Fallacy of Vancouver’s Unsustainable “Making Room” Urban Density Plan

Painting portraying Pocahontas saving the life of Captain John Smith.

Guest Commentary

Published July 5, 2018

The fate of Vancouver’s survival and that of other world’s cities in the 21st century is a universal story of how to continually “Make Room” for the constant explosions of endless waves of humans to arrive upon its shores as native-born infants or as emigrants, migrants and refugees. The age-old philosophical arguments and debates waged over what to do with these alarmingly-mounting numbers continues unabated between the same protagonists of opposing persuasions: Nimby’s (Not in My Backyard); Yimby’s (Yes in My Backyard); Bimby’s (Beauty in My Backyard), and; Ahimby’s (Affordable Housing in My Backyard). These protagonists serve as the main shock troops on the frontlines of a planetary-wide urban war being waged in every city and country of the world over what future new course and direction must be taken.

Some protagonists among them adhere to that age-old “Bigger is Better” philosophy of Western Civilization that, from the outset of its evolution, was predicated upon what essentially is a cancerous, metastasizing principle inherent within its very essence. The problem with the philosophy of Bigger is Better, as compared to those who argue Better Rather Than Bigger, is that it essentially is predicated upon Fear: fear of survival; fear of being small or being perceived as being small, and; a fear of feeling “less than”.

Indigenous peoples worldwide for centuries have maintained a world view and way of life that was and is more in keeping with a natural balance, harmony and sustainability with life that from the beginning never automatically went in the same direction of Western Civilization. One example of Western world government that has dared to go against the grain is New Zealand who has shown, time and again, that it’s possible to punch above its own weight and smallness in the greater realm of things and still adhere to more lofty principles of civilization.

But as the pitched battle between these protagonists continues, in whose hands will the fate of Vancouver and other cities of the world eventually rest? Who among the Nimby, Yimby, Bimby and Ahimby’s will prove to be the ones with the most radical world view that ultimately will either protect or destroy human civilization and Mother Earth herself?

The crushing effects of: over-population, over-development, over-tourism, mass migrations of displaced persons are the obvious banes of the 21st Century. Collectively, these ever-increasing forces of modern life are everywhere radically altering or destroying the cultures, heritage and traditional fabric of the human and natural worlds. For a world-class city like Vancouver, widely-typed as a #1 Favorite Point of Destination, the reality of such forces means something precious obviously will have to give. Whether one is talking about a unique city or place in nature, its special qualities, characteristics and desireability eventually will reach a tipping point, leading to the diminishment or destruction of the very things that drew the masses to its shores. In the end, too much of a good thing always invariably leads to uncontrollable human greed for more and more of the same until, irrevocably, “the goose that laid the golden egg” is killed.

Vancouver’s heart and soul continues to fall prey to the uncontrollable greed always existant in human nature, coupled with a rapacious corporate desire for ever more cutting-edge development, that eventually bears out that old truism in the evolution of cities as with every corporate enterprise where a critical point is reached until “Organization becomes the death of the idea”, and whatever character and essence of the city or idea in question was the original lure becomes too radically altered, if not totally destroyed, calling into question what kind of future mecca a city like Vancouver, the North Shore and Lower Mainland will become if yet the latest density brainstorm to ‘MAKE ROOM’, becomes the normal way of things, forever.

Vancouver’s mayor Gregor Robertson and his city council, and indeed the mayors and councils of the North Shore, Lower Mainland, B.C., Canada if not the world over must find another way of living – another way of being – that represents a real raprochement between Humans and Mother Earth that will dramatically change the direction of where all this is inexorably leading to in the future. A Truth & Reconciliation Process between the cities of world and its indigenous peoples would not only be the best of all ways to begin that raprochement, but THE ONLY WAY the future ultimately will be anything significantly different!

Which begs the obvious question: If, at the point of first contact, the early European colonizers had undertaken such a reconciliation process what might the indigenous elders of wherever in the New World have counseled them, short of “GO AWAY AND LEAVE US ALONE!”, about how to live in balance, harmony and real sustainability?

So Vancouver’s new housing initiative of ‘making room’ is a fallacious concept that, in the short-term, may represent: economic growth, job creation, and even cross-cultural understanding and good will between diverse peoples. But the darkside of the concept, in the long run, is that the exorbitant numbers of humans arriving on its doorsteps will continue to impact upon: still woefully under-developed transportation systems; insufficient housing and absence of massive amounts of other supporting infrastructure; which means to accomodate them all everything must get a lot bigger, a lot faster, WHICH DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN BETTER OR SUSTAINABLE. “There goes the neighbourhood,” as the old saying goes.

Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer, author, publisher, long-time activist and political organizer among his community of Lower Capilano, on the North Shores of Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

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