Victoria (pre-departure) highlights from the UVIC Europe Sustainability Field School 2017

Before heading off on our adventure, we will meet with planners, local business people, activists, academics, and others in our own community of Victoria, taking stock of local sustainability efforts.

Victoria, Coast Salish Territories, on the Southern Tip of Vancouver Island

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. It also has a large student population, and, politically, is regarded one of the most liberal and green cities in Canada.

Victoria's Inner Harbour

However, Victoria has a dark side. 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 in the midst of a housing affordability crisis. While attempting to diversify its economy, Victoria remains a challenging place for young people to find or create work, and many must look elsewhere to build their lives. While trying to diversify transportation options, investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, it remains a car-dominated place with a high ecological footprint. Like other Canadian cities, Victoria has few fiscal resources for addressing such challenges. Progress is further complicated by a dysfunctional governance structure. Rather than a unified city, "Victoria" is a collection of often jealous, competing municipalities. This set up is often blamed for stifling effective regional decision-making, for example, paralyzing action to address Victoria's "dirty" secret - dumping untreated waste into the ocean or to deal comprehensively with traffic, through improving regional transit.

The Colwood Crawl - unsustainable transportation in the region

In Victoria, we met with local folks grappling with the responding to the social and ecological challenges facing the city. In what follows we highlight some of the inspiring projects and some reflections on the challenges and opportunities in creating sustainable communities.

The Compost Education Centre is a key sustainability initiative "providing composting and ecological gardening education to Capital Regional District residents." The demonstration garden site in the heart of the inner city neighbourhood of Fernwood provides a range of services including: a composting hotline (250-386-WORM), free educational literature and resource library; hands-on educational programs for all ages, and sales of composters and related products.

compost education centre

Alysha Punnett explained that while this project and projects like it (e.g. community gardens, commons areas) are often seen as "cute extras" they are actually vital to the health and well-being of the community. Benefits include: cheap and healthy food; inspiration and education; habitat for pollinators and green corridors for urban wildlife; and being a healthy place for people to come together and enjoy each others' company. Alysha argues that "enjoyment" is particularly crucial for sustainability. We won't do something if we don't enjoy it. What do you think?

Created By
Cam Owens
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Created with images by evag - "canada geese victoria" • SHAWSHANK61 - "victoria bc inner harbor ferry" and Cam Owens

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