Living the Future Now: A Student, the City and Climate Emergency

When I decided to go back to university a little later in life to finish an incomplete Communications degree, I wasn’t expecting much. I wanted to just get through the five remaining classes and tick off a life goal box: university degree, check. However one course at SFU entitled Environmental Communications and its collaboration with CityStudio Vancouver changed all that. CityStudio staff came to class and presented the need for engagement from students around the city’s Greenest City Action Plan, a set of initiatives and targets for the city to reduce its impact on the environment, including everything from waste, to lifestyle choices, to greenhouse gas emissions.

You had me at Environment

I selected the class in Environmental Communications because it’s a subject I’m passionate about, but for the most part had relegated to my private life, let’s say tofu and tree hugging. However CityStudio Vancouver was presenting an opportunity to collaborate with the City of Vancouver in a tangible way that could have an impact on the city’s climate emergency and environmental goals. From the first presentation, you could sense the energy and optimism that the CityStudio staff emitted and it was only natural to try and capture that.

Kids in Cars

The CityStudio Vancouver challenge of engaging young people in the City’s climate emergency goals intrigued me. I chose the City’s Transportation 2040 goal of having most personal vehicle traffic in zero emissions vehicles. My collaboration, Project Turbocharged, went from research to a proposal to bring electric modes of transportation to be displayed at Vancouver Grade Schools. Sure, most of the kids were too young to drive, but research showed they were an integral part of family vehicle choices, and prior exposure and understanding of the technology meant they were more likely to adopt it when faced with their own choices. My proposal and infographic design won me a place at HUBBUB#12.

What’s all the HUBBUB Bub?

CityStudio Vancouver’s HUBBUB event brings together students from multiple institutions to present their work right at City Hall. This is what I loved about working with CityStudio, they talk the talk. It would be much easier to accept our papers and research and say thanks, but instead they organized an event that draws in City employees that you can engage with face to face. It was an excellent opportunity to also work on my presentation and engagement skills with everyone who moved through the room. The energy at this event is infectious.

Winning is Everything

I didn’t win at Hubbub, and I won’t use that cliché that everyone was a winner because you were probably thinking I was going to say that. Sure, it would have been nice but the CityStudio Vancouver gift just kept on giving. Their Alumni Newsletter had a job posting for the City. In the Spring of 2020, I started working part-time for the City of Vancouver as a team lead doing public outreach for their climate emergency plan engagement period. I was so excited I emailed my professor and said “you’ll never believe this but I’m actually getting paid to talk to people about the climate crisis!” It is a pretty cool full circle and an amazing surprise from where I started, and it’s all thanks to CityStudio Vancouver and their partnership with SFU and the City.

When I look back, I think of all the students that chose to write yet another research paper in my class instead of choosing to work with CityStudio Vancouver. They lost an exciting opportunity to link their studies with a progressive city who not only talks about their plans, they hire to get them done. They lost a chance to work with CItyStudio Vancouver and the amazing staff who are working hard to advance the City’s collaboration with student ideas. So, I guess I won. Ha. Got you in the end with that winning stuff.

About the Author
Ryan Gander is a graduate of SFU with a B.A. in Communications. He worked for the Sustainability Department at the City of Vancouver in Public Outreach for the Climate Emergency Action Plan. He is currently a Freelance Content Creator specializing in video. In his spare time he is an environmental activist, a punk rock musician, kayaker and full-time entertainer for his six year old.