Mitch Rhodes - Editorial 

What business are we in?

"God may only smile on you once, and when it happens you’d better make use of it." Ray Anderson, Chairman of Interface Carpets, provided this insight during our dinner on the Friday night of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Ray went on to say, "They (CEOs of the top 1,000 corporations and politicians) just don’t get it, do they? If Whistler could change their thinking about sustainability just two or three degrees, the impact on the rest of the world would be enormous." Indeed!

In the weeks leading up to the 2002 WEF in New York, and in the weeks following, the political posturing, the name calling, NIMBYism, the rhetoric, the loss in ego because "very important people" will be in town, the fear mongering, the mistrust, the misunderstanding, and the fear of change has taken hold of Whistler.

I’m sure no one actually believes they fit into any of the above descriptors. Rather, the politically astute of the anti-WEFers ask the question: "What business are we in?"

Whistler is a leader in its industry and other resorts from around the world come here to observe and learn. The root of Whistler’s success lies both in the land and in its people. First Nations hunted here for thousands of years before European contact. Later people practised forestry and started tourism by opening a fishing lodge. In the mid-60s skiing began, and from there a four-season world class resort developed.

The gods have smiled on Whistler. They have created success by providing natural capital and gathering people to live here who are creative, different, bold, industrious and who have the ability to recognize opportunity and to adapt and change as need be.

Should we allow Whistler’s impact on the world to be limited to how best to design, plan and operate a community so that skier visits, occupancy rates, guest spending, real estate values and government taxes are all maximized, or is there more to our destiny?

Ray Anderson recognizes the opportunity sitting on Whistler’s doorstep and he feels so strongly about it, he has offered to speak to Klaus Schwab, president and founder of the WEF, to reaffirm what Whistler already knows – sustainability must become a theme of the WEF. I share Ray’s views and have often commented, "Even if Whistler achieves sustainability, it will be like sailing first class on the Titanic. If the rest of the world doesn’t get it and come along, we are sunk just the same."

I often consider why world-stage events, such as the Olympics and the WEF, are gravitating toward Whistler. Could Whistler’s god-given success, leadership position and its ability to facilitate change throughout the world be the reason? If we become selfish and ignore our wider scope opportunities, or some would say our responsibilities, will this celestial grace move elsewhere?

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