Whistler 2020, a comprehensive civic sustainability plan crafted by the small Canadian town earlier this year, has just been given the International Livable Communities Award in the category of "Planning for the Future."
Whistler 2020 reimagines the resort community as a fully-sustainable, very low-footprint community, and spells out an ambitious -- yet practical -- agenda to make it so. The main document (PDF), published last May, outlines the goals and vision for the community; the resulting strategies document, adopted in August, provide more concrete steps for achieving that vision. Each of the sixteen categories, from arts & culture to water, gets a thorough examination of short and medium-term goals, along with policy recommendations for the next two years. The strategy documents have a good mix of idealism and practicality, with well-articulated (and plausible) descriptions of what a success scenario would look like alongside specific actions to be taken by civic planning authorities.
Whistler 2020 isn't a typical scenario exercise. It doesn't offer a narrative depiction of a future Whistler. Instead, it's an attempt to lay some ground rules for further development, rules that are predicated upon more than just the politics of the day. In doing so, it flips the traditional scenario practice of assuming that we must act in the face of an uncontrollable world, and posits that, at least in this case, the future is in our hands.
What's most appealing to me about the Whistler 2020 project is its scope. Few communities are willing to talk about more than the next year or two in anything other than platitudes. Whistler 2020 does what I wish more cities need to do: ground urban planning in the context of processes that take years to unfold, and a responsibility to future generations. What's more, Whistler 2020 isn't seen as an end-point; the larger goal is Whistler 2060, where the city is fully-sustainable. I was particularly pleased to see that the brief discussion of 2060 notes the breadth of changes to come in technology, politics, and the environment, and doesn't try to project what that future world will look like. At the same time, and ultimately of greater import, the quick look at 2060 emphasizes the relatively brief amount of time we have before that date is upon us, and the need to act before it's too late.
(Thanks for the tip, Eric Ezechieli!)
Here's one I liked, but don't remember having seen featured on Worldchanging -- a new method of gathering heat drawn from merely the first few feet of your soil:
Rather than think of this as geothermal energy, perhaps it's more appropriate to think of this as solar energy, because really it's about drawing off heat from soil which has been warmed by the sun's rays. It's an approach already in use in Sweden, and would even work in any remote or rural area. It requires the use of few hundred square meters of land, under which a circulating hose must be buried. A special heat-absorbing liquid is circulated through the hose to draw off the heat from the soil, and then that heat is drained off by pumps and radiators back inside the house. This heat can then be used to provide your hot water.
It then really enables your whole yard to be used as a large solar panel, provided you can lay the hose under the whole thing. Heck, what's more readily available than ground area? I'd imagine that running this under asphalt-covered parking lots or roads would gain the most solar heat absorption.
I grew up skiing Whistler so I have a real soft spot for the place. Very glad they have done this.
The context of why something of this calibre emerged in Whistler has to do with recent history. The place has witnessed huge changes over the last 20 years. The Whistler of my youth is barely recognizable today, so with such experience of change -- both in good ways and bad (too expensive now for many locals to ski) -- it makes it easier for people to engage in proactive future thinking. They kind of HAVE to do this too, a practical imperative that always helps: not only are they up against major constraints for growing, the upcoming Olympics will put HUGE catalytic pressures on this place, both before and after.
Lastly, Whistler is a short 1.5 hours from Vancouver and has attracted big city people and money from around the world. Its community is thus a complex hybrid of educated Bobos and progressive greenies.
Here's another link for Geothermal Heat Pumps. Houses can apparently get 70% of their energy for heating & cooling this way. I also wish this site would Feature it...Along w/Air Cars, and solar panels, this seems a Major Contribution to Human Welfare for very little change. Link