Wednesday, May 2, 2007

SMART GROWTH ON QUADRA ISLAND? A response to Sierra Quadra's Oxymoronic Concept

The letter published in the DI (April 27/07) vindicates my decision to leave the Sierra Club. I am not interested in "accommodating" growth. Or managing it, or deflecting it, or making it "sustainable". I am only interested in stopping it. The only impediment to doing so is our belief that it cannot be done. "Smart growth" is not the antidote to urban sprawl, as the British are finding after 60 years of trying to defend their greenbelts. Urban densification and strict land use planning cannot indefinitely contain the development pressures that build up from continual injections of people. Eventually greenbelts and nature reserves will succumb to these pressures. There are only so many sardines that you can pack into a sardine can. With smart growth you get to the same destination, but at a slower pace. You want your cake, and develop it too. Smart or dumb, growth is still growth. However which way they are distributed, more people compete for fewer resources, pressure wildlife habitat, generate more GHG emissions and contribute to longer ferry line-ups, whether they live in dense villages or subdivided acreages.
"The population of Quadra will continue to grow". One of those matter-of-fact pronouncements taken as gospel that when unchallenged become self-fulfilling prophecies. It's going to happen whether we like it or not so lets-make-the-best-of-it kind of reasoning. Well, growth can be stopped. Population can be capped, not managed. Qualicum Beach, Okotoks, and even Lasqueti Island in their own fashion are doing it. And Boulder, Colorado too. See, once upon a time "planning" involved the selection of an ideal or optimal arrangement of resources and the formulation of guidelines to steer haphazard development toward it. Now it has come to mean merely the accommodation to projected trends that are said to be the signal of "inevitable" occurrences. Planners now simply forecast future demands and pander to them. Now the folks in Qualicum Beach, Okotoks and Boulder are restoring "planning" to its authentic meaning. This is the population level we want, so let's plan for it. If our current political structure does not afford us the levers to do that, then we had best deploy our energies in trying to exit from it.

Tim Murray

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