Dialogue is the first step towards sustainable communities: Band Together BC

Lynsey Kitching

Submitted Photo: Kim Slater runs across BC (1177 km) as the Band Together BC campaign.  She ran to gather different ideas and perspectives about renewable energy options. She ran along highway 16 where the Northern Gateway pipeline runs.
In response to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project Kim Slater created a campaign to get people talking. She says, “I wanted to take action and explore with others what alternatives might exist. That was what prompted me to do the run. To meet with people who would be directly impacted by the pipeline and dialogue about alternatives like clean energy, and share Tides Canada’s vision for a new energy future.”
Slater ran 1,177 km across the province, mostly along highway 16, where most of the pipeline will run. She says, “I wasn’t coming with messages as much as inviting people to think about this and have their own ideas. We should be building community resilience and finding ways to get outside the cycle associated with resource commodity markets and looking at what we can do locally to fulfill needs. That’s everything from energy to food production and connections within communities.”
The concept of a sustainable community through dialogue and community involvement, along with the issues of renewable energy, make her campaign very relevant to smaller communities such as Tumbler Ridge. Slater says, “I would love to see the movement devote some of its energy to instead of reacting to projects, investing in proactive measures. I think the best way to do that is to build strong communities that can stand on their own two feet. When you have that scenario I think it makes proposals that have a lot of risk seem a lot less attractive. I don’t think people want to risk their health or livelihood or values if they can help it. If you are without work, than you will take what you can get.”
Slater goes on to explain how having a community economic dependency on resource extraction, though at times lucrative, is always going to be unsettling. She says, “I think a lot of Canadians, especially in BC and Alberta, our identity is really tied to the extraction of resources. I was looking to have a deeper conversation with community members recognizing this is where we come from, but also start to embrace perhaps a new direction and a new future.  It was really revealing. I know in places like Tumbler Ridge, there are jobs that are bringing people to town, but providing for those individuals comes with a big price tag. It is not necessarily sustained. There is a peak and then a drop. The more communities can diversify their local economies, the more they can grow and build resiliency.”
Tides Canada, an organization devoted to social change, is linked to Band Together BC. Tides Canada wants to create a new energy strategy country—wide, including their A New Energy Vision project. In consultation with many different groups including finance, health, faith, labour, academic, aboriginal groups, just to name a few. A New Energy Vision has received much support. More than 150 organizations and companies endorse the vision.  Merran Smith, Director, Energy initiative says, “We believe any Canadian energy strategy must have a framework that prioritizes jobs and low carbon prosperity, eliminates energy waste, unleashes new energy innovation, fosters more livable communities, moves the nation forward on transportation, enables funding for the energy transition, and cleans up our existing energy supply.”
Part of the vision is for people to be in open dialogue. People such as Slater, are playing major roles in starting the conversations, however, she says, “It is up to the community to build forums for dialogue and getting people to participate,” she continues, “There are tons of innovation and technology that already exist in the world of renewable energy. There are social and political barriers that are standing in the way. I think most people I spoke to had a very balanced approach and outlook. This issue is touching people across demographics. That means something; there are so many interests at stake. I was really inspired by the people I met.”
Band Together BC and Tides Canada gave a document to council at the Oct. 16, 2012 council meeting. The council has yet to go over the document and decide if they will support the New Energy Vision for Canada initiative. To learn more about the New Energy Vision for Canada, visit www.tidescanada.org.