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Going Green in World’s Greenest City

Vancouver’s young generation embraces higher density

News item: “Micro suites” planned for Vancouver-area development

Woman in a box Janet and Bob (pictured) of Vancouver, BC — a jurisdiction heralded around the world as “the model city” by planners and politicians from afar who drop in for two-day visit of wining , dining and smoozing — represent the new generation of Canadians with a “green” vision. The same vision as their “green” Mayor Gregor Robertson. It is the vision of a sustainable future where citizens willingly choose to live more simply so that more and more billions of people can simply live.

That means living “smaller” (and smaller and smaller and smaller). For many, like Janet and Bob who used to live as man and wife, it means living apart in separate cardboard 36 cubic foot boxes in order to save the planet and sustain Vancouver’s reputation as a “welcoming” city by making room for the unending parade of humanity wishing to make it their home.

At first, their move was a challenge, seeing that a 36 cubic foot box in Vancouver now sells for $300,000, and making the payments is tough enough when a couple can share the cost, but since co-habitation is now environmentally irresponsible, it is even tougher for singles.  But thanks to three decades of ideological programming by the CBC, the universities and the media, it was a sacrifice that Canadians like Janet and Bob are eager to make.  So they decided to “Take one for the Green Gipper” and separate.

Man in a box At first they thought that eschewing meat, giving up their car, turning off the air conditioner and thermostat, stringing a clothes line from their balcony on the 22nd floor, and recycling would suffice to prove that they were doing their bit. But then they succumbed to Green Party logic, and were made to realize that they were being selfish for taking up a whole 300 square feet in their micro suite while tens of millions of less fortunate people were queued up in Canadian consulates across the developing world for the opportunity to live in Vancouver which our politicians believe to be their divine right. So Janet and Bob traded their microsuite for a microbox.

In other words, as fully paid up Greens, they decided to walk the talk and follow Gandhi’s injunction to “be the person you want the world to be”, that is a sardine in a sardine can packed with zillions of other sardines.

Cynics might suggest that this is all a show. That it is only a matter of time that this young couple, or former couple, will get restless and decide to “move up”, or rather “back” to that spacious micro condo they used to call home.

After all, they will probably want a family, and their kids can use some of that 300 square feet to run and play. Otherwise they would have to bused out of the metro area to a Provincial Park 50 miles away. Of course many Vancouverites—even those who struggle to make ends meet by working two jobs—cannot hope to financially qualify for a 36 cubic foot box these days. No worries, thanks to the initiative of Mayor Robertson’s  ‘Vision’ team, and the promises of the upcoming NDP government-in-waiting in Victoria, the city is now offering social housing units like the one below:

gift box Some discreet voices have called this trend toward densification “The Labour of Sisyphus”. A futile, never-ending quest to meet perennial housing shortages. They have suggested that Vancouver does not have a housing supply problem, but a housing demand problem. They have argued that instead of trying to accommodate an infinite number of would-be residents, Vancouver should simply cap their population, the same way a hotel or a theatre or a restaurant or a Cruise Liner would if they were full.  And that the federal government, for its part, should adopt a Population Plan for the country as a whole, aimed at setting a population target that would allow Canada to recuperate from a two decade demographic onslaught that has made it the fastest growing nation in the G8 group.

Unfortunately, in order to consider this solution, politicians and planners and media pundits would have to think “outside the box”.  Or at least think.

Tim Murray
October 17, 2012

This is a guest post from Canadian sustainable population advocate and curmudgeon Tim Murray. Originally posted at

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