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Democracy is Dead. Let’s Try This Instead . . .

global optimization landscape of sustainable societies

Creating happier societies using design contests, voting & the scientific method.

Better political systems are like aliens. I don’t know what they look like, but they’re out there. Here’s how we can find them.

Strategic voting: A pragmatic choice that brings out strange emotions — and proof that our democracy is less sincere than a high school popularity contest.

When there’s no option to vote for what we want, we join the mob and vote against what we fear.

I guess I voted?

A younger me might have carved a giant anarchy Ⓐ into the ballot, but I ticked the box that would hit Harper hardest — more choice than most people get.

We’re privileged to live in Canada, but is voting genuine choice or participation? This is where we’re trained to slap ourselves and say “Shut up about your First World problems. You, little brat, are lucky to have any vote at all.”

First World Problems = Everyone’s Problems

We export our pollution, bombs and politics to the developing world. We’re chilly in our big house in the suburbs, so we buy oil to heat it, conveniently priced in dollars.

Elsewhere in the world, the price of that oil is dead children.

We’re dicking around anyway, so why not use our First World recklessness to test out radically new ideas? Ideas that could actually help other civilizations live on the planet we’ve been raping.

Earth

Better systems are out there, waiting to be found

What systems? Well, it’s like aliens. I don’t know what they look like, but they’re out there. And I have an idea of how to find them.

With no party representing my special snowflake views on experimental politics, my vote was insincere. Purely strategic. Tunnel-vision, PC Bro Solidarity!

We — the mob — ticked the party most likely to kill Bill C-51 and defeat war mongering Harperism in our riding. But what I hoped to see on the ballot is this…

Dear Sheep:

Our system is broken, but we assumed you were too stupid to notice. We’ve had amazing advances in science and technology, but we’re using a political system that’s thousands of years old.

To boot, we’ve corrupted every cranny of it.

Democracy was supposed to be tyranny by majority, at the very least. Yet we have power concentrated in the hands of a minority who have no accountability.

We’ve created an empire with centralized power, an irresistible tool that’s leveraged by corrupt politicians, banksters and big oil executives.

And we have cobwebs of complex, arbitrary laws. The complexity and inefficiency of our statist bureaucracy is a monument to bad design.

We’re not progressing in the ways we organize society, so let’s use the war budget to experiment with new ideas for decentralized, local or regionally organized societies.

Do you have an idea for a prototype society we can test?

Brain boner. If that was on the ballot, I’d feel my vote is helping society move forward, not just preventing us from falling backward into the Valley of Death.

Just humour me for a minute. I’m going to say some shit that may sound crazy, but let’s get our creative juices flowing…

We could entertain the Cascadia experiment in BC.

Better yet, we could try 10 society prototypes at the same time.

Let’s hold a society design contest

The greatest (and dumbest) minds will submit blueprints for new societies.

People will vote on them… but here’s the catch: Voting means you agree to move to that concept society and live there, as a pioneer, for at least 3 years.

If you don’t want to participate in the experiment, you don’t get to vote. No skin in the game, no vote.

The top 10 designs are awarded a city-sized piece of remote land for their supporters to live out the experiment

Can we vote not to have a government? – Dr. Jelly Van Groose

Yes, Dr. Jelly. A piece of land could be an autonomous zone experiment like Rojava (Western Kurdistan), where non-coercive philosophies like Mutualism and Anarcho-Syndicalism could actually be tested without state intervention.

Traditional tribal societies could be tested. Even radical ideas from fantasy books could be tested — if they have enough pioneers willing to take the plunge (Tolkien-style Elvin society, anyone?).

Raw Undeveloped Land Foothills

We measure sustainable well-being

Over 20 years the experimental cities live and evolve as needed, and we poll them using the Happy Function.

The Happy Function can be any measure of sustainable well-being. For starts, we could use a modified version of the HPI (Happy Planet Index).

