Viewpoint: Earth is our government

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By RON HAWKINS

With respect to the 40-acre clearcut ongoing along the Sky Valley hillside, Peter Grove empathizes but claims it is legal, and there is nothing he can do about it. Land clearing is a legal use under the property’s zoning, he explains.

Last week’s front-page Driftwood story further explains that Salt Spring Island rejected the notion currently practised by the Galiano Island Local Trust Committee, which designates the entire island a tree-cutting development permit area, to ensure that tree removal is limited, sustainable and strictly necessary for the intended use of the land. A change of Salt Spring’s official community plan would be required for us to do that.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a world-respected medical biochemist whose books are in our library, concludes: “The biodiversity of the plant kingdom hoards a treasure trove of medicines for cures from a vast number of phytochemicals waiting to be studied, which we are only beginning to understand. But these cures could be gone tomorrow through the careless cutting of our forests.”   

I am disappointed that Peter Grove did not express a much more personal determination, demanded of all humanity by nature, to living within our ecological limits. Sustainability. Put bluntly, this means the Earth is our “government.” Believe it or not, it is still true. Nothing can survive if it is not sustainable. And everything depends on nature for its existence. Ignore it at our own peril.

So what does this mean to us? I urge the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee, together with CRD director Gary Holman, to continue pursuing this to the limits of their respective offices, and with MLA Adam Olsen provincially. We have the capacity for defining limits, for moving more fully into policies and best practices for all activity impacting our environment unsustainably.   

Begin with the OCP review, now, recognizing that Earth holds precedence. This is not a green ideology but a fact of life. George Grams recognized this. His last acts in office repeated the call that Salt Spring should now re-visit how many people can sustainably live here. Silence. Nothing. That Trust staff have done nothing is because “the LTC have not directed us to do so,” I am told. How about it Peter and Laura [Patrick]?

Another critical required action: ensure that the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance is sustained under capable chairperson leadership. Groundwater and rainwater capacities are receiving increasing attention. Be careful. If a particular aquifer or watershed is not thoroughly understood above and below the ground, things fall between the cracks of trial and error. 

Golder and Associates’ Nov. 23 presentation from 1 to 3 p.m. at Lions Hall will look at Salt Spring groundwater capacity based on projections from wide sets of data. But ask this: “Can you guarantee no wells so licensed by the B.C. government will ever run dry, impact or be impacted by other activity in the aquifer? To the degree they cannot, means more site-specific study may be required.

Best practices for sustainability demand healthy precautionary principles when proceeding into unknowns, if one wishes to avoid unexpected surprise. 

The writer is a Salt Spring resident.

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