Mammoths on East Hastings Street: A Vision from the Future

Mammoths Sculpture

Mammoths on Hastings Street, by Hae Jin An, Emily Carr School of Art

This is an extract from Chapter 12 ‘The Heart of Poverty’ in Guy Dauncey’s ecotopian novel Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible, set in Vancouver in June 2032.

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‘The Land that Ugly Forgot’

Back on the trail, I passed a sign that told me that Fourth Avenue was closed to cars every Sunday, and open only to cyclists, rollerbladers, runners and strollers.[1] I rode north over the Cambie Street Bridge, crossing the waters of Vancouver’s False Creek. To see the banners of colored silk fluttering from the streetlights and the central median ablaze with rhododendrons and flowers set my soul ablaze. A banner at the end of the bridge proclaimed ‘The Land that Ugly Forgot’ and welcomed me to the downtown.

I cycled to Wei-Ping’s office on Water Street in Gastown and found a space to park Carl’s bike in a bike-rack designed like a red dragon. I had a while before my meeting, so I walked to the Waterfront station and turned up Seymour, enjoying the wide sidewalks, ample bike-lanes and colorful food carts. Several buildings were covered with ferns and flowering plants tumbled down their walls, as if a rainforest had taken up residence in the city. [2] At a crosswalk, instead of saying WALK it said DANCE, and there was music that made it impossible not to—not just me but others too, laughing and smiling at each other. [3]

At the end of the street a cluster of people had gathered around a large electronic screen that showed the Eiffel Tower in the background. ‘Paris: 11:20pm,’ it said. People in Paris, where it was almost midnight, were talking to people in Vancouver, using their phones to cross the language barrier. A group of Chinese girls giggled as they compared haircuts with a group of French girls.

Next to the screen a vendor tossed and flipped her crepes before smothering them with chocolate and selling them to happy buyers. A man reached into his backpack and pulled out a package that unfolded into a bowl. I learned later that Vancouver had banned all Styrofoam, as well as plastic bags and plastic water bottles. [4]

Mammoths, a Turtle and Salmon

And then, bam, right in the middle of the intersection at Hastings and Seymour there was a huge sculpture of a life-sized woolly mammoth, with a baby mammoth by its side. A sign told me that the mammoths had lived in North America for a more than a million years, surviving several ice-ages when the land had been covered with two kilometers of ice. The mammoths were standing on the back of a turtle, surrounded by bronze salmon in a circular river.

And then another surprise—the sign said that scientists had successfully cloned a mammoth using DNA from a baby mammoth that had been exposed by the melting permafrost, and that mammoths were once again roaming Russia’s tundra. That took some pondering. [5]

Looking east, the entire width of Hastings Street was car-free and bike-free. A green walkway had been laid into the middle of the road, and the sidewalks were shaded by trees. I stepped onto the path, joining several others, including a woman who was waving a feather while burning sweetgrass, casting blessings as she walked. The shops were busy, with outdoor seating and displays of flowers and shrubs. The path down the middle felt powerful.

“Nothing but water and ice and a narrow strip of shoreline”

At the next intersection there was a massive sculpture of a canoe in a vivid red and black design, carrying twenty people wearing woven cedar cloaks and hats, their paddles upright. The sign explained that humans had arrived here 15,000 years ago, paddling along the coast of Beringia (modern day Siberia and Alaska) when the sea level was much lower, enjoying the plentiful seafood along the way. ‘In the beginning there was nothing but water and ice and a narrow strip of shoreline,’ the sign said, attributing the words to a Bella Bella First Nations oral tradition recorded by the anthropologist Franz Boas in 1898. [6]

The sculpture at the next intersection down the road showed a family gathering clams. The sign told of the enormous variety of seafood the First Nations people obtained from the sea, and how they had built clam gardens to harvest the riches, piling up long walls of stones and boulders at the low tide mark of a bay to create a safe place for the clams, enabling them to harvest them with ease. [7]

Continuing east the trail came to four huge totem poles with trees growing among them. Three poles represented the people who had lived on these lands: the Musqueam, people of the River Grass; the Tsleil-Waututh, people of the Inlet; and the Squamish, people of the Sacred Water. The fourth represented the other First Nations who had been here, trading and sharing stories. This was long before there was civilization in Mesopotamia, long before the pyramids, and long before Abraham, Moses and the philosophers of Greece. [8]