The original Happy Planet Index is based on well-being, life expectancy and ecological footprint. I propose a modified HPI that would include personal freedom in the equation. Without personal freedom, the minority free thinkers in society are at the mercy of the mob or the system.

Cob House at OUR Ecovillage, Sustainable Community on Vancouver Island

Fernwood Victoria Spring Ridge Common

If a city collapses during the 20 year trial… brilliant! This is rapid society prototyping, so the quicker we fail, the quicker we learn and adapt.

We invoke “Survival of the Happiest”

The most successful cities will be awarded additional crown land so they can continue the experiment at larger scale (intercity, regional), up to a point.

Then, the next time a country in crisis has a revolution and needs to choose a new way to live, they have several NEW, tested options they can choose from instead of repeating mistakes from the past.

Continue experimenting, and over time we will find options much better than anything we see on earth today.

An opportunity for enlightenment

Here’s how the landscape of society types waiting to be explored might look:

Happy sustainable societies in optimization landscape

 
Higher land represents happier, more sustainable societies — but our system today only lets us explore the hill we’re currently on.

How many more decades do we want to spend shuffling around on this little dune bordering the Valley of Death?

We can efficiently search for “higher land” all over the map by designing and testing radically new societies.

In theory, if we have enough test cities, we can climb multiple hills simultaneously!

Imagine 10 different prototype cities, all over the map. Some will be on lower land, some on higher. We can test them simultaneously and use iterative design (explained below) to improve the happiest prototypes, and learn what doesn’t work from the unhappy ones.

The “Happy Optimization” design flow

How dare I try to quantify happiness!? Shhh. I’ll hire an army of robots to quantify happiness all day if it gets results…

To efficiently find higher land we need feedback on happiness and sustainability. Obviously, happiness is subjective and we’ll never have a perfect metric. And a happy society does not mean every human is a happy puppy.

But this doesn’t mean science can’t help in the realm of well-being. Look at the improvements we’ve made to infant mortality…

Does less babies dying correlate with happiness? What about less war? More freedom? Or more pickles? We can measure that.

So why not apply the scientific method of experimentation and validation to politics?

There is a method behind my madness, called evolutionary optimization.

While I was showering, it popped to mind that we could design better societies by combining open design competitions, voting and artificial evolution (a way to optimize the design using iterations, loosely based on natural selection). If you’re interested, I explore this a bit deeper on Page 2, but first let’s visualize it.

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How is this iterative design approach better than basic democracy?

Higher quality voting

At the heart of democracy is group think and mob dynamics. Many people vote without doing research and deep, rational consideration.

I expect a pioneer committing to live in a new society will put much more thought into that vote than a citizen who’s born into a society. The pioneer is not just doing her “civic duty”. She’s taking a calculated risk and leaping into the unknown.

Higher quality society designs

Pioneers only vote for designs that compel them into pioneership. The society designers who compel voters will likely be people with smart ideas.

Open design competitions let us explore the brilliant ideas that exist in the minds of our geniuses, but fall outside our rigid democratic framework.

Try before we buy (or die)

Small scale testing lets us try radical ideas without forcing our unwilling population into the experiment.

Consider Bill C-51, which violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has been condemned by Human Rights Watch. It’s a dangerous experiment in mass surveillance that targets and further alienates minority groups.

The majority of Canadians strongly oppose Bill C-51, but our government has ignored us. They’re now violating our Charter Rights.

They’re spying on us, against our will, while forcing us to foot the bill!

Faster evolution toward sustainable well-being

Unlike our back and forth democracy, the prototype societies can only expand if they evolve in a happy direction. Otherwise, they fail based on “Survival of the Happiest”, and their pioneers are encouraged (but not forced) to return to normal society.

And there’s more… This framework lets us test many options in parallel to speed up the search (called parallel optimization). In theory, it could help us discover the secrets of sustainable well-being way faster than our civilization would do naturally.

But shorter term, I think the creative magic would be in the combination of design competitions plus voting-by-pioneership. This is how we can create new prototype towns, fast!

