March 16, 2015
I get around everywhere by bike, public transit and on foot. So when my mayor presented the Mayors’ Council plan during a HUB committee meeting, I was super excited. More SeaBus? B-Lines in my neighbourhood? Bike lanes? YES!
All this and more needs to be funded somehow. There’s a lot of fact-slinging, grumbling and even partying happening, so I thought I’d offer my own personal reasons for supporting the plan. And some info along with it.
Here’s why I’m voting YES:
1. Safe cycling paths are the best!
More safe cycling paths means cyclists like myself — and those usually less comfortable riding in the city — can get to their destinations more easily. 2700 more kilometres of bike paths will encourage more people to take up cycling as a convenient, fast, safe and fun way to get around. Check out my 6+ reasons why bikes are good for Vancouver.
2. 50% more SeaBus service, woo!
10-minute SeaBus service at peak times at 15-minute service otherwise will literally change my life. It’s so stressful to miss — or almost miss — one, especially when buses in my neighbourhood often fail to make this critical connection at rush hour. More frequent SeaBus means more freedom in our schedules. I’d hardly need to look at the time. Leave when you want, and you won’t have to wait long. I think this will be a huge draw for people who currently deal with backed-up bridge traffic. Speaking of which...
3. Because traffic congestion sucks...
Traffic congestion is a huge issue and is always a complaint on the North Shore. Fewer cars on the road not only makes commutes faster for drivers, but helps buses move along more quickly, too. And once in awhile, one gets stuck in traffic on a bike. (Just once in awhile.) While passing cars stuck in traffic jams can be fun, it proved dangerous to me once when I almost hit a car which was turning left through the gap in the motionless vehicles I was passing. Building more road space is not the answer — more transit is. With more growth anticipated, we need a smart, forward-thinking solution in place, and that solution is before us now.
4. ...and because traffic pollution is deadly.
Vehicle exhaust contains a cocktail of toxic pollutants. When I’m cycling next to traffic, I’m breathing those fumes in pretty hard, so I’m eager to reduce the number of cars on the road. This danger applies to drivers and their passengers, too, who are exposed while driving to pollutants that cause respiratory infections, heart attacks and cancer. The nitrogen dioxide-coloured smog that hangs over the city during dry spells is also really gross, but just in case you thought it only happens in the summer, I could see it the last two times I took the ferry via Tsawwassen, in February and March, where from a distance it's visible blanketing the region like a sour, low fog.
5. I want to see a more equal and just society.
More affordable transportation (e.g. transit) gives low-income earners more opportunities to find work that is otherwise not accessible without a vehicle — whether it takes too long with current transit trips or transit simply doesn’t serve the area at the right times, if at all. (I lived in Cloverdale, Surrey for two years, where transit sucked.) This helps their kids get ahead, too, since money that would otherwise be spent on a car could instead go toward extracurricular activities and post-secondary education. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has a great article on this:
The proposed new transit is particularly important to low-wage and immigrant workers, who often have to commute long distances for work, and who frequently work night shifts when transit options are limited (the proposal plan would see a doubling of night bus service hours). And it’s also of special importance to youth and seniors, who rely more heavily on transit.
6. I hate waiting for buses.
And as a result, I sometimes miss them. But a frequent, reliable transit network is attractive: if you miss your bus or train, there’s another one in 15 minutes or less! The more frequent the buses are, the lower the risk for the rider, and the greater the convenience, so it’s more likely to attract ridership. Build it and they will come. And stop waiting.
7. I want things to change.
Voting No solves nothing. We will still have the same complaints and the same problems, and they will get worse before they get better. Voting No doesn’t send any messages to TransLink or the Province that we want change: in fact, it says we’re happy with the status quo. That we’re ok with starving our transportation system. What we have isn’t perfect, but it’s damn good. Don’t you want it to be even better? I do.
8. Climate change. 'Nuf said.
I’m always doing my best to thwart climate change. You can, too. When you get your ballot in the mail this week, please vote yes. Here’s David Suzuki with more on that:
Also check out Guy Dauncey’s article in the Georgia Straight for 10 great reasons to vote yes!
Join me at Move Your City, Move Your Body! A Transit Voting Party! on March 28th in Vancouver, presented by We Can't Wait!
February 5, 2015
Websites can be complex beasts. So the common question, "how much does a website cost?" is pretty similar to "how much does a house cost?" The simple answer is, it depends. There are so many factors that determine a website's cost or time to build — as with a house — that there is no single answer. But with enough information, an estimate can be made for yours.
