As I understand it, most of the people voting no are doing so because they are worried about development and the cost of incorporation. I’m voting yes for those very reasons. Let me explain.
The Trust was formed in 1974 which was prior to the Energy Crisis, the centralized Wal-Mart business model (eg. Costco, Amazon), and outsourcing in general. Back then the survival of our species was not at all in question. We now live in a time where there are melting polar ice caps, record CO2 levels, acidification of the oceans, rapid rate of extinction of species, radiation issues from Fukushima, Chernobyl, and depleted uranium war heads, environmental refugees, etc. What matters now is so different to what mattered in 1974. We need to act according to today’s issues.
Back in 1970, Denis Hayes coordinated the first Earth Day and later expanded it to over 180 nations. He is a hero of mine. What is he doing now? He is a developer, and one of the best. Here’s what he says:
“The era of harm reduction, half steps, and lesser evils is behind us. As a society, we need to be bold in ways that were once unimaginable. Luckily in the building sector, we now can imagine where we need to go.”
I know some people think that building is a minor issue. Consider that how we currently build is responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 50% of landfill waste in N. America.
Denis Hayes’s latest project is the 6 storey Bullitt Center in Seattle. It is not connected to Seattle power, water, or sewage. It has a projected lifespan of 250 years and is cash flow positive. It breaks all the rules. It would be impossible to do on SSI.
Who is Denis Hayes inspired by? Jason McLennan, a Canadian from Sudbury, started the Living Building Challenge 11 years ago. It is by far the most rigorous building standard on the planet. All Living Building Challenge projects need to be net zero energy, net zero water, not use any of the 351 toxic chemicals found in most buildings, etc. etc. It was designed to be unattainable and now these types of buildings are showing up all over the world. Jason’s own home on Bainbridge Island is a Living Building Challenge home that required collaboration with the island municipality so he could build it as it breaks all the rules. It would be impossible on SSI.
How are municipalities handling the environmental imperative? Dozens require LEED Silver minimum. More than that require LEED Certification. At least one municipality requires Passive House. How about SSI? In BC we now have a 5-step Building Code standard. SSI is and will remain at the bottom step if we don’t incorporate. I am so proud that we have elected Elizabeth May and Adam Olsen. I’m embarrassed by how we build. As far as I know we don’t have a single commercial building on SSI that is higher than the minimum standard.
The pool, the high school, the RCMP building, the proposed Fire Hall, and likely the upcoming affordable housing all occur the same way. But let’s look at the Library, because it is most recent, and because it started within months of ratification of our OCP. After tremendous community input, we decided in our OCP that from now on all SSI buildings should, as much as possible, use island labour, island materials, and express our unique culture. The building of the Library, run by the CRD from Victoria, made sure that nothing was local. They flirted with LEED Gold but threw that under the bus when the budget got tight. To me that is the epitome of bad development. Even the stonework used imported stone and off-island stone masons. The building could just as easily sit in Moose Jaw.
I know that many people think we can’t afford to do good environmental work, and I would agree with them if we continue on the same trajectory. Again to the Library: It cost ~$7M. Where did all that money go? Straight to the community where the CRD is, Victoria. As a community we had our pockets picked for over $7M that could have landed in island pockets. If the Library had been built using local materials and local labour expressing local culture as per the OCP, we would have had that money in the hands of locals and half of that would have been re-spent on island. So actually our pockets were picked for over $10M. We missed out on $20M for the high school, and further millions on the pool and RCMP building. We now outsource our roads, our electricity, our investments, our planning and our governance. The biggest ongoing pickpocket is residential building. We spend over $50M per year on our residential buildings and all those workers and materials coming over on the ferries in the morning, are balanced by the Brinks truck that is taking our money off island.
We have a massive financial hemorrhage, which is totally unsustainable. It also represents an enormous opportunity. If we kept that money on island we could easily support the things that really matter, like supporting farmers, building affordable housing, improving our water supply, and building bicycle paths!
What if we instead had a municipality that required Living Building Challenge buildings and all were built as much as possible with local materials and local labour expressing local culture? What if our rural residences became self reliant for water, electricity, and sewage? There are so many ways we can make the island an environmental beacon for the world, and almost all are impossible without incorporation.
Some would say that they are voting no because that is how to keep the island the same. I holidayed here with my family in the 1950s and have seen a tremendous amount of development, most of which was under the Trust watch. No matter how you vote, there will be change. It’s the only constant. The island has gone from largely self sufficient to broad acceptance of outsourcing, and the trajectory of development is bleak, given what’s possible. I am voting yes on September 9 so we can ensure good development and bring in policies that keep our money on island. I encourage you to put the era of harm reduction, half steps, and lesser evils behind us. Act with courage when you vote. No is not enough.