New course looks at why “Blue is the New Green”

“I think that if we were to focus on water-friendly infrastructure and water-friendly engineering that we would make life better- not just for humans… but for all other creatures.”

– Rita Wong, Canadian Poet

Ocean and barge

During the bountifully rainy winter months in Vancouver, it’s hard to imagine that many places around the world lack access to a very precious resource: water.

And yet there are 1.1 billion people around the globe living without clean drinking water, and ⅓ of the world’s population is living with scarce or contaminated water supplies. In order to sustain the current rate of North American water consumption, we’d need 3.5 earths.

3.5 Earths

So how can we innovate at the local level to solve the world’s water crisis? That’s exactly the question that Dr. Karen Bakker will be addressing in her new online course “Blue is the New Green”, which starts on October 22nd. We’ve been collaborating with her and Hallenbeck Consultants to create a series of videos for the course.

This solutions-focused course exposes its students to practical steps being taken by environmental pioneers in addressing the critical issue of water security. Specific topics in the course include regenerative sustainability, waste as energy, habitat restoration, and water ethics.

Blue is the New Green

The course is a MOOC (massive open online course) offered through UBCx on Harvard and MIT’s EdX, an open-source programme that aims to make education available to everyone. While most MOOCs are based on the principle of a lecture presented in video format, the approach Dr. Bakker is taking in “Blue is the New Green” is to teach through story-telling rather than through lecture. The course will offer a collection of readings and lectures paired with videos that look at how local artists, architects, engineers, academics and planners are creating trailblazing real-world solutions to the global water crisis in urban settings.

“We have to go beyond just eliminating damage, we have to be restorative, we have to be regenerative. Defining regenerative sustainability in a very simple way doesn’t require a two hour lecture to explain, it’s just improvement in human and environmental well-being. That’s it! And everywhere we can do that, it’s better than harm reduction.”

– Dr. John Robinson, Executive Director, UBC Sustainability Initiative

Blue is the New Green

In the course we’ll visit several remarkable initiatives including CIRS, the False Creek Energy Centre, and the Olympic Village.

The University of British Columbia’s CIRS Building is one of the greenest buildings in the world, and the False Creek Energy Centre is the first utility in North America to use waste heat recovery from untreated urban wastewater. The Olympic Village in Vancouver’s Southeast False Creek is the greenest, most energy efficient and sustainable neighbourhood on Earth!

“Blue is the New Green” takes students out of the classroom and introduces them to real-life environmental pioneers working to solve the global water crisis on a local and global scale. If you’re passionate about sustainability and water security, and want to explore practical and inventive ways to address these issues, then this is a course for you!

Sign up for the course here

Dr. Karen Bakker
Dr Karen Bakker is a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; she was named a “Top 40 under 40” in 2011. She has been researching water issues for the past 20 years, and is the author of more than 100 academic publications, which have appeared in top journals such as Science and Global Environmental Change. Her interdisciplinary research examines the causes of—and innovative solutions to— some of our most pressing water problems.