Tag Archives: Graham Brazier

Put place before people, governance consultant says

Thoughts on the Islands Trust Governance Task Force

By Graham Brazier, Denman Island

The Islands Trust Governance Task Force may have gotten more than it bargained for when it requested an independent consultant examine its structure with a view to improving how it governs. The work of the Task Force on Governance began in March of 2006 and will conclude with a report to Trust Council in June 2007. However, no sooner had the Task Force determined that a larger Local Trust Committee for Salt Spring Island was warranted, than the independent consultant released his report with startlingly different conclusions. It’s evident that the Task Force and the consultant have fundamentally differing views of what the Islands Trust is, and what it ought to be.

The Task Force is made up of Trustees, all steeped in the ‘culture’ which views the Trust as a ‘local government’ and views us, the residents and landowners of the Trust Area, as the folks they ‘represent’. Trustees see their role as that of balancing the interests of their residents and landowners (those who elect them) against the interests of the environment. The best of them view themselves as ‘councillors with a mandated conscience’. Nevertheless, as time has passed, the interests of the electorate have continued to encroach on the interests of the environment. And, of course, there’s no reason to expect that to change in the future. Some islands will move slower than others, but all are likely to continue to expand human-based interests at the expense of other interests, much like other jurisdictions where local governments are responsible for land-use.

The Consultant, who suggests that he may also speak for the Province, sees the Trust quite differently. He sees it as an organization established to protect a ‘place’. That is its only function. Throughout the report the phrase ‘places’ before ‘people’ appears again and again and again. In his view, the Trust was not intended to be a local government, it was not intended to represent the interests of its residents. On the contrary, it was intended to protect the ‘place’ for the ‘people of British Columbia’ largely from Trust Area residents and landowners.

It is my impression that this view is closer to the original motivation for the formation of the Trust. This view identifies the ‘place’ as worthy of protection and sees ‘people’, particularly residents and landowners, as the main threat to that ‘place’. It was, and continues to be, residents and landowners that seek to intrude, to subdivide, to log, to pave. We, the residents, have great difficulty seeing ourselves as ‘the enemy’, but it is evident that from the inception of the Trust, we have managed to wrest power away from the appointed Trustees back to the local electorate and have presided over the all the negative environmental impacts that have occurred since 1978 when that power shift took place.

Find the will to face up to an Inconvenient Truth

By Graham Brazier

Climate change is no longer a science story.

At the recent Academy Awards Hollywood stars publicly embraced environmentally-friendly limousines and plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars to alert their fans to alternatives for the fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases.

It was a sign that something has shifted. Or as Al Gore said: “The Zeitgeist has begun to change. I think it reflects the increased popular will to confront and solve this crisis. It’s an extraordinary experience to see this issue – which the conventional wisdom used to say was politically marginal – become central for so many people. As it should.”

While Gore traveled around Europe and North America with his slide show on global warming under his arm – the one he’s presented more than 1,000 times – U.K. economist Sir Nicholas Stern worked on his own gloomy task, a report on climate change for the British government. Stern’s conclusions, released in October of 2006, were, from an economist’s point of view, dire indeed. The Guardian described them as ‘an apocalyptic picture’.

Gore’s message ‘that action couldn’t wait’ was confirmed and underscored by Stern. Nevertheless, his recommendations were directed at governments while Gore delivered his pitch to anyone who would listen, mostly it was to corporations and individuals. The result was the Academy Award Winning film An Inconvenient Truth which carried Gore’s point ever deeper into popular culture where, flawed or not, its message found wide-spread acceptance amongst large segments of a previously disinterested public.

In the film, Gore prompts the question: “What can I do about climate change?” and then provides twenty suggestions. Not surprisingly, six of them relate to reduction of the use and impact of the automobile.

Countless local governments contemplating transportation plans involving restrictions on private automobiles must have been thrilled to see their objectives reinforced in such a high profile film.

In a post-inconvenient-truth world, it’s hard to imagine transportation schemes that call for expanded facilities for private automobile use, including highway construction, will proceed unchallenged by a newly invigorated public.

Which brings me to Denman Island where, at a time when progressive communities around the globe seek to shrink automobile dependence and make a contribution to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, a proposal currently before this community to develop the North Denman Lands suggests that we expand our road network and provide accommodation for more automobiles. Rather than being part of the solution, we are asked how big our contribution to the problem should be. Should we provide sanctuary for 50 or 65 more cars?

I’ll give Al Gore the last word: “We need to solve the climate change crisis. It’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”