Talking the talk

It is always nice to kick off spring with appreciation and awareness of the Yukon’s fauna and flora.

It is always nice to kick off spring with appreciation and awareness of the Yukon’s fauna and flora.

From bird watching to sheep spotting, the spring events in this territory are more than enough to keep any nature enthusiast busy.

In fact, one event is happening tonight, Friday May 9th, at 7:30 pm.

David Suzuki is speaking up at Mt. McIntyre on biodiversity and how humanity’s survival depends upon it.

The event is organized by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Yukon Chapter.

Getting to Mt. McIntyre should be easy.

Whitehorse Transit has buses running late on Friday.

The Number Four, the McIntyre-Logan-Granger bus can take people to the Canada Games Centre.

From there it’s a short walk up to the Mt. McIntyre recreation centre.

But getting home might be a bit tricky, as the buses stop running just after 9 p.m.

One hopes that there will be lots of carpooling and such to get everyone home.

And with the nice weather bicycling and walking are always options.

Realistically, though, most people are going to have to drive their own vehicles.

If they live in a distant subdivision they have no choice. They must drive to the Mt. McIntyre hall.

Thus the odd situation arises that one of Canada’s pre-eminent speakers on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will address an audience that created a lot of greenhouse gases from their vehicles just driving to see him.

But global warming, caused by human induced greenhouse gas emissions, threatens the very biodiversity humanity is reliant upon.

Now this is not to say residents of Whitehorse should not go to hear Suzuki speak.

He is an eloquent advocate of critical environmental issues.

Inspiring as well as educational, his message should be heard by one and all.

However, it is time to recognize that Whitehorse is designed for mass vehicle use, which is not environmentally friendly.

It is also time to recognize that every time a new subdivision is planned it is vehicle-centric.

This is because the perceived demand for new housing is that all new lots must be the suburban sprawl that consists of a single dwelling in the middle of at least one acre of lawn.

In Whitehorse, every new subdivision is, unfortunately, built in an area that would be considered greenbelt.

This is not greenbelt in the sense that it is parkland, but greenbelt in the sense it has never seen the intensive destruction that building a subdivision entails.

And where a greenbelt is erected, the existing ecosystem can be kissed goodbye.

Now some strides have been made toward correcting this.

There has been some development within Whitehorse to densify existing developed areas instead of mowing down more boreal forest to put in urban sprawl.

Witness all those condominium developments happening downtown.

And the transit system is slowly getting better.

The funny thing is that buses work well in mid to high density areas.

This is because a large number of people can easily walk to the bus stops, and the large number of people using the buses provide a steady revenue stream.

They do not function well in low density sprawling subdivisions — like most of Whitehorse.

The irony is that the attendance for the Suzuki talk will be quite high.

The density of people in attendance would, if they were all from the same area, justify a decent transit system.

The problem is that most live in low-density areas, which means they will probably never get a late night transit system.

And almost all future subdivision development in Whitehorse looks like it is going to be more of the same.

It is time to rethink this low density mode of living if humans want the planet’s biodiversity to stand any chance of survival.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

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