Bernie Amell

Riparia
Calgary, Canada

About Bernie

Bio

I have become an "expert" in the ecological design relating to water in urban and industrial landscapes. But in place of the dryness of professional CV writing, I prefer to focus on the passions that were my original drivers. Perhaps this approach is closer to the original latin meaning of "curriculum vitae"? I was raised in a small town in southern Ontario that had not yet been exposed to the need to tame it's natural water not, at least, beyond the minor swales needed to drain house yards, streets and lanes.

The nearest creek was within fifty metres of my home. Tracing an enticingly contorted route along roadsides and back gardens, it ran across town and provided an alluring greenway for turtles and little boys.

Before I had words for such matters, I learned from the creek.
Water is fascinating and ever-changing.
Like my veins are to my hands, streams are tied intimately to the land.
Water supports profuse life, risk and play.

Through many hours and days, I learned the risks of snapping turtles and boot-sucking mud, the wild beauty of jewelweed and dragonflies, the joy of building rafts, and the reverie of watching leaves floating lazily downstream.

Eventually I followed the stream up to its source and down to its end, then followed the flow of water into ever larger streams and into the wider world of my adult life.

I am still that boy.

Areas of Expertise

ecological design, Landscape Architect, Visual analytics, Water & Wastewater Treatment Design

An idea worth spreading

Water is the primary shaper and sustainer of the land on which we have built our cities and towns. In our desire to reduce the risks of water in our cities, we have abandoned many of the diverse benefits of streams, ponds and related natural life.

This gross simplification of nature in the city starves us of rich experiences everyday, and depletes unnecessarily the movement and habitat of other species. Meanwhile we are not taking advantage of the “free services” that a viable ecosystem can provide to deal with pollution, noise and other unfortunate side effects of modern development.

We can attend to the risks and functionality that are the proper focus of engineers, while restoring nature to our cities and to our everyday lives.

