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Fred Bass is a former preventive medicine physician and city councillor in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He now focuses on helping people come to grips with ecological collapse and to build community resilience and psychological resilience.
Bass was born in 1934 in New York City, the son of two school teachers. He attended Antioch College, Case Western University School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He served as a preventive medicine officer in the US Army's 7th Infantry Division in Korea and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. After his military service, he was the tuberculosis control officer for the New Jersey Department of Health. He studied epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he wrote a doctoral thesis on medical care use attributable to cigarette smoking. He then taught at the University of Pennsylvania and came to the Vancouver Health Department in 1975. There, in 1982, he became director of health promotion.
After years of seeking work in preventive medicine, in 1989, he founded the BC Doctors Stop-Smoking Program to help doctors help their patients stop smoking. He helped to form the Society for Clinical Preventive Care in 1997 (which persisted until 2007) to implement proven clinical preventive measures. In 2001 he was awarded a Senior (life) Membership in the Canadian Medical Association for his work in tobacco addiction.
Involvement with Vancouver politics
In 1989–90, Bass served on the City of Vancouver's Clouds of Change Task Force, which addressed the issues of global climate change. Bass, concerned about global warming, entered electoral politics in 1996 as a candidate for Vancouver's civic Green Party and was defeated by a wide margin. Despite being the Greens' second-best vote-getter in the 1996 election, Bass was not renominated by the Greens in 1999. He won the nomination of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the party with which the Greens had linked a coalition agreement and was elected to city council in 1999. Bass topped the polls with 70,525 votes when re-elected in 2002. His political priorities were action on the environment and transit. Bass was outspoken in his opposition to the expansion of gambling and to expenditures for rapid transit rather than sorely-needed buses.
In order to encourage cycling and walking, Bass introduced a controversial motion in 2005 to explore devoting two lanes of the six-lane Burrard Bridge for cycling (cyclists had been sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians). His first step was a minimal-cost trial of using one lane in each direction for bicycles, reserving the existing sidewalk for pedestrians. A plan to widen the bridge sidewalks was slated to cost $13 million if Bass's $2 million trial failed. Some cyclists applauded the move, though other users of the current bridge sidewalks questioned whether any changes were necessary. Concerns about motorist rage did not deter Bass, who stated "Motorists called for my head long ago and my head is still on my neck." Heritage advocates strongly supported the bicycle trial, since the sidewalk-widening would impair the heritage value of this landmark, art-deco bridge.
In 2005, three COPE councillors and the mayor split from the party to form Vision Vancouver. Bass and councillors Tim Louis, David Cadman, Anne Roberts and Ellen Woodsworth remained in COPE. Bass was not re-elected in the 2005 election, finishing 12th overall with 48,248 votes.
Current work: re ecological catastrophe & building personal/community resilience
In 2010, after retiring from medical and political work, Bass sought to learn about ecological literacy and to find a role in promoting it. But people and their leaders have seemed immune to recognizing their necessary dependence on ecosystems, and the priority required for their protection.
In 2019, Bass began to facilitate small groups of people to share the reality of ecological collapse and to describe how they might respond at the personal and community level. He calls these free, one-time events "Eco-Resilience Workshops." In 2020, Bass will also work with Village Vancouver (Vancouver BC's Transition town) and other groups to hold periodic "Eco-Resilience Gatherings" to help people focus and learn about building community and personal resilience. See Eco-Resilience
Deep connection, spirituality and resilience
Bass notes, in regard to resilience, that deep connection adds depth and strength to life. He believes it can come through whatever form of spirituality a person finds meaningful. Bass, whose grandparents were orthodox Jews, finds deep meaning in the Jewish values of community, fairness, love of knowledge & art, and personal responsibility. He considers himself spiritual, but not religious. Fred divides his spiritual practice between being a Quaker (The Religious Society of Friends) and a devotee of Soto Zen Buddhism (as expressed in Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginners Mind).
In the 1990's, Fred volunteered with Cypress Bowl Cross Country Ski Patrol and with the North Shore Rescue Group. From 1986 to 1994, he played shaker with Batucada BC, the province's first Samba School (street samba band), founded by Celso Machado. Fred was arrested with other activists, first, in 2013, for blocking a coal train in White Rock and, in 2014, for crossing the line at Burnaby Mountain to protest the Kinder Morgan (now Canada's) pipeline expansion project.
- Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2005