Editor’s Note, December 2008

The Power 50 is one of our most anticipated issues each year. People are fascinated by those who wield power, and for good reason. The names on our Power 50 list combine wealth, heft, and personal networks that enable them to get things done. Their calls—to almost anyone—are returned promptly. The city evolves partly in response to their combined energy, vision, and priorities. The theme of last year’s Power 50 was philanthropy; this year’s is the big idea. One criterion we used in our rankings was the extent to which a person uses intellectual clout (rather than merely dollars or a Rolodex) to effect real change in the city and abroad. Vancouver has turned out more than its share of people whose ideas have taken hold and now influence the way we think about the world.

The most notable example these days, as Frances Bula explains in December’s Urban Fix, is Vancouverism—the urban-planning concept, brought to life around False Creek, that former city planner Larry Beasley and his team devised and now export to urban centres on several continents. But that’s just the start. Green pioneers like David Suzuki and William Rees, Internet impresarios like Marcus Frind (Plentyoffish.com) and Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake (Flickr.com), cultural icons like Douglas Coupland and Jeff Wall, entrepreneurs like Chip Wilson and Anthony von Mandl—all have presided over the international blossoming of ideas that germinated here. Let’s not forget Vanmag contributors James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, whose 100-Mile Diet became not just a best-selling book and now a TV series but a pillar of the global locavore movement.

Other pieces in the issue deepen the theme. Documentary photographer Wendell Phillips’s big idea (“A World Apart”) is to remind us, as we fret about economic turmoil and gutted RRSPs, that there’s a whole world of disenfranchised humanity not visible from a Whistler condo. In this month’s Q & A, Faye Wightman, president and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation, explains why corporations must continue their philanthropy through hard times (and why she gives money to every panhandler who asks). And in “The Time Machine”, Bruce Grierson writes about Nigel Lockyer and his physicists at the TRIUMF research centre at UBC, who are addressing the biggest (and tiniest) idea of all: what colliding atoms can tell us about how the universe was born.