Ecocity design by Richard Register

Ecocity Berkeley by ecological city designer Richard Register – Ecocity Builders

Crisis application — regional and global

Having new, validated society prototypes would be useful in times of crisis, when an opportunity comes to restructure or rebuild.

If a country or region in crisis has a revolution and needs to choose a new way to live, they could choose to rebuild based on one of these NEW model societies, instead of adopting the Western way.

Or after a global systemic collapse, rather than having to scramble on our feet to whip up new societal frameworks, we could have a variety of pre-tested options.

Each community / region could vote on the organizational structure that works best for them — transitioning from a world of large empires to a patchwork of potentially happier, more sustainable, regional and local societies.

The framework is not a box, but a compass to guide us in our creative design of tomorrow’s societies

This society design process gives us much more creative freedom than democracy, where we don’t get to submit our own designs.

The prototype societies themselves would be designed and shaped by people from all walks of life.

The “Happy Optimization” framework exists solely to work with people to nudge us forward. The framework is used for feedback, course-correction and idea-generation assistance (see the “Mating and Mutation” part of the diagram).

This would not be a robot meddling with peoples daily lives.

Rather than trying to reprogram people, the prototype societies must adapt to the people — through design contests, being populated by pioneers, and the “Survival of the Happiest” policy that only rewards societies where people are happy.

People would not be like Santa’s elves, trapped inside an assembly line machine with productivity probes up their bums — they would be pioneers, forging a new society on the edge of discovery.

sustainable village farm land

Where on Earth could we do this?

Mars.

But in the meantime, Canada and Russia are good test grounds because we have so much land that we recklessly waste on lesser things.

In Northern Alberta we habitually circumcise pristine land for tar sands and sprawling suburbs separated by highways.

An experimental sustainable city is a great use of Canadian crown land that would otherwise be decimated by our mindless development activities.

Or, prototype towns could be started on 5000 acre ranches in rural Canada.

For tropical climate colonies, Ilha Das Pacas is a 36,000 acre island in Brazil on sale for $10 Million, near the cities of Alcantara and Sao Luis.

If geographic isolation was desired, what about an island in the great lakes, Anticosti Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, or Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska?

Prince of Wales Island is 6,674 square km (larger than Prince Edward Island) and resource-abundant, with logging, fishing, mining and tourism industries.

Anticosti Island is 7,900 square km and virtually uninhabited. It’s been used as a biological experiment with several animal species introduced to make it a hunters paradise. Perhaps it could stay that way while hosting a few experimental sustainable colonies.

Raw land (meadow)

The economics of obtaining this land is another story, which I touch on on page 2. Any billionaires or governments have a cool 50,000 acres for 10 prototype towns that most likely won’t generate profit for you? Unlikely. Billionaires have other priorities.

For this to be practical in today’s world, having a source of high value income generation would be key.

Why let individual people try their hand at designing societies?

Because governments, committees and voters are often incompetent decision makers.

Case in point: Electing Harper. Passing Bill C-51. Google “design by committee” for more shitty examples.

Why don’t we just do the [utopian fantasy xyz] project at full scale?

We don’t know how a concept society will fair without testing it.

People love to think they intuitively know the outcome of a complex system without running the experiment.

Nature loves to prove these people wrong.

We’ve been trying to create utopias since the dawn of time, and where are they? Consider how easy it is for a tiny “utopian” community experiment to fail. And problems tend to scale with community size.

Plus, to install a new political system at full scale you would need a revolution and massive public support, or authoritarian control.

Are the world’s citizens ready to give up their possessions, let the Zeitgeist Movement march in and destroy all the cities, rebuild them in Zeitgeist style, centralize all the resource management and install an all-seeing robot to run the world economy?

We want change, but not badly enough to let robots renovate our planet into a theoretical utopia that could easily backfire. Let’s first test at small scale and consider the many practical, safer, more ethical alternatives to a centrally controlled “utopia”.