I'm passionate about

Restoring natural water to urban settings - read below and above

Talk to me about

Ecological economics, The Importance of engaging in your particular community

Comments & conversations

184030
Bernie Amell
Posted almost 2 years ago
What is the bond that holds a community together? If woven properly, how can this common bond positively change the world?
Daniel Thank you for your commentary. What I am proposing is to use trust as a self imposed standard by which to measure your own choices and actions. I am not proposing to dwell on the conditions of trust that I would invest in others actions or choices. I do not disagree that this is sometimes needed and beneficial, however the overarching dialogue in this conversation has to do with building the bonds of community. I submit to you another idea: that it is possible to express a lack of trust in another persons capabilities (such as the scenario that you describe), yet do it in a caring and honest manner that actually builds trust between you and that person in the long term. Conversely, it is possible to sugarcoat your communications with them, so that they do not get a clear understanding of your judgement until they infer it from your actions or from the comments of other people. In my opinion this strategy almost always erodes long term trust.
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted almost 2 years ago
What is the bond that holds a community together? If woven properly, how can this common bond positively change the world?
The golden rule is too low a bar for my liking... Simply doing no harm stills allows many "sins" of omission and negligence that allow the bonds of trust to be weakened. A moral test that is more robust and directly beneficial to the bonds of community is "does this build or erode trust". Trust is the real currency of healthy communities, families and couples.
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted about 2 years ago
Would you prefer sales tax to income tax?
Arkady I am a supporter of consumption taxes as a more mature and responsive source of money to fund our collective services and interests (government), than income taxes. Consumption tax is a larger frame than simply sales tax. It includes, for example, fuel used in transport trucks, ocean freighters and agricultural equipment. The net effect of consumption taxes is that they send a price signal to the market (that is, to all of us). The meaning of that price signal is that there is a serious cost to the earth and the rest of us in consuming material and energy. We cannot avoid consumption, but we can choose to reward and reinforce inventions and behaviours that create qualitative value for society with the minimum consumption. The price signals sent by income taxes, without proportional taxes taken from consumptive industries, sends a perverse set of price signals. Full employment is devalued, while the price of shipping goods from distant places or from energy inefficient production is subsidized. Faced with these price signals any corporation must focus its creative talent on exploitation of off shore jobs rather than jobs at home. On shore industries that are highly consumptiive (ie. irrigation agriculture of bulk grains) are subsidized while industries that are less consumptive and job creative (ie. permaculture farms) are discouraged. I look for the day when there are no income taxes and we charge every industry or carrier that sells to our market is charged for the all of the energy and material consumption involved in the production AND transport of their goods to us. I am not arguing for an increase or decrease in taxation - save that for a different debate.
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted about 2 years ago
Abortion: Wrong or right?
The sexual choice that leads to conception was, usually, shared. Yet biological and economic realities place most of the long term risk firmly on the mother. Until there is assurance that the consequences of continuing the pregnancy will not reside primarily with her, then I believe that even to debate such a matter is to continue the force of social coercion that is being disproportionately levelled against women. Certainly men are not in a position to pass judgment on abortion. I suggest that those who are intent on this debate should redirect their energies to creation of social safety nets that would alleviate single mothers of the onerously one sided risk that they are facing in choosing to bear a child. Or perhaps such an institution should be created by the state?
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted about 2 years ago
A No-Party Party
The connection between big money and elections must be severed. If there were no donations allowed from corporations and a strictly regulated and monitored cap per donor the automatic effect would be a return to "We the People" focus. I like something like $1000 per elector with a tax deduction to sweeten the pot and provide some degree of monitoring that is independent of the main political parties. By lowering the cost of running elections there would also be less barriers to the emergence of new parties. But there would be much less money to spend on attack ads...The end of democracy as we have come to know it...anyone concerned about that!
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted over 2 years ago
Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree
Thank you, Margaret for this clear articulation of several essential qualities of leaders in any human endeavour. First, the compulsion to speak the true as it presents itself to you. Second, appreciation for the subtle art of collaborative dispute. Third, willingness to suffer the ostracism that often stifles unconventional ideas. Perhaps there can be a follow up talk, profiling other successes...and even some failures that are instructive.
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted over 2 years ago
What obstacles do you think sustainable architecture is facing?
I am an environmental design professional who has worked periodically on LEED certified projects. My experience with LEED certification is mixed. While admiring the motivation behind the certification system, I find that it supports the assumptions of the authors of the system rather than encouraging good design. I assume that the designers of the LEED system are mainly technically oriented architects. LEED provides them with a validation system that gives them the implied accolades of other people of like mind ... This is quite distinct from experiences and opinions of the actual residents/users of the spaces. At worst the design professional is encouraged to put inappropriate and expensive components into the project simply to score the desired LEED points.... Yes this happens! By good design, I mean delightful spaces, well suited to the functional, social and emotional needs of the actual users. If the users of a "green building" find it to be too limiting or pose behavioural demands that are too extreme, they will soon enough tire of the supposed environmental values of the building or site. This is the modern equivalent of the medieval monks who whipped themselves then wore horse hair shirts to prove their devotion. In my opinion, the rush to codification was too rapid and procedurally complicated. It is better to have a variety of design experiments going on with radically differing technologies, forms and aesthetics. Then run competitions that include judging by actual users of the spaces..not just technical or aesthetic architects. We might then have one project that exhibited particular brilliance for energy efficiency, another for supporting multiple uses, another for residents delight. If you think that Leadership in Environmental Design" does not include residents/users delight...consider the embodied energy and materials in a building ... A delightful space is kept viable for decades or centuries longer than a mundane one.
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted over 2 years ago
How does the sum total of ALL US healthcare costs compare to the sum total of ALL US health insurance premiums paid by Americans, annually?
Fabio You may find the following reference useful - it delves deeply into this matter. Particularly note the necessity of using a PPP (purchasing power parity) model, when trying to understand effective health care delivery models among widely differing economies. This might even be true of regional differences within the US due to marked variability among States. Jonas and Kovner's Health Care Delivery in the United States, ... - Page 68 - Google Books Result books.google.ca/books?isbn=0826106870 Anthony R. Kovner, James R. Knickman, Steven Jonas, M.D. - 2011 - Medical A better alternative is to compare total health care spending per person (per capita), adjusted to achieve purchasing power parity, or PPP. ... Economists generally prefer to compare different countries' total spending on health care as a percent ... The Economist Magazine also ran an issue focussing on this topic about 5 years ago that might be worthwhile digging up. I am astonished that this issue is not more vigorously argued in the US. Perhaps it is being argued, and I am in a state of denial when I cannot comprehend why the current flawed model that is expensively delivering poor results to so many people is so vigorously defended. I also confess to never being a fan of either Horatio Alger or Ayn Rand. Bernie Amell
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted over 2 years ago
Is the golden rule flawed?
The ethical principal of reciprocity appears to be a natural philosophy for any person who appreciates their own humanity. The following is an excerpt prepared by the Unitarians: "Ethic of Reciprocity" (Golden Rule) passages from various sources Native American Spirituality: "Respect for all life is the foundation." The Great Law of Peace. "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk "Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself." Pima proverb. Roman Pagan Religion: "The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves." Shinto: "The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form" Munetada Kurozumi "Be charitable to all beings, love is the representative of God." Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga Sikhism: Compassion-mercy and religion are the support of the entire world". Japji Sahib "Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone." Guru Arjan Devji 259 "No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend." Guru Arjan Dev : AG 1299 Sufism: "The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven't the will to gladden someone's heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone's heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this." Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order. Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien. Unitarian Universalism: "The inherent worth and dignity of every person;" "Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.... " This is not the only useful moral precept... and it may conflict with other precepts at times... such as when disciplining children who are at risk of damaging themselves... but I don't consider a limitation to necessarily indicate a flaw.
184030
Bernie Amell
Posted over 2 years ago
What do you think of fear? Do we need? Can you take it out of your life?
There are many people who have a strongly vested interest in selling fear to as many of us as possible...it is the most effective way to make us controllable. As others have stated, there are few natural fears and many culturally induced ones. I say heed well the difference and distrust persons who too often counsel you to be fearful.