How do you drive economic growth, including new development, while protecting the environment?
Langley Township and the City of Surrey are both grappling with that question this summer.
On the Surrey-Langley border, Surrey’s city council is looking at designating 600 acres of land for employment, expanding the Campbell Heights industrial park. The move has drawn vigorous opposition because of its potential impacts on the Little Campbell River ecosystem.
In Langley, Township council considered how to best make a new film studio, office, and warehousing complex in Willoughby a green development. Everything from rainwater runoff and energy efficiency to green roofs and solar power was discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
Not so long ago, many people would have framed this as a case of jobs versus the environment – and sided with jobs. Paving over acres of green space, clearcutting trees, and draining wetlands was the price of progress.
For the most part, local politicians now know better. If the issue is jobs versus the environment, well, people need reliable paycheques, and they’ll vote for jobs. But a century of that sort of thinking got us a climate crisis, burning forests, and animals and plants going extinct daily.
It can’t be environment or jobs. It has to be environment and jobs.
It’s heartening to see Langley Township council wrestling seriously with this problem. Not everyone will agree with their decisions – councillors noted that paving over green space isn’t optimal. But acknowledging that it’s a problem is the first step to mitigating it.
As we build, we have to consider every trade off, and how we can avoid and repair the damage we do when we pave over the natural world to provide for our economic future.