge on tankers gaining access up-river of the George Massey Tunnel, over which only shallow or partially loaded ships can pass.  Access to Information requests have revealed that Port Metro Vancouver and Surrey Fraser Docks have lobbied the provincial and federal governments to build a bridge and remove the tunnel, and intend to dredge the river far deeper.

    The tunnel is the gatekeeper of the Fraser and all of its inhabitants, and so the Provincial government has devised a plan to remove it.  Millions were spent on seismic upgrades & shake-alarm on the Massey tunnel in 2007-09, but now they're selling us a 10-lane mega bridge for a whopping $3.5 Billion (so far), and telling us it is necessary to ease traffic congestion.  It will shift congestion a few kilometers northbound.

    Until February 15th, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is receiving comments for the pre-Application period of the "George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project".  As outlined on the EAO website, the assessment "examines major projects for potentially adverse environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects that may occur during the life cycle of [the project]".  These adverse effects are many.  They are far-reaching.  Some are province-wide, and some are global in scale.  And for the most part, they are irreversible. 

    The Fraser River is the largest overwintering area for waterfowl in Canada, supports the world's largest salmon run, and is designated as a Canadian Heritage River and a "Wetland of International Importance" (Ramsar.org).  Delta and Richmond farmers depend on the river for irrigation, and farm on lands that are coveted by Port Metro Vancouver for expansion of port facilities.  With industrialization, people living in communities along the river would face extreme hazards in case of spilled oil, gas or LNG, and health impacts due to coal dust.

    Luckily, this project is not a "done deal".  A group of residents and organizations from Richmond, Delta, Vancouver, and throughout the region have begun organizing to stop the proposed Bridge and the industrialization of the Lower Fraser River that the bridge is designed to enable. They organized a Rally and leafleted outside the Project's Open Houses on January 26 & 27 to protest the bridge and highlight its negative impacts on growth patterns, agriculture, fishery, wildlife, climate change, and public spending, among myriad other concerns. 

    The group (soon to be named) is demanding disclosure of the rationale and business case for the bridge, study of alternative options, and review of many studies & previous policies which do not favour a bridge, including the Regional Growth Strategy.  It is demanding meaningful consultation with municipal governments and the public, and real action to achieve Canada's global climate commitments. 

    Please tell the EAO what you think should be studied and assessed in this project.  Go to Masseytunnel.Realhearings.org for more info, and to submit your comments and ensure they are cc'd to relevant politicians. 

    Kimi Hendess from FarmWatch

    FarmWatch BC is a grassroots group of farmers and residents in Richmond BC who are concerned about the degradation of farmland and farm ecosystems.  We want to protect the ALR and end all dumping on farmland.
  • 03 Feb 2016 12:57 PM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)
    Last year, in preparation for our 45th anniversary celebration, I reviewed SPEC’s historical campaigns (1) and successfully connected with nearly 100 SPEC activists from the early days.  As I gathered names, one that repeatedly came up was Terry Chantler so I called him to see what I could learn about the early SPEC culture and work.  He graciously walked me through the work that he and others did around the earliest Energy Campaign and I came to realize why he is remembered as one of the most successful researchers in SPEC history. 

    Terry was first hired by SPEC (1971) as a graphic artist to illustrate SPEC’s public campaigns and education materials used in schools. He is a gifted artist and today is part of an artist’s collective on Pender Island where he lives.  But he also made an outstanding contribution to SPEC as a researcher in the area of energy conservation, public policy and regulatory oversight.  Cliff Stainsby (past SPEC President and ED, and close colleague of Terry’s) says, “SPEC lived off Terry’s research for decades.”  Terry describes himself as the nexus of a large network of people doing various aspects of the research, that he was merely the one that brought it all together.  But his university training in electrical engineering, his passion for detail and accuracy, his ability to see the important connections, to chase down the missing pieces and to assemble it all into comprehensive reports won him respect and acknowledgement from his colleagues. 

    Terry compiled documents that became the basis of a SPEC energy policy critique presented to the National Energy Board and to Provincial officials with highly significant results: It established that proposed hydro dams were unnecessary in terms of energy demand and, if developed, would squander both environmental resources and provincial finances.  Second, it demonstrated that BC Hydro was operating without regulatory oversight, and forced the hand of the Provincial government to change the regulatory framework and provide accountability in the public interest. 

