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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Crowdfundraising: A new type of bus shelter

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NEWS-Nov20-Treecanopy_1

I am posting this story as the result of a request from UBC’s Public Engagement: Campus and Community Planning. It has already been picked up by Daily Hive and I don’t feel much need to copy and paste their content. However if the idea of a green roofed bus shelter that mimics forest tree canopy is intriguing to you I suggest you look at the project webpage at UBC . There is a useful video which neatly summarizes the proposal.

We regularly get to enjoy the benefits that humans experience by walking under the tree canopy – most often at Pacific Spirit Park and most recently out at Harrison Mills. I am not sure that a bus shelter offers the same scale of benefits – and I am also not sure that the people working on this project have taken into account the somewhat anomalous situation of bus shelters at UBC compared to the rest of the region. Being street furniture, bus shelters are the domain of the municipality, except for off street locations like bus loops, transit exchanges and some SkyTrain stations. The municipalities do not actually provide the shelters but contract this out to advertising companies (in the City of Vancouver it is presently J.C.Decaux) who make their revenue from the advertising panels. The target market is not bus passengers, or even pedestrians but the people driving past, and that is what determines the likelihood that a stop will get a shelter. Plus of course the availability of enough space. On many city streets, such shelter as might be available is often the canopy of the building at the back of the sidewalk.

Harbour Centre

This is also the case by the way for benches at stops: they seem to appeal a lot to realtors.

We've got a new bench

Of course now that Vancouver is declaring its intentions to become Greenest maybe they will be keen to do a different kind of deal rather than getting their share of the ad revenue – or perhaps the Mark II bus shelter will incorporate a solar panel and lighted ads in the walls that appear to be missing from the current design (the current contract runs until 2022). From the rendering supplied by UBC at the top of the post it looks like they do not understand that shelter is also needed from wind – and wind driven precipitation.

The green roof would be a distinct improvement over the current glass roof of the most common Vancouver bus shelters

No shade here

But in other cities like Edmonton shelter at the busiest stops offers much more than a roof

ETS Bus Stop 100 Street

Looks like all this one needs is its own wind turbine!

POSTSCRIPT
I was in Beyond Bread getting a loaf and as I came out realised what a great bus stop this was. Once again no actual shelter but there is a bench and a canopy on the building. Of course if you wanted to you could wait for your bus inside the cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee at the same time. Just keep that Transit app open to be warned of the bus’s imminent arrival – when Translink gets their GPS API working again!

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Written by Stephen Rees

December 6, 2018 at 11:33 am

Book Review: “Reimagining Our Tomorrows”

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Making Sure Your Future Doesn’t Suck

by Joe Tankersley

Published by Unique Visions Inc ISBN 978 1 7326281 2 0  US$10.99 paperback

“Futurist Joe Tankersley explores a world where technology is used for good and we have the resources to build communities that care.”

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I have been doing quite a few book reviews lately but they have not really been particularly relevant to the purpose of this blog. So they have been appearing on my other blog which deals with anything outside of the scope of “Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves.” This blog reaches a wider audience that includes people interested in planning and urbanism, as well as the direction in which we are moving thanks to rapid technological change and the need to change where we get our energy from.

It is also necessary for all of us to take some time out from the terrible news we see every day. Terrible isn’t just the appalling toll of deaths and injuries on our transportation system and our seeming inability – or unwillingness – to take that seriously. Or the choices we still seem to be making at the ballot box that produce very little real change. Or the bleak prospects facing Ontario, the US and the UK thanks to their short sightedness. We need a source of hope. And hopefully some direction. This book is not really intended for me. I cannot claim to be “an experienced changemaker trying to keep up with the pace of disruption”. But I do hope that some of you reading this are “doers and dreamers anxious to ensure our best days are still ahead of us”. And I would not have started writing this blog in the first place if I did not think that we need to change direction and that there are already lots of examples of places that seem to be managing better than we are.

