By Alison Taylor
From the west coast of Canada to the far north to the east coast of the country and back, Mayor Ken Melamed is spreading Whistler’s story of sustainability.
His first stop this week is Iqaluit, Nunavut followed by a brief stay in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He has travelled both near and far to roughly a dozen communities since he was elected mayor at the end of 2005, telling the same story of sustainability and encouraging others to write a story of their own.
“Each time I come back (home) I get a renewed sense of how well Whistler is regarded nationally and internationally in terms of its sustainability work,” said the mayor Monday before his trip.
“The word is out there that what we’re doing is real and it’s ground-breaking and there’s some lessons to be learned.”
The International Centre for Sustainable Cities invited Mayor Melamed to tell Whistler’s story to the mayor, council and wider community of Iqaluit as it embarks on long-term sustainable planning.
After that three-day visit he will be the keynote speaker at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish as it looks to adopt The Natural Step framework, like Whistler, in its sustainability journey.
His work is paid entirely by other communities who ask him to speak and share Whistler’s story. And it’s a job he readily accepts.
“Whistler has to be humble,” said the mayor. “We don’t want to go there and tell them ‘this is how to do it.’ Everybody has to develop their own plans but the way you develop those plans is by learning from other people’s experiences.”
Though Whistler is unlike a typical Canadian community, the mayor is convinced that what the resort community has done can be essentially replicated elsewhere.
There are three key messages in his presentation about Whistler’s story.
Melamed’s message to others is that The Natural Step framework, the science and systems-based approach to sustainability planning, was a brilliant choice to help the resort town on its journey. He also talks about the need for community collaboration that gets business and grassroots organizations on side.
“And the third one is that (it’s) really important for municipalities and communities to do this work because we’re getting tired of waiting for the federal governments and provincial governments to act,” said the mayor. “And that by sharing our stories at this more grassroots and community-based level, we’ll achieve a critical mass and a tipping point and… my belief is, rather than work on other levels of government, if we can inspire other communities to change, we’ll lead change from this level.”