Trevor Hancock: Sidney Summit and the One Planet Region

We might be at an important turning point, at least locally. We have just seen a municipal election in which many young, progressive, environmentally conscious candidates have been elected, forming a potential majority on such issues in Victoria and Saanich, which between them are half the population of the Capital Regional District.

Whether formally endorsing it or not — and some of them were involved in creating it — they are likely to support many of the policy ideas found in the Common Vision, Common Action solutions document, which is based on the principles of ecological and social justice.

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Saanich, in particular, can and should set a new course, as one of five communities around the world selected to work with the U.K.-based organization Bioregional to support the development by a variety of community stakeholders of One Planet Action Plans. Hopefully, the new council can swiftly move beyond a climate action plan to officially proclaim a municipal goal to become a One Planet community in the next couple of decades. But it might not be alone.

The Sidney Summit on Habitat and Environment, to give it its full title, will be held on Saturday at the Mary Winspear Centre (SidneySummit.ca). Like many such events, it is organized with the support of a large number of local people and organizations, ranging from community associations and environmental groups to the business sector and local governments and politicians. (For the record, I have not been involved in organizing this event.)

Focused on preserving, restoring and enhancing the natural habitat and environment of the Saanich Peninsula, the summit has succeeded in attracting a stellar cast of local speakers — and all for the modest price for participants of $25 for the day. Green Party MLA Adam Olsen and guests will open the summit, rooting it in a time when First Peoples were the only inhabitants of the Peninsula.

They will be followed by MP Elizabeth May who will bring her own energy and passion for a sustainable and just future to the event, by Robert Bateman with his great artistic and personal commitment to the beauty of nature, and by CBC Quirks and Quarks host Bob MacDonald with a multimedia planetary journey.

But it’s not just local big-name speakers. A couple of the most interesting parts of the summit actually occur before the event. First, local conversations to discuss some of the issues have been happening at small community venues around the area during October.

Second, on the day before the summit, Parkland High School is hosting an interactive gathering called The Summit@School, with live broadcasting by Radio Sidney.

Local organizations involved in the summit will make presentations and engage with students, whose habitat and environmental concerns will be captured in print, as video clips and radio interviews, to be shared the next day at the Mary Winspear Centre.

Hopefully, this will be the start — or perhaps the continuation — of the intergenerational collaboration we need. It is, after all, these young people’s future that will be discussed, a future that my generation and the generation after mine have jeopardized, and it is our problematic legacy that they will have to deal with.

Hopefully, the summit will recognize that its laudable goals cannot be achieved with our current economic and social approach, and that a new One Planet approach is needed there, too. Finding how we can all live well within the physical and ecological constraints of this one small planet is the challenge of the 21st century.

We already have the Conversations for a One Planet Region I have been co-ordinating for the past two years. The Sidney Summit shows that similar concerns are being voiced across the region, and helps broaden and deepen this important conversation.

With our wealth of environmentally and socially conscious people and organizations, with a set of newly minted local politicians who share those same concerns, with emerging businesses and social enterprises that want to do well while doing good, this region can be among the pioneers, certainly in North America, in addressing that challenge.

Events like the Sidney Summit are to be applauded and celebrated for helping move us toward the goal of a One Planet Region.

Dr. Trevor Hancock is a retired professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s School of Public Health and Social Policy.

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