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Sustainability in Castlegar?

Castlegar's Old Fire Truck

Our family has lived in Castlegar for just over two years now, and we are starting to get our heads around the issues around sustainability in this city, and about a month ago, we wrote a letter to the City asking for some consideration of peak oil, climate change and the economy and the effect that these scenarios may have on the long term sustainability of the community. These should be reflected in the budget, planning, bylaws and policies of the City as well as finding ways to involve the community.

The Response from the City

After finding out that the letter my wife and I wrote to the City of Castlegar was discussed in no less than two committee meetings without any public notification, (all happening prior to the regular council meeting that we imagined it would be discussed in public), we received a response from the City last week, addressing their thoughts on some of our concerns.

I say “some” because the only part of the letter that was actually addressed at all was probably the least important! I had included 14 “quick fix” initiatives in the letter, which augmented the general thoughts of the letter by suggesting that solutions to build community resilience in the face of peak oil, climate change and an uncertain economic future could be as easy as those seen in the 14 points. No comment was made as to the City’s position on the issues of Peak Oil, the economy, or Climate Change or whether, beyond the newly formed green committee and the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan which is in progress, the City has any plans to look at these threats in ways that other communities around the world are already preparing through Energy Descent Action Plans.

The CBC Interviews

This letter has generated interest from readers across North America, has been excerpted in the local paper, and now discussed on regional radio – as they say, every interview is an opportunity. I was excited to have the opportunity to discuss sustainability issues with Marion Barschel on Daybreak aired out of Kelowna yesterday morning, and I’m glad that the City of Castlegar’s Council representative Kevin Chernoff was able to have the mic on CBC this morning and respond to some of the points. While I don’t agree with everything Kevin stated, he articulated the City’s position very well and pointed out many of the things that the City is doing right. As I said, every interview is an opportunity – both to challenge listener’s pre-conceived ideas of what sustainability means, and also to celebrate the things that the City is doing.

How Much Time Do We Have and Should We Be Sitting Around Talking About It?

My fear, as with many of these types of plans is that the timeline to action can be so lengthy and the opportunities for initiatives that could really make a difference are being lost, or the benefits are being offset by ever increasing problems. Now is the time to make changes, not sit around talking about what someone else needs to do. I am please that the City is right in the middle of the Integrated Community Sustainability Planning process, and I hope that this will provide an adequate framework for the community discussion and council direction required. This leaves us with many more questions and a sense of excitement that change is possible. I’ll address some of the questions over the coming days in more posts.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.