Geographies of Metro Vancouver

Humanities & Social Sciences
Geography and the Environment
Course Code
GEOG 1150
Semester Length
15 Weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Industry Designation
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course introduces students to the geographies of Metro Vancouver with particular attention to the ways in which urban space is shaped by both local and global processes. The course examines the natural and human landscapes of the Lower Mainland, focusing on key contemporary issues related to urbanization, including urban development and the built environment, urban planning and policy, urban space and social identities, and human-environment relations in the city. In addressing these topics, students will gain an understanding of core geographic concepts such as place, landscape, scale, and region, as well as relevant approaches to spatial analysis.
Course Content

NOTE: Content may vary according to the instructor’s selection of topics and changing current affairs.

  1. Metro Vancouver in geographic context: Metro Vancouver as a place and region; the site and situation of cities in the Metro Vancouver; the region’s place in provincial, national, and global context.
  2. Understanding the physical landscape: the geophysical processes that shape the region’s natural landscape; plate tectonics, glaciation, formation of the Fraser River valley and delta, vegetation, and ecosystem services.
  3. Resettlement: the pre-colonial and post-contact human landscapes; Indigenous settlements and land use, municipal colonialism.
  4. Urbanization and suburbanization: historical and contemporary growth and urban development in the Metro region.
  5. Public space and urban publics: public space; urban design; how race, ethnicity, gender, and/or sexuality shape and are shaped by urban space; urban indigeneity, immigration, multiculturalism, queer geographies, and ethnic enclaves.
  6. Housing the region: housing availability and affordability; social housing, gentrification, proposed solutions with attention to anti-poverty and housing movements. 
  7. Safety and security: emergency management; public safety, policing; natural hazards, seismic risk, and preparedness.
  8. Food geographies: local food production and consumption geographies; the Agricultural Land Reserve; food security, and urban agriculture.
  9. Urban climatology: air quality issues, urban heat island effects; region-specific climate change impacts and mitigation efforts.
  10. Planning for sustainability: regional and municipal governance; sustainability and livability; transportation management and funding, solid and liquid wastes, parks and recreation, open space, biodiversity and habitat protection.
  11. Selling the city: place-marketing, tourism, and mega-events. 
  12. Future geographies: emerging trends and possible directions.
Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods, including:

  • Lectures
  • Guest speaker presentations
  • Local field work or field trips
  • Videos
  • Small group discussions
  • Individual or group projects
  • Practical in-class exercises
  • Map and data analysis
Means of Assessment

Assessment will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy. The instructor will provide a written syllabus outlining course objectives and evaluation specifications during the first week of class. An example of an evaluation scheme is as follows:

Preparation and participation:   5%
Field trip: 10%
Map and graph analysis: 10%
Course project/paper: 25%
Midterm exam: 25%
Final exam: 25%
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  • Synthesize concepts and techniques in urban geography.
  • Critically assess contemporary issues facing Metro Vancouver. 
  • Situate Metro Vancouver in provincial, national, and global context. 
  • Apply geographic theories to emerging urban issues.
  • Communicate orally and in writing about trends and challenges of urban development and urban planning, the role of urban space in the formation of social identities, and human relation impacts on the natural environment in urban space.
  • Use both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze urban patterns and policies in the region.
  • Interpret and utilize relevant maps, graphs, and charts, in assessing local geographic patterns and phenomena.
Textbook Materials

A coursepack will be used and a combination of academic and news media readings will be updated periodically. Examples of typical books and articles are as follows:

