Fifteen gathered in the United Church Meadow on a comfortably-cool summer day last Friday. While all questions were welcomed, the conversation was focused on our soon-to-be-released Climate Action Plan 2.0 (CAP). Darryl Martin, the chair of the huge volunteer-driven effort, led the conversation. He had able back-up from Bryan Young, lead writer and member of the CAP steering committee, and Anne Parkinson, Chair of Transition Salt Spring.
Major goals of this CAP were to:
quantify our climate action realities,
identify mitigation recommendations (a whopping 250 of them!), and
suggest adaptation strategies.
Darryl began the conversation with some history. We learned that there had been a plan in 2011 that had some successes, most notably the emergence of a strong electric vehicle group, a major force in placing Salt Spring in the enviable position of having more electric cars per capita than anywhere else in North America.
Last year, our CRD Director, Gary Holman, agreed that the 2011 plan needed to be updated, offering administrative funding through Transition Salt Spring. Initially, 14 volunteered to work on the CAP. Unlike most projects, as the work progressed, this group expanded, eventually including over 30 volunteers with far-reaching skills and experience including a strong core group of scientists, engineers, economists. This impressive group divided themselves into their areas of interest - such as Transportation, Food, Infrastructure, Water, and Forests - and collaboratively wrote the chapters that became the soon-to-be-released CAP 2.0.
As soon as it was in draft form, Salt Spring organizations, as well as regional organizations such as BC Hydro and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, were asked to review the portions of the plan relevant to them. A top priority was that they identify errors, discrepancies, and omissions. They were also given the opportunity to suggest changes, additions, and deletions in their areas of responsibility. The response has been satisfying, with only a few key organizations that have not yet offered feedback.
In addition to this outreach to organizations, the community was surveyed. This survey, requiring at least 10-15 minutes, was completed by nearly 1,000 Salt Springers.
The treasure of information from these outreach efforts is both extraordinarily-valuable and a bit daunting - giving these hardworking volunteers over 4,000 comments (totaling a whopping 233 pages) to be reviewed and, when appropriate, used to modify the draft CAP. It is hoped that all this work will be completed by September 2020 and that the plan will be publicly-released soon afterward.
The rationale for creating the CAP was that, although various groups are doing wonderful climate action work, there are significant gaps. With this plan as a roadmap, it is hoped that a community-led effort will work to implement it as well as providing strong encouragement for local government action.
A major difference between this CAP and the 2011 version is the addition of adaptation plans. This addition was based on the recognition that we cannot stop all climate change; we are forced, instead, to adapt when we can no longer mitigate.
During this process, Islands Trust gave the group some funding to conduct a climate risk assessment: Protecting our forests came out at the top of this list. In addition to the CRD administrative funding and Islands Trust research funding, several individual donors also offered financial support.
Once CAP has been completed and released, it will be up to the community and our local government to address the 250 recommended actions. It appears that the non-profit Transition Salt Spring may be the organization charged with creating the collaborative conversations essential for successful implementation as well as continually-monitoring progress.
To give the group a bit more information about Transition Salt Spring, Chair, Anne Parkinson, spoke briefly about the world-wide Transition movement, involving towns throughout the world who have designated themselves Transition towns, eager to focus on the specific climate action needs in their communities. Transition Salt Spring has been active since the mid-2000s and currently supports a number of working groups, such as Climate Action, Education, Electric Vehicle, Plastic Free Salt Spring, Native Plant Stewardship, Plenty Project, Rainbow Road Park Allotment Garden, and the Repair Cafe.
Anyone can become a member of Transition Salt Spring by simply signing up for their newsletter on their website: https://transitionsaltspring.com. You will receive the newsletter each month, detailing a wide range of local activities (including ASK Salt Spring), as well as a treasure trove of educational links. Currently, there are over 1,000 members of Transition Salt Spring.
One participant asked how CAP suggests we protect our forests when there is so little we can do locally. The response is that, while the vehicle for addressing threats to our forests is not currently available, all of our elected officials support regulating clear cutting, preferring environmentally-sensitive logging.
Intent upon maintaining livelihoods of Salt Springers, it was noted that the solution for this issue must create a new way to both protect and log our forests. While it was agreed that grassroots demonstrations have been very successful in the past, such as the saving Burgoyne, both logging and the rights of private landowners are powerful principles in British Columbia. It is likely that a combination of local demands, policy work, and economic incentives will be needed to address this threat to our forests.
A representative from the Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society reported that, as a result of CAP, their board has committed to addressing the forest issue due to its importance to our water supply. They are looking for volunteers to join them in their effort. If interested, please contact: email@example.com.
It was noted that communities across BC are finding that their water supply is being threatened by clear cutting. It was suggested that we should collaborate with communities across the province to advocate for allowing local governments to protect their forests.
One participant has worked for Greenpeace since the 1970s. He spoke of the power of grassroots movements to change the world, citing the 500,000 who came to Woodstock. While keenly aware of the challenges (he currently works on air quality in cities such as Beijing and Mumbai), collaboration between indigenous nations, labour, and environmentalists can be effective. He suggested finding a way to get money from polluters and mobilizing large numbers of people to get out and march.
One suggested the oddness that one cannot build a structure or a pond, nor dump fill, without a permit. One can, however, legally cut and burn everything on their land, not only destroying our water retention ecosystems but also becoming our biggest polluter by burning the resulting slash.
There was discussion about the Local Trust Committee creating a Coastal Fir Development Permit area which, while while not completely protecting our forests, would require a permit before cutting trees in designated areas of our island. However, it would take many months to institute this and, during this time, wholesale tree cutting could occur.
It was also suggested that Salt Spring could explore becoming a protected community, such as Tofino, which is closely tied to the Clayquot Biosphere, a Unesco designated area. For more information, see: https://clayoquotbiosphere.org.
When asked about implementation of CAP, we were reminded that it is intended to be a roadmap for the further actions of others - both governmental as well as grassroots. CAP includes the identification of organizations responsible for implementation of each action. A volunteer -driven group, such as Transition Salt Spring, will be needed to work with both governmental bodies as well as the business community and non-profits to ensure that actions result from these CAP recommendations.
Some spoke of the importance of each of our seemingly-minimal efforts to protect the environment and that a key factor for success may be encouraging significant increases in these personal activities; others thought the only route to success is through a concerted, community-wide, effort to address a single action. The unanswered question was: Do we concentrate on one activity or do our best to move forward on as many of the 250 recommendations as possible?
Some expressed their top priorities ranging from electric vehicles (both cars and bikes), food production, protection of our forests, and a full-cycle composting system.
There was a widely-supported suggestion that young people be involved. Despite the fact that we had a young person attending this ASK Salt Spring gathering and that Transition Salt Spring has just appointed a Youth Director, all agreed that our youth hold the key to climate action success and need to be more-actively enrolled.
As 1:00 was approaching, we were promised that, when released, the Climate Action Plan would be widely available on-line (one very good reason the sign up for Transition Salt Spring) as well as a hard copy in the Library and the file at Apple Photo for those who prefer to pay for a copy rather than printing it themselves. While some wandered away, thanking those involved with CAP for all their hard work, and others packed up the chairs, many continued their conversation among small groups. With 2:00 approaching and several groups still conversing and debating, one told me, laughing, We are starved for social opportunities!