The intention behind my idea is to build multiple models for societies that work well on a regional level, rather than one world government, which I’m opposed to. Not to totally reject a Zeitgeist style movement (I appreciate the work they’re doing and it’s worth testing at small scale), but I think we need distribution of power, not concentration of it.

Concentration of power is dangerous and creates opportunities for corruption that may not be reversible (*cough* C-51 mass surveillance gets leveraged for peeping Tom robot apocalypse in 2039 led by His Excellency Lord Harper II the Magnificent Masturbation Watchdog *cough*).

Infinite possibilities we can’t even begin to imagine . . .

thinking about lifeIf we test prototype cities over 50 years, I expect we’ll have several new, experimentally validated models for sustainable societies.

Our children could expand on these model societies to create a better world.

As we colonize mars, the experiment could be done on a larger scale. Each new Martian colony could be an experimental society.

If we continued this intentional process over thousands of years, our descendants could have a rich variety of sustainable frameworks to choose from. Not necessarily one ideal system, but many different ones, adapted to different regions and different human preferences.

Earth and Mars could both be healthy, happy worlds filled with quasi-utopias, adapted to each region.

My conviction is that there are infinite ways to govern ourselves, but we’re stuck in a one-size-fits-all box and we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

How should we move forward?

Option 1: We can keep stumbling around thinking inside the box, on our little hill. Endlessly tweaking the State by hacking at the cobwebs of arbitrary laws and calling it “democracy”.

Wishfully thinking that our arbitrary behavior will move us away from the Valley of Death, toward a place of peace, sustainability and enlightenment.

Voting for political demigods based on their sexiness / slogan / party / colour. Or the tiny, tactical changes they’ll make to redecorate the inside of the box we’re trapped in.

Idolizing Scandinavia as a utopia where everyone’s equal and happy because we saw some blog post about how happy Danes claim to be.

Option 2: We can wait and hope aliens will come show us the way. Just like we came to North America to show the indigenous people “the way” (killing most of them in the process).

Option 3: We can embark on a journey of discovery and LOOK for the better options waiting to be found! We can speed up the search using a combination of creative design and intentional experimentation.

Call me crazy, but let’s design some new societies, let pioneers vote on them, test them as prototype cities, and evolve.

We have so much to learn, a sandbox to play in, and infinite ideas at our fingertips!

global optimization hills and valleys

 

Page 2: More about the Iterative Design Method + Practical Considerations

Pages: 1 2

Poetry in the Admiral’s Forest (near Sooke)

Otter Point forest near Sooke, BC

Can we save this land and make it a community forest? Enjoy beautiful views into the Straight of Juan de Fuca from the Admiral’s Forest at Otter Point, west of Sooke. Photos by James Gaston.

Want to do some forest bathing? A Forest for All Seasons will refresh your soul with a unique literary experience in the woods near Sooke.

Canadian poet Wendy Morton lives nearby in the Victoria region. She dreams of buying the Admiral’s Forest at Otter Point… to protect it from development, open it to the public and preserve the habitat.

She’s organizing an event to help make this dream come true. On the afternoon of March 30, come wander a path at the edge of the Admiral’s Forest where illustrated poems hang from trees.

Stop to read the poems. Let the poets’ words sink in. Let yourself harmonize with the heartbeat of the woods.

A Forest for All Seasons (Poetry in the Woods)

Date: March 30, 2014
Time: 11 AM – 3 PM
Location: In the woods, west of Sooke… at 8514 West Coast Road
Admission: Free—just come and enjoy a unique experience

Park at Seaward, 8485 West Coast Road and walk into the Poetry Grove across the road. Then, follow a path at the edge of the Admiral’s Forest where poems are hung from the trees.

Poets from around the world have sent their work to Wendy to celebrate the 70 acre property tended by Rear Admiral John Charles from his retirement to Victoria in 1974 to his passing in 2010.

The collection of illustrated poems is truly unique and heartfelt. They capture how important natural experiences are for you and I. The Japanese have a term for a walk in the woods that restores and refreshes: Shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”). It is living poetry.