    Gary Gallon, former SPEC Executive Director and a close colleague of Terry’s, was convinced that SPEC could prove that BC Hydro didn’t need the electricity from 45 proposed new dams and power projects and that, in fact, current production was being wasted.  Terry says, “I saw that what he was saying was right but that it would become opinion unless it was backed up by fact.  So I just collected a whole bunch of facts and put them in reports and slide shows.”  SPEC hired people to do research, tapping into government documents and BC Hydro documents, along with the research of universities and other  environmental agencies – all of which Terry collected, synthesized and focused on the case for efficiency and conservation.  SPEC had federal funding to develop “Energy Conservation” and “Conserver Society”(2)  slide shows (which Terry researched, so-wrote and composed music for) to educate the public at the same time that SPEC was pressuring the Provincial government to change the laws that had allowed BC Hydro carte blanche to develop dams, investing billions and causing vast environmental change without appropriate regulatory oversight.    

    Terry, an articulate and effective speaker, carried his research message, with others, to Ottawa and other venues including the National Energy Board, to argue the SPEC case.  He commands an impressive ability to synthesize, distill, and articulate a clear and compelling message. His research and advocacy supported a SPEC campaign that delayed the construction of the Revelstoke Dam and, most importantly, compelled the Provincial Government to take the time review the regulatory framework and require the needed oversight and approval by the BC Utilities Commission before any new dam construction (3).  Cliff Stainsby and others utilized the same research in stopping construction of the Site C Dam on the Peace River in 1984 and Past president David Cadman (‘96-03) affirmed that Terry’s research was relevant and effective 20+ years later in fighting unnecessary dam construction on Vancouver Island.  Essentially, utilizing Terry’s research, SPEC stopped the wholesale expansion of large scale and unneeded hydro dams from 1984 up to the recent approval by the Utilities Commission for the $8.3 billion revival of the Site C project.  (Perhaps we’ll do another article soon on the revived Site C project.)

    Terry and I have spoken several times by phone and in person.  It’s clear that his spec days are still vibrant in his memory and he enjoys explaining this very important era of our past.  He (and partner Kathleen Lightman (4) travelled from Pender Island to the anniversary celebration where he spoke about SPEC’s work from that era.  Terry represents the face of SPEC that is about solid research and persistent negotiation to bring about change based on reliable information and conservation ethics.  He left SPEC in 1979 and moved to Pender Island with Kathleen but he remains fundamentally engaged and committed to ecological values. 

    1. See “SPEC Through The Ages” on our website – as well as a short review of this project in SPEC Annual Report of 2014.
    2. Toward A Conserver Society – June 1978  In the SPEC Archives.
    3. The report of this project is available in the SPEC archives.  It has a complicated title but ask for the report related to the Revelstoke Dam
    4. Kathleen Lightman was also a SPEC employee and volunteer who illustrated several of SPEC’s education programs including the slideshows. 
  • 03 Feb 2016 12:00 PM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)

    Why is chocolate an environmental issue? Because palm oil, an ingredient used in some chocolates, is the main driver behind much of the deforestation happening in tropical peat forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, among other places.

    Tropical peat forests are home to a diversity of plant and animal species, and are important carbon sinks, which means they have an important role in climate change issues. To learn more, here is one article to get you started: Palm Oil and Global Warming (Dec 2013, Union of Concerned Scientists)

    By reading the label, you can avoid buying chocolate made with unsustainably produced palm oil, which can be a challenge. Another option is to search for information about a company’s corporate social responsibility, or palm oil charter.

    Here is a list of some to get you started. Keep in mind things change, so please follow up as best you can.

    And, Happy Valentines Day!

  • 02 Feb 2016 10:53 PM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)

    Phantom leaks occur when microwaves, computers, TVs, and other electrical devices continue to draw energy even when they're turned off, up to 15%.
    The solution—unplug them. 
    A convenient way to do that is to plug devices, such as your computer, and their peripherals, printers, speakers, monitors, etc. into a power bar that you manually switch off. Unplugging your rechargers for smart phones and iPads is also smart. Remember—if it's warm, it is drawing energy.

    Different devices leak different amounts. You can find out how much it at:  http://20somethingfinance.com/electrical-leaking-standby-appliance-list/.)
    Collectively, phantom leaks can account for about 10% of your household energy bill. Given the average of 30 domestic electrical devices, the cost savings of stopping that leak is many times the cost of power bars. Many of us already have them but have to climb under desks and into cabinets to use them. If you commit to making your power bars accessible, they can begin paying for themselves right away. And you can feel proud of yourself for doing your part to reduce your electricity usage for the environment. 
    Smart strips are another option. They are a type of power bar with the added convenience that they deliver electricity to some outlets while shutting it off to others. This allowing you to turn off the computer and peripherals but leave the light and/or the clock on, for example. Some smart strips can be set by a timer to turn off automatically, others sense occupancy in the room and shut off devices accordingly. However you choose to organize it. Not all are readily available, but your local store may have one for about $40.00 apiece.
    These smart strips are more expensive but offer more flexibility with savings. 
    Check out:
    Google Search: phantom energy leaks and smart strips
    Power Strips

    Image credit: http://www.energycaretech.com

    Prepared by Carole Christopher

  • 12 May 2015 10:42 AM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)

    Vancouver and Surrey ranked lowest

    Vancouver, BC - 2015 May 12 - SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation) has released the first ranking of  Canadian cities-based on solar energy policy.  Amongst the large Canadian cities - Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto were ranked best, with Surrey and Vancouver  at the bottom of the list.

