In an effort to encourage voters to think about environmental issues before the Nov. 19 municipal elections, the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Community Partnership has distributed an election primer to municipal candidates.
The primer contains a series of questions for candidates, preceded by background information and facts on six issues: land use, climate change, transportation, unfunded infrastructure liability, monitoring and accountability, and conserving natural systems.
The CVCSCP and 18 member organizations have pooled their efforts for several years trying to protect, restore and enhance watersheds, rivers, wetlands, estuaries and forests to enhance sustainability and maintain essential functions.
Bottom line: environmental issues connect to virtually everything from transportation to rising infrastructure costs to urban sprawl.
“You can’t separate out the environment, which is one of the mistakes we’ve made in the past,” said Jack Minard, CVCSCP local government co-ordinator. “We’ve treated the environment like an external thing, rather than understanding that it underpins our economy and our social structure and transportation. The environment is part of everything. Human health depends on a healthy biosphere.”
Part of the problem with development is sprawl, says project manager David Stapley, noting low-density land use patterns and ‘curb and gutter’ infrastructure choices increase costs and use up green space. What’s needed is compact development, which he said will save money in the long run.
“If you compact your communities you have more people using fewer miles of infrastructure so you have more tax revenues that can replace and maintain it,” Stapley said. “When you go low density and sprawl out then you have more infrastructure but not as many people. And that affects transit. If you don’t have a dense enough population it’s really expensive trying to run a transit route.”
Car-dependent communities create higher costs and greenhouse emissions, he added.
“Economic capital, social capital and natural capital are all equal,” Minard said. “We’ve gained a new scientific understanding of what we have done. It’s not through malice, it’s not anybody’s fault, what it is is that we’ve learned some new things. It’s very difficult to boil that science down so that people understand what that science means and how it’s implemented on the ground.”
An example is climate change, which is resulting in melting ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels and severe weather patterns.
“There are people who deny climate change because they are not accepting or understanding the science behind it,” Minard said. “Science is not truth, science delivers products…As long as we continue to sprawl we have to put in more of the same infrastructure that we can’t even afford now to repair.”
The CVCSCP says it’s a proactive, non-confrontational group that is, in fact, not opposed to development. The group praises documents such as the Comox Official Community Plan for advocating densification. It also praises the Regional Growth Strategy — which needs monitoring, Minard says — but feels the Sustainability Strategy has taken a back seat.
These documents, along with Nature Without Borders, urge change in the way communities are designed in order to protect sensitive areas.
“Looking at these long-term trends and seeing if we compact the communities and we protect our ecological areas, in the long-run we’re all going to be better off and we’ll maintain the quality of life,” Stapley said.
The group hopes the primer will encourage discussion at all-candidates meetings.
Questions and responses will be published after Nov. 9 at www.cvconservationstrategy.org. Also visit www.facebook.com/CVConservationStrategy for more information.