Tankersley used to work for Disney. And he learned a lot there about the value of storytelling and of how to think positively about the future. It doesn’t matter much if he is “right”. What matters is that he offers an alternative view to the “present trends will continue” narrative that seems to dominate our main stream media and professional planners. It is not inevitable that we will remain wedded to fossil fuels, and internal combustion engine cars. It is also not necessary that we keep on doing what we always have done and expecting a better outcome.

Reading this book was not effortful. That seems to me to be a Good Start. It also doesn’t stir in me the need to argue. (Unlike what happens whenever I post something to Twitter or Facebook  and get blow back from people I neither know or indeed want to.) Just one small quibble if I may, which I hope gets picked up in the next edition.

the village wasn’t self-reliant when it came to just seafood [the rest of the paragraph is about growing vegetables]

p131 ‘Reimagining sustainability’

What he meant was that the village wasn’t just self-reliant for seafood, it was also better than that for growing food in general and (by the way) energy production.

And the quibble is simply a matter of word sequence affecting meaning. It probably made sense to him when he said it – but on the page the sense is reversed.

I think that is about the only thing I felt the need to quote.

The book also has two pages of book references, and a page of online links – followed by the “Help Me Spread Optimistic Futures” page – from which I learned that the book is self published (linked above) and there is a Facebook page.

I hope that at least some of you will find something inspiring in these pages. The idea of finding new uses for McMansions and suburban malls is indeed not just encouraging but spot on, and something our planners need to embrace wholeheartedly. There is even a paean for a future design of cargobike which I know will appeal to some of you.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

November 3, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Book Review

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This review has been removed.

The representative of the PR firm pushing the publicity campaign for its publication  has a different view of the meaning of “Fair Use” which, if followed, would have made this review incoherent. I am not willing to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Fighting the climate wreckers

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The article that I am going to point you to is concerned about the fight against fossil fuel companies in the United States.

“The Climate-Wrecking Industry—and How to Beat It” appears in Sierra Magazine copied from The Nation

While acknowledging that there is strength in numbers, some legal observers say the magic number for success is one: A single judgment against the oil companies would be enough to change their political calculus about the value of continued intransigence. “I think, in some respects, it’s less about how many cases are filed, [and more about] whether a judge rules in favor of a city or county or state. That will open the floodgates,” says Ann Carlson, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has followed the climate-liability cases closely.

Well, we may just have seen that success here. The decision by The Federal Court of Appeal at long last recognises that the approval process for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was fundamentally flawed. The case did not, however, turn on climate change but on two other considerations – the failure to consult First Nations adequately and the impact of the project on the resident orcas of the Salish Sea. And it was not an American Company (Kinder Morgan) that lost, it was the governments of Canada and Alberta. In fact the Premier of Alberta was so angry that she withdrew her province from the federal climate plan. As though that makes any real difference.

Kinder Morgan of course is jubilant. Justin Trudeau bought their old, leaky pipeline and lumbered himself with the apparent obligation to complete an expansion which they long ago realised was not only very risky environmentally but also highly unlikely to be viable. They get pockets full of our cash and slide away from the liabilities.

Trudeau and Notley between them have both – in post decision speeches – announced their determination to proceed with pipeline expansion which immediately throws huge doubt on their ability to convince anyone that their subsequent commitments at the negotiations over First Nations rights and the long term survival of the orcas are being conducted in a fair or objective manner. It seems that they are adopting the negotiating tactic adopted by 45 over NAFTA known as Boulwarism. Whenever anyone sits down at the table to talk about the pipeline they will have to accept the precondition that the government has committed to seeing it built no matter what.

Sooner or later the realisation has to dawn in Edmonton and Ottawa that they are both wrong. There cannot be action climate change and tarsands expansion at the same time. The tarsands are one of the worst fuels in terms of emissions. Equally, just getting the dilbit to saltwater does not solve the issue of the low price that diluted bitumen achieves on the world market. There are plenty of other sources of petroleum that are easier to deal with and currently the market is over-supplied. In future the rapidly declining costs of solar and wind alone will make renewables even more attractive, and better technologies than burning liquid fuels are going to take over the transportation industry as well as many others. If other places do want heavy oils, there are better placed suppliers. After all, only relatively small vessels can load at Burnaby and get under the Second Narrows Bridge. The project plan was actually to tranship into larger vessels on the west coast somewhere – as though that were an attractive option for preserving fragile marine ecosystems.

