This is not about tulips. Nor wooden shoes or windmills. Not even about bicycles.
Well, maybe a bit about bicycles.
I’m in the Netherlands, at the invitation of the Dutch government, and I’m curious about three things: What is one of the most successful trading cultures on the planet up to these days? What can we learn from them about the issues related to building infrastructure (port-related facilities, in particular)? And how are they dealing with one of the great moral dilemmas of our time?
Well, that’s a bit heavy, given that there are so many moral dilemmas to choose from, but the question is nonetheless real, especially since the Low Countries are even more susceptible to the consequences of climate change than we are.
The Dutch are a very prosperous, tolerant, educated (and I should say attractive) people, who live more sustainably in practice more than we even aspire to be (all those bicycles!). And yet they are among the more aggressive carbon producers, traders and investors on the planet. (They are, for instance, the second largest foreign investor in Canada, after our American friends, due to a big chunk of their change in the tar sands.)
I’ll have a chance to see the scale of their petro-port in Rotterdam, too – the largest in Europe. And I’m told this country, underneath those bucolic tulip fields, is a web of pipelines full of oil and natural gas. A lot of their way is life is absolutely dependent on the giant natural-gas fields and coal plants that heat their homes, factories and greenhouses, which help make them the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter. (They are very, very good at importing a lot of other place’s products, adding value, and shipping them to people like us.)
So how do they reconcile being so efficient at funneling more and more carbon to and through their country and economy, while sitting just below sea level with all the ominous implications that has for their future. Or are they, being an extraordinarily pragmatic people, expecting to make a fortune providing consulting and construction services on dikes and sea gates as the waters rise?
In so many respects, they’re just like us, we who sit on so much tradable carbon while being stewards of the Arctic, likely having to trade off one for the other.
Got no answer, just the question – but wondering if the Dutch are any closer to figuring out some solutions even as they, and ideally us, reap some benefits.
Just went out on this summer-like afternoon for a run through the West End – the last one I’ll have a chance to do until June. Because I’m off to the Netherlands on May 11, thanks to the Dutch government. Like Michael Geller before me, I’m being accompanied by the Dutch Consul General, Johannes Vervloed, while we explore their ports and logistics. All that infrastructure! They too deal with questions about carbon, climate and commodities – or at least I`ll be asking.
I hope to live blog while there, beginning sometime next week, posting on Price Tags occasional observations and pics close to when they happen. And then I’m off to Madrid and Barcelona, because, well, I’ve got to see those cities sometime in my life and Spain is beautiful in May.
So here are a few shots I grabbed while on my run, just before I pack and head off - a few vignettes that say something about the culture of this place, and about how we celebrate it.
… how we respect it.
… and even how we change it.
That last shot is of Comox Street, just east of Denman, where they are putting in the curbs for a separated bike lane as part of the Comox-Helmcken Greenway. (I’ll confess scepticism: I’m not quite sure why separation on only one block makes sense, when cyclists are expected to use the rest of Comox like the other greenways and bikeways in the city.)
But I can see already the separated design is giving the block a distinct identity, making it even more friendly and accommodating for everyone. We’ll see how it works when completed.
Or at least you will - because it’ll happen along with other small changes while I’m away.
New cities, new cultures, new ideas. I’ll be experiencing them, and sharing some of it through Price Tags, while remembering and explaining what’s special about the place I’m from.
Where will the traffic go? The viaducts, traffic, and neighbourhoods
Next month it’s expected that council will consider whether to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, replacing them with new, ground-level roads and creating the opportunity for new housing for thousands of families, large parks, a restored False Creek shoreline, bike and walking paths, art and cultural facilities. But some residents of Strathcona worry that traffic through their neighbourhood will increase, and others fear an impact on a community garden.
City-wide vision vs. neighbourhood values. To explore the issues are Brian Jackson, Vancouver’s General Manager of Planning and Development, and Pete Fry, president of the Strathcona Residents Association. We hope to have someone from Cottonwood Gardens. Then it’s your turn to weigh in. Feel free to bring your lunch.
When: Thu, 16 May 2013 / 12:30 PM
Where: SFU Vancouver, Harbour Centre 515 West Hastings, Room 2270
And while we’re at it, here’s a site – designKULTUR – with a post I missed in 2010: an eclectic mix of research and comment on west-coast mid-century modern and the work of architect Kenneth Gardner, at a time when the West End was undergoing dramatic change in the post-1956 highrise era:
While the piece focuses on Gardner’s modest 1960 highrise on Robson Street, Lagoon Terrace, it also has a couple of references to its predecessor across the street at Chilco and Robson – a site that used to look like this:
And which in 1958 was replaced with Gardner’s design for this:
Overlooking Lost Lagoon and Stanley Park is ‘Chilco Towers,’ a 9-storey tenant-owned apartment block designed by Vancouver architect, Kenneth Gardner. It includes a rooftop garden (no penthouse), underground parking for 70 cars. All 36 suites face the view and are priced from $17,000 for 1-bedroom to $38,000 for 3-bedroom.
Lots more at this site, including extensive illustrations of Gardner’s home in the Southlands – now a heritage-designated residence – that was unique in Canada: a lift-slab house, where the roof and floor slabs were poured on the ground and jacked into place. It won the AIBC Honour Award for architecture in 1960.