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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson poses briefly for a photograph after a phone interview with The Globe and Mail at City Hall in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday November 13, 2012. (DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail)
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson poses briefly for a photograph after a phone interview with The Globe and Mail at City Hall in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday November 13, 2012. (DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail)

Vive la Robertson revolution Add to ...

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s midterm address to the Vision Vancouver caucus.

My fellow Visionistas: “Once there were parking lots, now it’s a peaceful oasis. This was a Pizza Hut, now it’s all covered with daisies.”

My friend David Byrne wrote those prescient words in 1987, 21 years before I became the mayor of Vancouver. I was but an impressionable and ambitious young man in my early 20s, dreaming of one day making my fortune in the organic juice and fruit salad business while also making the world a better place. I have held those words in my heart, and now two decades later and as the mayor of this city, my dreams are taking shape before my eyes.

We have rammed through our sacred bike lanes, community gardens and farmers markets. We have forced homeowners to compost almost everything. We are planting fruit trees across the city, uncovering creeks and streams, and replacing our city’s paved back alleys with planted and permeable country lanes. Upon these lanes we have encouraged the development of tiny but environmentally beneficial living spaces and we have somehow managed to make people excited about living in a 400-square-foot suite atop a garage.

Citizens can now raise chickens in their backyards, and pull fresh fish from the waters of Hastings Park. We are literally teaching our children to fish.

Our city is now adorned with decorative guerrilla gardens and yarn-bombings of all colours and patterns.

But all of this my friends, righteous though it may be, is not enough.

We have so much more to do if we want to reach our goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Which is why today, I am sharing with you the rest of my Greenest City Vision.

Make no mistake, these are bold steps which will no doubt be greeted with derision and ridicule by non-believers. To them I say: Put your ear to the ground and listen to Gaia. Gaia is weeping.

We are halfway through our second mandate and will shortly announce the demolition of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts – the last vestige of a freeway conceived as the bastard child of an unholy union between practicality, expediency and fossil fuels. Below, where they cast their sinister shadows upon the earth, we shall place parks and food gardens accessible only by bicycle.

Elsewhere, we will triple our efforts to plant fruit trees on city land, and demand that all new residential construction include food gardens and fruit-bearing trees. Naysayers have suggested that rotting fruit may attract pests and even bears. To them I say: Let our children experience nature’s majesty through the wonder of a face– to-face encounter with a bear. The bears will roam free along with the many raccoons, skunks, and coyotes who call our city home and with whom we will peacefully co-exist until the coyotes eat all our cats.

More streams and creeks will be day-lighted to promote the return of salmon.

Rustic wooden bridges built by artisans and their families will carry travellers over these pristine, reborn waterways. This may reduce some routes, namely Broadway, Grandview, Rupert, Main, Arbutus and Granville, to single-lane alternating traffic. But it is a small price to pay for the reclamation of nature.

Our country lanes program will be expanded to major routes. Kingsway, for instance, will be restored to its original wagon-trail heritage. Underground storm sewers will be replaced with scenic heritage ditches. Horse travel will be encouraged along those routes to avoid congestion and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Grass and sod will be outlawed in favour of barley, rye and hops, which may be bartered at our many craft breweries. Each harvest we will raise a flagon of ale, and toast our good fortune.

Finally, the backyard chicken program will be enhanced to include swine, goats and cattle, with neighbours sharing space in a community corral.

We will discard our time pieces and the artificial construct of time. We will live our lives by the sun and the moon. We will guide ourselves by the stars, our instincts and the scent of our prey. We will dance with abandon around fires, paint our bodies with mud, run naked through the forest, and eat what we kill.

This is my solemn promise to you.

We begin today.


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