Imagine living in a community where jobs are plentiful, business and industry are thriving, families are healthy, the air is fresh, the water is clean, birds and animals can maintain healthy populations, and food is plentiful.

Sound too good to be true? Well it isn’t. This is what the Cowichan can look like if we work hard to protect our natural assets and link them more effectively to how we live, work and play.

Now imagine living in a place with droughts, fires, failed crops, and severe water restrictions in the summers, and flooding, power outages, violent winds and colder, wetter weather in the winters. This is what the Cowichan could look like in the coming years, thanks to climate change.

Sound too scary to deal with? It doesn’t have to be. All we have to do is adopt a new way of thinking about the environment. If we look to the environment as the key to our community’s resiliency (that is, its ability to adapt to new situations and challenges), we have a better chance of living in the first part of this picture, while dealing with the second.

In other words, we have to think about our regional environment as the backbone of our community, as the source of support and stability that will allow us to weather any kind of natural or economic storm.

We have come up with 12 big ideas that describe the kinds of decisions we have to make - and actions we have to take - in the coming days, months and years to achieve this vision for community sustainability and resilience.

The bad news is that climate change and other pressures are already fundamentally changing our regional landscape1 and have the potential to kill traditional economies, and harm communities2 and ecosystems.3

The good news is that our environmental backbone is in fairly decent shape, so there is still hope. We just need to do things differently, starting today.

Now is the time to come together as a region and decide whether we value our natural assets – forests, rivers, plants, animals, land, air and water – enough to invest in them over the long term. Investing doesn’t mean raising taxes, it means changing how we think, plan, act and live today and into the future in order to balance both biodiversity and growth.

On a personal level, it means committing to new habits that recognize and value the environment as the backbone of our work and home lives – like carpooling, and reducing water and energy use.

On a community level, it means supporting our local government to put in place policies and regulations that create greater regional self-sufficiency and manage our natural assets in a sustainable way.

Next: Our 12 Big Ideas

1Wild salmon stocks are plummeting, migratory birds cannot find resting places and food species that support their global journeys, and we’re increasingly drawing down our groundwater each year.
2The term ‘traditional economies’ here refers to industries that rely on resource extraction, such as logging, wood manufacturing, fishing, large scale farming and non-timber forest production (e.g. mushroom picking).
3Impacts on our ecosystems include increasing weather events that we - and our landscape - are not used to (e.g. large wildfires, landslides), and using pesticides to control invasive species that also harm native species.