Guest Post by Steven Peck
All Photos Courtesy of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
With 2015 being the hottest year on record, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something is very wrong with the climate in the world. This message is being driven home almost weekly through the media. Two months ago, you may recall, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded threatened to wipe Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from the map. Thankfully, it lost much of its lethal power before making landfall. In today’s paper, there is an article about snakes migrating northward in response to climate change, and the challenges that bumblebees are facing due to warming temperatures. These species need to adapt and fast.
Meanwhile, in the Arctic, methane is bubbling out of the ground furiously as permafrost melts. The ice cap that covers the top of the earth continues to shrink, imperiling the safety of ancient hunting paths used by the Inuit and the very survival of polar bears which need the ice in order to hunt seals. To the far southern reaches of our planet, incomprehensibly large Antarctic ice sheets are breaking away from the land, and slipping into the ocean. Their mass is so enormous that they alone will raise the level of the world’s oceans and cause more flooding in coastal cities.
In the face of such dramatic changes, we need to both reduce greenhouse gases rapidly, and adapt quickly to the changes that are already upon us. This involves embracing new technologies and new ways of designing buildings and planning cities, in a manner that allows us to prepare for extreme weather events, such as severe storms which bring floods, and extreme heat.
Held in Toronto on June 1 through June 4, 2016, the 4th Annual Grey to Green Conference is about living green infrastructure and its ability to provide tangible, scientifically proven solutions to the challenges of climate change, particularly in cities. We are in the solutions business! Green roofs, green walls, bioswales, and urban forests can help us mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption directly in buildings and indirectly by reducing the urban heat island effect. We can also use plants to pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, locking them in the soil and tissue of plants. Green infrastructure can also be designed to capture and retain huge volumes of stormwater in a ‘treatment train’ from the roofs, to the walls, to the streets, and so on. This helps us reduce the risk of flooding, which is costing billions in insurance claims. Green infrastructure also provides new opportunities for us to produce food, in and around buildings.
At Grey to Green will explore the wide breadth of these, and even more opportunities that living technologies provide to allow us to prepare for climate change and make our cities more livable.
Grey to Green starts on Tuesday, June 1st with training courses on subjects like rooftop agriculture, green wall design, advanced green roof maintenance, a low impact development course, and introduction to green infrastructure. The conference the formally kicks off on Wednesday morning at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto, with over 50 speakers from Canada and the U.S. covering a wide range of topics. There are research, design, and policy sessions, covering topics ranging from the urban heat island mitigation and green streets policies to stormwater utilities and green infrastructure for renewable energy systems.
Toronto is a safe city and very walkable city. The evening reception and craft beer tasting will take place at the Amsterdam Brewery and Restaurant located on the beautiful Toronto Waterfront, right in the middle of the Harbourfront, which offers free concerts, arts galleries and serves as a gateway to the Toronto Islands, just a short ferry ride away. On Friday there will be more technical sessions and the launch of a major project that has benchmarked the status of the urban and regional forest in the Greater Toronto Area. We also provide you with the opportunity for you to explore Toronto, a world class city bursting with arts and culture. Toronto is now called – The Six – for you Drake Fans. Saturday there are additional opportunities for guided tours of the Six’s research facilities, green roofs and walls, and amazing projects, such as the former site of the Pan Am Games.
Given the strength of the US dollar, American attendees can expect to save 30 per cent or more on all of their expenses in Toronto. Thirty per cent! There are also thousands of AirBNB sites available for low cost accommodations and we have reserved some space at Ryerson student village starting at $80 per night or less.
This June, come to the 4th Annual Grey to Green Conference – the cutting edge conference on green infrastructure and climate change, and take an extra day or two to explore Toronto if you can. We look forward to seeing you this summer and to advancing our collective ability to take on the challenge of climate change and turn it into an opportunity!
~ Steven Peck
Steven Peck, GRP, Honorary ASLA
Founder and President
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
Founder, Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition
Co-Founder, World Green Infrastructure Network
Tel: 416-971-4494 ext. 233