Websites, like anything else one designs, don't appear magically — they're the end result of a thoughtful and collaborative process that takes time. To take some of the sticker shock out of the price tag of websites, here's what a typical successful website design process looks like, along with some tips:
How do you describe the character of your organization? What are your website goals? Who are your current and desired audiences? I could go on, but the quality of this first phase determines the outcome. The more accurate the answers are, the fewer revisions and mistakes will occur down the road. This is a good time to tell your designer* if your audience is, for example, over 75 or if they're mostly in a rural area. Different audiences' needs are different. Be as specific as you can.
"Poor user experiences inevitably come from poorly informed design teams." — Jared M. Spool, founder of User Interface Engineering
I'm giving this its own phase, though research is also included in other phases such as discovery and usability testing. I'm by no means an expert on all the types of research, so I'll point you to Erika Hall's Just Enough Research for a great overview (and more). Responding to a common objection of "we don't have time" to do research, she says: "You don't have time to be wrong about your assumptions."
September 17, 2014
I've been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) this summer, which puts great emphasis on how food — specifically local in the case of this book — brings people together, in celebration and as part of their culture. With that in mind, I'm pleased to tell you about an upcoming, worldwide event that uses the occasion of dinner toward making positive change. (Two of my favourite things in one — how could I resist?)
The Feast Worldwide Vancouver
Saturday, October 18th
Groundswell Cafe & Learning Space
The Feast Worldwide is a day of global dinner parties in 40+ cities across 6 continents. The goal? To spark collaboration that drives local entrepreneurs and social initiatives forward.
On October 18, we're inviting Vancouver to explore the global theme of progression through food and sharing. Join us in envisioning, "A world where growing and eating healthy food connects people."
The idea is simple. Come for an interactive dinner that explores connections between food, community, technology, sustainability, business, health, design, and more! We're inviting incredible entrepreneurs to share their work to inspire greater discovery and ideas. Let's sit together over dinner — and instead of talking about problems, talk about ways to support each other, collaborate, and make things work better.
June 12, 2014
I'm really excited to share with you a website I designed for Dogwood Initiative, which launched this week. Fair Share BC asks a simple but vital question: What's a fair share of economic benefits for BC of Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline? Whether you're against the proposed pipeline — as are about three quarters of British Columbians — or for it, or agnostic/undecided, we'd like to hear your opinion.
Understanding that many of us would never put a price on our coast, the main purpose of the site is two-fold: to enable the people to decide what a fair share looks like, and to help conversations happen between folks with different view points. (Maybe Uncle Bob wants more permanent jobs for BC, but thinks we'd get a lot more than we would in reality?) I'd consider myself well-informed, and was surprised by the actual numbers. (Go take the short quiz to find out. Over 2,000 people already have!)
Prime Minister Harper's decision on the Northern Gateway project is anticipated soon. If he gives it the green light, it's then up to Christy Clark to stand up for BC. But her "fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits" condition in the pipeline's way is vague — what's fair by her standards? Dogwood Initiative will collect the public's Fair Share BC quiz answers to put some hard, public-powered numbers behind that. I want to make it clear that thinking about what a fair share looks like doesn't mean we can be bought if we got what we asked for — the reality is that we won't, so this is an exercise in making it clear that Christy Clark's fifth condition cannot be met.
I worked closely with Kai Nagata, Energy and Democracy Director. Dogwood Initiative's Karl Hardin and Joshua W provided technical heavy lifting for which I am grateful.
Additional ways to take action
Join over 16,000 people to send a message to the "Enbridge 21" — BC's Conservative MPs who stand to lose a lot if the federal government approves the project. Encourage them to support BC instead of Enbridge.
Pledge to support a referendum on the future of pipelines and oil tankers in BC. If you have time, please consider volunteering in your community.
Send Christy Clark a message to stand strong for BC.
May 26, 2014
I still remember the staff meeting at the David Suzuki Foundation where I was on the verge of tears. I don't remember what the sad news was, but the fourth person to speak was David, by phone from South America I think. It was such a devastating stack of news that maintaining composure was a challenge. It was on par with listening to Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George speak about the Healing Walk and what has happened to their land in the last 150 years — land on which I grew up, too. Her words brought me to or very close to tears twice in one week.
This past Saturday, I spent the entire day with my non-profit friends, some of whom I have the sincerest pleasure of working with. We attended a conference called CanRoots, which was generally uplifting and closed with a standing ovation for two women from Kitimat's Douglas Channel Watch. The feeling in the room and in my heart was extraordinary: all of us, united in our shared joy and passion, applauding and cheering for a small group of committed citizens who fought a Goliath and won. This is, I thought, a morsel of what it will feel like when British Columbians win.