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  • Berelowitz, L. (2005). Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.
  • Blomley, N. (2007). Civil rights meet civil engineering: Urban public space and traffic logic. Canadian Journal of Law & Society, 22(2), pp. 55-72.
  • Boyle, P. & Haggerty, K.D. (2011). Civil cities and urban governance: Regulating disorder for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Urban Studies, 48(15), pp. 3185-3201.
  • Carpenter, J. & Hutton, T. (2018). Vancouver: Critical reflections on the development experiences of a peripheral global city, Cities 86(2019), pp. 1-10.
  • Chang, S.E., McDaniels, T., Fox, J., Dhariwal, R., & Longstaff, H. (2014). Towards disaster-resilient cities: Characterizing resilience of infrastructure systems with expert judgments. Risk Analysis: An Official Publication of the Society for Risk Analysis, 34(3), 416-434.
  • Clague, J. & Turner, B. (2003). Vancouver, city on the edge: Living with a dynamic geological landscape. Vancouver: Tricouni Press.
  • Crawford, E. & MacNair, E. (2012). BC Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation Risk + Opportunity Assessment Series: Fraser Valley Metro Vancouver. Victoria: British Columbia Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative, Government of British Columbia.
  • Creese, G. (2019). Growing up African Canadian in Vancouver: Racialization, Gender and Sexuality. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 44(4), 425–446.
  • Davis, C. (2011). The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver. Vancouver: Harbour Publishing.
  • Evenden, M. D. (2004). Fish Versus Power: An Environmental History of the Fraser River. New York; Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fast, D., & Cunningham, D. (2018). “We Don’t Belong There”: New Geographies of Homelessness, Addiction, and Social Control in Vancouver’s Inner City. City & Society, 30(2), 237–262.
  • Fion, P., Moos, M., Vinodrai, T. & Walker, R. (Eds.) (2015). Canadian cities in transition: Perspectives for an urban age, Don Mills: Oxford University Press.
  • Francis, D. (2021). Becoming Vancouver: A history. Harbour Publishing.
  • Gurstein, P. & Hutton, T. (Eds.) (2019). Planning on the edge: Vancouver and the Challenges of Reconciliation, Social Justice, and Sustainable Development. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
  • Hall, P. V. (2012). Connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting: Port logistics and Vancouver's Fraser River. L’Espace géographique, 41. pp. 223-235.
  • Hayes, D. (2006). Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.
  • Hern, M. (2010).Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future. Edinburgh: AK Press.
  • Hiller, H. (Ed.) (2014). Urban Canada, Third Edition. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.
  • Jonas, A.E.G., McCann, E., & Thomas, M. (2015). Urban Geography: A Critical Introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley.
  • Jones, C.E., Ley, D. (2016). Transit-oriented development and gentrification along Metro Vancouver's low-income SkyTrain corridor. The Canadian Geographer, 60(1), pp. 9-22.
  • Lauster, N. (2016). The death and life of the single-family house: Lessons from Vancouver on building a livable city. Temple University Press.
  • Ley, D., Mountz, A., Mendez, P., Lees, L., Walton-Roberts, M., & Helbrecht, I. (2020). Housing Vancouver, 1972–2017: A personal urban geography and a professional response: Forum with David Ley and his former students. Canadian Geographer, 64(4), 438–466.
  • Miewald, C., & McCann, E. (2014). Foodscape and the geographies of poverty: Sustenance, strategy, and politics in an urban neighborhood. Antipode, 46(2).
  • Mitchell, C. L., & Graham, A. (2020). Evidence-Based Advocacy for Municipal Climate Change Action. Journal of Planning Education & Research, 40(1), 31–43.
  • Molnar, A. (2015). The geo-historical legacies of urban security governance and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The Geographical Journal, 181(3). pp. 235-241.
  • Peck, J., Siemiatycki , E., & Wyly, E. (2014). Vancouver 's suburban involution. City, 18(4/5}, 386-415.
  • Price, M. F. (2013). Mountain Geography: Physical and Human Dimensions. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Punter, J. (2003). The Vancouver Achievement. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
  • Rosenau, M. L., Angelo, M., & Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council. (2007). Saving the Heart of the Fraser: Addressing Human Impacts to the Aquatic Ecosystem of the Fraser River, Hope to Mission, British Columbia. Vancouver: Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.
  • Soules, Matthew. (2010). The "liveable" suburbanized city: Post-politics and a Vancouver near you. Harvard Design Magazine, 32. pp. 9141-9148.
  • Stanger-Ross, J. (2008). Municipal colonialism in Vancouver: City planning and the conflict over Indian reserves, 1928-1950s. The Canadian Historical Review, 89(4). pp. 541-580.
  • Teixeira, C. (2014). Living on the "edge of the suburbs" of Vancouver: A case study of the housing experiences and coping strategies of recent immigrants in Surrey and Richmond. The Canadian Geographer, 58(2), pp. 168-187.
  • Wideman, T. J. (2021). Land use planning and the making of a ‘properly propertied’ Vancouver. Geoforum, 120, 46–57.
  • Wilson, S. (2010). Natural Capital in BC's Lower Mainland: Valuing the Benefits from Nature. Pacific Parklands Foundation. Produced by the David Suzuki Foundation. Vancouver, BC.
  • Wittmer, J. & Parizeau, K. (2016). Informal recyclers' geographies of surviving neoliberal urbanism in Vancouver, BC. Applied Geography, 66. pp. 92-99.
  • Wood, D.A. (2007). To regionalize: or not to regionalize? A study in the politics of policing in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Police Practice & Research, 8(3) 283-297.
  • Wynn, G. & Oke, T. (Eds.) (1992). Vancouver and its Region. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.



No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for GEOG 1150
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX SOSC 2XX (3)
Athabasca University (AU) AU GEOG 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU GEOG 1XX (3)
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN GEOG 1XX (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR GEOG 1XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU GEOG 1XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG GEOG 1XXX (3)
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) No credit
North Island College (NIC) NIC GEO 1XX (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) No credit
Okanagan College (OC) OC GEOG 1XX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU GEOG 261 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU GEOG 1XXX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW GEOG 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO GEOG 1st (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV GEOG 1st (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC GEOG 2XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV GEOG 1XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC GEOG 1XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU GEOG 1st (3)

Course Offerings

Winter 2023