12 big ideas for a strong, resilient community

Here are our 12 big ideas on which to build a sustainability plan for the Cowichan region, and some examples of what our big ideas would look like ‘on the ground.’ Some of these things you could do personally, and some we could do together as a community and through local government.

Are you ready to do your part, and to support local government to do theirs?

  1. Get real about climate change. We have to get real about climate change and the impacts that it is having and will continue to have on our region. We can do this by planning for the uncertainty ahead, protecting infrastructure and communities from increased winter rains, developing a comprehensive drought plan for region and requiring that new development or redevelopment provides on-the-ground solutions to these challenges. This first ‘big idea’ runs like a thread through the other 11.
  2. Eat local because food security matters. We have some of the best agricultural land anywhere. Let’s maximize this potential and establish food security for our region. We can do this by supporting small-scale agriculture, developing a regional agricultural plan and providing creative support tools and mechanisms to assist local agricultural production.
  3. Be energy smart. We have to get smarter about how we generate and use energy in our region, in order to ensure that our demand does not outweigh our supply. We can do this by lowering thermostats when not at home, shutting off unused electronics, switching to low energy street lights, using industrial and household waste to produce power, supporting geothermal, wind and solar projects and developing a regional energy plan.
  4. Get up to speed on the new green economy. We need to quickly change how we do business in our region, by doing things like promoting green business development (agro-forestry, alternative energy, eco-tourism), establishing partnerships with existing industry (e.g. allowing new businesses to use their energy ‘waste’) consuming less, applying full cost accounting to determine the true costs of products and services, and shift taxes to reward low-impact activity.
  5. Clear the air to reduce carbon emissions. We need to immediately reduce our local carbon emissions by doing things like planting carbon-fixing vegetation, upgrading wood burning stoves, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, passing air quality bylaws, and monitoring and enforcing our air quality.
  6. Don’t hog the water so there is enough for all. We need to make sure there is enough clean water for everyone and everything, including other species and ecosystems. We can do this by pricing water accordingly to encourage conservation, locating industry away from the aquifer’s sensitive areas, using drought resistant landscaping, creating a water budget to determine the optimum population for the region, using lower flush toilets and shower heads, developing fisheries side channels that also act as floodways for increased flood protection to communities, encouraging ‘green infrastructure’ development that takes natural water cycle and rainwater into consideration and replenishes the aquifers and wetlands (e.g. using natural water courses instead of installing stormdrains, bringing back the ditch).
  7. Grow up, not out. We need to lower our development footprint and live in denser, more compact communities. This means doings things like establishing an urban containment boundary (i.e. no more sprawl) that puts people, jobs and transportation closer together, developing creative ways to get added natural values within this boundary (e.g. ecosystem pockets, trees for shade and migrating birds, raingardens), and adopting a green building code that has local requirements for water conservation, energy efficiency and site impacts.
  8. Revive biodiversity. We need to immediately start restoring and protecting valuable habitat and ecosystems. We can do this getting rid of invasive species, allowing only zero impact development (where no habitat is destroyed), acquiring or protecting ecologically significant tracts of land, building birdhouses to reduce invasive mosquito populations, enabling property owners to putting a covenant on their property, developing co-habitation partnerships (e.g. mixing working farms with cluster housing and community forests) and managing forest practices.
  9. Get serious about zero waste. We need to rethink how we handle our sewage and other wastes to make use of unused resources and minimize their impact on the receiving environment. We can also do this by saying no to plastic, avoiding excessive packaging and exploring cradle to cradle opportunities.
  10. Be carbon neutral. We can achieve carbon neutrality by doing things like creating better ways to get around (light rail, bike lanes, more buses), developing a regional transportation plan, making recreation carbon free, setting up a regional carbon trading system that keeps the impact and benefits close to home and builds better linkages and partnerships, reforesting our communities and watersheds to capture carbon and create jobs.
  11. Audit our assets. We need to figure out what we have so we know what to protect and how quickly we have to act. This means documenting and assessing things like sensitive areas, species at risk, wetlands, watercourses and air and water quality. It also means undertaking a connectivity analysis to ensure we protect and allow for species migrations.
  12. Lead the way. We all have a role to play in creating a sustainable Cowichan, including encouraging government to embed a sustainable future in every rule and regulation and supporting them to make real changes, joining a committee, being a watchdog and voicing your concerns and priorities.