Community
How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.
 

Vancouver: Welcome to Ecotopia!

by Guy Dauncey

First Published in Common Ground Magazine, September 2004

To all you new students, Newfies, Torontonians, Winterpeggers, Prairie girls and boys, and offlanders from other realms, fresh off the bus, plane or beater, looking around our great cities of Vancouver or Victoria, welcome to Ecotopia! (aka Lala Land, Land of Milk & Homegrown.)

What, you can’t tell you’re in Ecotopia? (Greek, means place of ecology). Don’t the cars, smog, consumerism, garbage, McDonalds, wonderful Liberal government, and postcards of pristine mountains (with not a clearcut in sight) tell you it’s Ecotopia?

Oops! We thought you wouldn’t notice. It’s in our minds, you see, this vision of ecotopia. If you’re careful, you can spot it as you walk down Robson Street, mind-reading the people you pass. "Blank, blank, shopping, hotdogs, blank, late for work, blank, blank, ecotopia!" See? You nearly missed her. That middle-aged woman, walking quietly down the sidewalk. "Blank, cappuccino, blank, blank, money, blank, ecotopia!" There’s another! That 15-year old, playing hackysack with his friends. And there’s another, in that corporate business suit. They come in all shapes, sizes and ages, our ecotopians.

Inside, they’re dreaming of a world where everyone lives among strong, clean waters, pristine forests, and cities that have been transformed into clusters of car-free ecovillages. They dream of forests where there’s no more clearcutting, energy that comes from the sun, wind and tides, and oceans where the orca whales no longer have PCBs and fire-retardants in their bodies. They dream of businesses that are based on ethics, and social responsibility. They dream that this land has become magical, that the Spirit of Nature rules, and love and delight fill the air. Inside, they’re pulsing with hope and determination.

Some of our ecotopians live in a lonely world; they think they’re the only ones. Too much of the homegrown, I’d say. For the rest, there are so many projects where people are working to turn their dreams into a reality, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let me give you a quick tour. In Vancouver, down at 227 Abbott Street, in Gastown, you’ll find the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, where a host of people work to protect our forests; you’ll often find them trail-building, or holding vigils in our parks and forests. In Victoria, they’re at 651 Johnson Street. (www.wildernesscommittee.org)

Over on 2150 Maple Street, you’ll find SPEC, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, where their staff and volunteers are busy recycling, stopping pesticides, protecting the seas, and cleaning the air. They’ve also got a great guide to other ecotopian groups. (www.spec.bc.ca/greenpages)

If it’s cycling, greenways, and transport issues you’re interested in, head over to 822-510 West Hastings, for the offices of BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transport), where they have big visions of a Vancouver with fewer cars. (Way fewer cars!) In Victoria, bike over to the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition’s Resource Centre, at 1056A North Park St, which is the hub for all things spokey. (www.best.bc.ca and www.gvcc.bc.ca).

You want to join the Car Share Cooperative you’ve heard so much about? Go straight to the Cooperative Auto Network (www.cooperativeauto.net).

Or maybe you’re interested in green buildings, architecture, and sustainable communities? Then it’s the EcoDesign Resource Society you’ll be wanting, as your introduction to everything green. (www.vcn.bc.ca/edrs)

Are you vegan, or vegetarian? No problem. In Vancouver, it’s EarthSave Canada you want, at www.earthsave.bc.ca. They have monthly organic dine-outs, potlucks, and even veggie speed-dating nights. If it’s organic veggie romance you’re after, they’re your guys. In Victoria, you’ll find the same with VIVA, the Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association. (www.islandveg.com)

Maybe your ecotopia is filled with organic tomatoes and winter greens! Then it’s FarmFolk CityFolk you want, on 1937 West 2nd Ave. (www.ffcf.bc.ca), or maybe City Farmer, for dirty fingers, cob oven cooking, composting, and worms (www.cityfarmer.org) . If it’s home delivery of BC’s best organic produce you’re after, then check out Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (www.spud.ca). They’re as green as they come!

Is it the vision of wind and tidal energy, and the coming solar revolution that fascinates you? Then check out the BC Sustainable Energy Association, dreaming of BC in which all our energy comes from clean, renewable efficient sources. (www.bcsea.org)

For information, you’ve made a good start with Common Ground Magazine. You could also look at Shared Vision, EcoNews (www.earthfuture.com), and the Watershed Sentinel, from beautiful Cortes Island (www.watershedsentinel.ca).

And finally, drop in on those stalwart upholders of the Ecotopian dream, the David Suzuki Foundation, at #219, 2211 West 4th Ave (www.davidsuzuki.org), and the Sierra Club, with its BC Chapter office in Victoria, at #304, 733 Johnson St, and local groups in Victoria and Vancouver (www.bc.sierraclub.ca).

That’s just the quickest of introductions. Once you know where to look, you’ll find our province to be an absolute warren of willing wabbits, working away to weave their magic into our province’s soul. Welcome to our spirit-world!

Guy Dauncey is a visionary and activist who lives in Victoria. He is he author of Earthfuture: Stories from a Sustainable World, and other titles.