Thursday, June 29, 2006

Land-use, housing and... Superman Returns!

While it might be a surprise to read the name of the world's mightiest superhero in an environmentally-inclined blog, there is actually a relevant connection. I am not going to reveal the plot of the movie, which recently opened in theatres in Vancouver (yesterday as a matter of fact). What is important (and certainly connects to the issue of urban sustainability) is that the movie touches upon the thorny issue of land-use and real estate.

Lex Luthor (many people's favourite villain, played by Kevin Spacey in this version and pitted against Brandon Routh's Superman) is in the real-estate business, and is conspiring to build a new continent using Krypton's advanced technology. He'll destroy many continents, killing many people, and then he will sellhis land (never mind that the actual 'crystal-grown land' looks horrible and arid).

The issue here is to remember that while for many people, land is a resource we need, for many others it is business. How to make land use a sustainable activity (equitable, just, accessible) ... quite an interesting challenge....

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The World Urban Forum in Vancouver - June 19th to 23rd, 2006

Well, I picked up today my badge and registration package for the III World Urban Forum that will take place in Vancouver from June 19th to 23rd.

Given my interest in urban sustainability and the politics of environmental regulation, water sanitation, patterns of land use and zoning, it is fitting that this event is taking place in the city where I live now. Lucky me! I was unfortunately away from Mexico when the 4th World Water Forum took place (too bad, since water policy is one of my research interests). But at least I got to attend one megaconference in 2006.

But there is one substantial difference between WUF3 and 4WWF (that's how they like to be called, really!) is that WUF3 was 100% free. Gratis. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Whereas, to ensure participation in the 4WWF you would have had to shell out in the realm of $ 600.00 US (six hundred US dollars). Now, quite obviously WUF will have substantial participation from NGOs, academia and the general public, simply because it is taking place here and it is entirely free!

The Georgia Straight has a full issue devoted to the World Urban Forum, which you can check out if you click here. Note that this link may disappear after WUF, but hopefully you will be able to search the GS archives. The actual website of WUF is really neat, and I am sure that there will be lots of things to be said and discussed there.

I'll be posting some of my thoughts on WUF3 throughout the week. Besides, it is a great opportunity to network :)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Restaurant review - Enigma: The pleasure of simplicity and sophistication

The 12th International Symposium on Society and Natural Resource Management is currently taking place at The University of British Columbia. Co-organized by Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management, this symposium takes place from June 3rd to the 8th, 2006.

Many of my good friends and colleagues are currently visiting Vancouver because they are presenting their research here. Therefore, I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to take a group of them for dinner to Enigma, on 10th Avenue and Tolmie.

Enigma is a wonderful place that is very much not what people might think at first glance. The place is decorated with sophisticated furniture, high chairs and tables and a nice outdoor patio. However, despite the 'posh' factor that might lead you to believe that it will be a pricey place, it is surprisingly inexpensive, and the food is amazing. The portions are generous and the taste is really good. I would highly recommend it. It is the kind of place where you would take a date, or an out-of-towner and where you could be sure that the person you are inviting will have a wonderful experience. The owners are there to check on every detail, so you feel very much at home. I have been there for dinner, breakfast (I haven't been there for lunch however).

Overall, a wonderful experience. Six marvelous academics at a table and we all had a great time... what else can I ask for?

Enigma in Vancouver

Friday, June 02, 2006

Al Gore, UBC and climate change

I had the amazing opportunity today to go and listen to Mr. Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States of America, speak about climate change, the future of Earth and the challenges ahead. It was a great talk. Mr. Gore is a very articulate speaker and he can galvanize the hell out of you. By the time his speech was over, I felt recharged and empowered to effect change. Yes, we can succeed in facing the sustainability challenge (at least that's the message Mr. Gore is trying to get across). He was unbelievable, and even though I'm very stressed and overwhelmed with work, I wouldn't have traded this opportunity ever. He talked at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at The University of British Columbia. Dr. Martha Piper, the (out-going) President of UBC was there to deliver her last official speech and present Mr. Gore. It was an awesome evening altogether. Now, back to the grind :)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Mexican elections

Normally I wouldn't even go there, but I've been bombarded with propaganda from the two main contenders. The interesting part of this phenomenon is the incredible bias that one can read from pseudo-political analyists. I read a profile of one of the candidates (I will not say names to make my own life easier) who was basically touted "a perfect candidate" whereas the other was profiled as a complete whack-job. This profile was written by an Anglo-saxon writer, not based in Mexico. Thus, the chances of him actually knowing how things are in Mexico are nil. However, he invested himself with enough authority to have an opinion (a biased one, I might add). So, the problem is, there is no balanced, objective analysis of the 2006 Mexican elections. What will happen is anybody's guess. I for one am happy I am not there.