A few weeks ago a grey whale swam into Vancouver’s narrow, False Creek inlet. It swam, fed off bottom dwelling critters, and generally delighted hundreds of spectators who came to watch it swim past the new Olympic Village and over to the condo community of Yaletown.
In my childhood, this was a dirty, aging heavy industrial zone dumping who-knows-what into the water.
No one alive here today seems to recall seeing a healthy whale swimming in urban waterways, although presumably whales visited occasionally before industrial development polluted the water. The whale in 2010 was a miraculous site.
Environmentalists at the David Suzuki foundation believe the whale visit resulted from efforts to cleanup the False Creek waterway that were undertaken as part of the LEED-Platinum Olympic Village sustainable housing development. In addition to building a zero-emission community, the inlet was cleaned up and a “Habitat Island” added to provide a home for marine-oriented critters from ducks to fish as well as small mammals. A whole eco-system including food for whales seems to have evolved in just a few years.
This provides another example of how reducing emissions and pollution in our cities (including their waterways) is the right thing to do, regardless of whether it helps the planet in the long term. It improves our quality of life–now, today. Everyone who saw the whale felt enriched.
It’s unfortunate that questionable science about global-warming is what is motivating many policy and behavior changes, but I’m glad something is, and that we can see almost immediate results. The whale doesn’t lie. Nor do statistics about reduced hospital admittances for asthma when driving is drastically reduced. The quality of life is better in cities when the air and environment is cleaner.