Photos taken from the end of 15th Avenue. Photo courtesy Catherine Slater

Photos taken from the end of 15th Avenue. Photo courtesy Catherine Slater

Institute only new, safer and healthier ideas of Smart Growth development in Campbell River: letter

Open Letter to the Mayor and Council,

The development atQuinsam Road is harmful, particularly now that climate change is upon us.

I was distressed by the article in the Dec. 22 Mirror describing the proposed 113 acre (46ha) development of 350-400 households planned at Quinsam Road. According to the Mirror article, this development is in “a sensitive ecological area with slopes, forests, streams and wetlands”… “This proposed development contains one of the largest wetlands in Campbell River and two branches of Haig-Brown Kingfisher Creek, a salmon-bearing stream, run through it.” It is home to the blue-listed red-legged frog…”

RELATED: City council considering rezoning for ‘complex’ Quinsam Road development

According to the global convention on wetlands:

“These incredible ecosystems support a tapestry of biodiversity upon which we all depend. Wetlands biodiversity provides food, clean water and jobs, while protecting communities from floods and storms and even mitigating the impacts of climate change. But, despite these benefits, humanity is destroying wetlands at an alarming rate and 25% of wetland species are today threatened with extinction. Urgent action is needed to halt and reverse wetlands biodiversity loss as part of humanity’s response to the global nature crisis.”

Here is a brief list of the problems with the Quinsam suburban development. No amount of “environmental set-backs” or “cluster-development” can undo the overall harm this development will do to this natural area:

– This development will cause permanent deforestation, fragmentation and loss of natural habitat. This area will never be the same healthy natural area again.

– This development will disrupt ground water recharge as ditches carry rain from the impermeable roofs and exposed land (rather than rain trickling through a forest canopy to be sponged slowly into permeable, moist soil back into the aquifer). This could have impacts on water supply during increasing heat waves and droughts; for local wildlife, especially this wetland’s species and salmon, and the residents of Campbell River.

– This development will pollute nature as the pet droppings and daily chemicals of 350-400 households are washed into the forest, the wetland, the river and eventually the ocean.

– This development will increase air pollution and greenhouse gases as everyone commutes into town for their daily needs.

– Forest removal could destabilize the slopes making the land more vulnerable to land-slides during the more intense rainstorms forecast, harming people and nature.

For over a decade, the B.C. Local Government Act, Regional Growth Strategies, has called for a change to “Smart Growth” residential development for rural B.C.. Section 428 directs new housing construction into compact, mixed residential and commercial neighbourhoods inside existing city boundaries (or into rural “villages”) and discourages sprawl subdivisions. The goal is to protect intact natural lands for long-term food and water security, livability, recreation, wildlife habitat, options for future generations and now, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in healthy native ecosystems. Compact, complete-service communities increase walking, cycling and transit use and greatly reduce the need for cars. Cars, buses and light trucks make up 45 per cent of the 24 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions created by the transportation sector in Canada.

Compact, complete communities are one of the solutions to our climate change crisis. Also the United Nations has called on communities worldwide to preserve and restore local wilderness areas in an attempt to “green up” the planet globally over the next decade in order to draw down the excess carbon in the atmosphere from the current 417 ppm to 350 ppm with the best “machines” known, plants and soils (see UN Climate Adaptation Summit – CAS2021 “Locally-led Adaptation”, “Nature Based Solutions”,“Decade of Restoration”, #generationrestoration). We need to preserve our local habitat and wilderness areas, not develop on them!

Smart Growth design has been supported in legislation for over a decade and still sprawl development goes on and on, like a development “habit,” despite well-established evidence of its harm. Unfortunately, our governments are not acting with the speed needed to deal with the ecological crisis. In our democracy, I think they are waiting until the idea is popular with the voting public while the public carries on as normal without visionary government leadership to wake them up. It is very hard to change long-held, comfortable habits, especially consumptive ones.

Ray Grigg recently wrote an article called “The Monkey Trap.” When monkeys grab and hold a treat inside the trap their hand is too large to escape. All they have to do to escape is release the treat but they refuse. Is this where humanity is going? “Just one more subdivision, This is the comfortable way it has always been done, It is just too lucrative, It is my land and I have a right to do it, It is how all land owners plan their retirement, I want to get elected next term, The electorate will never understand this dramatic change in how we live…”

Are we so inflexible to let go of our harmful habits that we all perish?

Reversing climate change (and the other environmental harms of the past seven decades – pollution, resource over-extraction and habitat loss) is a monumental task that will require “all hands on deck” globally; every person and every community doing their bit!

I remind us that UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutarres stated last October at the announcement of a “CODE RED for Humanity” by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that “alarm bells are deafening!” If we want a decent world to live in, for ourselves and all life, we need to rethink every comfortable habit that brought us all to this dangerous state. There is absolutely no time left to dither. We need to be honest with ourselves. We can be brave in this unique time in history, as our ancestors have been brave before us! We can reflect and do the right thing. We can stop old bad habits. We must stop old bad habits and together build a better world! That could be an energizing joy!

I certainly hope that the mayor and council will deny this application and institute only new, safer and healthier ideas of Smart Growth development in Campbell River.

Catherine Slater

Quadra Island

Campbell Riverdevelopment

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