A Tragic Story

The sculpture at the next intersection was more intimate, and told a tragic story. It showed a First Nations father carrying his dead child, his eyes looking up to the sky, asking ‘Why?’ The sign told us that soon after the white people arrived on these shores they brought smallpox, which cut through the aboriginal peoples, killing as many as half, both here and all the way up the coast and into the interior. Among the survivors the pox caused horrible facial scarring, the loss of friends and loved ones, and a fear that the world had turned against them. It was the beginning of dark times, as it had already been for indigenous people across the Americas, from Nunavut to Patagonia. [9]

The next sculpture told another tragic story—a First Nations mother desperately holding onto her daughter as an impersonal hand pulled her away. This was the period when their children were taken forcibly from their homes and sent to residential schools, usually far from home, where many suffered years of loneliness, hunger, cruelty, sexual abuse and sometimes even death. Their languages, cultures and spiritual rituals and sometimes even their families were driven from their hearts, and many were defeated, leading to years of poverty and despair, softened only by alcohol. [10]

A Healing Circle

The seventh sculpture showed twelve people seated in a Healing Circle. They were framed by a square in the colors of the four directions: white in the north for healing of the mind, yellow in the east for healing of the spirit, red in the south for healing of the heart, and black in the west for healing of the body. In the center a powerful sculpture connected above to the heavens, below to the Earth and within to the Great Spirit. [11]

As I watched, the people I was walking with paused and placed their hands on the shoulders of the figures in the Healing Circle. When I joined them, I was overcome by compassion. There were ten of us, each behind one of the seated figures, then two more people stepped forward to take the empty places. A woman put her arms around the shoulders of the people on either side, and the rest of us followed. This sculpture was powerful. When we separated there were hugs between complete strangers.

Now I had eleven new friends. A man I had embraced was a social worker who had worked with First Nations families in the east Kootenays, beneath the Rocky Mountains, and he told how me moving he found the sculpture trail, and how it spoke to his work. He took off his glasses and offered them to me, explaining that they told the whole story as you walked along the trail. They were G-glasses, he said. When I tried them on, I saw that various spots on the healing sculpture had been tagged, and when you focused your eyes on a tag it expanded to tell you more, in pictures and words. The information felt overwhelming, however, so I handed them back to him. [12]

Walking together we arrived at the next sculpture, a number of cubes piled on each other, with First Nations people working on and around the cubes—building, nursing, teaching, fishing, farming, studying, parenting, filming, carving, each one engaged in a fulfilling activity. The healing had happened, and new life had arisen.

A Fifteen Thousand Year Journey

Finally we came to the intersection at Hastings and Main, in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, and the large old building known as the Carnegie Centre with its grand white pillars. Instead of a sculpture, the pathway led to a circular amphitheater in the middle of the intersection that had been excavated out of the ground and built up with seating facing inwards. Four ornate metal arches reached upwards, holding a roof that contained lights for evening shows. The perimeter sloped upwards from the road, with a break where the pathway entered. A saxophonist was playing and people were sitting around eating lunch, talking to each other. I felt as if I had just completed a fifteen thousand year journey.

This area used to be Vancouver’s poorest, most downtrodden neighborhood, attracting migrants from China and Vietnam and First Nations people who had been displaced from their land and culture. Back in my time it was a community mired in poverty, mental illness, drug addiction and grief—constant unresolved grief. [13] Someone once said it was the land that love had forgotten, the place you fell to when there was nowhere else to fall. [14]

And yet it had also been a community where people found friendship and comfort. There had always been a determination to heal and make things better. And now, the old eight-story rooming hotels for people on the lowest incomes, which used to be such dismal places, had been painted in bright colors and were obviously being cared for. Some had been demolished and replaced with new buildings, while others were being deconstructed and rebuilt, with large cranes towering above them.

Among the people sitting on benches or playing cribbage some looked much older than their years. Some used walkers or wheelchairs, and some were missing a limb, but there was an atmosphere that said, “This place is still ours. This is our home and community.” The neighborhood felt strong, while still being home to Vancouver’s poorest.

