If you are going to read my posts, you need to know this really important truth about what I have to say: I sometimes get it wrong. For instance, when I had a regular column in the Boundary News, I once quipped that if a certain candidate got elected mayor, I’d eat my hat (my Country Commentary column featured a cowboy hat). Well, in that election a certain candidate came within three votes of being elected mayor of Grand Forks! Fortunately, it was a straw hat—but…
This week I, regrettably, got it wrong again by suggesting that “Monday, December 7, 4:30 pm Courtenay Council Chambers –you will want to be there to hear ,firsthand, how our new Courtenay councillors can/will make a real difference in planning for a sustaining and sustainable valley.”
Well, unexpectedly to me, Will Cole-Hamilton lobbed such a soft, mushy, insubstantial ball over the plate that even Babe Ruth, himself-swinging with all his might-couldn’t have driven the ball past the pitcher’s mound! None of our current councillors chose to even take a swing at a soft ball that barely cleared home plate.
I believed/hoped the Cole-Hamilton presentation would be an appeal to Courtenay council to recognize the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy(CVSS) as a visionary document, created by comprehensive community consultation, that challenges us to redefine our community priorities to ensure we are providing a great quality of life within the carrying capacity of our planet. Key to taking CVSS from wishful thinking to a meaningful document that actually influences the kind of community we create in the Comox Valley is the recommendation to create a valley wide Sustainability Committee to review current actions and make recommendations for implementing the CVSS. That key recommendation was entirely missing in Monday’s Cole-Hamilton presentation. In its place the Monday presentation, punctuated with generous warm-fuzzy pats on the back for council, chose to focus on a few development priorities that are already in the works as a kind of wish list of could be nice priorities.
Nowhere in the Monday presentation was there any mention of a committee that might, at least, look at sustainability best practices that are working well in other communities or even to review how well the Comox Valley is doing at meeting the targets and goals of CVSS.
The best part of the Cole-Hamilton presentation happened before the presentation actually began with his efforts to get local business endorsements of CVSS—endorsements that can make a big impression on city council. However there seems little room for hope that the Cole-Hamilton presentation might motivate Courtenay Council to pony up and join the commitments by communities around the world to respond to priorities on climate change coming out of the Paris Climate Summit.
Probably the weakest link in the Cole-Hamilton presentation is that while it presents itself as the views of the Comox Valley Sustainability Network (CVSN). The CVSN website (CVSN.ca) doesn’t mention a presentation—or even collaboration on a Will Cole-Hamilton presentation– to any municipal council. And while it is good to have people like Cole-Hamilton supporting the ideas of sustainability in Courtenay, my concern is that a presentation that talks about sustainability as a nice thing to do with a few carrots to nudge some development goals along can become a sticking point for the need of the community—and community leaders—to recognize how Sustainability is a whole different way of looking at who we are, what is important and why we come together in community. It is so much more than a little more emphasis on infill or a little beautification downtown. At its core it requires us to re-examine our values, take a deeper look at how the earth and its systems function, and find new models for cooperative action.
In the coming weeks I will look at some of the broad range of values/actions recommended by CVSS and how other communities are responding to the challenge of sustainability.

Happy Trails!

Norm