Letter critical of One Cowichan not constructive dialogue

We’ve turned our attention to the role municipal governments can play in responding to climate crisis

Letter critical of One Cowichan not constructive dialogue

Re: “One Cowichan like the NRA”, (Citizen, Aug. 28)

As a local volunteer-run citizens’ group that encourages engagement in democracy, One Cowichan is all for healthy debate, and Ed Aiken’s letter, recently published in the Citizen, crossed a line into defamatory territory.

We are disappointed that the Citizen chose to publish it, and to give Aiken a platform to maliciously compare our group with a massive U.S. organization indirectly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. We fail to see how this advances constructive dialogue in our community.

One Cowichan was born in 2012 because provincial officials refused to listen to local concerns about water flow management in the Cowichan River and the risk government’s management regime posed to both salmon and human health. We came together to make our voices heard and succeeded in helping to shift their position.

Since that time, we’ve spent countless volunteer hours encouraging people to participate in the democratic process with discussion forums, petitions asking governments to be more sustainable, and reminding people to get out and vote at election time.

Most recently we’ve turned our attention to the role our municipal governments can play in responding to the climate crisis. Scientists studying the earth’s climate from every angle have given us about a decade to cut our emissions in half, and then to zero by 2050. Yet local governments continue to approve developments that increase emissions from transportation at the very time we need to be cutting them.

In May the youth of this valley filled Duncan City Square demanding that we adults get serious about giving them a liveable future. They will be back again on September 20. Our current petition asks local governments to declare a climate emergency and get serious about action. It has now surpassed 1,500 signatures. This makes sense since polling shows over 80 per cent of Canadians see climate change as a serious issue.

We’ve given local governments a Climate Emergency Checklist to support them in ramping up effective climate action. It’s consistent with what local governments can do, and are doing, across B.C. and Canada and includes these tests:

1. There are bylaws and other legally binding mechanisms in place to end approvals of car-dependent housing and commercial developments.

2. There are clear bylaws and incentives in place to foster walkable, bike-able communities with readily accessible commercial and other amenities.

3. There are clear targets and budgets in place to increase safe and interconnected walkways and bike-ways, public transit, and public EV charging stations.

4. There are bylaws and programs in place to assess and manage local forests, trees, soils and wetlands for increased carbon storage and biodiversity.

5. There are risk assessments, emergency response plans and programs in place to manage the increased droughts, floods, fires and risks to fresh water brought about by the climate emergency.

6. There are supportive bylaws and incentives in place to protect agricultural land and enhance local food production and the sale of locally grown food.

7. There are bylaws in place requiring new buildings to meet the highest building efficiency standards of the BC Energy Step Code and keep pace with the Code’s increasing energy-efficiency standards as they move to net-zero energy.

8. There are clear targets and programs in place for reducing household and business waste, including food and plastic waste.

9. Municipal buildings and fleets are retrofitted and replaced to be zero carbon by 2030.

10. There is an ongoing active program of public engagement and education to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, as well as ongoing active collaboration among local governments and with First Nations to closely coordinate emissions reductions and climate adaption work.

This list is practical and we’ll be following up because the science is clear and time is short.

When our local paper gives space to name calling and character assassination by those who don’t believe in climate change, we let down science, we let down our young people, and we let down everyone in this community who believes in respectful dialogue and making progress on the issues themselves.

We therefore encourage everyone who wants our local governments to step up into climate leadership to join us — see our website at onecowichan.ca. We also encourage people to write letters to the Citizen that engage in the substance of things rather than in attacking each other. Perhaps then they will have enough constructive and engaging letters to publish and won’t need to run bizarre and unsubstantiated attacks.

Jane Kilthei

Director, One Cowichan

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