Opinion

COLUMN: Does economy trump environment on the Fraser River?

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If economic growth and industrial activity on the Fraser River are important, does that mean we ignore environmental concerns?

Or socio-cultural concerns?

Or is it the other way around? Do we put the economic drivers last?

Truth is, it is not an “either/or” question.

Industry, environment and the socio-cultural aspects of the river are its three pillars of sustainability.

And when looking at any issue from a sustainability perspective, we must consider all three. This balanced approach that considers all three pillars is tricky to achieve, but essential.

My goal in writing this monthly column is to share the philosophy behind the work the Fraser River Discovery Centre does to promote the many values of the Fraser River.

The Fraser is a vital trade and transportation corridor. A food source. A place to live. And of course, one of the largest salmon spawning rivers in the world.

It is a source of many jobs, and an important tourism and recreational destination.

Every month, my column—like the centre’s educational exhibits, programs and events—aims to show the diversity of the river. It also aims to advocate for a balanced approach to help us appreciate and understand everything the Fraser River is about.

But it isn’t easy for anybody, including me, to get the sustainability balance right, or to explain it well. It would be much easier to only advocate for one of the pillars. We could be only an environmental organization, for example.

Only focused on protection of the environment. Or we could side with industry, and only emphasize job creation and economic growth.

But most issues related to the Fraser River are never black and white. And a rigid opinion that fails to consider all perspectives rarely leads to a workable solution.

Especially in the context of the urban area of river basin we live in.

The three pillars of sustainability are in perpetual coexistence, and often in conflict.

Our view is that fact-based dialogue, which considers all facets and layers of an issue is more likely to succeed than looking at just one side or another.

And as an educational organization, that is the direction we have agreed to take.

The standard of living we enjoy is directly related to a sustainable, thriving Fraser River.

Whether that be economic activity, environmental fitness and socio-cultural opportunities.

Whatever your final opinion on any issue related to the river turns out to be, please ensure to consider all three pillars of sustainability with an open mind first.

• Catherine Ouellet-Martin is executive director of the Fraser River Discovery Centre.

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