Roger Ley and Allison Girvan rehersing for KHAOS

Roger Ley and Allison Girvan rehersing for KHAOS

Nelson city councillor looks at KHAOS and climate change

Nelson city councillor Candace Batycki looks at climate change, the Northern Gateway pipeline and KHAOS in this week's council column.

In these dusty days of late winter, we long for freshness, for new life. We are captivated by the first snowdrops and crocuses, and by the first tiny buds on the shrubs and trees. We rejoice in longer days and warmer temperatures. Gardeners long for the snow to finish melting so the first brave seeds can go in.

How would we feel if spring did not come this year? If we waited and waited, yet nothing grew? As we slowly ran out of food, famine would become inevitable, and war could well follow. This is the premise of the climate change opera KHAOS, probably Nelson’s arts event of the year, experienced by almost 2,000 of us last week. Beautiful and bleak, KHAOS felt to me like a requiem, a warning and a challenge.

In her librettist/stage director’s notes, Nicola Harwood asks: “Will Persephone’s willingness to find middle ground — to compromise in order to maintain the order of the worlds — guide us? In this age of distraction, how do we form the human bonds that help us value our collective destiny above individual power and pleasure?”

This winter the struggle over Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has been big news.

Thousands oppose the project, in part because tar sands development is the single biggest growing sector of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions.

Nelsonites are having their say, writing letters and organizing educational events. I myself am registered to make an oral statement at one of the Joint Review Panel’s community hearings this year, one of thousands to do so.

Meanwhile a new report from the University of Victoria concludes that coal presents an even greater climate challenge than that presented by the oil sands, and that “as a society, we will live or die by our future consumption of coal.” Will we as a nation, and as a global community, have the vision and will to actually leave fossil fuels in the ground?

Political engagement is vital. But it is also important to act individually and collectively to reduce our own footprints. So last week I was happy that council officially approved establishment of the EcoSave Home Energy Retrofit program.

The EcoSave program was developed by the City of Nelson with support from Natural Resources Canada, Columbia Basin Trust, and probably FortisBC. It will launch at the end of March, and run until the end of 2013.

Its goal is to have at least 100 homeowners have home energy audits done, and at least 50 of them do retrofits such as windows and insulation. Program co-ordinator Carmen Proctor is there to help you every step of the way, from setting up your audit to navigating the paperwork and taking advantage of provincial and federal rebate programs.

The coolest thing, though, is that Nelson Hydro, our own utility, will provide on-bill financing where requested. If you’re like me, living in one of our lovely leaky older homes, the cost of retrofits can be a barrier. Under the EcoSave program Nelson Hydro loans you the money, you pay down the loan with any provincial or federal rebates you receive, and the rest is paid back through payments on your electricity bill, amortized over five or ten years.

A similar project in Portland upgraded 500 homes, most of which reduced their energy bills by 20 per cent or more. You could end up breaking even on your bill, while reducing your energy use and the associated emissions.

You win, the city wins by meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets, and our climate wins. Now that’s something to sing about!