Thursday, 30 September 2010

Whose Wealth, Whose Commons?

In recent weeks the Canadian media has been highlighting preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Interest flared around the recent collapse of a pedestrian bridge, athlete safety and security, cleanliness, and the perceived 'covering up' of local social problems related to poverty and slums in preparation for the Games' opening. Throughout media have questioned: is it a good idea for Canadian athletes to participate? Is it safe? Is it appropriate if there are concerns over social justice?

Athletes from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and other countries have since withdrawn from the competition, citing concerns over health, security and the adequacy of facilities.

Stumbling around for information and answers I came across a report by the Housing and Land Rights Network - South Asia Regional Programme Habitat International Coalition titled The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons? The publication is a revealing study and position paper into how critical human rights and corruption issues can be overlooked during planning for large events to the detriment of local populations. If nothing else it speaks volumes in support of the need for stakeholder inclusion in planning.

And despite the many breakdowns in process and issues raised in the paper, I find myself resistant to pass judgment about what went wrong, and how. The reason being I think it is very easy to judge, and decide to opt out, standing here with my limited and comfortable Canadian perspective. It is a lot harder to try to engage, and create solutions to the issues.

In the end, it makes me question the feasibility of producing large events that use a 'western' idea of development in areas that need more than 'here today, gone tomorrow' solutions to sustainable community development. Is the investment of money in the creation of facilities, servicing of visitors and international media profile that goes along with the Commonwealth Games too short-term for Delhi? It would seem so for a destination that could sorely benefit from early consideration of how this kind of event can be a catalyst for long term improvements in local quality of life.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Name that Destination

Sometimes work just follows you around on holidays. Sometimes in a bad way, sometimes in a good way. So even my effort to get away from it all this summer, I couldn't help spotting examples of sustainable destinations at work. See if you can guess where I went...

Hint #1: This destination maintains a 65% average diversion from landfill, making it a national leader in waste management. Not only is that impressive, but check out their standard compost bins in public areas!

Even our beach cottage had a detailed guide about how to recycle and compost, providing receptacles for both.

Hint #2: The Wind Energy Institute of Canada has called this destination home for 25 years, providing a central research and testing ground for renewable energy. Tourists and engineering buffs alike can check out the 17 turbines in operation at WEIC's testing site and other smaller wind farms scattered about. Without significant hydro, coal or petroleum resources this destination is aiming to source 30% of power through renewables by 2016.

Hint #3: This destination IS local food. In fact, it has developed an entire niche tourism industry based on Flavour Trails that encourage visitors to visit farms, participate in local agriculture and eat a delicious harvest of island grown produce. Definitely no place for a dieter. And although not entirely local, the Dalvay sticky-date pudding is to die for.

Hint #4: Local artisans, unique cultures and craftspeople are still alive and well, including the stunning Evangeline region that remains true to it's Acadian roots, my roots.

If those aren't enough hints and you haven't cheated by clicking links, think potatoes, red sand and Anne of Green Gables. Prince Edward Island was a sustainable destination surprise.

Photos: Recycling centres, Cavendish Beach. WEIC, Tignish. Mont Carmel parish cemetery, Mont Carmel.