"Eighty percent of us now live in an urban setting, and I think that the solution to our environmental problems is not to say 'we've got break down cities and get everybody back to the land' – that would be disastrous – but we have to make cities our major habitat…we have to make them more in balance, I think, with the rest of the things that keep us alive." David Suzuki
Cities are where most Canadians live. And, as we head into the future, how we adapt to the needs of expanding cities will have a huge impact on their livability. Food, land use, housing, energy, waste – how we tackle these issues will determine whether our cities evolve, or whether they decline.
In a new instalment of Suzuki Diaries, David and his daughter, Sarika, set out to discover whether some of Canada's biggest cities are ready for the challenges of the future.
Like eco-nomads, father and daughter embark on a cross-country journey of exploration, housed within a compact, "off-the-grid" Airstream trailer. It's a small space with little room for excess or waste, making it a perfect metaphor for an efficient way of living.
David's happy to let Sarika take the wheel as they head out on the road. In Montreal, they discover both large and small operations trying to revolutionize the production and distribution of food in urban settings.
Next stop: Toronto. David and Sarika park their trusty trailer on a gritty piece of lake-front. Their campsite is actually part of the most extensive urban renewal project in North America. As they visit different parts of the city, David and Sarika are encouraged to see that Torontonians are including the "natural world" as the city grows and develops.
"One of the most important things that we've done on this trip has been look at how people can make change at various levels. So we're talking about municipal government, we're talking about academics, scientists and grass roots local initiatives. And absolutely at every scale I think I've been equally inspired by all of them." Sarika Cullis-Suzuki
As they push on, David and Sarika remain on good terms, despite their tight living quarters! On a slight detour through Southwestern Ontario, they meet a young, urban architect who impresses them with a futuristic concept which re-uses carbon emitted from vehicles to make products like fuel, but his idea also promises to improve air quality, all while creating public spaces for people to enjoy.
Onward to Edmonton, one of Canada's fastest growing urban regions. The Edmonton Waste Management Centre is a world leader in recycling and composting. They're taking it a step further – they'll soon be turning waste into biofuel. Edmontonians are completely on board too, something David and Sarika discover when they visit a house being built almost entirely from discarded materials.
The pair head back to Vancouver with some trepidation. After the inspired thinking they've encountered in other cities, can their hometown compete? Turns out it can. With new ways of thinking about energy, transit and housing, David and Sarika discover that Vancouver's ambition is rivaled only by its promise. Father and daughter finish their journey with renewed hope, optimistic that Canadian cities have what it takes to thrive in the future.
Suzuki Diaries: Future City is produced by Tina Verma and Hadley Obodiac for the nature of things, and directed by Hadley Obodiac. Senior Producer is FM Morrison. Executive Producer is Bob Culbert.
"I'm feeling prouder of being Canadian and seeing the things that are happening across Canada. I'll be able to tell people when they say, well what has Canada done? I'll be able to say, well actually …" Sarika Cullis-Suzuki