Path through the Admiral's Forest at Otter Point, west of Sooke

The forest at Otter Point has grown around a network of trails that fit the natural landscape. As a private managed forest, timber harvest has been sustainable. There are old growth specimens as well as maturing second growth trees.

Riders on horseback help keep the trails open and groomed, and in the future certain trails will be wheelchair accessible.  It’s a place for children, youth and adults to explore and grow.

 

The Juan de Fuca Community Land Trust would like to protect the habitat and preserve the recreational use of this land for future generations. Imagine a community forest. It would be mostly wild, like East Sooke Regional Park. But unlike most parks, it would be owned and cared for by the people who care about it most: locals.

On the last weekend in March, when spring welcomes you outdoors, plan to spend Sunday out on the West Coast Road beyond Sooke. There are cafes and picnic spots aplenty: Gordon’s Beach, the beach at Muir Creek, French Beach, Sandcut Beach, the beach at Jordan River, China Beach.

Entre the woods, savour the poems and soak in the scented air and soothing green.

The Forest for All Seasons poetry event runs from 11 am to 3 pm. Park at Betty Tully’s Seaward property at 8485 West Coast Road. Then, walk a few steps to the entrance of the Admiral’s Forest at 8510 West Coast Road.

Forest for All Season's Event at Otter Point (near Sooke)

The Juan de Fuca Community Land Trust Society is a new member of the Land Trust Alliance of BC: ltabc.ca .  We are on a mission to acquire properties on southwestern Vancouver Island, preserve the natural habitat and keep them open to the public.

We plan to let the forest at Otter Point grow older with supervision to keep it healthy, free from hazards and invasive species. We want to keep it as a kind of living classroom and gentle wilderness with animal residents and human visitors.

Planting the Seeds of an Ecovillage in Sooke

Sooke Farm

You can butcher the land but you can’t slay the dream with your backhoes and stuffy building codes. In early 2013 a little revolution was sprouting south of Victoria led by the Sooke EcoVillage Farm Co-op, also known as The Village Farm (also known as awesome).

The plan was to save a piece of endangered farmland from development and to transform it into a cooperative ecovillage farm. The land, 153 lush acres along Helgeson Road, was to be purchased for $1.6 million by the Sooke Region Farmland Trust (a local non-profit). The farm would be run by The Village Farm.

The tragedy is that while the Indiegogo campaign last spring did raise some decent cash, it was simply not enough to secure the land purchase. Hearts were broken, but not all is lost!

There will be a second chance. The Village Farm has a team of warriors: architects, builders, electricians, writers, artists and farmers. Together they have a vision and the tenacity to see it through, but they could certainly use some help.

The main missing ingredient is of course land. Also, skilled, resourceful people are needed who would live on the farm and create enterprises to sustain it.

The Village Farm vision includes

  • A working organic farm using a combination of cultivation methods including permaculture and biodynamic.
  • An ecovillage community of up to 20 sustainably built homes.
  • Efficient energy management with power supplied by local and renewable sources.
  • Sustainable water and waste management including rainwater catchment and grey water recycling systems.
  • An economic structure that values local trade and conservation of resources, with a social structure that values the common good.
  • An open community that offers apprenticeships and workshops.

For more details about their vision, visit The Village Farm website.

Ecovillages are not a new concept, and there are other examples of successful sustainable communities, even on Vancouver Island. O.U.R. Ecovillage, which occupies 25 acres near Shawnigan lake, has been thriving for 15 years thanks in part to on site social enterprise. It’s long since passed all rezoning, development planning and building code issues. Vancouver Island and lower mainland BC is ripe with projects that focus on permaculture design, ecovillage design, urban food systems and natural building.

Unfortunately, with our current money system the most common barrier to sustainable development is budget.

It’s not that sustainable development is more expensive than high impact development. Innovative firms like Michael Green Architecture in Vancouver know how to leverage local resources to build cost-effective, ingenuous, low impact developments.

It’s not that the money does not exist. It’s that the money does not exist in the hands of the heroes who are leading these initiatives.

