Editorial: Sustainability embedded in everyday life: Lessons from ‘Moana’

When living in Vancouver, one can’t help but notice an obsession with being green and environmentally friendly. There is an insistence that, for example, food should be locally grown to reduce car emissions, as well as be grown organically to reduce the use of pesticides. Yet another example is the strict recycling and garbage sorting for households and institutions like UBC. Sometimes it feels like a riddle placing my garbage into the right container, though I know it’s for a good cause.

In other words, what I’ve observed since moving to Vancouver is that it seems like the city wants to make sustainability a part of its residents’ everyday life. It certainly makes an effort for it, as seen in the strict sorting rules.

This then brings the following question to mind: how can we make sustainability a part of everyday life?

How can we make being sustainable a habit and the norm rather than the exception?

Why don’t we take a look at Moana?

Coconuts and insights from Moana


Using a Disney movie for an argument may seem weird, but I would argue that Moana has some vital lessons to teach us.

Consider this part of the song Where You Are:

Consider the coconut
Consider its tree
We use each part of the coconut
That’s all we need

We make our nets from the fibers
The water is sweet inside
We use the leaves to build fires
We cook up the meat inside

Here we can see that no part of the coconut is wasted – every single aspect of the fruit has an intended purpose. We can also see that the people are content with the island’s resources, and have no want of anything more.

Now compare this with modern capitalist, consumerist societies in North America like Vancouver. It’s quite the contrast. Instead of being content, we want more – whether it is coffee, or electronics, or food, we want endlessly more of it. Being wealthy and well of in this type of society means having an abundance of everything you can possibly want.

Certainly, we have all heard this before – the excess we have in this part of the world being compared to poorer societies and the few they have, and as contributing to the strain on the earth, manifesting as climate change. Perhaps it is a rhetoric that we are getting tired of as well.

However, if Vancouver and all of us want sustainability to be an integral part of our society, as a habit rather than the exception, than this is something we need to consider. We must rethink our relationship with our planet to be successful in this goal.

Rethinking our relationship with the Earth

So the argument I’ve posed to you here is that one of the main lessons to be gained from Moana is that we must rethink our relationship with the earth.

I would also extend this argument to include Indigenous peoples, first because Moana is a story portraying the ancestors of the peoples in Polynesia today, but also that Indigenous societies can be an example for the type of relationship we want with the earth.

We have much to learn from Indigenous peoples like Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh on whose lands Vancouver sits on, who have had this knowledge for thousands of years.

Overall, it’s grand to say that we must make sustainability a part of everyday. However, when being green is still the ‘good alternative’ or exceptional task, it’s hard to do that. We must therefore rethink how we interact and engage with the earth and our environment.

We must fundamentally change how we think of the environment, ideally moving from a thing from which we can extract resources and wealth, to a provider of these resources and our needs that thrives when we respect and take care of it.

What can we do?

Work is being done to this end already, such as with IC-Kindness, whose president I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. Their message is that just as we must be kind to each other and ourselves, we must also be kind to the earth, forming this triangle of kindness that will hopefully lead to a better world.

But of course, more needs to be done. We must carry the sentiment we have here in Vancouver of wanting organically grown food and strict garbage sorting rules into our everyday interactions and how we think about the earth, whatever position in life, in work, or generally that we’re in.

Let’s take some guidance from Moana, a story about a girl who loves to sail, and respects the water and environment around her.

Canada Day gets the retro treatment as commemorates Expo 86

Attracting up to 250,000 people during the day with numerous activities and live performances at Canada Place, it’s no wonder Vancouver’s  celebration of Canada’s  birthday is the largest outside Ottawa.

The 29th annual Canada Day at Canada Place on July 1st, promises a fun-filled day from 10 am to 6 pm for children and adults, and continue into the evening showcasing a colourful, diverse parade, and fireworks show.

