Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Be a Change Maker

I attended the Building the Movement: Change Makers Conference, part of We Can BC, this past Saturday at the SFU Harbor Center in Vancouver.

The 'We Can' Campaign is an international campaign aimed to deal with the violence that women endure daily, both within their homes and in the larger community. In order to mobilize large sectors of the community, it has created the Change Maker campaign. Individuals sign on as Change Makers - men, women, boys and girls who pledge not to tolerate or commit violence against women, to re-examine their own beliefs and values, and to encourage at least five other people to do the same. The conference featured a panel of speakers and a workshop on becoming a change maker.

Indira Prahst was one of the speakers and a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at Langara College. One of the questions she asked was why is there a negative attitude towards women? She speculated on the devaluing of roles, women seen as an economic burden and socially constructed issues that can be changed. She also emphasized the need to deconstruct attitudes of culture and reconstruct new images of woman and the need to think of ways men can feel comfortable and not blamed.

Maggie Ip is involved with the S.U.C.C.E.S.S Foundation and spoke from a social services point of view. She noted that there is no ethnic boundary for domestic violence. There is a need to work with the victims as a social service organization, but noted that victims kept coming back, so we need to find the root of the problem and proposed support groups for men. Society must change their attitudes on how to protect the public and discussed three levels of change:
1 - Public education from early childhood to adult level;
2 - A zero tolerance policy and a change in the institution/system to recognize this; and
3 - Intervention.

Bill Saunders is President of the Vancouver & District Labour Council and raised the question of why nine out of ten domestic cases is men against women? He discussed how the root lies in the question of gender relationship and gender roles in society. Noting that women have been successful in evolving the definition of their role, he discussed that men now have to work to develop and evolve their role. One of the points he made, which I quite like was "Acquiescence does not mean understanding", when we understand then we cam facilitate in change. He stressed that we need to facilitate as a society the ability to open the discussion on gender relations and work with key groups of men to facilitate these changes.

Sgt. Richard Rabinovitch was a speaker from the Vancouver Police Department and addressed the question as to how the police can respond and improve responses to domestic violence in the community. An important step was to make the community realize that domestic violence is not a private issue and noted that domestic violence can not be pinpointed to one group, it spans all socio-economic boundaries.

A workshop on how to become a Change Maker followed the panel discussions. Information on how to become a Change Maker, and materials that can be of use can be found on the We Can website.

New ideas in architecture


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The NY Times recently published an interesting editorial on sustainability and business.

Terms such as "Green", "Sustainability" and "Eco-friendly" are thrown around a lot by corporations, the government and the general public. While this is encouraging because people are becoming more aware of what is happening in the world, it is also dangerous because there is a greater risk of mis-information and 'greenwashing'.

Greenwashing, while itself very much a 'pop phrase', refers to businesses, government or people misleading others of the environmental benefits of services or products. As being 'environmental' becomes more popular 'greenwashing' is more likely to occur. If people become more educated and aware, this can be avoided.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Yesterday, Vancouver celebrated car-free day around the city. The following picture shows a gas station without much use.

Read about it here.

It was a nice sunny day. We were able to stroll down the middle of Denman street with vendors on either side and without the hum of passing cars.

Should be done more often.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Building the Movement: Change Makers Conference

Stanley Park and Art

Originally uploaded by knicole7
I have recently enrolled in an EcoArt course taught by Beth Carruthers at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.

In this course we explore ideas around ecology, art and the environment. One of the projects we are looking at is the Stanley Park Environmental Art Project. This past Saturday we conducted a walking tour of the park and met with artists Peter von Tiesenhausen and John Hemsworth.

Peter and John chose to work with an 800 year old tree that had fallen during the wind storms last year to create their ephemeral work. The tree had been cut to allow for the path and had a section that had been cut out of it further in the park that had been sent to Beijing. Rather than working with the tree, which felt egotistical, they wanted to work with the gap that was off the path.

One of the points they made that I found interesting, was that when people see something that is 800 years old that is man made, it is revered, but yet we walk among trees and natural objects that are as old or older every day and barely pay attention.

I think EcoArt helps us to pay attention to what is in the world an acknowledge that our actions have an effect on the world around us.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Urban Sprawl

View 2
Originally uploaded by knicole7
The New York Times just released and interesting article on 'New Cities'.

Now that over half the world's population live in urban areas, coming up with innovative and creative designs and uses for the urban areas is going to be an important focus for urban planners, architects and the community. There already exist a number of designs and case studies that have emerged, but determining ways in which to implement these into existing communities that are inclusive to everyone in those communities without making them unaffordable is going to be difficult.


In order to create change, we must work together. Scientists, policy makers, businesses and artists have all been interested in creating change for the better. By working together they can combine thier strengths and creater a stronger, interlinked movement.

A number of initiatiives have been created to encourage such cooperation.

seen & unseen is an initiative of Helix Arts which was created in order to provide models for developing collaborative practice to finding solutions as well as raising awareness about pollution. Artists, scientists and members of the community work together to educate and find solutions to sustainability issues.

In the Climate Change Explorer Project, artists acted as a catalyst in devising a cross curricula education project, involving teachers and students in creative ways of exploring ideas around climate change by using the internet to stimulate new perspectives on the issue.

Many projects around the world have been developed in which scientist, artists, the public and organizations work together to find solutions. These networks are integral towards finding solutions to issues of sustainability and development.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Education and Sustainability

This morning Metro Vancouver hosted their monthly sustainability breakfast discussion. This month's theme was Sustainability Education including talks from Chris Kelly - Superintendent of Schools for the Vancouver School Board, Kevin Nelson - Executive Director of Check Your Head, and a group of grade 9 students from the Green Bricks program at King George Secondary in Vancouver.

Chris Kelly primarily discussed what is sustainability education and why it's important. He pointed out that the fundamental purpose of education is sustainability. In his talk he stressed the importance of direct and authentic engagement of the learner/student to determine what is important and to create a sustainability process.

In order to discuss sustainability options in education, Chris Kelly as well as other leaders within education in Vancouver, took part in a Sustainability Summit on April 28th of this year. This summit hosted a "World Cafe" session in which short and long-term actions in order to respond to sustainability issues - both social and environmental - were discussed. What came out of this session included:
1. An embedded emphasis on social responsibility;
2. Multiple initiatives;
3. Learner/student generates and leads;
4. Self-determination.

Kevin Nelson discussed Check Your Head's work with schools and students to determine how schools can interact with the local communities to find sustainable initiatives and learn of ways in which this is placed in the broader global context. He emphasized that they were not trying to 'recreate the wheel' but instead were trying to 'sew a tapestry' of organizations in the community - that is bring together all the different factors of the community that are working together for positive change so that they can all work together.

An example of this was the installation of solar panels on the King George Secondary school. The community came together to install the solar panels and students were educated about the process and it's benefits in their classes. Kevin stressed that sustainability education is an opportunity for the next generation to explore new possibilities, innovations and creations that can change the current path in which we are headed.

The King George grade 9 students discussed how they worked together to reduce energy, waste and water consumption within their schools. This has expanded beyond the typical science class discussions and has been adopted throughout their curriculum. For instance, in their English class they created advertisements that encouraged a reduction in consumption and greater awareness.

Education has a definite place in expanding sustainability. If people are unaware of the problems and the potential solutions, our situation can not be changed.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Oxjam June 8!

Oxjam Poster
Originally uploaded by knicole7

Join us on Sunday June 8 @ the Media Club 695 Cambie Street, Vancouver, 7pm.