The Case for Sustainable & Resilient Communities

 

The case for sustainable and resilient communities is clear. Today more than half of the world's 7.4 billion people live in cities and by 2050 an estimated seventy precent of earth's 9.4 billion people will be living in cities. Cities consume 75% of our natural resources and produce between 60-80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

At the same time, cities are also feeling the effects of a rapidly changing world. Sea-level rise, changing weather patterns and the degradation of the biophysical environment are placing cities and their citizens under increasing pressure to become more resilient.

We can do better.

The Ride for Sustainable Communities is a platform for sharing all the great work that people across Canada are already doing to shift our communities into the sustainable and resilient places we want and need.  

 
We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.
— Sir Winston Churchill

At the time Churchill was commenting on the need to rebuild the Commons Chamber after the bombing of London. Today, Churchill's quote is a often paraphrased by planners who say that 'we shape our cities and our cities shape us.' There's a powerful truth in that statement. One that has immediate and lasting consequences for us and the planet.

In many places around the world, new cities are springing up using the same planning assumptions that gave North America its car based cities. If continued unabated, these cities of tomorrow will become hardwired to use vast quantities of natural resources and energy.

Here in Canada we've had a longer history with car centric cities. Many of us now live in cities that have lost their human scale. Neighbourhoods devoid of the walkable places that we need and want. Car based transportation systems that use vast quantities of polluting energy while disconnecting us from each other and the planet. The result is that many of us are living in ways that are not only undesirable and unhealthy, they're also damaging for the planet. 

There was another major theme for planners by the early 1990’s, which was the search for what emerged as almost a Holy Grail: sustainable urban development. The only problem was that although everybody was in favour of it, nobody new exactly what it meant.
— Peter Hall

While it seems clear that we can and should do better for ourselves and the planet; the road to a more livable and sustainable world still seems fogged by misconception, doubt and uncertainty.  But it doesn't need to be this way. To see the way forward, it's important for us to look for the lights illuminating our path. By looking for those bright lights, The Ride is designed as a platform to showcase what the road ahead might look like. To show those of us who aren't sure about change, that new and healthier ways of living are all around us. To demonstrate that sustainability isn't some weird far-out thing. It's a real, tangible, positive approach to making our towns and cities better places for us and the planet.


Spark Your Story

The Ride for Sustainable Communities aims to tell the story of what you're doing to make your community great. To find the threads that bind our common purpose around the sustainable and resilient communities we want and need. As I bike across Canada over the coming months I'm looking to connect with those people, organizations and local governments that are working to make their communities better places for the people and the planet.

 

THEMES

  • Food - urban agriculture, roof-top gardens, bee keeping, chicken coups, food charters/policy, local, slow-food, etc.
  • Housing - net zero homes, tiny homes, housing co-ops, earth friendly building materials, living walls, etc.
  • Energy - combined heat and power plants, distributed heating, renewables (solar, wind), energy conservation, etc.
  • Transportation - infrastructure supports for biking/walking, bike sharing programs, zero emission public transit, etc.
  • Built Environment - smart growth, complete communities, walkability, place making, etc.
  • Natural Environment - climate change, restorative ecology, soil/water conservation, protection of natural areas. etc.
  • Waste Management - waste diversion, composting, recycling, waste to heat/energy systems, etc.
  • Governance - measuring/managing for sustainability, sustainable policy development, innovative governance models, etc. 
  • Social/Society - Health and wellness, sense of community and place, community and resilience building, age in place, etc.
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
— Muriel Ruykeser