Vancouver is like the younger sibling who wants nothing more than to play with the big kids.
We aspire to be a world class city, but we're limited by our very own brand of backwater provincial-ness. Sure, we've mastered the art of congestion like all the big kids, but only outside the down-town core, and in the suburbs, where everybody drives everywhere. Traffic in the city centre is actually back to pre-1950 levels now, cause of the bike lanes and pedestrian friendly planning, said Gordon Price via the CBC this week. But hold on a minute. Don't get all excited at the possibility of a congestion-free city. Some Vancouverites do have a world class, big-city hate-on for cyclists, so you never know. We might be just as likely as any other city to elect a crack smoking, bike-lane hating mayor next time round.
Another thing we do as well as the best, biggest. world class cities is drive cars into things. Why, Snobbers was bemoaning the plague of cars mowing people over in NYC just the other day...
and I realised that in many ways we really do measure up:
That's the Fatburger on Davie street. The only thing is... does it make us more, or less red-neck that our out of control motorist hit police officers instead of children, like that lady in Quebec?
Very clever of them, don't you think? THAT's whatcha call thinking big.
It reminds me of our aspirations as a city. Thoreau said "If you would hit the mark, you must aim above it: Every arrow that flies feels the pull of the Earth." Humans aspire to great heights, blessed be, and yet we, too, feel the pull of our baser nature. Vancouver wants to be a world class city - the world's greenest, no less - but how does it really stack up?
Hmmm. What does it look like from the outside looking in?
If you were to enter the city from a cruise ship, you would find yourself here:
Imagine some generous soul has met you with a bicycle. From Canada Place there, it's just a couple of minutes along the seawall to Stanley Park, where you'll find gorgeous beaches, grand vistas,
great restaurants, lots of big old trees, and totems at Prospect Point.
Take a quick tour with me. I promise not to kiss you.
You could actually spend quite a bit of time in Stanley Park, and still not see all of it. The aquarium is a must-see, though, if you have a love of all things marine, or small children.
Lost Lagoon is a local landmark in the park, too,
and home to many happy birds.
If you've made your way through the park to English Bay,
you may find yourself in the middle of the laughing men.
At the other end of Sunset Beach, you'll see Inukshuk,
our national cultural icon, symbolic of communication, navigation and survival in the Canadian arctic.
Head into the down-town core and you'll find another hallmark of culture:
The old city hall turned Vancouver Art Gallery. This is important for lots of reasons. The arts and culture inside speak volumes for themselves, but the outside is crucial, too.
This side backs onto the Robson St ice rink...
which is cool, cause you know how much Canadians love their ice. But it's the other side of the gallery where you find out what matters most to us. The other side is where Occupy Vancouver camped out, and on any given day, you're as likely as not to find people there with something important to say.
This day is no different,
except, perhaps, for a couple of kids smudging with sweet-grass and sage.
You don't see that every day.
Just down the road from the gallery you'll find my very favourite building in the whole city.
Now all I have to do is to write the Great Canadian Novel, and you'll be able to find a copy in there. I guess maybe Vancouver does have a bit of everything for everyone. Love sports?
There is a venue or two for you...
Of a scientific bent? There's something for you, too.
It really is a thing of great beauty, this city,
with its natural splendour and all of the trappings of civilization, too.
Best of all, it's an important opportunity. Buckminster Fuller said
"I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.."
It's definitely time for a new paradigm... and people? It's best to aim high, and have hope.
|The Dark - our Banksey|
Fuller said "In order to change an existing paradigm, you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the existing one obsolete." He also said (I love this) "We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody."
It's everybody. For sure.
It's you. You matter. You make a difference every day in a thousand tiny ways, you know it's true. It's in your thoughts, your words, your decisions, your deeds, your purchases - your life.
Make it count!
Aim high. Think big.
And smile. Together, we can do this thing.