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  • Gayle Baker

Learning About our Soon-to-be-Released Climate Action Plan

June 19

Fifteen gathered in the lovely United Church Meadow to welcome our special guest, Darryl Martin, Chair of the soon-to-be-released Climate Action Plan 2.0. Despite the focus on climate action, the first question requested an update about concerns raised last week about the Land Bank Society. There is some enthusiasm for an expanded role for Salt Springers in this important affordable housing opportunity, beginning with more members and a well-publicized AGM this fall. Bylaws have been ordered to better understand potential hurdles.

Concerns were expressed about reducing our too-high speed limits, an opportunity from multiple angles, including reducing emissions, safety, and encouragement of active transportation through better protection of pedestrians and cyclists.It was agreed that this is the perfect time to reduce speed limits due to the strong federal and provincial support of active transportation initiatives as well as the money to support these initiatives. Participants learned that reduced speed limits were included in the Climate Action Plan as well as learning about the newly-formed Transportation Commission Traffic Calming Working Group.

How can we do better stopping the idling on BC Ferries long before it is time to disembark? It was noted that, while this was not specifically included in the Climate Action Plan, it could be added to the Transportation Commission’s comments to the plan. It was agreed that work needs to be done to make folks aware of this environmentally-damaging practice. We learned that while BC ferries has a policy against idling, it is not enforced. What about handing folks a bumper sticker, saying I am not an Idler or something like that to give them a gentle reminder? If these stickers were successfully-received, idlers would also see these stickers on other cars, potentially again reminding them as well as many others.

Residential densities have a big impact on climate action, especially by linking growth to transportation networks. While a powerful tool - one the Islands Trust has begun to utilize - it is a slow-moving fix that will not reduce carbon emissions at the pace needed.

There were questions about the possibility of a Walkable Ganges, routing cars away from the village to outlying parking and transported by electric shuttles. It was noted that such a shuttle had been operated by Country Grocer last summer but that ridership had not reached hoped-for levels. It was surmised that word of this service may not have been adequately-marketed and that, when/if the Ganges Market returns to full strength, it would be an option to better support.

Could we make it easier for visitors to save money by not bringing their cars here? It is expensive to use BC Ferries parking at Swartz Bay Terminal. Are there options to reduce this cost by identifying another parking option. For folks to leave their cares at home, transit options need to be easier and more widely-marketed. Other changes - like allowing dogs on buses - may also need to be considered if we are committed to encourage folks to leave their vars at home.

The conversations shifted to eBikes with some seeking to buy an eBike, but worried by their high cost. Are their any grants? How about rebates? How about a loan from Transitions Salt Spring Co-op? We learned that there may be a waiver from PST taxes in the planning stages. Some wondered if it is better to convert or take the leap for the more-expensive new eBike. It was suggested that an eBike symposium would be a good way to inform Salt Springers as well as bringing visitors with environmental values similar to ours. Also - what about a Transitions Salt Spring Working Group for eBike enthusiasts and future eBike owners?

Well-swept roads are essential for safe cycling. We did learn that, even though Salt Spring now has a sweeper, its is impossible to sweep in the dry months - just when most want to be cycling! This is due to the dust cloud that is generated. All were invited to return to ASK Salt Spring next Friday when Emcon managers will be here to answer questions about this as well as other roads-related issues.

We were given an overview of the Climate Action Plan. Despite many great solutions, we were reminded us that no matter what we accomplish, we will still see climate change occurring in uncertain ways around us. Among these changes will be droughts and storms bringing all the problems of severe weather patterns. The goal of the plan is to identify what we can change. This will include choices in lifestyle, food, building, wood burning, energy, and transportation choices.

It will also include how we mitigate fire hazards, manage our forests as carbon sinks, and make our practices, like wood burning, as environmentally-friendly as possible. We learned a little about the changes in Scandinavia, a culture dependent on wood burning for centuries, to significantly-reduce its damage to the environment. These changes include moisture meters to ensure that wet wood is not burned; innovative stove designs; and required certifications to eliminate old, inefficient, polluting stoves.

Although a Salt Spring tradition, we heard that outdoor wood burning may soon be a thing of the past and that more ecological alternatives need to be put in place in preparation for this coming restriction.

Heat pumps are a popular choice, although dependability is a concern for some when looking at the number of payback years required. We learned that BC Hydro is giving a $1,000 rebate for heat pumps. Gabriola did a community purchase of heat pumps with an estimated 700 now on the island.

There was a brief discussion about the possible availability of the Middle School for community use. One suggestion was to convert it as a place to restore, repair, recycle, regenerate. A wide range of items needing to be recycled could be repurposed, serving as both a recycling opportunity as well as an educational opportunity to teach the art of keeping everything on the island for re-use.

The conversation went briefly to the Firehall, another opportunity for the community to gain a building. While some reminded us that it does not have much life in it and has some very serious problems, there is some talk of using it without much renovation. Some countered with the plea that we do some more longterm thinking, recognizing rising waters, storm surges, and the unstable ground upon which it was built.

When one pleaded for better leadership and less governance fragmentation, it was noted that this volunteer-driven, less top-down environment allows opportunities for non-profits to actually make a difference not available in structured municipalities. This was seconded by acknowledgement of the nearly-completed Salt Spring Commons project, set to house 24 families by fall.

It was noted that there is quite a bit of water catchment here and that this option is growing quickly, with multiple levels of complexity, size, and investment. We were reminded that Transitions Salt Spring Economic Co-op offers loans for these systems. The Climate Action Plan will take a strong stand for much more water catchment through increased awareness of its benefits, more support to install these systems, and incentives. There is an impetus to add it as a building requirement: A 1,000 square foot home with concrete catchment in the basement, would collect three-feet in one winter season.

As this gathering drew to a close, we were asked:

How much effort are you and your friends willing to do to adapt and mitigate help the climate?

What are you willing to pay to do this, today? tomorrow?

It was noted that, while many of us live a lifestyle with a small footprint, we were reminded that we all need to do much more.

And. . . .that everyone should be supported to make changes that work for them with no judgment from others who may make different choices.

Slightly after 1:00, folks began to disperse, many promising to come next week to greet Emcon managers as well as Jessica as our guests.

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