Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Becoming who we are going to be

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We become who we are slowly. We evolve. Most of us have a difficult enough time figuring out who we are, hence the glut of so-called self-help books on the market and the neverending popularity of professionals prefacing their trade with the word psycho.

We become who we are going to be equally slowly. If figuring out who we are is a challenge, is it any wonder how much more difficult it is to have any clue about who we are going to be once we factor the additional dimension of time into the matrix?

Fact is, most of us have more than enough trouble getting a handle on the here and now. We’re absolutely hopeless once we start dealing with the then and there.

This explains – partly – the pathological addiction we have to junk food. If the first Big Mac or bag of Cheezies we ever stuck into our mouth turned us into a pathetic blimp with a GI system as efficient as a Baghdad sewer, we’d probably take a pass. By the time we’ve reached the millionth served, to ourselves, it’s too late. We have become the people we used to make fun of at the beach.

This rambling introduction is brought to you by the intertwined phrases ‘creeping incrementalism’ and ‘tipping point’. Both concepts fought for shelf space in my mind Monday night while a mad man rambled on about something that may or may not have had anything at all to do with the Nita Lake Lodge proposal. They fought for shelf space because my mind was stuck in a loop of dark thought best summed up by the spontaneous outburst, "Shit like this gives democracy a bad name." There ya go Colin; don’t ever say I never take my readers’ requests to heart.

Creeping incrementalism generally refers to a governmental process of change that minimally reconfigures and modifies an existing aspect of the system. While stressing continuity and stability, the process is one of gradual change. At its most draconian, it nudges society, or government or education or healthcare toward a configuration most of us would never stand for if it was proposed in one fell swoop.

Throwing a frog into a pot of cool water and lighting the burner is an example often employed to demonstrate this phenomenon. But it can operate on a strictly personal level and be tied in quite neatly with the aforementioned pathological addiction we have to junk food. The discovery, for example, that we may have gained a pound or two over this most unsatisfactory of seasons – the result no doubt of too much noshing and not enough schussing – is really no cause for great concern. Were we to do this every season, however, we would quickly begin to resemble Homer in a mu-mu. Creeping incrementalism.

Tipping point is a concept borrowed from the annals of epidemiology. It posits that small changes will generally have little or no effect on a system until a critical mass is reached, at which point further small change – dare we say incremental change – will ‘tip’ the system and a large effect will be achieved.

If you’ve stayed with me so far, bless you. If you’re hoping this all begins to make sense and have some meaning, well, so do I.

Mostly though, it’s a dodge-and-weave game to avoid coming right out in the first sentence and saying I think the Nita Lake Lodge proposal is a bad idea. I didn’t want to say that in the first sentence because I am in the distinct minority of people in this town who believe it is a bad idea and I know a whole lot of them are going to be pissed off at me for saying so. Been there, done that.

"How in the world can you think Nita Lake Lodge is a bad idea?" I already hear the recriminations.

It ain’t easy. This isn’t some rapacious, hare-brained, Emerald Forest kind of deal. The developer has rallied community support by hard work, earnest listening and thoughtful pot-sweetening. There’s something for everyone in the proposed amenity package. $588,000 for the Health Centre, another $500,000 for the Community Foundation, 25 acres of wetland preservation, 249 employee beds, $15,000 for the Fisheries Stewardship group to rehabilitate Jordan Creek after construction, the list is encyclopaedic.

It’s hard to be a lone voice of protest in a chorus of affirmation. And adding my voice to those who spoke against this project Monday night, we’d barely be able to scare up a barbershop quartet.

All the things being offered are desirable. They’re needed. The Health Centre wants them, AWARE wants them, the Chamber of Commerce wants them, the Whistler Housing Authority wants them, Whistler-Blackcomb wants them, worker bees tired of living like impoverished immigrants want them, I want them.

But I don’t want a four-storey, 80 unit hotel plunked down on the shores of the second smallest lake in the valley in the middle of what is predominantly a residential neighbourhood.

Neither do the people who initially envisaged how that end of Nita Lake and Lake Placid Road would be developed. Those planning documents wanted to ensure unobstructed sightlines to the lake and public space, green space. Both good ideas. Then and now.

But maybe too idealistic for what Whistler and Creekside are becoming.

Aspen is a word I’d like to avoid because it’s both cliché and probably not entirely accurate. But it is a good shorthand for what we’d like to avoid becoming. And it’s what we are incrementally creeping toward.

Is Nita Lake Lodge the tipping point on that journey? Don’t know.

But I do know any developer approaching muni hall and the population of Whistler with an unadorned proposal to build a hotel this size at this location – unsupported by current zoning let’s remember – would be told "thanks, but no thanks." It’s not in keeping with the neighbourhood. It’s not in keeping with the size of the lake. We have concerns about commercial development and redevelopment around our "jewels" of valley lakes.

So the decision becomes one of determining whether the enticement to do something we ought not do is sufficient.

I suspect the proposal will be given the green light. I only hope it’ll be the last one we do this way. I hope the two new councillors who ran on a strong platform of planning will be successful in getting on with the task. I hope someone will have the courage to either bring the neverending sustainability plan to completion or take it out and shoot it in the head before we waste much more tax money on it. Maybe if it was completed we’d be more able to see how inappropriate this development is… regardless of the package of goodies it comes with.

Maybe we’re already past the tipping point of becoming what we hope we will never be.

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