David Beach | 11/14/07 @ 5:39pm
World Urban Forum: Day 2
Impressions from Day 2 of the United Nations World Urban Forum in Vancouver...
Place-based consciousness - Out here in the Cascadia Bioregion, you feel connected to nature and to the wisdom of indigenous peoples. It's not just because Vancouver is nestled beautifully between the ocean, mountains, and river delta of the Fraser River. It's also because there are reminders all around - totem poles in the airport and hotels, fountains throughout the city, leaf designs pressed into the cement of sidewalks, wild animals honored on the currency, native people in radiant feathers leading all the ceremonies. The city is alive with ancient spirits. And the people here, however modern and cosmopolitan, listen to what the spirits tell them about how to live in this place. This is part of their story, their mythology. What is our comparable mythology in Northeast Ohio?
"Congestion is our friend" - Vancouver officials brag about being the counter-intuitive city. Over 30 years, they have steadfastly refused to allow highways in the city and have built a transportation system that encourages walking, biking, and transit instead of accommodating automobiles. Doubters said they would strangle the city by not providing easy auto access to the suburbs. But the result has been an explosion of urban living downtown -- more than 80,000 people living now in the vibrant center city where they can walk to work. So even though the city has added lots of jobs downtown, traffic congestion has declined. And Vancouver gets voted the most livable city in North America. (When I have more time, I will write more about the amazing Vancouver story.)
Nations at the show - You can tell which nations are claiming leadership in urban sustainability by which ones are exhibiting at the World Urban Forum. In addition to the host country Canada, national exhibitors include Sweden, Spain, Germany, China (host of the next World Urban Forum in 2008), The Netherlands, Kenya, Japan, and Norway. The U.S. government has no display and has a weak representation (HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson) from the Bush Administration.