ENVIRO NOTES: One final word on sustainability

After years writing about the environment for the Peace Arch News, local environmentalist Dr. Roy Strang is retiring.

We’ve reached the time of year when I wish all of my readers ‘A happy and blessed Christmas’ and also ‘A verra guid New Year’, but this time to also sign off as an environmental columnist.

This will be my last column.

I am very grateful indeed to the Peace Arch News for making space available to me each month without any censorship, and also to the many readers who have commented on my ideas and suggestions.

It’s illuminating – and disturbing, too – that while many readers have been in touch with me, no one in politics has ever got back to me either critically or favourably, which leaves me wondering how seriously they take environmental concerns.

Have Surrey’s civic leaders absorbed their own Sustainability Charter?

Readers will recall that preservation of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) has been my constant theme. Although there is widespread support for protection of the ALR, our political decision-makers seem all too ready to emasculate the regulations that were written to keep industrialization out of good farmland and to countenance piecemeal re-allocation to what’s called ‘development’.

They seem willing to sacrifice long-term food production capability for short-term industrial profit ,as recent reports from the Fraser Valley show.

Are they all short-sighted?

Another regular topic has been conservative management of our water resource. This year’s unusually dry summer and the drastic Californian drought are surely clear signals that we must all use water thoughtfully; that means not pumping out water for cosmetic purposes or for under-priced industrial export.

How many more additional residents and industries can be provided with water in the Lower Mainland?

We cannot predict seasonal rainfall or snowpack with any accuracy, so we should plan and prepare for reduced annual precipitation – the so-called worst-case scenario – and think what this means for future domestic and industrial needs, agricultural production and food supply.

The current proposal to install truck-parking facilities adjacent to the important fish-bearing Little Campbell River in South Campbell Heights must be rigorously and impartially evaluated in detail before any irrevocable decision is made; to me it’s unconscionable.

As part of a water inventory, we need to ascertain what volumes of water lie in our underground aquifers and what are their re-charge rates before we exploit this precious capital.

In my ideal world, every aspirant to political office would take a short course in ecology and learn that nothing in our world lives in isolation, though sometimes the connecting links are hard to discern.

No doubt, many in public office today are aware of environmental interconnectedness – but only in a superficial way.

Can that awareness be made influential in their thinking?

Surrey’s estimable Sustainability Charter was developed through many hours of thoughtful deliberations by staff and volunteers, and it reads well. But evidence suggests it is not being comprehensively applied.

Has it become just another well-intentioned dead letter?

It’s not only immediate effects that need to be brought to account in assessing development proposals, but the more remote third, fourth and later impacts also – even though there’s no political kudos to be gained.

There, I’ve had my say and can only hope that some readers have paid attention and will talk to their politicians.

I thank those readers and Peace Arch News sincerely for their support and encouragement over the years.

Dr. Roy Strang has written regularly on environmental issues for Peace Arch News’ lifestyles pages since 2006. After a hiatus in 2010, his weekly Enviro Notes offerings returned on a monthly basis. His words have been appreciated – and discussed – by PAN staff and readers alike.

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