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Whistler “not sustainable” by 2020, says Melamed

Community still has a ways to go, he tells luncheon



Still fresh off a trip to a sustainability conference to Sweden, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed has implored his constituents not to perpetrate the “myth” that Whistler will be sustainable by the year 2020.

His comments came amidst an address he gave to a Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Bearfoot Bistro July 16. His address drew on his May trip to the Sustainability Leadership Challenge 2008 in Sweden, but he also talked about how businesses need to operate within the parameters the planet Earth gives them if they wish to be sustainable.

“The planet is what makes us profitable,” he told the Pique in a later interview. “We cannot be sustainable if we cannot support the planet.”

One of the central points of Melamed’s talk was that businesses are still facing an enormous challenge on the way to a sustainable future because of their desire for profit. It’s a tendency that is keeping them from making changes that keep their practices from being harmful to the planet, he said.

“What’s happened is it’s not overriding the need to save the planet, it’s irrespective of the life-supporting system of the planet,” he said in an interview.

He told the luncheon that businesses are unwilling to let go of their desire for profit at the expense of the future, and that they can no longer afford business as usual.

He then used a Powerpoint presentation to illustrate a series of mental models that people are experiencing today when it comes to adapting to more sustainable practices.

Using an image of the Titanic, he said, “There’s not enough to go around, therefore if we’re going to go down, we might as well live well.”

Much of Melamed’s talk was also focused on Whistler 2020, a community strategy to develop a “sustainable future” in Whistler. Among other things, it commits Whistler to reducing its impact on life-sustaining ecosystems and using fewer substances from the Earth’s crust, such as oil and metals.

He praised the strategy, which he said has allowed the community to monitor “conditions of excess” and chart a path to sustainability together.

He then pointed to businesses in Whistler, such as Canadian Snowmobiles and Ziptrek . Canadian Snowmobiles, for example, has moved toward reducing its carbon footprint, according to Melamed, by getting rid of its Hummers.

“We have some leaders here in Whistler and we can use them as inspiration,” he said. “Really, the opportunity is for us to expand the uptake and the breadth of that in our community. Our challenge is to continue to show leadership.”

He added that Whistler is one of the “most studied cases in the world” for community sustainability planning, and that the community should continue to serve as an example to others.

He was careful, however, to ensure his audience did not assume that Whistler will be sustainable by 2020.

“Sustainability is a journey, it is not defined,” he said. “Nobody has done it, we are inventing it as we go. It is a journey mapped out and defined, an interim measure of descriptions of success.

“We use 2020 as a time frame but we look actually much further, to 2060.”

Speaking to Pique in an interview, he said that in order to achieve sustainability, Whistler must participate in sustainable practices along with the rest of the world.

“We are part of a globally unsustainable system,” he said. “Whistler cannot be alone in this process, because Whistler cannot achieve sustainability alone.”

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