    The ranking which looked at the cost of municipal requirements for installing residential photovoltaic systems highlights a significant range of regulations.  The costs in Vancouver, which has the most expensive policies, are over twenty times the costs in the the top ranked municipality.  Seventeen municipalities from across Canada were included and data was collected both from online policy statements and surveys of local solar energy installers.

    Vancouver’s place at the bottom of the list is especially noteworthy given that the city has set a target of moving to 100% renewable energy.  Prior to 2014,, Vancouver would have ranked number 10 but new policies moved it further down the list.

    Eugene Beregovoy, a home owner in Surrey who is currently installing a solar energy system, said that the municipal requirements add 12% to the system cost.  He stated that the requirements make the system, “Worthless to install.  It will take an additional 3 years for my system to pay for those costs.”

    SPEC is recommending that municipalities adopt the Solar America Board for Codes and Practices guidelines for an expedited permitting process.  This policy developed by a team of professional engineers has already been adopted by cities in both the US and Canada, including Toronto, Calgary, Seattle and San Jose.  Municipalities could also move to a low flat fee electrical permit as the city of Toronto has done. More details on this can be found at:http://www.solarabcs.org/about/publications/reports/expedited-permit/pdfs/ABCS-11_1page.pdf

    Additionally, municipalities could move to a lower flat fee for the electrical permit as Toronto has done.

    SPEC's Canadian Solar Cities Ranking 2015

    The table below ranks Canadian Cities on the cost of municipal requirements for a 5 kW photovoltaic system (standard flush mount on a residential roof).


  • 15 Apr 2015 10:44 AM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)

    By now, most people have seen photos and read news accounts of the fuel spill that occurred on April 8th, 2015 in English Bay, the impacts of which are still being determined. It is important to note that Vancouver’s waters are under federal jurisdiction and are overseen by the Vancouver Port Authority while the Canadian Coast Guard is tasked with responding to such an emergency.

    It is clear that the response to the spill in English Bay was both slow and poorly coordinated. It took over six hours for the Coast Guard to respond (from Richmond - 17 nautical miles from where the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, now closed, used to be) and 12 hours to notify the City of Vancouver. As different levels of government point fingers at each other, the bigger question remains: what would this have looked like if, instead of a grain ship purging fuel, it was an oil tanker? If, instead of 2700L it was hundreds of thousands of liters?

    The Kinder Morgan project plans to twin the Trans-Mountain pipeline and dramatically increase the number of tankers carrying crude oil from the Tar Sands through Vancouver’s waters. The resulting increase in tanker traffic poses serious threats to the marine ecosystems, people and wildlife (not to mention the implications for our climate). We support the work of the City of Vancouver as they prepare a strong case of concerns for the Kinder Morgan project which will be presented to the National Energy Board reviewing the project. We agree with the City of Vancouver that it is our right as citizens to have a say in decisions that could endanger our ecosystem, economy and food supply.

    To do our part, SPEC’s Energy Committee works to educate individuals, businesses and children about renewable energy and energy saving methods to reduce their energy footprint. SPEC offers opportunities for groups and individuals to view and learn about practical, long-term energy solutions to climate change. SPEC’s Zero Fossil Fuels Campaign raises awareness about the issues related to the use of fossil fuels in our community and educates people on how we could completely eliminate the use of all fossil fuels within the City of Vancouver using strategies that have already been implemented here or elsewhere.

    If you are looking for a way to get more involved, become a SPEC member and/or volunteer with one of our committees or programs. You can also sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date with our campaigns.

    We also encourage our supporters to check out the Georgia Strait Alliance, a citizen-led advocacy organization fighting for protection of the marine environment in and around the Georgia Strait. 

  • 20 Mar 2015 10:46 AM | Oliver Lane (Administrator)

    These past weeks what we’ve been dreading has come to pass.  The gardens, so lovingly built and tended, so integral to the community gardening legacy of Vancouver, have been ripped out.  These gardens, built over several decades going back to WWII Victory Gardens, were allowed by CPR from 1952-2001 - the entire time it ran trains on the Arbutus Corridor.   Who is this other CPR Ltd that has done this?

    Before they were destroyed.

