In attending the School District 72 (SD72) Board of Education meeting a few weeks ago and watching them set up extra chairs for those expected to attend, and speaking with board Chair Michele Babchuk after the meeting about the sudden increased attendance, it occurred to me that we, as a society (and I’m only speaking in generalities here), don’t engage very well with the issues we feel are important until something goes wrong or we’re being inconvenienced directly, and immediately, by something.
Some would say it’s completely understandable that public attendance at that particular meeting was way up, as we were concerned with the state of public education, and the BCTF job action and government funding issues were currently complicating our lives.
But do we not care about education as a cause when things are running smoothly? Of course we do, we just, in general, don’t engage with things unless there’s a significant issue we’re currently upset about. Some of us care deeply about our forestlands and keeping them out of the hands of developers, nurturing their wild beauty and encouraging responsible use of them, for example. Does that sound like you? Yes? Okay, well, when’s the last time you attended a meeting of the Beaver Lodge Trust Committee or the Greenways Land Trust when nobody was encroaching on anything? For that matter, we all care about being healthy (some of us more than others, as those who know my diet would attest), or at least having a healthy community in general. But I bet if I asked Island Health when was the last time they had to add chairs at the last minute to the public seating area because a ton of people showed up to an open meeting, had to move their meetings to a bigger facility because of increased public engagement, or took a phone call from someone not employed as a journalist trying to clarify something in a public report, they’d probably laugh at me.
I mean, I went to the public information meeting Island Health put on last week to tell the community about exactly how they’re spending the $6 billion or so that they’re putting into two new hospitals for the region, reveal the floor plans of those facilities and answer any construction, social impact, service or timeline questions that people may have, and there were maybe a dozen people there (if that) who don’t actually work on the project. Look, the long and short of it is that people need to engage with the things they care about before they fall apart, not just sit on their decks or in their living rooms and complain amongst their friends that things aren’t the way they want them to be, and then go to things to complain when things have come completely off the rails.
Some of you do engage on a proactive level, rather than on a retroactive one, and I commend you for it.
Know that I’m trying to do the same.