He’s been sent around the globe in search of answers. Attended countless conferences, delivered thoughtful presentations and met with some of the most formidable minds in the business. Yet, when push comes to shove, Arthur DeJong still holds great store in that classic environmental dictum: Think globally. Act locally.
“We are all interconnected,” says W-B’s Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager. “So we need to be able to put our local concerns in a global context. That said, we still have to act boldly on the issues that impact us in our own backyard.” And then he offers a chillingly scary vision.
“Among serious scientists there really is no debate anymore,” continues the long-time Whistlerite. “The greatest challenge for the 21 st century will be avoiding ecological collapse. And for us at Whistler, that has very serious ramifications.”
On this subject, DeJong’s sense of urgency is palpable. “The threat is no longer an issue for future generations,” he explains. “Seventy per cent of the world’s current population will be alive mid century. So what does that mean? Our generation will either find the capacity to build a sustainable way of life or face catastrophic consequences. Climate change is already throwing striking blows to our Canadian Arctic and pine forests of B.C. Can we really afford to stand by and do nothing? I don’t think so…”
So what to do then? Environmental and social performance should be part of Whistler’s DNA, he says. “It makes us a more attractive employer, differentiates us from our competitors, reduces our operating costs and builds social capital allowing us to grow a more sustainable business. Taking care of the environment and people is both a moral and business imperative. By doing good we are doing better. We are more profitable.” He laughs, deep and resounding. “After all, the best way to inspire the marketplace to become more sustainable is demonstrating its profitability….”
Based on what he’s learned from his work with the United Nations’ Environmental Program (UNEP), DeJong contends there are three main pillars to a truly sustainable future for this community. “Over the last few months,” he tells me, “ I have interacted with over 500 global sustainability experts.” He pauses. “And all of them agree that these are the three crucial elements to focus on.”
1. Climate change represents Whistler’s greatest threat. However, if we are progressive enough, the way we deal with it can become a competitive advantage.