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The Sino Connection, Part II

Tourism Forever



Found: Wallet in Alpine Landfill

Greg McDonnell doesn’t dig on suits, does not feel at home swaddled in threads so strict. In fact, he doesn’t even feel at hotel, not even at slumping tree fort. A suit is simply not the dress code for his comfort zone.

But this is Beijing, and he has a presentation to make. So, clad in a blue shirt and tweed-type blazer, his tie decorated with red spots, the executive director of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) takes to a podium in the B.C. Canada Pavilion and begins a stirring talk on sustainability.

This is the second stage of the Whistler Forum’s Harmony Project, a two-day affair that has a raft of delegates descend on China to exchange ideas on sustainable and accessible tourism. Yesterday’s speakers dealt with the latter topic; today’s are on the former.

Think of the Harmony Project as an open invitation to a massive and burgeoning tourist market some 8,500 km away — a stroll through the marketplace of ideas before lunch, maybe an exchange of business cards over dinner.

Slotted near the day’s end, McDonnell is one of several speakers to take to the mic. He comes on the heels of a number of presentations, some dealing with community planning, others with leadership history and progress monitoring. Though McDonnell arrives late in the program, his presentation serves up an ideal summation of a hazy buzzword: Sustainability.

Sustainability, he says, is a complicated fabric, something sewn in social, economic, environmental and cultural threads. Taken together, those threads produce a warm blanket, something for locals and tourists alike. Whether Chinese or Canadian, it just makes sense, both for prosperity and for longevity.

“Currently,” he says, fingers drumming the podium, “as you all know, the world economy cannot sustain itself indefinitely. We have this decline in life-sustaining resources, the world’s resources. And we have an increased demand on those resources. As humans we’re living here trying to survive this narrowing action.”

His fingers stop their nervous patter and his arms go momentarily akimbo. All heads are cocked in his direction, translations chattering through earphones as he goes.

Now, at home with his subject, relaxation takes hold. “This is really important for me,” he continues, “as a community development worker and as a social services worker.”

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