    SPEC has long taken an interest in the corridor because “Old Blue” the beloved building we occupied at 6th and Maple from 1981-2011 was right beside the corridor and beside some of the most beautiful community gardens in the city.  One of them, Maple Garden, was started by a SPEC staffer, Barbara Atkins in 1991, and we felt a particularly heavy heart when the bulldozers took out Maple and Cypress gardens. 

    Before they were destroyed.

    After being destroyed

    Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd is in a very serious struggle with the City of Vancouver that’s been going on for most of a decade.  They want either that the Arbutus Corridor be rezoned for residential development, in order to capitalize on some very choice real estate in a very hot real estate market, or they want to sell it to the City – for $100,000,000.00 (that’s 100 Million Dollars). The Arbutus Corridor has been zoned as a transportation corridor for over 100 years and the city has so far refused to rezone it, presumably looking ahead to a time when there will once again provide commuter service along that route. They also don’t have $100,000,000.00 laying around unused to hand over to CP so they have sat on a decision.  As long as CPR was also content to sit, this worked out well.  But CP has decided to up the pressure by resuming use of the rail line and brutally removing the community gardens, hoping (I guess) the public reaction would pressure the city and willing (I also guess,) to take the public backlash.  It succeeded in pressuring the City who took them to court but the courts found for CPR and the destruction is underway.

    I’m with the city on this because of the history, both the long ago history of railroad building and the recent history of neglect by CPR that has brought us to this point.  The long ago history for this particular rail company goes back to 1881 when Sir John A McDonald wanted a transcontinental railroad built to connect eastern Canada with the west and to forestall expansionist ambitions of Americans also swiftly moving westward.  CP got the contract which eventually included 25 M acres of land and, coincidently, about $100 M in public money in various forms (cash, tax benefits, ownership of rail already built at public expense, and a duration of monopoly rights on some lines)  While the Arbutus Corridor wasn’t part of this transaction, (it was developed at the turn of the 20th Century as part of a regional commuter rail network) CPR got a lot of public money and land to start a rail business and could, if they wanted to, consider that legacy and cut the gardeners a little kindness as they negotiate with the city.  The more recent past is that CPR ran its last train on the tracks in 2001 and has since been an absentee landlord of their property. 

    A year before the last CPR usage of the tracks, SPEC  organized nearby gardeners and Montessori daycare students to stand on the tracks and demand they stop spraying Round-Up  as maintenance on  tracks.  The CPR of those days was engaged enough with the community to agree to do hand clearing in the areas adjacent to the schools and the gardens. Gardens started along the tracks as “Victory Garden’s” during WWII and were tolerated by BC Electric Railway Co until 1952 when CPR took over the line and continued to permit those gardens and, over the decades, allow others to be built.  For as long as they ran trains on this line, gardens thrived along many stretches of the Arbutus Corridor - What happened to that CPR?

    When CPR discontinued use of the line, SPEC urged that it continue to be a transportation corridor and began a education campaign to inform and solicit public input on its future.  In 2004, Ivan Bulic and I created  “All Aboard the Arbutus Corridor,” a public design context on the future use of the corridor.  It drew 75 amazing (including professional) entries which were judged by a professional panel and publicly displayed in March 2005 at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design on Granville Island where awards were given out. 

    That same year, The Arbutus Corridor Cleanup Committee was created and volunteers and sponsors came forward to help.  The overgrowth of tangled blackberries and accumulation of litter attracted rodents.  Brandan Norman first tried to get CP to do the clean-up but they were not interested.  On their first major project, volunteers removed 4 tonnes of trash in hundreds of bags of weeds and leaves in the Kerrisdale area.  Over the years, SPEC has supported other areas being revitalized as biking/walking trails and pocket parks for the public.

    About a decade ago CP Rail initiated a series of neighbourhood workshops along the corridor to solicit public input.  Workshops were well-publicized and very well attended and CP was well prepared with ample table staff and an artist for every table of participants to capture their ideas in both verbal and visual formats.  SPEC attended every one of the workshops, to provide input, to assess the feelings in the neighbourhoods, and to be a voice of correction to any future manipulation of the data.  What repeatedly came out was a desire that it remain a transportation corridor with commuter rail serving the area, but participants were open to residential housing in areas where it was compatible.  A very high percentage of people wanted community gardens to continue to flourish along the corridor and a walking path safely separated from a commuter rail.  This may be a tall order to provide, but that was the picture routinely expressed by the public.    

    I make these points not as a prelude to suggesting they give the land back.  That won’t happen.  But I do wonder at the ugly re-assertion of ownership and entitlement causing them to bull-doze gardens (albeit with court permission) that have existed along the tracks for 75 years and after walking away and leaving the clean-up of the corridor for the past 15 years in the hands of local residents who wrestled with blackberries to gain a little ground on which to grow carrots.

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Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

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