Patrick Condon is ready for civil disobedience, ready to block machinery, and ready to be arrested if it means he can stop the provincial government’s Gateway Program.
“I would risk arrest,” Condon told the Georgia Straight from UBC, where he holds the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Livable Environments. “Civil disobedience, in the face of injustices of the past—in South Africa or the American South and to some extent the Vietnam War era—was an important thing to do for many people. So I feel similarly moved in this case.”
On a cold night in East Vancouver last December—with temperatures dipping to below freezing—Condon joined others at a Gateway site to protest a major part of the multibillion-dollar project, the widening of Highway 1 from East Vancouver to Langley. Crews showed up and Condon and other protesters stood their ground. However, they did not cross the line and get themselves arrested that night, meaning the event was a dry run for what might come next.
In his role as landscape architecture professor, Condon thinks a critical skill for students in the future “is not to be able to understand facts or understand narrow specialties, but to be able to think across issues and across disciplines, and be able to synthesize or pull together information from a lot of different areas into solutions that connect to a lot of different areas”.
In his work, Condon added, this always involves the “three Es—ecology, economy, and equity—which are the legs of the sustainability stool”.
“So any problem that we attack, and they are nearly almost all defined as sustainability questions”¦[it] requires us to include in the equation issues of ecology, economy, and equity in the solution,” he said. “You can’t get much broader than that. What does that leave out? Basically nothing.”
U.S.–born Condon was raised in Massachusetts and graduated from university there in landscape architecture. He came to Canada in 1992. Such are his political convictions, he still votes in elections both here and south of the border, where his last state of residence was Minnesota.
On the home front, Condon has four children and four grandchildren. As befits his modesty, he said the focus should be not on him but on future generations. The day before this interview, Condon was reading about the emerging clinical state of “despair”—not depression—that has gripped those looking at climate change’s implications for humankind.
“Despair is reasonable,” Condon added. “In the face of the facts, one can feel a sense of despair. So I feel a sense of the emerging despair among some people I speak to, and it’s really horrifying. I think that many of us who are working in these areas—[UBC community and regional planning professor] Bill Rees would be one of them—it’s pretty hard to get up in the morning sometimes. You end up focusing on these issues long enough and the activities of the decision makers is slow at best.”
They might respond quicker if they see Condon in handcuffs on the evening news.