Paul Battistella of Battistella Developments co-moderates a discussion at Pathways 2 Sustainability’s Calgary Future Cities Conference in 2015. Courtesy Pathways 2 Sustainability

SHIFT conference promises opportunity to “experience the future of Calgary”

“It is time to SHIFT or get off the pot!” That’s the call to action Pathways 2 Sustainability – Alberta’s Sustainable Communities Initiative – has issued in advance of its upcoming conference, SHIFT, which takes place June 15-17 at the St. Louis Hotel in Calgary’s East Village.

SHIFT promises attendees an opportunity to “Experience the Future of Calgary – the SHIFT to a resilient society and new economy and what it means for our city.”

“We have a changing political landscape in Alberta and Canada that’s moving to adopt climate resilience in the ways in which we build, design and manage communities and community systems, including food systems, energy systems and transportation systems,” said SHIFT co-ordinator and Pathways 2 Sustainability executive director, Lisa Fox.

That shift, Fox says, is not just about “building in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the climate,” but also about preserving and improving quality of life. She points to those who live on Calgary’s outskirts who commute long distances to work as an example.

“Those commuters are spending an hour-and-a-half out of their lives each day they never get back,” said Fox, adding that this is one of the quality-of-life issues conferences like SHIFT are attempting to address.

There will be a variety of keynote presentations at SHIFT from the likes of Mike Cornett, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, and Virgin Earth’s David Addison.

As well, on Saturday, June 17, there will be a free, day-long, block-party-exhibitor event that will see some 30 exhibitors interacting with the public to educate, explain and inspire.

“We have found that decision makers get it, and there are a lot of supporters in the building industry. But there is a fear of change in the general population, a fear of putting a c-train station in one’s back yard, of using electric vehicles and solar panels,” said Fox. “Our exhibitor event on Saturday is about reaching out to the public with what the future looks like, to eliminate that fear.”

Tesla will be among Saturday’s exhibitors, as will the Electrical Vehicle Association of Alberta. Attendees will have an opportunity to ride in a Tesla, courtesy of Sun Country EcoRides, a car-share program.

There will be demonstrations of solar-electric and solar-thermal systems. In fact, local musicians will perform throughout the day on a stage powered by solar electricity.
Several organizations will be at SHIFT to showcase green-building methods, including the Canada Green Building Council, BILD Calgary Region, and those who can talk about passive-house design. In fact, attendees will be challenged to reduce energy consumption in their own homes, starting now.

We have found that decision makers get it, and there are a lot of supporters in the building industry. But there is a fear of change in the general population, a fear of putting a c-train station in one’s back yard, of using electric vehicles and solar panels. Our exhibitor event on Saturday is about reaching out to the public with what the future looks like, to eliminate that fear.

As more sustainable food systems are also part of the future, there will be exhibitors on site who will discuss things like year-round gardening and green horticulture. Other exhibitors will focus on changes that can be made at the community level throughout Calgary.

“Our exhibitors will also provide an overview of the city over the past 30 years, and how we got where we are today,” said Kim Warnke, a SHIFT steering committee member. “They’ll showcase tools community members can employ in their communities right away, as well as inspire them about longer-term community projects.”

For example, the Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC) will be on site. Among other things, the FCC is currently offering microgrants for community projects that aim to bring neighbours together “to walk, play and be neighbourly.” It will also have resources available regarding community re-imagining and re-visioning, as will the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design.

“We’ll have a number of people there who are involved in planning at a community level … It’s important for communities to regain ownership in Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan,” said Warnke.

“Calgary is at a cross point. We’re starting to move toward a point of greater sustainability, but there’s still inertia from the past about change. Some homeowners don’t understand that the value of a single-family home won’t decrease because of row houses down the street, and that adding bike lanes in your community is a good thing from an infrastructure and tax point of view.”

In the end, it’s all about facing the future with a positive outlook and a willingness to embrace change.

“Understanding what the future looks like – and that there are solutions out there, so the future is not something to fear – is one of the things we hope to accomplish with SHIFT,” said Fox.

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