This is a call for social entrepreneurship. In cases like this where grassroots non-profits lack the resources and publicity to proceed, social enterprise must step up to help the cause.

As we grow, The Victoria Vine will promote projects like The Village Farm to help them find the support they need to thrive. And once our roots are strong and we mature, we will begin our own sustainable development initiatives.

If you want to learn more about building sustainable communities, here are two books I recommend:

Victoria Neighbourhood Guide — James Bay

Fisherman's Wharf Victoria BC

James Bay is a charming neighbourhood southwest of downtown Victoria. Home to ancient Salish settlements, later frolicked by Victorian gentry, it’s the oldest residential neighbourhood on the West Coast of Canada. Today, still speckled with Victorian and Edwardian heritage homes, James Bay retains hints of historical character.

Horses with carriages attached to them roam the streets, shadows of a time when cars were nothing more than a bad idea and organic food was called “food”.

James Bay is a peninsula that boarders water on three sides: the Inner Harbour on the north, Outer Harbour on the west and Strait of Juan de Fuca / the Salish Sea to the south. Look out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and you’ll get a majestic view of the Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington. To the east lies Beacon Hill Park, and beneath lies ancient secrets known only by the roots of the elder trees.

James Bay, Victoria (Shoreline at Holland Point Park)

 

History

Totem Pole at the Royal BC Museum

James Bay was originally home to the Swenghwung First Nations who belong to the Lekwungen people of the Coast Salish. Today, their descendants are known as the Songhees First Nation. The shoreline was once dotted with their village sites. For example, Holland Point is the site of an ancient fortified village and Laurel Point was a Coast Salish burial ground.

The name of the neighbourhood is derived from the inlet James Bay, which was named after Sir James Douglas and forms part of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. James Bay, Victoria began as a farming community (originally part of Ogden’s Fields Farms) shortly after the establishment of Fort Victoria in 1843.

Residential development began in 1859. The first properties were built by the wealthy elite of Victoria in the south and east of James Bay. During the following decades, working class cottages were built in the west side, which became an industrial and shipping hub.

In the 1960s many of the older buildings were demolished and replaced by brutalist style apartments. Luckily, this spawned a grassroots heritage preservation effort that’s ongoing today.

 

Restaurants, Shopping & Markets

For farm fresh organic greens and handmade arts and crafts, check out the vibrant James Bay Market at the corner of Menzies and Superior. It’s part farmer’s market, part flea market featuring work by local crafters.

The hub of the neighbourhood is James Bay Village, with a liquor store, pharmacy, coffee shops, cafes, bakeries, Thrifty Foods grocery store, banks, credit unions (which you should join instead of a bank) and other interesting businesses such as The Bent Mast, a unique pub in a historic Victorian building.

For your fix of espresso and fresh roasted beans, check out Discovery Coffee, Serious Coffee, and the Breakwater Café and Bistro at Ogden Point. Discovery Coffee at James Bay is also licensed to serve cocktails, wines and beers from local breweries. Yes, that means you can get drunk and caffeinated at the same time.

If you have a sweet tooth, Sugar Boy Bakery uses local, organic and seasonal ingredients from farmers on Vancouver Island.

For a great growler of ale visit Spinnakers James Bay Spirit Merchants, a specialty beer and wine store committed to farm fresh local ingredients year round. They are also gluten-free friendly.

For a unique experience head down to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, where amongst the houseboats you’ll find a wide variety of seafood vendors. And possibly, one of these days… pirates.

Fisherman's Wharf, James Bay, Victoria

 

Family & Fitness

When many people think of James Bay (or Victoria), horse-drawn carriage tours pop to mind. These are great if you want your children to fall asleep. If not, here are some other attractions and things to do in James Bay:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf offers more than just food. You’ll also find ecological tour services like Kelp Reef Kayaking, and other marine adventure services that I won’t put the word “eco” in front of (Eagle Wing Whale Watching and Pirate Adventures). The local residents at Fisherman’s Wharf are on public display during the day, so many have decorated their float homes, giving the wharf an artistic character. People constantly walk up and down the docks, peering into the houseboat windows. It’s a quaint place.

