The environment is everyone's responsibility 

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It can seem sometimes that Whistler is cut off from the problems of the rest of the world.

Collectively, we are about providing an environment that lets visitors forget the daily pressures of life, the job, the world. We are about embracing both adventure and peace, and relaxing in the arms of one of Mother Nature's most perfect places.

We can skinny ski, bike, run or walk to work if we want. Our air is clean, our water fresh. Ahhh, we live in a place that is the envy of many.

But perhaps that puts an even greater responsibility on us to take action on the "problems" of the world.

For some that means raising money to build playgrounds in places where many children have not enjoyed that basic right for most of their lives, or collecting freedom-giving bicycles, or even fighting polio.

Last week Whistler residents turned their minds to an issue closer to home — the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project. Residents attended an information meeting on the project hosted by the Dogwood Initiative, a non-profit public interest group based out of Victoria. The goal was to drive the community to get the word out about Dogwood's LetBCVote campaign, which aims to collect petition signatures against the project, and brainstorm ways to get the word out in Whistler.

"I'd like to see Whistlerites get involved by using any resources they may have, whether it's art or anything else... to spread the message," Whistler's Jane Reid, who is helping to spearhead the campaign, told Pique.

Though the pipeline route is nowhere near Whistler, concerns about its impact not just on climate change, but also any accidents that could happen, ripple just below the surface of many an environmental discussion undertaken here.

We all recall that council in April 2012 unanimously passed a motion opposing the Enbridge pipeline.

"Be it moved that the RMOW oppose the building of the Enbridge pipeline, oppose the federal government relaxing the regulations of rivers and fisheries to allow the building of the pipeline and other industrial projects, and in addition oppose the shipping of oil along the B.C. coast that would result from this pipeline construction," stated the RMOW motion.

On Tuesday, June 3 hundreds of scientists from across Canada and from other parts of the world wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to reject a federal panel report recommending approval of the $7.9 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline —the Harper government is expected to decide whether to approve the pipeline sometime this month.

Kai Chan, a University of British Columbia associate professor who helped pen the letter, told CBC on Tuesday that the report is a failure.

"The consideration of how the benefits outweigh the costs and risks was really given almost no space and no logic. It's absolutely insufficient as a basis to make a decision as to whether the project is in the public interest," said Chan.

"The report does not provide the guidance the federal government needs to make a sound decision for Canadians about the Northern Gateway Project."

One of the main concerns raised was that the report does not take into consideration the impact the oil use will have on climate change. This is an on-going issue with the development of all fossil fuels, and as billions continues to be spent on this type of energy it leaves little investment to be made on developing clean energy.

The letter questions many other aspects of the report as well including the fact that it contradicts the government's own scientific evidence, including risks to large whales and other marine species, it dismisses the unknown risks posed by diluted bitumen spills at sea as unimportant, it relies on an oil spill response plan that is not yet developed and it used information from the proponent without external evaluation.

The letter comes on the heels of an announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that his administration plans to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by 30 per cent by 2030. Those plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

So even the U.S., which has dragged its heels on these issues for years, is moving on climate change. It should be noted that on environment protection, Canada's ranking is rock bottom, according to Washington's Center for Global Development — 27th out of the world's wealthiest 27 countries.

As we enjoy our near-pristine environment — remembering that June 8 is World Oceans Day — we need to keep in mind that most of these issues are like pebbles in a pond. We may not be being rocked by the waves right now, but make no mistake there is no place on earth that climate change will not affect.


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