Trust relevant for protection of long-term vision
To the Editor:
In a modern world where the neglect of environmental issues is threatening our planet, those who oppose Eric Sherlock’s position that the Islands Trust is more relevant than ever are only perpetuating the self-destructive myopia which is creating those problems in the first place.
That myopia is rooted in the antiquated thinking that we are here, first and foremost, to maximize the exploitation of nature and to make as much money as possible in the process.
The very timely and critical underlying message in the environmental mandate of the Islands Trust is that we require model communities who can finally say to the world that we need to stop killing the golden goose which is the very biosphere housing our natural resources and its inhabitants.
Bowen Island’s community plan was fostered and forged within the context of the Islands Trust and it reflects the Trust’s forward thinking recognition of sustainable community planning. The creation of our community plan and the Islands Trust brought into being entities which were and are ahead of their time.
The Islands Trust is still a relatively young, evolving federation of island governments. Like all organizations involved with governmental functions, its evolution must and will involve growth towards greater democracy. However, the creation and existence of the Islands Trust is in itself a triumph of grass-roots democracy, whereby islanders govern themselves within their own legislative structure and within legal powers that protect their island environment and way of life, not only for themselves as individuals but for their children and their children’s children, and for the progeny of all those who will come to visit these unique, magnificent and majestic islands in perpetuity.
That is the kind of long-term vision embodied within the creation and existence of the Islands Trust and the vision that propelled those of us who laboured to create our official community plan.
Our vision was nothing less than creating a community that is a model of sustainabilty for the rest of Canada - a vision driven, not by profit, but by the will of the community and a fundamental caring for the land and its surrounding waters.
Islanders need to look beyond the reasons given by those who oppose the Islands Trust to the real underlying agenda - which is to keep the development of our lands as unfettered as possible by removing the legal protections provided by the Trust.
If Bowen Island were removed from the Islands Trust, I believe that this would open a much wider door to variances to the land use provisions of our community plan. We only need to look at the mainland to see myriad examples of “business as usual” at the hands of politicians who are backed by developers. Removing Bowen from the Islands Trust would also render our community plan substantially more vulnerable to major changes which can drastically alter our island community and its way of life. Finally, by removing the legislative checks and balances of the Islands Trust, the fate of our island and its people would be essentially determined by short-term municipal councils - as it is with regular off-island municipalities. In 10, 20 or 30 years from now, future councils could bring about changes that our current island community would find abhorrent.
Contrary to what some opponents believe, the great majority of us who support the Islands Trust are not in blanket opposition to development. After the creation of the Trust in the mid-seventies, we began raising issues of sustainability which are now discussed by all forward thinking communities. Long before other communities, we had the forethought of realizing that our North American cities, with their unsustainable development projects, are moving towards environmental degradation.
The issue therefore was not opposition to development but the creation of a community plan that lays out land use provisions for more enlightened, sustainable and comprehensive development practices and covenants which respect our island ecology and environment, and which are commensurate with the gradual growth of a rural island community.
Bowen Island is different from other municipalities in B.C. It has the unique status of being an “island municipality” within the Islands Trust - the first and only island municipality in the province.
If it were not for this special status within the Islands Trust, the incorporation of Bowen Island would have been soundly defeated by islanders in the 1999 referendum. Given our short distance from a large urban centre, islanders were not so naive as to agree to self-government without the special status and protections which were set up by the province for natural treasures such as Bowen Island. I, for one, intend to support, rather than betray, their good will by upholding our place within the Islands Trust.
Our municipal council was elected on a mandate to foster more unity within our community. That unity is vital if we are to move forward together for the common good of all islanders and for a socially, economically and environmentally healthy future for our island community. I would respectfully submit that this cannot be accomplished through plans to sever Bowen Island from the Islands Trust. That course of action strikes at the heart of our community and only sows the seeds of the greatest possible division within our populace.
I beseech our mayor, our council and all islanders to very seriously consider the future, long term implications of losing our status as an island municipality within the Islands Trust.
I believe that a formal attempt to remove Bowen Island from the Islands Trust would also be overwhelmingly ill-received by the citizens of our province. At the end of 2004, a public opinion survey showed province-wide support for the mandate of the Islands Trust, with more than 90 per cent supporting the preservation and protection of the islands within the Trust. The Islands Trust is an evolving organization involving many open-minded, educated and forward thinking islanders who share and understand our island way of life. As the only island municipality within the Islands Trust, Bowen Island is uniquely positioned to affect its evolution towards the creation of sustainable environments which can stand as a model for other communities.
In the same manner as we led the way with the first community school in British Columbia, we can lead the way as the first island municipality in the province. For the sake of our children and future generations, I beseech islanders to claim the future by maintaining our allegiance with the Islands Trust - with island communities who stand with us as beacons of light for a better world on our western shores.