Amid the COVID-19 health orders currently restricting social gatherings, City staffers took to Twitter encouraging Vancouverites to head outside for public health-approved walks alongside their immediate households. The tweet also recommended paying a visit to "seven locations around False Creek, some of which will be impacted by sea level rise in the future" during those walks.
The tweet was accompanied by a map illustrating the areas most likely to face consequences of higher water levels in coming years, as well as a link to the City's False Creek Coastal Adaptation Plan document library.
Many Twitter users swiftly jumped on the message to point out that highlighting anticipated impacts of the ongoing climate crisis doesn't exactly stoke optimism amidst a worsening pandemic and already-demoralizing restrictions.
"Awesome," read one response. "Really needed some extra doom and gloom in my day." Another sought clarification, asking, "Are you saying 'hurry, before they are gone'?"
One Twitter user re-framed the City's initial message in a quote tweet, writing, "While you wait to die from the pandemic, here’s a list of places in your neighbourhood that will be underwater shortly. Have a great day!"
Another succinctly stated, "This tweet was an emotional journey."
However, the tweet also garnered its fair share of support for the City's message. "Based on the replies and quote tweets, most people would prefer to pretend that there isn't $7 billion in land and assets at risk from human-caused global heating here," read one quote tweet.
Another British Columbian acknowledged that the tweet "is getting some heat," but expressed gratitude "for municipal action on both COVID and climate. It can be hard to think about two emergencies at once, but taking action on both can help people feel better, and so can a nature walk."
One Twitter user also offered "Props to the social media crew for honesty."
In response to the backlash, the City's sustainability account quickly issued a followup tweet saying they didn't mean "to be insensitive to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are following official [provincial health officer] orders. At the same time, we continue to work on climate mitigation & adaptation, including a coastal adaptation plan for False Creek."
Replied one Twitter user, "Look, people are getting sick and dying. Businesses are closing and livelihoods are being lost. Many of us are under a great deal of stress. This is an inappropriate way to discuss climate change. Respect the struggle of the pandemic and find a different way to promote this work."
City staffers thanked the individual for their feedback, adding, "we appreciate that this is a very stressful time and we did not mean for this message to be disrespectful of the hardships many people are facing."
Ironically enough, Vancouver got a small preview Friday of what rising water levels could mean for the city, when the Park Board closed both the seawall and Jericho Pier in response to a king tide. Pedestrians and cyclists were asked to leave the area, while Park Board staff were put to work Saturday morning clearing the logs and debris that had accumulated thanks to extreme tides and heavy winds.
Hi all, we are not trying to be insensitive to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are following official PHO orders. At the same time, we continue to work on climate mitigation & adaptation, including a coastal adaptation plan for False Creek: https://t.co/x3LzhBJI8C— @CityofVancouver - Greenest City (@greenestcity) November 13, 2020
The seawall fully re-opened to the public late Saturday morning after being closed for nearly 24 hours.