With municipal elections coming just over a year from now, we can expect those who hope to win, or retain a seat on council, to begin seeking greater public awareness of them and their positions. One of the interesting things to watch is who will try to become Mr. or Ms. Green. The environment remains a hot issue and is unlikely to diminish in importance for most voters. It is just too big a political plum to pass by. Being green beats apple pie, motherhood and kindness to small children.
Members of the current council may have a difficult time convincing voters that they have seen the light and are now green. The practice of the last couple of councils was to acknowledge the problems and refer them to city administrators for a report. When the reports are given to council they do not have vision or ideas to take truly progressive steps. We finally have a system to collect materials for recycling, but that took many years. While the recycle facilities now exist, there is little promotion of the idea of recycling. There is some information on the city website, and even some sincerity. What is missing is real gung-ho promotion. That would take leadership.
The fresh air brigade will be prominent in the next civic election. They will be very vocal about the problem, but also very short on what concrete steps need to be taken to improve the air quality in the city. They have the privilege of wrapping themselves in the cloak of piety and beating up on city and regional district elected members for their lack of action. Unfortunately, their efforts do not seem to have made much progress in mitigating or curing the problem. They take on the role of critic rather than developing positive steps toward change.
This city has had bad air, particularly in the bowl area, for 50 years. Some progress has been made. We no longer suffer the choking stink of sulphur dioxide fumes as we did in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Particulates, those little lightweight solid particles, still float around and eventually end up in our lungs. It is the particles called PM10 that are the worst. They enter our lungs, and a bunch of them stay there. Smoking is very bad for your lungs, but so is breathing polluted air. Some progress was made when the beehive burners became history, but there is still a heck of a lot of particulate out there.
What worries me is not the smog I can see, but the gases I cannot see, smell or taste. Those gases are the sneak attackers of pollution. Like particulates, there has supposedly been some reduction of those pollutants. Perhaps so, but I am not the only one who develops tears, a runny nose and breathing discomfort frequently in the bowl area. I moved to a rural area for that very reason.
Current and past councils have faced the problem of trying to balance jobs and the economy with the inevitable pollution that comes from any industry. To accuse them of not being sincerely concerned would be unfair. They do the best they can, with the help of expert advice, to maintain a balance. They make some difficult decisions that are likely somewhat uncomfortable to make.
When we take a good look at sources of pollution, a goodly portion comes from us. Those quick little trips to the store, the daily commute to work, idling our cars and trucks for many hours during the winter all add pollutants. We like our woodstoves, fireplaces and backyard fire pits but they contribute gases and particulates that further degrade air quality. Perhaps all of us should begin to think of our part, both in what we do and who we vote for. If we do not want any change or inconvenience in our lives, then we can hardly criticize our politicians not acting.
Victor Bowman was born in Prince George and raised in Vanderhoof. He returned to Prince George 32 years ago and currently operates a consulting business. Please direct comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org