Much of the current mainstream media is, of course, trying to play down the significance of the decision – and I am not going to point to any of it. The big players are all in the same game, and outlets like PostMedia recognise their dependence on big oil and the related organisations. These are the same people who maintain the fiction that we are dependant on fossil fuels.

the ultimate responsibility lies with the general public and its appetite for energy. The rhetorical sleight of hand perfectly captures the climate wreckers’ classic talking point: Since you can’t live without us, we’re innocent.

Actually we can live without you and many are already moving convincingly in that direction. It is sad that the Government of Canada has decided to invest so much in a pipeline that is not needed, but then governments both provincially and federally continue to subsidize fossil fuel production: we are just throwing good money after bad. Jack up the the royalties to the same level as Norway and insist on adequate protection of the sources of water that get destroyed by tailing ponds and fracking and the market would start to transform at a much faster pace. All that is happening right now is that North America is falling ever further behind the rest of the world (except Australia) which is showing us how we can tackle climate change.

We have had a terrible summer – and the fires are still mostly burning even if the local smoke has blown away for now. The ice is melting in places where we have never seen it melt before. The weather is getting worse faster than anyone predicted.  Even the oil companies themselves are asking government to commit to building dykes to protect the refineries which are actually creating the sea level rise they are worried about. Climate change is not a problem for the future, it is a major problem here, now. Yet we are currently committed to increases in greenhouse gas emissions – not the reductions we signed up for in Paris, which were anyway wholly inadequate to deal with the problem.

Perhaps the next court victory will actually deal with the broader issue of environmental protection rather than just the sorry state of the resident orcas. Because it seems clear that at the moment neither Notley nor Trudeau has a grasp on reality, and not only will the big fossil fuel companies be in court on these issues, but so will our governments.

Yes, that includes BC since we are still committed to Site C, which is designed mostly to promote LNG exports to Alberta to melt more tar.

The Answers for the “Skeptics”

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I am putting this here mainly for my own convenience.

I am getting tired of people who ask questions or keep requiring data who turn out to be after an argument about humans causing climate change. This is a thread that was on Twitter this morning that I turned into a blog post using Spooler

I also used Thread Reader App (belt and braces) since I had not experience of either.

I have put the word skeptics in quotation marks. I seriously doubt the motivation of most of these people since the real scientists have no longer any doubt that what we are experiencing has been caused by humans using fossil fuels. However, the fossil fuel industries have a lot at stake and since they can’t actually find any real facts to back them up, they are doing their best to sow uncertainty instead. This is exactly what the tobacco industry did – and it did not work for them in the long run.


A thread by Katharine Hayhoe

At the hearing for the deputy @NASA administrator today, nominee Jim Morhard was asked by @EdMarkey if he agrees with the scientific consensus that humans are the dominant influence on climate. He said he couldn’t say.

Well, I’m a scientist, and I can. Here’s why. (thread)

When we see climate changing, we don’t automatically jump on the human bandwagon, case closed. No, we rigorously examine and test all other reasons why climate could be changing: the sun, volcanoes, natural cycles, even something we don’t know yet: could they be responsible? .. Could it be the sun? No: the sun’s energy has been going down at the very time that the average temperature of the planet continues to rise. For more info, read: and no, even a Grand Minimum wouldn’t save us. See: (skepticalscience.com/solar-activity…)(realclimate.org/index.php/arch…)

Could it be volcanoes? No: though a big eruption emits a lot of soot and particulates, these temporarily cool the planet. On average, all geologic activity, put together, emits only about 10% of the heat-trapping gases that humans do. For more, read: (agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.102…)

Could it be orbital cycles? Are we just getting warmer after the last ice age? No: warming from the last ice age peaked 1000s of yrs ago, and the next event on our geologic calendar was another ice age: was, until the industrial revolution, that is. Read: (people.clas.ufl.edu/jetc/files/Tze…)

Could it be natural cycles internal to the climate system, like El Nino? No: those cycles simply move heat around the climate system, mostly back and forth between the atmosphere and ocean. They cannot CREATE heat. So if they were responsible for atmospheric warming, . … then the heat content of another part of the climate system wd have to be going down, while the heat content of the atmosphere was going up.

