Carbon-based economy needs to change

Don’t give up on having kids—the world isn’t coming to an end, says Okanagan Water Stewardship Council chairman Tom Siddon.

In an upbeat address delivered on the last day of the Building Sustainable Communities conference held at the Coast Capri Hotel this week, Siddon encouraged his audience not to shun the political presence from environmental debates and solutions.

“There is a role for politics and politicians and you shouldn’t be crapping all over them. You should go out there, knock on their doors and influence a change of mind with the support of the general public,” said Siddon, who served as a Progressive Conservative MP from 1978 through 1990.

Elected during the first wave of environmental politics, Siddon’s lunchtime address reflected on a lifetime’s worth of work on environmental issues and the tricky balance politicians face in trying to retain their seats while pushing an environmental agenda.

He praised his own past Tory leader, currently beleaguered former prime minister Brian Mulroney, for pushing the environment in the global agenda by initiating the 1987 Montreal Agreement to reduce substances harming the ozone layer, like freon.

But Siddon then said he sees no place for party politics in solving an environmental crisis.

“Try to keep it nonpartisan if you want to be an instrument for change,” he encouraged his audience.

“If you want to organize, there’s a place for that, but I think this is something that we must work, all together (on), to influence and change the public mind.”

This doesn’t mean giving up on technology in his eyes.

An engineer by trade, Siddon fully expects to see human beings traveling in four-wheeled, propelled vehicles for many years to come—but the carbon age, in his mind, is coming to an end.

Noting there are many valuable health and research facilities that were funded by the profits from the oil and gas industry, he told the room it’s now time to be innovative, apply some ingenuity and generate new ideas.

Siddon cautioned against wallowing in a tailspin of dire predictions—although he’s certain there is a sustainable population limit the world will need to address in years to come.

He is now the director of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council, championing a coordinated conservation effort in the Okanagan Valley.

As he started his presentation, he asked how many people were volunteering their time to support sustainable initiatives outside their regular working hours, roughly 30 per cent of the room raised a hand.

He then asked how many would consider running for politics—a half dozen raised their hands; as an audible giggle flowed through the room.