Time is running out to submit a public record regarding the future of the Peel River Watershed.
I would like to offer a challenging option that is currently not one of the considerations. The following scenario has the potential of providing a long-term, sustainable economic base, while honouring a First Nation heritage and, most important, honouring the biological integrity of this unique watershed.
What if the Yukon made a choice to become the No. 1 tourism destination in North America and a leading centre for green industry?
This is an astonishing opportunity to save what is already in place. There are few wild places of this magnitude anywhere on the planet. And the beauty is that there are no infrastructure costs.
The systems in place are providing ecological services to each of us at absolutely no cost (clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, carbon sink, intact ecosystem to support diverse wildlife, etc.). And we are not even including the spiritual value and creative inspiration that is found in wilderness areas.
But let’s disregard those values for the moment and speak only of things with measurable value.
The Peel Watershed does harbour limited minerals and fuels that hold a significant dollar value. Please note the use of the word “limited.”
The Yukon is cursed and blessed to have so much wild land.
The curse is that there is a fantasy of limitlessness. At a great cost in dollars and a permanent cost to the biological integrity of the region, short-term dollars can be extracted.
As Blaine Walden, vice-president for the Yukon Wilderness Tourism Association was quoted in the News, once opened to the predictable “boom-and-bust” scenario, those qualities that attract tourist dollars are compromised.
My challenge to decision makers is to banish the myopic option of mineral extraction and look at what is truly best in the long run.
What will best serve the greater community- one that includes nonhuman members as well as humans?
Change is difficult. Certainly, the mining industry feels threatened and will play the “fear card.” They will claim that for our security, we must move into these wild places and “carefully” extract the resources.
A simple look at history tells us we are amazingly capable of change, even when change is frightening.
One hundred years ago, the harnessmaker was looking at a dying business as the automobile emerged upon the scene.
Humans are the most adaptable creature on the planet. If we choose, we can make the Yukon an enviable model for others to follow. We have a one-time opportunity to forge this new path, rather than continue to follow, sheeplike, the current patterns of nonsustainable mineral extraction that will permanently alter and ruin a rare Yukon treasure.
Look around, where have there been shining examples of protecting vast wild areas while allowing mineral or fossil fuel extraction? In following the common credo of limitlessness we continue to spiral into short-term thinking that compromises future generations.
Why not make the Yukon a hub of green industry and development? Increasing efficiencies, while not compromising living standards, should be the goal. Why not have it originate in the Yukon?
Already a local business, Northerm, (no I do not work there) is poised to manufacture a window that is quadruple glazed for better insulation value.
And in the same edition of the News that I mentioned above was a story of a gasifier furnace that, potentially, can save the territory half a million dollars in annual heating costs.
In summary, you might find it odd that I am unequivocally pro-mining. But the mining I am referring to is to aggressively prospect and excavate our reserves of human innovation. Innovation is a renewable resource that is currently underutilized throughout the world.
This is not a time for lazy thinking and following the usual prescription of nonsustainable activities that leave a trail of cost and destruction. Now is the time to look up at those Yukon banners that proclaim “Larger than Life” and think larger for the long-term health of the Yukon economy, and the health of both human and nonhuman residents.