The city’s gone bananas

Photo by Brenda Anderson via Flickr

While bananas and tree-forts sound like primate priorities, we humans take these simple pleasures for granted. There is a good chance that someone, somewhere in your city is enjoying a banana—over a bowl of cereal, in a peanut butter sandwich, or taking it on-the-go for quick fuel. Across the country, the sweet and starchy fruit is a frequent choice on brunch buffets and in juice bars, packed in school lunches, and dressed up at ice cream shops. However, in 20 years, bananas—currently shipped into our cities from distant climes—and treeforts—supported by our oldest trees—may be hard to find if our cities don’t start taking sustainability seriously.

Bananas belong in important conversations—in boardrooms, behind closed doors, in city halls.

In fact, your mayor should be thinking about bananas right now. Not because His or Her Worship doesn’t have more important things to consider, or because they might be particularly peckish, but because bananas are a symbol for something greater. Their existence north of the 49th parallel is a testament to globalization. They are beacons of the pre-apocalyptic marketplace, emblems of cheap fossil fuel economies.

In 2030, something as common as the contents of your morning smoothie will be determined by the economic, social, and environmental health of our planet. And the way our cities respond to the complex issues of today will affect the simple joys of its citizens for tomorrow.

Bananas are a thought experiment for the future of the sustainable city.

We asked the mayors of some major cities in Canada a few out-of-the-box questions to get them thinking about their broader visions for the sustainability of their city in the future. In addition to bananas, we asked mayors to think about tree-forts and transit.

Many Canadians take some things for granted—available food, green space, and accessible transportation. In many ways, these issues are influenced by municipal level decision-making. As the climate continues to change and the global population increases, Canadian cities are due for some major adjustments. Over the next few decades, municipal investment in sustainability will carry a lot of weight when it comes to securing something as plain and simple as the fruit on your cereal.

In the year 2030 …

Will you be able to eat bananas in your city?

“Yes. They are greatly appreciated and enjoyed, because they are a treat, much like oranges in the Christmas stocking during WWII. Prices for tropical fruits have increased significantly, but because of Whitehorse’s proximity to the Pacific, we are still able to get tropical fruits like bananas for a reasonable cost more often than other communities. However, Yukon agriculture has grown considerably in 20 years time, so while we may not be growing local bananas, we are growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and have a number of vibrant markets providing a diversity of locally-grown products year-round.”

—Mayor Bev Buckway, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

“Of course. Not only will they be available from around the world, but having completed our Community Energy project in 2017 (drawing geothermal heat from a long-abandoned mine and supplementing it with biomass boilers from a newly established local wood pellet industry) locally produced bananas will be available from the recently established farms and orchards underground at another local abandoned mine*. The community, by 2030, will benefit immensely from the new community garden focusing on efforts toward sustaining our 100-mile diet opportunity.”

—Mayor Gordon Van Tighem, Yellowknife, Northwest Territory

*Mayor Van Tighem notes that the idea of a subterranean garden is, at this stage, purely an interesting concept in Yellowknife, but at least one is in operation in Tokyo, Japan.

Will the city’s children have tree-forts?

“I believe they will. The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) is so committed to the environment that we plant several thousand trees each year in our own right. As well, we require developers of subdivisions to deed green spaces over for public use and to plant at least one tree per new lot. And it doesn’t end there. We are preparing an Urban Forest Master Plan, which will be a blueprint for the conservation and promotion of a healthy urban forest on both public and private land in (HRM). We pride ourselves on being among the greenest communities in Canada and, somewhere in all that greenery, I’m confident you will always find youngsters busy playing.”

—Mayor Peter Kelley, Halifax, Nova Scotia

What will be the best way to get around the city?

“In 20 years, my hope is that we have an efficient, sustainable transportation network that combines excellent transit, safe cycling and pedestrian routes, and zero-emission cars and trucks. Our 2020 goal is to exceed 50 per cent of commutes by walk/bike/transit and we’re on track. We need ongoing investment in all green options: rapid transit, buses, separated bike lanes, pedestrian corridors, and electric vehicle infrastructure.”

—Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver, British Columbia

“Public transit will play a vital role in Calgary 20 years from now. Better transit is the answer to much of what ails the modern city including issues of pollution, congestion, and a lack of social inclusion.”

—Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Calgary, Alberta

“The year 2030 will no doubt call for significant change from current and past practices in terms of existing transportation habits such as the role of private cars. There will also be changes in design of our landscapes and transportation funding. In 20 years the fastest way to travel around our city will be a combination of existing and improved infrastructure that promotes inter-modal connections in Charlottetown and our neighboring municipalities.”

—Mayor Clifford Lee, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island


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