This year, however, the event organized by Port of Vancouver, will also bring the 1980s back by commemorating the 30th anniversary of Canada Place, which opened as the Canadian Pavilion  for Expo 86.

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The annual Canada Day at Canada Day offers a fun-filled day with free live entertainment and activities for both adults and children.


Guests will relive their Expo 86 memories, by exploring the Expo Pavilion (Ballrooms ABC, Vancouver Convention Centre East) which will feature memorabilia and imagery of that time, as well an arcade with old video games for the public to enjoy–fans of Pac Man and Pinball take note.

‘We started to plan for this year, realizing it was the 30th anniversary of  this beautiful building [Canada Place] that was built originally for Expo 86, and so we thought “what a   great way to celebrate [the exhibit’s anniversary] with some of  the programming that we would have on site for  Canada Day”,’ said Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Laurie Purdon,  event organizer.

‘It was a very special time for Vancouver, a lot of people say [Expo 86] put our city on the international map and they have some many great memories . It’s a really fun way to remember what we all enjoyed back in ’86… It’s a time for

Scottish singer and 1980s icon, Sheena Easton.

Iconic Scottish singer  Sheena Easton will be co-headlining this year’s Canada Day event.

people that  weren’t there,  to have  bit of that experience [too].’


Originally proposed under the name of Transpo 86, the city won the bid to host the international transportation exhibition in 1986, year also of  Vancouver’s  Centennial.

In 1983,  Queen Elizabeth II and former prime minister, Pierre Trudeau  initiated the first concrete pour on the construction site for what would become the Canadian Pavilion.

On May 2, 1986,  former prime minister Brian Mulroney ,  Prince Charles and the Princess Diana inaugurated the Fair, where participated pavili0ns from 54 nations and organizations.

This special Canada Day edition will feature renowned international, national and local performers, including  legendary Canadian DJ Red Robinson, at Hall A (Vancouver Convention Centre East), who will be reprising his presenter duties at Expo 86, in between multicultural performances and talent,  sharing stories about his more remarkable moments and interviews with stars (including Elvis Presley and The Beatles) , during his 50-year career.

Among the musical guests,  Grammy Award winner, Sheena Easton, who also played at Expo 86, will be back to co-headline the event taking the Main Stage at 3:30 pm, followed by Canadian country singer,  Aaron Pritchet.

The electro-dance band Bear Mountain (BMTN), Rococode, Mo Kenney, Famous Players and many more will be also performing at the event.

As in every Canada Day celebration, a Citizenship Ceremony will take place at Hall A at 11 am, where 60 citizens will become Canadian.

Bear Mountain.

Bear Mountain.

In addition,  other entertainment include  the Pogo Stunt Team at Jack Poole Plaza, south of the cauldron, featuring championship pro athletes flying over 10 feet in the air on extreme pogo sticks throwing down flips and incredible tricks, a zone dedicated to the Canadian Forces,  and hockey games.

Canada Day Parade & fireworks

The 7th Annual Canada Day Parade will kick off at 7 pm from Broughton & Georgia Streets with dispersal at Burrard and Pender Streets.

The patriotic festivities will close with a two barge simultaneous fireworks placed in  Burrard Inlet, at 10.30 pm, viewable from various locations including Harbour Green Park, Coal Harbour , Stanley Park, Crab Park, West Vancouver Seawall, between Ambleside and Dundarave, North Vancouver, Lower Lonsdale Area. The fireworks cannot be seen from the English Bay or Canada Day flag Spanish Banks.

A ticketed  fireworks  viewing zone will be open at Canada Place’s  West Promenade —  a family-friendly,  licensed area.  Free admission for children four and under.

For more information on Canada Day  at Canada Place, schedules, performances’ lineup and street closures, visit canadaplace.ca.


Vancouver is one of the most livable cities in the world: Survey

Vancouver ranks amongst one of most preferred cities to live in the world once again.

According to the 18th annual Quality of Life survey by Mercer, a global consulting and investment organization based in Toronto, Vancouver ranked at 5th , offering the best quality of living and working worldwide for residents and expatriate employees.

