unlikely environmentalists

It must be tough being a Whitehorse city councillor. The hours are long, the pay is not commensurate with the level of boredom the position…

It must be tough being a Whitehorse city councillor.

The hours are long, the pay is not commensurate with the level of boredom the position inflicts, and they get blamed for every problem in the city.

If garbage pickup misses a house, one of the councilors will no doubt hear about it from an irate citizen.

When the roads appear as if they are not getting plowed enough, no doubt the telephone lines hum as taxpayers dial and complain to the elected municipal politicians.

Despite all this verbal angst, being on council does allow them to make their mark on Whitehorse.

And now something unusual has been happening over at city hall.

They would appear to have all turned into a group of greenies.

Greenies is a somewhat derogatory term for an environmentalist.

Some the councillors will deny to their last breath that they care for fauna and flora.

They would probably insist, if given a chance, that their idea of a good time is amending the Official Community Plan to permit a wetland to be paved.

Some of their actions, though, declare otherwise.

Let us take a look at some of their recent decisions.

City council recently approved a contract for more than $800,000 to purchase outdoor wheelie carts for the citywide garbage and compost collection program.

This will be an expansion of the Porter Creek test program, where households get a grey cart for garbage and a green one from compostables.

No bags are required and the bins take very large quantities of waste or compost when compared with the current bags.

The funds for this particular purchase are gas tax dollars from Ottawa, it is not part of the normal city budget.

It is worth commending the mayor and council for their commitment they are putting towards waste diversion.

Households with wheelie carts tend to divert more into the compost stream than the system with the bags.

This means a lot less organic material being buried. This in turn means it greatly reduced the amount of methane being emitted by the city landfill.

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, which is the culprit behind human-induced climate change.

The council has also approved transit bus and Handy Bus replacements to the tune of more than $1 million.

This is part of the 2009-2012 Capital budget.

Yes, the current bus routes and frequency are inadequate, and no doubt it would need a lot more dollars to make it truly effective.

Still, the financial commitment of more than $1 million is an indication that council believes in some form of transit system.

If utilized correctly, buses can remove the equivalent of 40 cars from the road.

Not only does this lead to less oil being consumed and thus less pollution coming out of exhausts, it means less-crowded streets and even more parking for the those still in cars.

Finally, city council waved the 2008 deadline for applications to its Environmental fund.

This permitted the Raven Recycling Society to become the beneficiary of more than $21,000 to be used towards the purchase of an electric forklift.

Now this forklift will greatly simplify the operations of Raven.

It currently has three clunkers that can loosely be termed forklifts, although the amount of money they are sucking up in operation and maintenance makes them more of a burden than an actual asset.

Raven will be able to dispose of the three old forklifts and replace them with an efficient new one.

And this is partly thanks to the environmental leanings of the current city council.

Now before everyone things that the council is a chapter of Greenpeace they are still making some contrary environmental decisions.

There is the whole McLean Lake fiasco.

There has been a petition from citizens to turn the area into a park, yet the city has turned to the lawyers and the courts in an attempt to stonewall it.

Enough with the legal shenanigans — make the green space a legal green space.

The city also has to get serious on halting urban sprawl.

The concept, or conceit, of large houses for small households on large acreages has to end.

The ecological footprint of this type of residence is unsustainable.

Yet there are still sprawling subdivisions full of these abodes being approved and built all over the place.

Despite these last two examples, city council can and does have a huge positive environmental impact.

Politicians at other levels, such as territorial and federal, certainly play their part.

But for on the ground nuts and bolts environmental action, Whitehorse mayor and council can sometimes work green wonders.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

Just Posted

The Yukon’s current outbreak of COVID-19 is driven by close contact between people at gatherings, such as graduation parties. (Black Press file)
Yukon logs 21 active cases as COVID-19 spreads through graduation parties

Anyone who attended a graduation party is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Yukon RCMP and other emergency responders were on the scene of a collision at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway on June 12. (Black Press file)
June 12 collision sends several to hospital

The intersection at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway was closed… Continue reading

Artist Meshell Melvin examines her work mounted in the Yukon Arts Centre on June 7. The show includes over 1,000 individual portraits. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Double portrait show at the Yukon Arts Centre features art that looks back

“I hope they’ve been looked at fondly, and I’m hoping that fun looking comes back.”

Sarah Walz leads a softball training session in Dawson City. Photo submitted by Sport Yukon.
Girls and women are underserved in sport: Sport Yukon

Sport Yukon held a virtual event to celebrate and discuss girls and women in sport

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bagged meter fees could be discounted for patios

Council passes first reading at special meeting

Kluane Adamek, AFN Yukon’s regional chief, has signalled a postponement to a graduation ceremony scheduled for today due to COVID-19. She is seen here in her Whitehorse office on March 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
AFN Yukon’s post-secondary grad celebration postponed

The event scheduled for June 14 will be rescheduled when deemed safe

(Alexandra Newbould/Canadian Press)
In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on.
Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family

Liam Casey Canadian Press A vehicle attack against a Muslim family in… Continue reading

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, poses for a portrait in the boardroom outside his office in Iqaluit, Nunavut, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Two cases of COVID-19 at Iqaluit school, 9 active in Nunavut

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle… Continue reading

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Paddlers start their 715 kilometre paddling journey from Rotary Park in Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2021 Yukon River Quest will have a different look. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
The 22nd annual Yukon River Quest moves closer to start date

Although the race will be modified in 2021, a field of 48 teams are prepared to take the 715 kilometre journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting

Letters to the editor.
This week’s mailbox: the impact of residential schools, Whitehorse Connects, wildfires

Dear Editor; Anguish – extreme pain, distress or anxiety. Justice – the… Continue reading

PROOF CEO Ben Sanders is seen with the PROOF team in Whitehorse. (Submitted)
Proof and Yukon Soaps listed as semifinalists for national award

The two companies were shortlisted from more than 400 nominated

Most Read