When your work is to fight hard for something you care deeply about, your job is going to be full of emotion. It's difficult to hear bad news — ice sheets melting, sea stars dying en masse, another pipeline approval, another loss for democracy. And it's pure joy to celebrate our successes. But I know that some of my friends have a hard time with the slog. At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't be doing anything else. I do this work, and I try so damn hard in my personal life as well, because I care so f*&%ing much. Our government calls us radicals and extremists, and we respond by standing taller and stronger. It would, though, be considerably easier to stop pipelines, curb runaway climate change, prevent our water from being destroyed in mining operations, and save the salmon if our provincial and federal governments cared like we do and understood what's at stake. What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves.
So I'm going to keep throwing my heart and soul at this work. At a fairer democracy, at sustainable alternatives, at stopping new oil pipelines and LNG plants. I'm not a radical. I'm a human.
Want to join me? I just signed up as volunteer organizer for what I think is the best shot we've got at saving British Columbia from Enbridge. Sign the pledge to push for a fair, province-wide vote on oil pipeline and tanker traffic expansion in BC. And if you care like I do, I'd love for you to join me in collecting pledges in your community. Will you stand up for BC with me?
May 22, 2014
It can be difficult to grasp the scale of Edward Burtynsky's subjects when there are no points of reference — no recognizable objects, intentionally no humans, and sometimes no horizon. Your understanding of what you're looking at changes between close proximity and several steps back. Sometimes it's better just to wonder, because comprehending the vast scale of a field of oil drilling rigs, Alberta's oil sands or a coal mine in BC can take the wind out of you — at least, if you're as affected as I am by these visuals. I left feeling pretty drained as it's emotionally taxing to look at how we've shaped, polluted and destroyed the landscape of our planet to meet ever-growing needs. Not everything in the Vancouver Art Gallery's exhibit of Burtynsky's work was dark, but a bleak image of a massive pile of tires (at a distance, just a huge wave of black) burning after a lightning strike had me reeling and thinking, "what have we done?"
"In Burtynsky's vernacular, the 'manufactured landscape' is no longer a simple contest of nature versus culture; instead his images suggest an emergent condition in which the natural world has been fully consumed, never to reappear again." — Vancouver Art Gallery
I was standing in front of a large format aerial photograph of a Scottsdale, Arizona suburb when the woman next to me said, "this is the scariest one." I don't know if she'd been to the other side of the exhibit yet, but I understood what she meant. A rectangle of desert with a road around its perimeter marks the Navajo reserve, abruptly divided from suburbia, which is the usual unsustainable pattern: tendrils of cul-de-sacs, single-family houses — many with pools — tennis courts, and trees, all supported by a dwindling water supply. Far, far in the distance one can see a few towers in Phoenix, an unpleasant highway commute away. Now that I have time to absorb it, the connection between this and the rest of the exhibit is clear: the activity documented by Burtynsky feeds this horrific exercise in "community planning." Artificially cheap oil, mining coal and metals, irrigating the desert — it's all to feed an insatiable appetite called the American Dream.
I've been working for months on various campaigns working to shift away from Canada's large-scale, rapid energy extraction, consumption and export economy, and toward green energy and jobs. Our opposition is wealthy and determined, and the media not always kind. Exhibitions such as Burtynsky's, or similarly Chris Jordan (on consumption and waste), help to bring a real-life tangibility to what corporations and consumers are doing. It's up to us to fight for the alternatives, and to be reminded of the ways in which we can meet reasonable needs responsibly.
To that end, here are a few ways you can get involved:
100 in 1 Day, Vancouver edition — multiple workshop dates culminating in 100 urban interventions on June 7th each in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax
CanRoots, May 23–24
The Edward Burtynsky exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery ends May 26th.
May 4, 2014
This relevant, eye-opening video poetry touches on something I think about every so often when I'm walking through the city. I see people staring at their phones as they pass by and wonder what potential relationships they just missed starting because they weren't paying attention. While our attentions are so focused on not missing a beat on the internet, life is playing on without us, around us. Stop and look up. Be attentive to the world and its detail. What do you see, smell, hear and feel?
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going for a walk to the grocery store and leaving my phone behind my front door.
I am a communication designer in Vancouver, BC. Most of my writing and community activism are in the interconnected issues of public transit, local eating and food security, politics, health, environment, and sustainability in general. At heart, I'm a geek and a total treehugger. Nature, tea, good food and great company make me happy.
The Oil Man and the Sea