By Roy L Hales
Guy Dauncey envisions a Vancouver that uses 100% renewable energy, where housing is affordable, people live more in harmony with nature – and much more. His vision for the city involves a shift in the way society operates and, he says, “it is already happening.”
Our ancestors lived communally, in tribes and villages. It is only recently that neighbors have lived in close proximity without knowing each others names.
“We are not designed to live alone, or on our computers,” Dauncey said. “Facebook is really No-Facebook.”
One of the keys to Vancouver’s green future is a more community minded society. Maybe one out of every fifty streets are already holding annual block parties; that will increase.
An Economy Based on cooperation, rather than capitalism
The Emilia-Romagna region, of Northern Italy, is a model of what can be done. It has the lowest unemployment rate in Italy: 32% of the adult population is self employed and 76% work in small businesses with 4-5 workers.
“There are half a million businesses and co-ops in the region, which pay a 0.4% levy on sales to local inter-business organizations. In return, they receive support with financing, training, research and development, as well as export.”
Similar ventures have sprung up in Vancouver. Benefit (B) Corporations – like Traditional Medicinals, Better World Books, New Resource Bank etc – are spreading across Vancouver. There is a Vancouver Tool Library for people who want to borrow rather than buy tools.
In Guy’s future, all of Vancouver’s banks and credit unions have embraced “values-based banking.” (Vancity, for example, has an emphasis on environmental issues and pays employees a living wage, which in Metro Vancouver is $19.62/hr, rather than the province’s minimum wage of $10.25/hr.)
Dealing with society’s problems
Dauncey believes that society is spending far too much money on problems that arise out of dysfunctional living.
“We need an ultimate penalty because there will always be people who behave badly,” Dauncey said, “but prison should never be used for any remedial situation. The goal is restoration and bringing people back into community.”
We need “a Basic Income that is guaranteed to all.” When this idea was tried out in Manitoba, during the 1970s, people stayed in school longer and more mothers were able to spend longer raising their children. Society benefitted.
University education does not need to be so expensive that student debt becomes prohibitive. Oregon has just adopted a “Pay it Forward” student loan program whereby future students will not need to pay anything until they graduate and then pay 3% of their salary, whatever it is, into a special fund for 24 years.
The average cost of a house in Vancouver is over a million dollars. That’s beyond the reach of most young families, but there are creative ways to provide more affordable housing: communal ownership; rooftop housing; one Vancouver building was divided into a dozen 280 square foot units that cost only $85,000 each; a microhome village zone on vacant land; buying up older motels and transforming them into inexpensive single-room apartments.
Greening the city
The number of greenspaces will increase and creeks will be restored. Chum salmon have returned to Still Creek after an 80 year absence.
There are already many community gardens, “vegetablized boulevards” and micro-markets in Vancouver. Dauncey believes this will increase. Vacant lots will be transformed into gardens. Food Banks will transformed into community food centres where people learn how to grow their own vegetables and cook together.
Some Vancouver houses already use solar panels, but this will become a common feature on all south facing roofs during the next two decades. As solar becomes even more common, costs will continue to drop.
Guy Dauncey dreams of a time when only 15% of our trips within the city will be made by electric cars or light trucks, and the city’s bus system will be 100% electric.
“Who needs to own a car when walking is so pleasant, cycling such fun, public transit is so efficient and carsharing so easy?”
Most North American cities are designed for the automobile and, if it were not for protests by the Chinatown community in the 1960s, the freeway would have gone right through the center of Vancouver.
Copenhagen began its change to bicycles in the 1970s. Even in the winter, which is just as wet and miserable as Vancouver, 34% of commuter trips are by bicycle.
“Their goal is to have 50% of the population using bikes,” Dauncey said. “They justify the budget by showing how cyclists are healthier, and it reduces health care costs.”
Vancouver can be just as bicycle friendly.
A Vision for the Future
Above all, Dauncey believes we each must discover where our passion is.
“What do I love doing? How can I be of service to this planet? When we ask those questions, our woes seem less overwhelming. We have a goal and can sleep better at night.
“We will never change the world by simply pointing to negatives. Corporate leaders are doing everything they can to shape the world in their image. We need a vision that is more compelling.
“The power of our vision must be stronger than the power of our fears,” he says.
(Image at top of page: One of Vancouver’s vegetablized boulevards – from Guy Dauncey’s slide presentation,”Imagining a Beautiful Green Future: Vancouver.”)