Sliding off track on sustainability 

click to enlarge Thin Ice Skaters of all ability levels could be found on any Whistler's freshly-frozen lakes this past weekend
  • Thin Ice Skaters of all ability levels could be found on any Whistler's freshly-frozen lakes this past weekend

How do you spell hypocrite. Well, how about W-H-I-S-T-L-E-R.

I'll admit, I've never bought into the fascination the leaders of this town seem to have with sustainability. My hesitation has largely been due to my quaint, if pedantic, belief that words actually do — okay, should — mean something. A buzzword like sustainable should bear some relation to the generally accepted dictionary definition of the word which, in case you've forgotten, means capable of being sustained or continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.

In an effort to be sustainable, Whistler has mandated low-flow showerheads and toilets, forced developers to build to a high level of energy efficiency, squandered countless tax dollars on green roofs and cutting edge heating systems that don't always work, installed solar panels, bought Smart cars, created bylaws governing the length of time you can idle your car, been saddled with fuel cell busses, undertaken other initiatives and launched countless task forces.

Countering these initiatives, the town's also continued to turn a blind eye to the dozens of retail merchants who can't bear to close their doors during business hours, preferring instead to attempt to heat the great outdoors, allowed the proliferation of propane patio heaters so patrons can drink cold beer on a freezing patio without becoming peoplesicles, and, in the name of safety, given the nod to half a dozen firefighters driving a million-and-a-half dollar fire truck a block and a half to have coffee someplace other than the firehall.

And to gild the proverbial lily, decided to build a mini skating rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Building an outdoor skating rink at WOP is, to sustainability, what burning tires is to clean air... an affront. Why don't we just set fire to the mountains, join Canada's full-frontal push to become the international bad boy of climate change and stop making any pretense of caring about our GHG production?

We are building an outdoor skating rink — a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy rink — because we can. We have RMI money we haven't been clever enough to spend some other way that might boost tourism. We believe the tourists who come here will ooh and aah over the mini slide mahal. We're too myopic to take advantage of the many skating rinks that already exist in town... the ones called lakes. And we seem to believe everyone who visits would prefer a suitably artificial, soulless experience to the real thing.

That it'll take lots of energy to keep ice where ice doesn't want to be is axiomatic. That tourists will enjoy it is important, primary even. But that it'll be a soulless, artificial experience is relative, relative to the very real experience we could be providing our guests.

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