Is this what we see? No: heat content is increasing across the entire climate system, ocean most of all! See: (skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g…)

Could it be cosmic rays? No. See:

How about the magnetic pole moving? Planet Niribu? Geoengineering? No.

What about an unknown factor we don’t know about yet? Nope, covered that here: (skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g…) (journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.117…)

The bottom line is this: We’ve known since the work of John Tyndall in the 1850s that CO2 absorbs and re-radiates infrared energy, and Eunice Foote was the first to suggest that higher CO2 levels would lead to a warmer planet, in 1856. Read it here: (books.google.com/books?id=fjtSA…)

No one – NO ONE – has been able to explain how increasing levels of CO2, CH4 and other heat-trapping gases would NOT raise the temperature of the planet. Yet that must be done first, if we are to consider any other sources as “dominant”. Moreover, when @RasmusBenestad + I + others examined dozens of published papers (so much for the ‘we are suppressed like Galileo!’ myth) claiming to minimize or eliminate the human role in climate change, guess what we found? Errors in every single one. (theguardian.com/environment/cl…)

So in conclusion: if you don’t think humans are the dominant source of warming, you are making a statement that does not have a single factual or scientific leg to stand on. Yet leaders of science agencies are saying exactly that today. This is the world we live in.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 24, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Book Review: Seaweed Chronicles

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I usually put book reviews on my other blog but in this case I think there is enough coherence with the ostensible reason for this blog to put it here.

I was offered the book to read – more than once – by email. What surprised me when I got the advanced reading copy to see on its back cover that I could have got it from NetGalley. As it was I was happy enough to curl up in a chair and spend a few hours with the hard copy. Unusually for me, I had a pen in my hand, as there were no page numbers shown in the table of contents, so I was writing them in as I read. I also found myself marking up the pages – in ink! – which is something I would never do with a book whether I had borrowed or bought it. One reason for that is that my copy also has no index, which makes going back to find stuff really time consuming. For instance, I was pretty sure she must have considered sea level rise, but it is going to take a while to thumb through to find the references.

While the author is based in Maine her coverage does range widely and one of the early chapters deals with the interrelationship of bull kelp, otters and orcas in the Pacific Northwest which I found fascinating. If a book doesn’t get your attention in the first chapter or two, you are unlikely to finish it. This one won me over early and kept me reading.

There is also quite a bit about Acadain Seaplants Limited of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia “the biggest seaweed harvesting, processing and research company in the world”. Naturally this company gets quite a lot of coverage not least because of its expansion into the waters off New England. It is quite often referred to as a Canadian company, and not just because of the alliteration. The book is very much about the people “who work and live at the shore”. Most of these communities started as fishers and whalers, and as those resources became exhausted worked their way down the food chain and the seaweed – being algae – is pretty much as low as you can get.

“As seaweed harvests take the place of lost fisheries in many areas of the world, they present some of the same issues we have here [Maine]: the growing desire of coastal people to take good care of what’s left, a need for more education and study, and an acknowledgement that the oceans in our lives are in trouble.”

This theme recurs throughout the book.

“the more we perfect our capacity to harvest wild nature, the closer we come to destroying what we seek.”

There is a great deal about the tragedies of the commons – and the framework of rules and sanctions for breaking those rules – that are essential to ensuring the commons continue.

“… our environmental history includes species that are gone forever: the passenger pigeons…,the Labrador duck, the sea mink, the great auk …the schools of cod once stretched from bays outward fifteen miles or more…they seemed limitless.”

