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P0st-pandemic: Shuswap resident puts focus on how community can thrive

Environmentalist and author Jim Cooperman came to Salmon Arm council to talk about how the Shuswap could thrive post-pandemic.

Cooperman explained to council on May 10 that because the pandemic has exposed many flaws in society such as food insecurity, environmental threats and income inequality, he thought it would be good to find an expert to fully research the issues.

He invited three groups who work on community solutions to join the project: SEAS (Shuswap Environmental Action Society), of which he is president, Shuswap Food Action Society and Shuswap Family Resource and Referral Society. 

Community Futures Shuswap agreed to provide funding and Natalya Melnychuk, who has a PhD in social and ecological sustainability, was hired to identify sustainability issues and review potential actions.

Cooperman said she reviewed about 100 articles, websites and publications, creating a comprehensive report on how best to build resiliency. It used ‘key drivers’ in the city’s strategic plan including: people, assets, environment, places and economy.

He listed several initiatives Salmon Arm has underway to help find solutions, including the food hub and the housing task force. Also, many of the solutions fall outside the city’s jurisdiction so would require collaboration with other municipalities.

Cooperman touched on a number of issues and solutions, but he said the economy is where the report really shines.

“It’s because it brings forth the concept of the Doughnut Economics model which is indeed a viable concept that’s being successfully implemented in other jurisdictions, including Nanaimo.”

Doughnut Economics is described online as having a social foundation, so no one falls short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, so humans don’t overshoot the planet’s boundaries. Between the two boundaries is the doughnut-shaped space that’s ecologically safe and socially just, where humanity can thrive.

Everyone having a role is a key principle, Cooperman said. That would mean concentrating more on collaborative initiatives, and empowering under-represented voices.

He concluded saying he hopes council will use the report to develop an initiative to build greater resiliency to the community.

“One possibility would be to further investigate the doughnut economic model, with the goal of adopting it for Salmon Arm. We are facing complex problems that would be best addressed through collaboration and using creative and imaginative processes,” he said.

Read more: Column: New strategies needed for recovery from pandemic

Read more: Column: Visualizing a better future for the Shuswap

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren asked Cooperman how he thinks Salmon Arm could be more imaginative in recovering from the pandemic.

He said one idea is to involve the larger community, particularly youth, by sponsoring an essay contest for students at high school and possibly college. He said the essay would use the principle of back-casting. Students could be asked what they’d like the community to look like in 20 years, which would then help in working out how to get there. He said he was told the City of Kamloops did something similar a few years ago, workshopping a plan for the future with students.

“I think something like that is what I’m talking about, being more imaginative and creative.”

Lindgren expressed enthusiasm about hearing the ideas of youth. She made an ensuing motion that the city form a working group to understand the Doughnut Economics framework and how it relates to Salmon Arm’s resilience.

Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond expressed her appreciation to Shuswap Food Action and the Family Centre for all the work they’ve done to protect vulnerable people and vulnerable food chains during the pandemic.

Serena Caner with Shuswap Food Action said she would like the community’s help to rebuild its volunteer base because seniors, who have been particularly threatened by the pandemic, haven’t been volunteering.

Council did not support the motion to form a working group, stating they would like time first to read the report. Mayor Alan Harrison suggested Cooperman present it to other groups, so the ideas could move up from them.

Lindgren expressed her concern that the report might not be utilized, and said it would be useful because the city is working on its strategic plan.
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Martha Wickett

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