Thursday, October 20, 2011

Warming Up For The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Part 1

Turn Point (
The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, formerly known as the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Research Conference, convenes in Vancouver, BC, October 25-27.  I won’t be going this year but, like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, the biennial conference occasions many memories.

Looking back 20 years at the time of the U.N. Rio Conference on the environment, I am struck by how doggedly correct — and presumptuous — we were in declaring that “WE, THE PEOPLE of the Sound and Straits, in pledging to work together to restore the ecological and economic health of our home, DECLARE THAT:

  1. The salmon shall be the symbol and indicator of the health of our waters, for in saving the salmon we shall save ourselves.
  2. The most protective environmental standards shall be applied as the minimal standards throughout the region.
  3. The Sound and Straits shall be a Pollution Free Zone by the year 2011.
  4. Bold and innovative solutions that protect our resources shall be recognized and rewarded.
  5. The people of the region shall be informed and involved in all aspects of governance of the region.

Go ahead, laugh at that delivery date for the Pollution Free Zone, but this was the declaration part of what was called the Sound & Straits ‘92 “People’s Agreement” developed by about 40 souls affiliated with U.S. and Canadian native, environmental, labor, peace and other organizations.

I don’t know what kind of silvery words will be used next week when the Ecosystem Conference is convened and no doubt there will be many, but there sure were some golden words in our proclamation:

“The Sound and Straits are a single region of common waters and resources, and strong ties exist among its peoples. The Canada-United States border is a boundary invisible to the region’s water, air and wildlife. As people of the region, we see no border in committing ourselves to the future environmental, social and economic health of the Sound and Straits. We seek to broaden our numbers through the power of individual and corporate responsibility and to include all peoples and organizations sharing the concern that our children inherit a just and sustainable future.

“In the context of global environmental deterioration, we call upon people everywhere to recognize our common global future, to cross boundaries and to work together toward solutions. We recognize that the most serious threat to international security is not military aggression but global environmental collapse.”

So what’s changed for the better, what’s changed for the worse, what’s been ignored in thinking ‘transboundary’ in the last 20 years? Good practice warm-up for next week’s conference.

--Mike Sato

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