Vancouver is the only in North American city amongst the top 10 – despite its skyrocketing housing prices. In a survey published last month, Vancouver also got into the top 5 cities with the most expensive real estate markets in the world.

On the other hand, economic uncertainty in Europe, hasn’t deterred Western European cities to get top spots.  Vienna takes again the first place, followed by Zurich (2) and Munich (4) . Meanwhile,   New Zealand’s Auckland grabbed the third place.

Mercer evaluated the local living conditions in more than 440 cities worldwide (230 were included in this year’s list)  and were analyzed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories – including politics, social-cultural, environment, health, education, public services, recreation, consumer goods, housing and natural environment. The research is aimed to assist companies to ensure their employees receive fair compensation and meet their  needs while working abroad.

Mercer's Quality of Life Survey 2016. Source: Mercer

Mercer’s Quality of Life Survey 2016. Image source: Mercer

Other Canadian cities also ranked fairly well in the survey — Toronto (15), Ottawa (17), Montreal (23) and Calgary (32).

‘Quality of living continues to be high in Canada with a stable political environment and positive social benefits, offering a very desirable and safe place to live and work for residents and expatriate workers,’said Gordon Frost, Leader of Mercer’s Talent Business in Canada, in a press release. ‘Our sustained high ranking is attractive to multinational corporations and their employees as they look to expand in Canada and provide significant opportunities to both Canadians and workers from abroad.’

In the United States, San Francisco (28) ranks highest for quality of living, followed by Boston (34), Honolulu (35), Chicago (43), and New York City (44).  In North America, Monterrey (108) and Mexico City (127) take the lowest spots and for the Caribbean, Havana (191) and Port-au-Prince (227).

Mercer's Quality of Living Survey 2016. Source: Mercer.

Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey 2016. Image source: Mercer

South American cities Montevideo (78), Buenos Aires (93), and Santiago (94) remain the highest ranking cities for quality of living, while Bogota (130), La Paz (156), and Caracas (185) rank lowest in the region.

The city with the world’s lowest quality of living is Baghdad (230).

The survey also studied personal safety and compiled a list of cities based on internal stability, crime levels, performance of local law enforcement, and the home country’s relationship with other nations.

‘Heightened domestic and global security threats, population displacement resulting from violence, and social unrest in key business centres around the world are all elements adding to the complex challenge facing multinational companies when analysing the safety and health of their expatriate workforces, ‘ explains Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president at Mercer, in a statement.

As for the personal safety list, all the aforementioned Canadian cities  ranked 16th, in contrast with  US cities, which didn’t make the top 50.

‘Canada’s major cities continue to be much safer than every US counterpart. This is extremely appealing for ex-patriate employees looking to bring their families with them as they move abroad for work,’ Frost explains.

In addition, the report reveals that most North American cities are safe for expatriates, but Mexican cities are ranked relatively low, because of the drug-related violence. Monterrey is the highest ranking Mexican city at 108th, whereas Mexico City takes the 127th place.

In the rest of the American continent,  Kingston (199), Tegucigalpa (201), and Port-au-Prince (211) show the lowest levels of personal safety and at 96th Montevideo is South America’s highest ranking in personal safety; while Caracas (214) is the lowest. Unemployment, economic crisis and political unrest in some of the countries, are factors that explains these low rankings in personal safety in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Globally, Luxembourg tops the personal safety list followed by Bern, Helsinki, and Zurich, all three in the second place. Whereas, Baghdad (230) and Damascus (229) made the  bottom of the list.

Architects reimagine future of Vancouver in exhibit

Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver is a timely and provocative exploration of the future of Vancouver as a response to the mounting concern on the changes taking place in the region, shifting the dialogue  from real estate  to the future state of the city.

