Is Vancouver About to Become the Greenest City in the World?
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Other green initiatives in Vancouver include installing LED lights in all 670 traffic signals; new rapid-transit service and Sky Trains connecting the city to the airport and surrounding areas; and the construction of a model sustainable community in a formerly industrial area called Southeast False Creek. Even part of the City Hall lawn has been converted into a community garden to grow local food to be donated to providers in Vancouver's inner-city neighborhoods.
Robertson's efforts, while still relatively tame, are only a prelude for his plans to completely and radically revamp the energy and consumption patterns of the city. But bike lanes, green roofs and electric outlets are significant building blocks to creating the necessary culture of sustainability so that more profound changes find sufficiently wide support.
He is also seeking funding partners, including other governments, private donors and businesses to invest in the city's eco-transformation.
Roberston points to the old polluting power plant that lights up Vancouver at night and vows it will soon give way to a renewable-energy facility. The mayor convincingly walks his talk -- his other car is a bicycle, and he likes to spend weekends with his wife and teenage kids in an off-the-grid cabin without a driveable road on nearby Cortes Island.
In contrast, even the city's newest luxury hotel, the Loden, is working on a host of environmental initatives and energy-efficiency measures for its 14-story hotel, featuring a curved glass facade designed as an allusion to the nearby ocean waves. The elegantly shaped contemporary green building makes abundant use of glass, natural stone, wood and copper.
So what about health care in Canada? Despite U.S. GOP rhetoric to the contrary, none of the Democratic plans now on the table call for a Canadian-like government-run health care system. But even that would be an improvement over the heath care debacle in the U.S.
Polls suggest Canadians love their health system -- they spend about 55 percent of what Americans spend on comparable health care, and they have longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates.
Life in Vancouver looks bright -- for human and planetary health -- and it's getting brighter all the time.
Allan Hunt Badiner is a writer, activist and editor of three books: Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology; Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics; and Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism.