Community planning sessions good idea
Last week, Enterprise Greater Moncton held its One Region – One Vision economic summit uniting business and community leaders in order to discuss the future and to foment new ideas for developing the region’s economy. It featured guest speakers who have been at this sort of thing for decades and who lived through tougher economic times in the GMA. In fact, the city is doing comparatively well on the economic front. It is also developing a certain cultural dynamism. The hope of the summit was to re-energize community leaders and identify avenues of future growth.
These types of events are to be lauded. They are not easy to organize and positive results are not guaranteed. Rather, their success depends on the people who attend them and the follow through on the ideas that are proposed at the conferences.
That said, it seems to me that a similar event should be held for the development of an environmentally sustainable community. There was little talk at last week’s summit about our community’s place in the efforts to make the world more environmentally sustainable. Many challenges exist and many economic opportunities are arising out of the need to develop and implement green technologies. Around the world, forward looking societies and cities are thriving by taking on these challenges.
The city of Moncton is in many ways well positioned to respond to such challenges and to seize the opportunities they present mostly because of our geographical location and the fact that we have already overcome some major issues including determining whether or not to protect our most precious natural resource, the Petitcodiac River watershed. Also, Moncton is a relatively unpolluted city where urban sprawl has not yet run rampant. We also have expertise in many areas of sustainable development, something that should allow us to attract investors and companies. And, the urban lifestyle in Moncton is on the cusp of catching up to other modern cities where the focus is on higher population density in livable and dynamic downtowns.
Ten years ago, a group of professionals in this area proposed the concept of the Dream City initiative. It was meant to create an event not unlike One Region – One Vision, but focused on the sustainable, dynamic city. The event was never held but these individuals did work in conjunction with surrounding communities to develop municipal green plans focused on setting clear goals for sustainable development. It was an open process which invited citizens to propose ideas for their community and also to help municipal leaders establish priorities for the short, medium and long terms. [The openness of these processes is crucial; the information must be shared with the entire community and all planning must remain in the public sphere with, for example, a strong presence on the internet.]
Environmental issues have taken a back seat to economic priorities in the last few years. But there is no greater certainty than the fact that these issues will not go away. Sooner or later they will return to the core of our concerns. We can either wait for things to happen or take action now to ensure that the challenges don’t become insurmountable. To get the ball rolling, community leaders should consider a sustainable development summit. We need a broad vision for our region.