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Letters to the editor


Like the oft-misused term "ecotourism," I’m already growing suspicious of the casual rolling-off-the-tongue use of "sustainability" in the Sea to Sky corridor. Somehow it seems that 1), the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and, 2) there’s a whole lot of "talking the talk" of sustainability, without genuine, demonstrative "walking the walk" with the current construction boom in the corridor.

In recent weeks, I’ve felt like I was passing through a developing nation’s slash and burn countryside, while driving through plumes of smoke at the north edge of Squamish. Why are crews burning huge piles of tree stumps and debris along Highway 99 at the latest golf and residential development? Doesn’t Carney’s Waste Systems now have a composting facility that is keen to get a steady supply of wood and yard waste in order to function and create the organic fertilizer? Why isn’t there an ordinance against burning?

Have you been to Pemberton lately? Every time I turn around there’s a new wood frame structure rising from the valley floor. Piles of 2x6 ends and other construction discards lie in big piles that are burned at the building site. Yep, more smoke plumes. Is there no ordinance against open burning there, either?

Whistler’s dump is full of kiln-dried dimensional lumber full of nails that construction workers couldn’t be bothered to remove – takes too much time, and time is money. The wood could be given away for people to burn, at the very least. Thousands of residents in the corridor burn wood for aesthetics or heat. I am familiar with a recycling facility in Anchorage, Alaska that recycles all organic waste, including trees, stumps, rotted and new wood and construction wastes (with or without nails), turning it into beautifully dark, loamy soil. There is no reason for a single scrap of organic matter to ever be burned, or dumped anymore.

Are the monstrous trophy homes we continue to build in North America (including a fair share in Whistler) a true demonstration of sustainability? American LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards not withstanding, on the one hand, I applaud the architect who recently received an award for the $7.9 million energy-efficient Whistler home, but I condemn the project. Who needs 5,000 square feet of living space? If Whistler is truly aiming to be a model of sustainability, I believe everyone should be promoting small, energy-efficient living spaces. Were Whistler’s wealthy to move in this direction, the town could literally move to the cutting edge of sustainability.

Squamish and Pemberton could take a lead as well, instead of following in the same, tired footsteps of developers who have gone before. Soon, the quaint towns that we once knew will be filled with residential and retail developments, mini-malls, parking lots. Is there any grand vision behind the future of the Pemberton and Squamish valleys? Will new developments reflect the environment and beauty around us, or be just more eyesores?