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
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
“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
He praised the strategy, which he said has allowed the
community to monitor “conditions of excess” and chart a path to sustainability
He then pointed to businesses in Whistler, such as Canadian
Snowmobiles and Ziptrek
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
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,
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.”