Thus, Urbanarium Society in partnership with the Museum of Vancouver (MOV)  will bring  an exhibition that will feature 20 different scenarios of Vancouver’s future landscape, while engaging the public to discuss four exceptionally pressing issues:  housing affordability, residential density, ease of transportation and quality of public space.

The exhibition will take place from Jan. 21 through May 16, 2016 at the MOV. Organizers at the museum expect to welcome a few thousands attending Your Future Home throughout its duration.

Urbanarium is a non-for-profit educational organization, created 30 years ago by architect and planner, Ray Spaxman, who was  inspired by  a then-newly opened planetarium in Toronto. He  envisioned  a place where people can  gather and have discussions about the future of the city and the region, as well as  exhibitions, lectures and workshops,  where visitors can learn about design and urban planning.

After some inactivity, in 2013 Spaxman and  a group of architects,  planners and volunteers —  including, renowned Vancouver-based architect  Richard Henriquez, chairman of the board of directors–  revived Urbanarium.  Still a virtual space, Urbanarium’s website was launched a year later.

“This  is by far, one of our  most ambitious programs yet, along with the debate series,” says  Jamaican-born Henriquez in a phone interview. He arrived first in Manitoba as a teenager  in the late 1950s, but has called Vancouver home since 1967.

This exhibition aims  to expose the city’s  issues and “get people thinking about the choices that might have to make in the future as time goes on”.

Henriquez  is the founding partner of Henriquez Partners Architects, recipient of numerous accolades, and the creative force behind iconic estructures, such as the Gaslight Square, the New Westminster’s Justice Institute of BC and the Sinclair Centre.


Your future home exhibition will feature  a 1,400-square-foot model, a sort of a real estate “sales centre,” advertising new condominiums.

“Except that instead of showing off one building, we are showing off the whole city. (…) It’s a miniature model of Vancouver, ” Henriquez explained.

This model will include photographs, infographics, animations, dramatic models, panoramic images relating to Vancouver’s downtown and suburban neighbourhoods. Visitors will have the opportunity to discuss the future scenarios, offer feedback and propose new solutions.

 Image courtesy of Richard Henriquez.

Image courtesy of Richard Henriquez.

The second part introduces about 20 different scenarios focused on ideas  about ways to improves  the city in the future. “They have to do with  affordability, public open space, transportation  and increasing density, which is a big concern for a lot of people.”

Some of the case studies will also include the Arbutus Lands redevelopment, the  expansion of the CPR line to Marpole, possible changes in  Granville Island, and new ways of  heating buildings in the Downtown area and sustainability issues.

One of the future scenarios will feature a 2,500-foot vertical city as a three-dimensional model, a representation of Granville Street turned on end to run vertically, to be displayed in the “Urban Grid.’ It’s a lesson about  scale and people’s  changing notions of scale over time.

Among the various topics, high sky home prices is certainly the most urgent issue in Vancouver. “There  is a lot of pressure from outside people to get housing,”  says  Henriquez.  A foreign investor can buy six or eight apartments at a time  – most likely to remain empty.

“Vancouver is like a bank (…)  It’s a safe place to park money.”  Henriquez says he thinks it’s the federal government’s responsibility to look into this matter.

On a municipal level,  the City of Vancouver and developers are working together to create affordable  housing in the benefit of low-income individuals.  Developers are allowed to build condominiums at a higher density than usual, in exchange the City will get 20% of the suites for free.

From an architectural point of view — although Henriquez doesn’t advocate for it — miniaturization of suites is another option. “In designs with very small spaces, everything is multiuse, so you can shrink the space and still live in.”


During the exhibition, members of the public will have the chance to participate in six Oxford-style  debates  among architectural, real estate and urban planning experts, by casting their votes with mobile devices.

The debates  will take place at the Robson Square, except for first one to be held at  the MOV  on January 20th (Free admission by donation –currently sold out), which will focus on densification of neighbourhoods.  The debates will be a yearly affair, depending on their success.

For more information visit: MOV’s website.