And we are now looking at the extirpation of the resident orcas in the Salish Sea and the woodland caribou both victims of the indecent haste to get as much of the tar sands exploited while the subsidies last (they aren’t worth much without). And as long as we go on electing politicians like 45 and Ford – or Trudeau and Notley come to that – we look like “succeeding”.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book and felt I learned a lot: after all as is common to those educated in Britain in the 1950s and 60s we had to make a choice between arts and science in school. Ever since I have been conscious of the need to make up for my scientific ignorance – and how difficult that is when so many people resort to “Well, I’d explain it but you haven’t got the math.” This book is not like that. What did surprise me is how much of it is actually familiar. Yes, I know we need seaweed. I have learned how to read nutritional labels and I did know that there is a lot more than just sushi wrappers. I also realise that we need to come up with much better frameworks of regulation not just of the shoreline people but of the big corporations which seem to continue to escape every constraint placed upon them.

What must remain wild for the health of the planet, and what can we take, as we face climate change and diminishing natural resources?

 

Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge
by Susan Hand Shetterly
Algonquin Books
On sale August 7, 2018
ISBN 978 1 61620 574 4

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Environment

Alaska Trip: Part 1

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We returned to Vancouver on Wednesday from a trip to see glaciers, railways and the history of The North. We flew up to Anchorage and then took the train to Denali, and from there went on to Fairbanks by bus. Air North flew us to Dawson City then it was back on the bus for Whitehorse and Skagway where we joined our ship, MV Volendam. We had expected to ride on the White Pass and Yukon railway, but a huge boulder on the tracks was blocking traffic, so we had to stay on the bus. The ship took us to Glacier Bay (also a National Park) and Ketchikan (quite the opposite), and then traversed the Inside Passage. That was also a bit of a nonevent, as the first section was overnight and the day was socked in by the weather.

I will be posting pictures to flickr, but I have learned that little attention is paid when a large quantity of images get posted there all at once. It is also necessary to do some editing, adding map tags and commentary. But this morning I was in my storage locker looking for the screen I used to use for slide shows. That was in the days when my pictures were transparencies on film, but they were rarely seen by more than a small audience. I thought a slideshow here might get some more attention

Since the way slideshows work on WordPress also requires some effort, and I am sure you will appreciate at least some indication of what you are looking at, I am going to try a series of short slide shows with a little text. Feedback is encouraged, if not a comment then at least a “like”. If this works for the first day or so, then I will post more.

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Flying in to Anchorage one of the first things you see is the wind farm on an off shore island. Alaska has huge amounts of oil and coal, yet they are also under threat from rising seas and melting permafrost.

The stuffed moose is in the middle of the airport lobby – as is the float plane which is unique. 

The little locomotive was used in the building of the Panama Canal and subsequently on the construction of the Alaska Railroad. Both of these were US federal government initiatives, back in the day when this was about the only feasible way to achieve such results.

“People Mover” is a term of art in the transportation business and usually refers to rail based, driverless vehicles in airports and theme parks. I quite like the use of the term by the local transit agency: it does not just cover full sized buses but also vans and shuttles.

The large locomotive was built for the use of the US Army in the second world war and then worked on the Alaska Railroad for another ten years.

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We arrived in Anchorage a day before the start of the land tour to give us more time to explore the town. This meant we were able to rent bikes for a couple of hours to ride the shore line trail which includes a very interesting area where we found the explanation of the very strange topography of the waterfront.

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That evening we were staying in the Captain Cook, the best hotel in Anchorage, and far better accommodation than the Ramada. We had a room near the top floor with a view over the ocean. The hotel naturally features a portrait of the great explorer – and there is a lovely piece of public art between the hotel and the car park of the small fleet of ships he commanded on three round the world voyages

Our after dinner walk enabled me to get some shots of the Alaska Railroad – and we also visited the area where most of the townspeople were fishing for salmon. The next morning we joined the train – just two dome cars – with at seat service of drinks and snacks throughout the day and lunch served in the lower deck dining room. The views are spectacular – with glimpses of passing trains in the loops – and the ability to move around and a lower deck open viewing platform.

Part two will cover the Denali National Park and our Tundra Wilderness Tour.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2018 at 10:17 am