The Diver's Den Float Home at Fisherman's Wharf

  • Beacon Hill Park was originally the site of an ancient burial ground for the Lekwungen people. There was also a village and defensive site at Finlayson Point. They used to call the hill Meeacan (the Salish name for belly), because it resembled a pot belly. Today, it’s home to “Mile Zero”, the starting point of the Trans-Canada Highway. Beacon Hill Park features the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole, raised in 1956 by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Mungo Martin. It also features roaming peacocks and the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, a petting zoo where children enjoy (or harass) baby animals like potbelly pigs, zebu, miniature horses and goats.
  • Holland Point Park and Holland Point Shoreline Trail is popular for oceanfront gatherings and small parties.  Just, pick up after yourself… or else the witches will come after you (Victoria has a history of witchcraft, ghosts and secret tunnels, did naught ye know?). Holland Point is the site of an ancient fortified village.
  • The Dallas Road Walkway waterfront trail offers picturesque views of the Olympic Mountains and fresh ocean air. The perfect oceanfront backdrop for walking, jogging, cycling, rollerblading or skateboarding. It stretches from the Ogden Point Breakwater to the Ross Bay Cemetery in Fairfield.
  • Take a walk with your lover out onto the Ogden Point Breakwater which reaches out from Dallas Road into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
  • Ogden Point Diver Center offers dives off the Ogden Point Breakwater, daily sport diving trips off lower Vancouver Island, weekend dive charters and scuba diving holidays.
  • Emily Carr House, a National and Provincial Historic Site at 207 Government Street, is birthplace of Canadian artist and writer Emily Carr. The house was modernized following a fire in 1938, but since then it has been beautifully restored by two different architects to revive the original character of the home.
  • The historic Helmcken House is the second oldest residence on its original site in British Columbia. It contains Dr. Helmchen’s library and medical instruments, making up one of Canada’s finest 19th century medical collections.
  • The Royal BC Museum displays British Columbia’s natural and human history. It features a northwest coastal Aboriginal exhibit, rich with artwork and cultural artefacts. Outside the museum is Thunderbird Park, adorned with totem poles and a longhouse carved and painted in the style of the northwest coast First Nations.

Totem Pole at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria

Royal BC Museum Totem Poles. Photo by Blake Handley.

  • The British Columbia Parliament Buildings on Belleville Street are hard to miss. They look out to the Inner Harbour and have an immaculate lawn that’s typically filled with tourists. While beautiful and ornate, the Renaissance Revival style legislative building may be a ticking time bomb: structural studies have shown that they would likely collapse in a moderate earthquake!  
  • MacDonald Park between Niagara and Simcoe Street is home to the James Bay Athletic Club. It features two baseball diamonds and two softball diamonds in spring and summer, which become two soccer / football / rugby fields in fall and winter.
  • James Bay Community Centre (140 Oswego St.) offers affordable programs and services for all ages. Programs include creative and performing arts, health and wellness, lifelong learning and childcare services.

Royal BC Museum Totem Poles & Long House

 

Parks

For more details about the parks in James Bay, visit the James Bay Neighbourhood Association website.

 

Community Gardens

Grass roots community gardens managed by the James Bay Sustainability Commons include

  • Michigan Street Community Garden, consisting of 75% individual and 25% community allotment plots. Designed to grow food for the local community, it covers about 5,000 square feet and contains over 60 varieties of produce. It’s located at the corner of Menzies and Michigan Street.
  • James Bay Allotment Garden Association, consisting of 54 plots with a long waiting list. It’s located on Montreal Street between Oswego and Niagara.

Michigan Street Community Garden

James Bay Community Garden

 

Housing

James Bay, Victoria’s most populated residential neighbourhood, has 11,000 permanent residents. 73% rent their homes. There is a wide range of housing options including low income rental housing, apartments and condos (prices typically between $200-$300k), modest single family homes, upscale character houses, heritage homes and even float homes!

