LETTER: Five points about “decay” in downtown Nelson

From reader Amanda Patt…

1. The Framing: I am concerned that the twin biggest problems of our time, social inequality and environmental degradation, are not being addressed locally at their root causes. The laundry list of problems with downtown Nelson are merely the symptoms of the business-as-usual paradigm. The solutions must run deeper than attempting to regulate away the systemic evidence of the decay i.e. the marginalized.

2. The Problem: Whatever our changing economy is driven by, we must utilize those resources sustainably and not consider them to be disposable (e.g. trees for timber or people for tourism dollars). Business can only be looked at as the “beating heart” of Nelson in the temporary light of being the economic paradigm that came after extraction, during consumerism, but before the economic driver of the future.

3. The Conversation: This is not just about our city council’s possible “infrastructure upgrades” to our downtown or even about our business community’s “metaphorical packaging.” This is fundamentally about the healthy, reciprocal relationships we have with one another as different populations within a community.

4. The Roadblock: When “downtown businesses have had enough” it is called an advertorial but when downtown street-people have had enough, it is called “an aggressive panhandler.” The relationships we have are obviously already weak and are further threatened because many groups of people here feel marginalized and unheard. When people raise their voices to protest, others too readily ascribe negative intentions to their actions.

5. The Solution: Dandelions in the cracks of our sidewalk should call us to neither re-pave the sidewalk nor to apply herbicide. Rather, dandelions in our sidewalk should be a reminder to us that life flourishes if it is given just a little space. Maybe it is time we pulled up some of that sidewalk and grew a garden in this city, maybe even a garden of people?

To everyone in Nelson, pay heed — this conversation matters more than you think.

Amanda Patt