*

The rest of this chapter can be found in Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible, buy Guy Dauncey. www.journeytothefuture.ca

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Notes

[1] Based on Cyclovia, started in Bogota, Colombia: www.streetswiki.wikispaces.com/Ciclovia

[2] Vertical Garden: http://inhabitat.com/tag/vertical-garden/

[3] The Dancing Crosswalk: http://faithhub.net/crosswalk-dancing-fun/

Vertical gardens: www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com

[4] How Many Cities Have a Ban on Plastic Bags? Rachel Cemansky, How Stuff Works, http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm

California Legislature to consider statewide plastic bag ban. The Daily Californian, Jan 30, 2014. http://www.dailycal.org/2014/01/30/california-legislature-consider-statewide-plastic-bag-ban

Ban the Bottle: https://www.banthebottle.net/category/articles/

Abeego—Keep food fresher longer: www.abeego.ca

Tiffins for all: Food cart owner wants to wean Vancouverites off disposable takeout containers. Vancouver Sun, Jan 5, 2013. www.vancouversun.com/life/Vancouver+food+cart+owner+wants+wean+locals+disposable+takeout/7778013/story.html

[5] Will we ever… clone a mammoth? BBC News, June 1, 2012. www.bbc.com/future/story/20120601-will-we-ever-clone-a-mammoth

[6] Coastal Migration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_migration

[7] BC’s Gardens of Eden: Why were aboriginal clam farms so far out of our sight? Crawford Kilian, The Tyee. 8 Feb 2007. http://thetyee.ca/Books/2007/02/08/ClamGardens

[8] Legends of Vancouver, by Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake. www.robirda.com/legends/index.html

[9] Historic Trauma and Aboriginal Healing, by Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux and Ph.D. Magdalena Smolewski, Ph.D. Aboriginal healing Foundation, 2004. www.ahf.ca/downloads/historic-trauma.pdf 

Infected at Birth, by Rob Wipond. Focus Magazine, July 2012. www.focusonline.ca/?q=node/413 

Smallpox Epidemic of 1862 among Northwest Coast and Puget Sound Indians. Greg Lange, History Link. www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5171 

The Great Darkening, by Shawn Swanky: www.shawnswanky.com/the-great-darkening

[10] For first-hand accounts of those years see the report from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. See www.trc.ca and the report itself: www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Survivors_Speak_2015_05_30_web_o.pdf

[11] The Four Directions http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/transcripts/ojibwe.html

[12] Google Glass: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass

[13] Robertson calls for study of violence among mentally ill. Globe & Mail, Oct 22, 2013. www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/robertson-calls-for-study-of-violence-among-mentally-ill/article15012727/

British Columbia Health of the Homeless Survey Report. Dr. Reinhard Michael Krausz, MD, PhD University of British Columbia, 2011. http://pacificaidsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/BC-Health-of-the-Homeless-Survey-FINAL1.pdf “Mental Health: We found extremely high rates of multiple mental disorders….in our participants; 93 percent had a current mental disorder. The most common disorders participants met the criteria for were alcohol and drug dependence, agoraphobia, major depressive episodes, posttraumatic stress disorder and general anxiety disorder.”

[14] Clair Martin’s Downtown Eastside photo-essay: www.clairemartinphotography.com/#/photo-essays/the-misfits/downtown-east-side/CM_DowntownEastSide_01

Lung Liu’s Downtown Eastside photo-essay: www.lungliu.com/dtes.php

 

Canada’s Housing Crisis: A Permanent, 100-Year Solution

100-Years

Guy Dauncey is the author of Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible and nine other books. He is an Honorary Member of the Planning Institute of BC and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts.

June 2017. This is an updated and expanded version of Canada’s Housing Crisis: 22 Solutions, originally published on The Practical Utopian in December 2016.

A PDF Version of this essay can be downloaded here: Canada’s Housing Crisis – Guy Dauncey.

Executive Summary

Canada’s housing crisis is far more severe than most people realize. The fundamental problem is an excess of money pouring into the housing market from various sources, combined with an abdication of responsibility by all levels of government for the past 30 years.

There are many on-the-ground solutions, demonstrating positive ways to build affordable housing. And there are seven new housing-related taxes that could raise the funds needed for a massive expansion of affordable housing.

The fundamental cause of the problem is the excess of funds flowing into the market, and until this is solved house prices will continue to rise, and most other solutions will seem like never-ending sandbagging.

The money supply problem can be solved. The money can be obtained to restore safe, sustainable, socially designed affordable housing as a fundamental human right.

And by establishing an Affordable Housing Social Justice Connector, a permanent, hundred-year solution can be put in place that will guarantee that Canada need never confront a housing crisis again. Continue reading Canada’s Housing Crisis: A Permanent, 100-Year Solution

What Shall We Call The New Economy We Need So Much?

Seventy Names

Names-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an expanded Appendix 1 to my essay A New Cooperative Economy.

Until something has a name, it hardly exists. So what shall we call the new economy that we need so much? These are all proposed names that I have harvested from my reading. If you know of another, let me know, and I will add it. Updated from 66 to 70 on June 5th, thanks to Nicole Chaland.

And which do you prefer? I apologize that this website is not sophisticated enough to allow for scoring. Click MORE to see the list… Continue reading What Shall We Call The New Economy We Need So Much?

Book Review: The Clean Money Revolution – Reinventing Power, Purpose and Capitalism

by Joel Solomon with Tyee Bridge

New Society Publishers, April 2017.  Review by Guy Dauncey.

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This is a great book. It’s personal, committed, passionate, informative, and full of great stories. For an addicted change-the-worlder, what more can you ask?

And the stories, from Joel’s personal life and those of his colleagues, are about one of the most important challenges we need to embrace on our planet – changing the way we invest our money.

Continue reading Book Review: The Clean Money Revolution – Reinventing Power, Purpose and Capitalism

The World’s Central Banks to the Rescue

by Guy Dauncey, inspired by Matthias Kroll

PDF download available here: The Boldest Climate Solution

A globally agreed carbon cap? Carbon rationing? Holland’s proposed ban on the sale of non-electric cars by 2025? Oslo’s goal to reduce the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2030?

No, none of the above.

So what is it? In a nutshell, it’s the proposal that the world’s central banks create $300 billion a year, and use it to leverage investments of up to $2 trillion a year in the urgently needed transition to renewable energy, and other climate solutions.

Continue reading The World’s Central Banks to the Rescue

A New Cooperative Economy

Guy Dauncey, April 2017

essay-3

This essay was submitted to The Next Systems Project Essay Contest, in which is was awarded second place. “We received hundreds of submissions from 30 different states and 26 countries, proving that many around the world not only believe system change is necessary, but have thought long and hard about what a new system should look like and how we might get there.” http://thenextsystem.org/announcing-the-winners-in-our-essay-competition/ 

http://thenextsystem.org/…/2017/04/Dauncey_AtLargeSecond.pdf

You can download the essay as a PDF here. A New Cooperative Economy

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Our task is to fashion a political vision and a political narrative that is a compelling answer to neo-liberalism and the ideology of competition, free markets, and the primacy of capital. We need a political economy of cooperation, solidarity, of mutual benefit. –  John Restakis, Civil Power and the Partner State, 2016

Our modern economy is in crisis. Can we build an alternative economy as our ancestors did in the transition from feudalism to capitalism? It’s a question that takes us deep into our values, culture, history, politics—and visions of the future.

Continue reading A New Cooperative Economy

The Blob: Can We Change its Heart, Before it Destroys Us All?

Sometimes it seems as if those who care about Nature stand on guard around the edge of a huge circular Blob known as ‘The Economy’, which keeps growing and encroaching onto Nature. We organize to prevent its advance against creeks, rivers, forests and wetlands. We try to stop it from shooting out new pipelines, digging new coalmines, pouring more carbon into the atmosphere and introducing new chemicals into our food.

Sometimes we are successful and The Blob backs off, which happened with the proposed Raven coalmine near Courtenay. But just as often we are not, as the ecological wreckage of the private forest lands on the Island shows, and when The Blob assaults Nature in a distant country such as Indonesia, destroying native hardwood forests, home for millions of years to families of orangutans and other creatures, replacing them with palm oil trees for the global biofuel market.

Continue reading The Blob: Can We Change its Heart, Before it Destroys Us All?

A New Economy for Small Communities

by Guy Dauncey

When the future teenager walks down the future Main Street in future Smalltown BC, be it Williams Lake, Smithers, Houston, Creston or Kimberley, which of these thoughts might she or he be thinking?

“I can’t wait to get out of this place—it’s so, like, basic.”

or

“This place is so cool. I wish there was work, so that I could stay.”

or

“This place is so über-cool. My friends in the city are so jealous that I get to live, work and play here.”

British Columbia has many communities that built their economies around traditional resources that are now either collapsing or going into decline. Unless there’s a strong impulse for community economic renewal, there’s a risk that working people will leave and young people will follow, never to return.

Continue reading A New Economy for Small Communities

Let’s Get Going – Climate Action Together

 

Lets-Get-Going

F is for Future, a world without fossil fuels,

new solar symphony changing the gyre,

clean up our garbage, restore Nature’s harmony,

offer our children the hopes they desire.

To download the PDF version of this paper, click Climate Action Together

So how do we do it?[1]

How do we tackle the climate crisis with the speed and resolution that the climate scientists say is so urgently needed?

How do we make a rapid transition to a 100% renewable energy economy in a positive, nation-building manner, without causing economic mayhem, unemployment and chaos?

It’s complicated. There’s no doubt about it. Our economy is completely enmeshed in fossil fuels. We use fossil fuels to travel, to heat our homes and buildings, to generate electricity, to power our industry, to make plastics and to pave the roads. If fossil fuels were to magically stop working due to a zombie-ray from outer space or an unexpected change in the laws of physics, our economy would grind to an immediate halt. Continue reading Let’s Get Going – Climate Action Together

When Santa Lost His Reindeer

Santa

It was a week before Christmas, and Santa was busy polishing his boots in the big Winter House, up at the North Pole. It was a pleasant evening, and he was feeling good about life.

“My, don’t these boots look good!” he said to himself as he sat in front of the big log fire, admiring his reflection in the polish. “That should make a show when I’m ready to do my rounds!”

Most of the presents were neatly stacked in the Store House ready for delivery, and the reindeer were asleep in the barn, resting up before the big journey.

All except one, that is – Binky.

Continue reading When Santa Lost His Reindeer

A Modern Alphabet

Alphabet

 Thanks to Terry Sohl for the photo image, and to William Morris for the letters.

Opportunities to perform this are welcome. I hope to get it on YouTube soon. 

william-morris-letter-a

A is for Albatross

A is for Albatross,

far-winging freely across oceans of wonder,

mating for life till they die,

but their chicks have a diet of grim plastic plunder,

filling their bellies with lies.

Continue reading A Modern Alphabet

A Bold New Climate Vision: If I was Prime Minister of Canada, How Would I Tackle The Climate Crisis?

Bold

By Guy Dauncey

New Scientist magazine reported in June that five meters of future sea-level rise is already locked in, due to the steady collapse of the West Antarctic Ice-Sheet. If we don’t act rapidly, their staff reported, it will be twenty metres.

The full extent of the flooding will not happen for several thousand years, but “locked-in” is the phrase they used.[1] Venice, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Vancouver, London, Mumbai, Kolkata; large parts of Holland; a large part of Bangladesh and many cities in China—all will be under water.[2]

Continue reading A Bold New Climate Vision: If I was Prime Minister of Canada, How Would I Tackle The Climate Crisis?

Almost Twice as Many Green Jobs if Canada Phases out Fossil Fuels

Almost

by Guy Dauncey

The 48-Page Report is here.

Is It Really True?

Is it really true that if we don’t build more pipelines and allow more exports of coal, oil and gas, that Canada’s economy will be in danger and unemployment will rise?

That’s certainly what we are frequently told, both by the Conservative federal government and by several provincial governments, either directly or by implied assumption.

There is alternative, however. The climate crisis is inescapably real. It threatens everyone’s future, and it is being caused by carbon emissions from the same fossil fuels that our governments want to expand.

So what would it look like if there were an organized plan to phase out fossil fuels and embrace 100% renewable energy in Canada? That’s certainly what the climate crisis calls for. Continue reading Almost Twice as Many Green Jobs if Canada Phases out Fossil Fuels

Canada’s Housing Crisis: Twenty-Two Solutions

ggg

This essay was updated in June 2017. The new version is here: https://thepracticalutopian.ca/2017/06/14/canadas-housing-crisis-a-permanent-100-year-solution/

Delightful Recipes for an Ecologically Vibrant Future

Taste, and enjoy!

Recipes of My Home

The most difficult challenge facing humanity is not devising solutions to the energy crisis or climate crisis or population crisis; rather, it is bringing stories or narratives of the human journey into our collective awareness that empower us to look beyond a future of great adversity and to see a future of great opportunity. What visions of humanity’s journey are sufficiently compelling to transcend age-old differences and bring us together in a common venture of inhabiting the Earth in ways that are sustainable?  ~ Duane Elgin, NewStories, Great Transition Stories

Do concerns about the future we are leaving to our children and grandchildren leave you with a worried taste in your mouth, after even the most delicious meal? Let me come to your aid with these tasty offerings. You can choose one, two, or better still the whole lot, since they will hopefully lighten the weight of your worries.

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