EDITORIAL: Squamish lucky to escape the ire — this time

Squamish dodged a bullet in the recent uproar about Whistler and that letter to oil companies.

Like Whistler, Squamish council voted to sign onto a letter addressed to oil companies.

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In total, 12 municipalities, one regional district, and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities voted to send “climate accountability” letters.

The Squamish and Whistler missives, spearheaded by My Sea to Sky and West Coast Environmental Law, and supported by the former councils, asked the oil and gas industry to pay its “fair share” by ponying up funds for budget costs related to climate change.

The intent was to send the letter to 19 international producers.

Whistler took the most heat for having signed it.

With three million visitors a year, Whistler came off as more than a little hypocritical to those in the oil and gas industry — and to many in B.C.’s North and Alberta who thrive or languish by oil and fortunes.

“We have to remember most of Whistler’s clients are actually driving or coming [there] using fossil fuels . . . They might want to consider their customer base as they move forward,” Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada said in The Vancouver Sun.

Clearly our northern neighbours aren’t the only ones benefiting from tourism.

Of the 205,000 visitors to the Squamish Adventure Centre in 2017, 91,000 responded to a Tourism Squamish survey about where they came from — 18 per cent were from the Lower Mainland while 23 per cent were from Europe.

In 2016, 22,820 mountain bike riders who rolled along our trails were from out-of-town, according to the Squamish Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study. 

Close to $10 million was pumped into our economy from those mountain bikers alone, the study found.

KiteClash, the largest Canadian kiteboarding competition, attracts athletes and spectators from around the world.

And obviously, we are a mecca for rock climbing.

Like it or not, Squamish is an increasingly tourism-dependent town.

Remember how excited we all were when The New York Times named us one of the top places to visit?

And we are going to likely see an increase to our tourism numbers.

The federal government is pouring more funding into tourism. Canada could more than double the current number of 57,000 international travellers per day by 2030, a recent Destination Canada report states.

Visitors from across Canada and around the globe aren’t getting to Squamish by canoe or bus, folks. They are arriving by car — hopefully some are electric — and by plane.

They are using fossil fuels to get here, in other words, just like those visitors to Whistler.

And it would be one thing if we were a town that was a shining example of conservation and environmental habits, but we aren’t.

We commute to the city and we throw away too many of our recyclables. Most of us eat meat, travel in planes, use a ton of petroleum-based products, buy items trucked or flown in from around the globe that we pack away in plastic bags.

So far, we have been lucky to be a bit more low key — less champagne and more beer — than Whistler and thus escaped the wrath recently heaped on the resort.

Climate change is a massive issue that must be tackled — all our fates rest on it. An SFU scientist predicts 80 per cent of the mountain glaciers in B.C. and Alberta will disappear in the next 50 years. Egad.

And those behind this letter-writing campaign clearly had their hearts in the right places. My Sea to Sky members have fought long and hard for Howe Sound and Squamish’s environment. Kudos to them.

We all — energy producers included — have to do better.

But, if you take a barrel of oil, 80 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from consumption, while 20 per cent come from producing the oil, according to Cenovus Energy, a Calgary based company.

Let’s work even harder toward getting our own house in order, before we go screaming at others from our rooftops and perhaps killing the tourism we now depend on, shall we?

Why don’t we make ourselves the town with the most electric cars, bike lanes. Let’s shop and eat local and — say — boast the least trash going into the landfill, so we become a humble example for other communities.

Until we are that example, we should tread carefully when we wag our fingers at others who contribute to climate change — or we could end up in global headlines for the wrong reasons, like our neighbours to the north recently did.

 

**Please note, on Jan. 7, the District of Squamish contacted The Chief to say the letter that council voted to send to the fossil fuel companies on Sept. 4 was not sent for "administrative-related reasons." A letter will be sent, but not the form letter the campaign was based on. The editorial has been changed to reflect this new information. The Chief is working on a  news story on this development. More to come...

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