Whistler’s environmental advocacy group — the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment — has lost some teeth and is foundering as it heads into the new millennium.
The future of the organization will likely be determined at the annual general meeting Thursday, Jan. 20 when members vote for a new president and executive. Current president Stephane Perron will not be standing for re-election. Neither will any of the executive. Perron, who will stay on as a director, said AWARE is at a turning point and it would be sad if the group were to collapse.
“It would be a loss if, through lack of community involvement, AWARE had to fold. It has taken a long time to get to this point. We have asked ourselves if there is still a need for AWARE and the answer is yes. If we lost the organization we would lose a watchdog. There would be a lot of things in the community no one would speak to.”
Perron said some Whistlerites prefer to maintain an independent voice on environmental issues, like the Stoltmann. “But we definitely can speak louder as a group.”
He said it is becoming clear new leadership is not going to come from within the organization. “We need someone from the outside. I think it is time for some new blood to come in. I have had some weak points in my term as president... as far as raising funds and so on. Perhaps someone may be able to do a better job in that way.”
Perron said environmental issues haven’t gone away and there are people in the community who could do the job. “There just seems to be this perception in the community that AWARE is fine and doing great and everybody is happy we are there and they haven’t felt a need to get involved.”
AWARE was founded 11 years ago when Michele Bush placed a notice in the paper inviting interested Whistlerites to meet at Citta’s to discuss recycling for the community. It sowed the seed that gave birth to the organization. Although recycling and waste management remained a strong focus for AWARE, the scope of the organization expanded to include environmental education, habitat protection and forestry issues. A key strategy was to see a sense of environmental responsibility instilled in Whistler’s municipal organization.
That battle has, in a sense, been won. The municipality has drafted an ambitious environmental strategy that will serve as a backdrop against which to weigh up all future development decisions. That strategy is designed to mesh with other comprehensive municipal plans, including the Transportation Strategy and the long-term financial plan.