Trevor Hancock: Seeking common vision and common action

There is an emerging community-based movement in the capital region — and elsewhere around the world — that recognizes that ecological, social and economic conditions and human well-being are not separate issues but are inextricably linked.

In Victoria, some related initiatives have sprung up, mostly in just the past couple of years, that are working to address these intersecting issues holistically, but in different ways.

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Several of these initiatives came together last month at one of the Conversations for a One Planet Region that I have been organizing this past year. The conversations are just that, an attempt to get the conversation started here on what it would mean — and what it would be like — to live in a region that had an ecological footprint equivalent only to our fair share of the Earth’s resources.

Since we currently use the equivalent of five planets’ worth, this would be an 80 per cent reduction; how do we do that while maintaining a high quality of life and good health for all?

Greater Victoria Acting Together is “a broad-based coalition of local groups and community organizations” working to advance the common good. Its focus is on “relational learning and capacity building,” through which it seeks to build respect and trust across sectors and give civil society a greater voice.

Creatively United for the Planet works to celebrate those who are making a difference in our region, “showcasing local change-makers and grassroots solutions for a better world.” They do so through community events (such as the Earth Day Festival), sharing engaging stories and videos and — coming soon — through a series of community TV programs on Shaw.

Cities for Everyone “supports more affordable housing and transportation in order to provide security, freedom and opportunity for people with all incomes and abilities;” it has a strong focus on more ecologically sustainable urban development to achieve this purpose.

Then there is Common Vision, Common Action. This past weekend, I was involved in a most unusual non-partisan policy conference (full disclosure: I was a member of the organizing committee). The conference brought together 100 or so participants to establish “a regional agenda for social and ecological justice.”

While not explicitly about health, it was very much about how to improve the well-being of all the people who live here, while at the same time ensuring the “health” of the natural systems of which we are a part and upon which we depend.

While the conference was non-partisan, it was very much political, in that it sought to create a common platform and “a framework for advocacy and action among residents, community organizations, candidates and local governments from now until the 2018 municipal elections and beyond.”

The conference began, in a spirit of reconciliation, by focusing on the Indigenous peoples who lived here for thousands of years before European colonization began a couple of hundred years ago. Joan Morris, a member of the Songhees Nation, talked about the pain, suffering and loss that Indigenous people had experienced as a result of colonialism and that continues to this day.

She was followed by Paul Cheoketen Wagner, a wonderful storyteller and activist from the W?SÁNEC (Saanich) Nation. In his moving remarks, he told us we must seek and demonstrate leadership that values all of life, human and non-human, and that we need to love and protect this place as we would love and protect our own children.

In the policy discussions that followed, the participants sought to express these values and sentiments across a range of issues that are largely within the realm of or subject to the influence of local government: Land use and housing, transportation, food and water systems, ecological areas and parks, education, energy systems, arts and culture, and systems of governance, inclusivity and economics.

The result is a draft platform that proposes a wide range of policy initiatives — and advocacy actions directed to the provincial and federal governments where the local power is absent — that people of good will can work from and run on; people who cherish this place, the planet itself and the well-being of all the people who live here and all the life on our planet.


Dr. Trevor Hancock is a professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s school of public health and social policy.

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