OPINION: Changing attitudes can't come from caveman techniques

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
December 7th, 2012

If you want to draw attention in the Boundary region, one way to do it is to call out the under-40 brainwashed environmentalists. An odd way to get attention, but it sure worked last week.

When the local chamber of commerce invited the B.C. Chamber chief executive officer, John Winter, to present at their annual general meeting last week, they likely did not expect a hot topic. And it probably wouldn’t have been if the speaker hadn’t lit a match in his opening few minutes.

Talking to a crowd of predominantly small business owners in Grand Forks (the little sister of the B.C. hub of environmental activism, Nelson), the presenter’s opening comments singed more than eyebrows.

Saying anyone under-40 has been brainwashed by the green movement creating naysayers and agitators convinced that there should not be any resource extraction in B.C., Winter obviously misjudged his audience.


Winter likely brought the same message that he has been sharing all around the province – a vision of conciliation and support for finding common ground between the interests of resource industry and environmental responsibility for the benefit of protecting the livelihood of B.C. citizens. A noble goal that most people could buy into.

But in launching into a diatribe about how important big resource-based business is to the economy of B.C., using the example that local wealth is determined by the number of ATVs and snowmobiles there are in a community, Winter missed the mark in connecting into this region.

Yes, we do have to admit we are a resource-based economy, there’s no denying that. But it was a huge mistake for Winter to assume that he was talking to the converted.

The B.C. Chamber’s pet project, the B.C. Agenda for Shared Prosperity, is a policy position that they are developing “to ensure that the potential prosperity (of B.C.) is realised for the majority of citizens and not concentrated amongst a few individuals or interest groups.”

But Winter didn’t get to this level of detail until well into his spiel, and after a sarcastic comment about Greenpeace and David Suzuki’s success in building a culture of “green” converts. Definitely not winning friends and influencing people in a community keen on sustainable agriculture, eco-friendly living and home to Canada’s first “green” cultural centre.

While there actually may be a great deal of support to finding common ground where B.C. can thrive while ensuring environmental interests are protected, perhaps Winter should review his speech to be more engaging for people from both perspectives, not bashing one side while trying to say you’re looking for a place where people can agree.

Throwing out attitude may well start a conversation, but true collaboration comes more from a very different approach. Based on what I heard, I can truly say I would question any document that comes out of this process that, on first impression, seems fundamentally flawed.

In the meantime I’m off to enjoy some non-motorized winter sports, compost my waste, and shop for some hemp clothes – and I’m not even under 40!

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed