In the summers of 2018 and 2019 UVic Geography students traveled to Europe to learn about innovative city building efforts there. Both itineraries focused on a core of Amsterdam, Hamburg and Copenhagen. In 2018, we traveled to cities of the UK (Manchester, Edinburgh and Newcastle) before crossing over the North Sea to Amsterdam, whereas in 2019 we traveled through Spain (Sevilla, Madrid and Barcelona) before arriving in Amsterdam for the final leg.
Read on below for some background on our home base of Victoria or click on the buttons to travel with us.
Each summer, before departing for Europe, we took a week to meet with Victoria-area planners, activists, academics, and others in our own community taking stock of our own local sustainability efforts. Recognizing the potential hypocrisy of traveling overseas to study sustainability, we endeavour to offset the impacts of our travel by bringing our enthusiasm and the knowledge we gain in the field and invest it in local community projects.
For those not familiar with our part of the world...Victoria is situated in Coast Salish territories at the southern end of Vancouver Island. With a regional population of around 340,000 people, it is the second largest urbanized area in British Columbia and the province's capital city. Victoria's mild (for Canada) climate, its spectacular physical geography, and rich amenities (including the bustling inner harbour) makes it an attractive destination. Victoria is stereotyped as the place for the "newlywed and nearly dead", being an attractive place to visit (on a honeymoon, for example) or to retire. But it also has a large student population, and, politically, is regarded one of the most liberal and green cities in Canada.
Victoria is the colonial capital of British Columbia.
However, Victoria is not without its challenges. The British colonial outpost was founded on the dispossession and marginalization of Indigenous peoples, who continue to struggle for healthy lives on their lands. It has a large homeless population and is one of the least affordable cities in Canada. While attempting to diversify its economy, Victoria remains a challenging place for young people to find or create work, and (compounded by the lack of affordable housing) many must look elsewhere to build their lives. While the progressive City Council is trying to diversify transportation options, investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, Victoria remains a pretty car-dependent place with a high ecological footprint. Like other cities in the context of neoliberal reprioritization, Victoria has few fiscal resources for addressing such challenges.
The infamous Colwood Crawl signals unsustainable transportation in the region.
In this context there is much work to be done to create a livable, sustainable, decolonized region. On our field schools we are keen to explore what cities in Europe are up to and if there are any lessons for our own community. We are keen to learn about:creating vibrant and inclusive public spaces; building effective transportation networks, redeveloping toxic, brownfield sites, greening/ ”re-naturing” the city, promoting climatic-hydrological resilience, creating local, sustainable food systems, providing housing diversity and affordability, repurposing / regenerating old buildings and moving towards energy sustainability
In what follows, students have shared their experiences learning in cities of Europe
Sketching workshop with Maleea Acker (2018). Not only is sketching a valuable tool for recording field observations, it slows us down to actually see things.
In Victoria the 2018 group explored local sustainability initiatives such as the Dockside Green development to get a sense of what we were doing locally with which we could then compare the projects we encountered in the field.