Victorian and Edwardian-era architecture is still present, though much of it was demolished to make way for apartments during the 1950s and 1960s. Newer real estate developments include modern, energy efficient, eco-friendly houses and condominiums such as The Duet buildings.

 

Schools in James Bay, Victoria

  • South Park Elementary School is an alternative, primary public school with a focus on the arts. Built in 1894 in the Queen Anne architectural style, it’s the oldest school building in Western Canada.
  • James Bay Community School (Victoria School District 61) is partnered with the James Bay Community Center. It’s a K-5 elementary school (Kindergarten through Grade 5).
  • Rainbow Express Day Care Centre is a non-profit society that has spaces for 32 children.
  • The Con Brio School for Music & Movement (643 Niagara St) is a specialty school featuring dance and music instructors.

 

Quirks

James Bay residents prefer walking and cycling over driving. Not only does this help you absorb the setting… in many cases this is the fastest way to get around because horse-drawn carriage tours force drivers to slow down. Horses in the streets are common in James Bay and downtown Victoria.

 

Accommodation

Hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations are abundant here. James Bay Inn is the third oldest hotel in Victoria (after the Dominion Hotel and Empress Hotel).

Northern James Bay, overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbour, features upscale hotels including the modern, waterfront Inn at Laural Point. It’s the only hotel in BC that can make the Carbon Neutral claim. Oswego hotel is also run with a sustainability philosophy, supporting local farmers, using green cleaners and reusable or recycled paper products.

Other B&Bs and accommodations include the Fisher House Bed and Breakfast, Harborwalk Bed and Breakfast, Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast, Ashcroft House Bed and Breakfast, Nairne House Bed and Breakfast, Gingerbread Cottage Bed and Breakfast, Marifield House Bed and Breakfast, Menzies Manor, James Bay Cottage and James Bay Inn.

For hostels, head downtown. For free accommodation, check out hospitalityclub.org and couchsurfing.org.

 

Major Street Boundaries

Eastern James Bay shares Beacon Hill Park with Fairfield. The two neighbourhoods are separated by Arbutus Way, Circle Drive and Camas Circle (roads running through Beacon Hill Park). Northern James Bay, which neighbours downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbour, is bounded by Southgate Street, Douglas Street and Belleville Street. Dallas Road wraps around the west and south ends of the James Bay peninsula.

 

Mission and Community Plan

The James Bay Neighbourhood Association and New Horizons Centre have a community plan and vision: A neighbourhood focussed on a vibrant James Bay Village corridor that

  • Preserves heritage buildings.
  • Integrates new affordable public housing.
  • Encourages new small businesses to fill empty storefronts.
  • Includes a community recreation and cultural centre with green space for public gatherings.
  • Provides accessible public transit.
  • Has expanded community gardens and a permanent summer home for the James Bay Community Farmers Market.

Most of the waterfront is currently controlled by the government and Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. Community planners have a vision to integrate the James Bay waterfront into the neighbourhood.

James Bay, Victoria (Holland Point Park)

James Bay Community Garden

 

Moss Street Market: Crafts & Farm Fresh Goodies

Moss Street Market

This page is currently under construction.

Please check back after we officially launch!

The People’s Apothecary Garden Fundraiser

The People's Apothecary (medicinal herb garden)

Yarrr… the people have spoken! Want to help grow medicinal herbs? Yes, you say? Rob the banks and bring ye booty to the Quadra Community Centre: 
901 Kings Rd., Victoria, BC.

Date: Nov 21, 2013
Start Time: 19:00
End Time:   23:00
Suggested donation: $10

Come help out this beloved community garden. If you never new it existed, it’s behind the Vancouver Island School of Art. Go check it out!

Feel free to mark it on your urban foraging map… but no hoarding! If you do the warlocks will track you down… so leave some mugwort for those dear folk who need it for their daily elixir.