Other-than-human life in Vancouver’s Stanley Park may have never been more audible to so many people as it was in spring 2020, as COVID-19 transformed Canadian space and society. The renowned urban wilderness park, a colonial idea erected over the traditional territories of Coast Salish First Nations, including the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, opened in 1888. Not long thereafter, Stanley Park became inextricably bound to the motor vehicle, its roads, and their ecological ruin.
Then, on the morning of April 8, 2020, came an extraordinary rupture: the car park nearly vanished. For the first time in its colonial history, Stanley Park’s roads excluded automobiles. The Vancouver Park Board took this radical move in order to limit the number of visitors while increasing physical distancing and local access to the outdoors. The car closure was not total. It did not include emergency services, public transit, municipal vehicles, and a highway that slices Stanley Park in two. Nevertheless, partly released from the jaws of motor vehicles – including the car but also the float planes typically roaring over its tree canopy and carbon thirsty passenger jets shaking the skies above – Stanley Park almost seemed to revert back to a more primeval, unadulterated version of itself protected from human pollution.
Stanley Park’s transformation from noisy car park to resurgent nature was a common story after COVID-19, which precipitated both a global surge in cycling and noticing nature (see also Volume 4, Chapter Four). It was a strange, ironic rupture: one ecological catastrophe (COVID-19, a zoonotic disease) pressing pause on another (the system of automobility).
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