David and Camille Saltman in their Kelowna home. (Boulevard Magazine photo)

Okanagan group seeks climate change solutions

The Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council to showcase new documentary

David Saltman and his wife Camille moved from California to the Okanagan four years ago to escape the pending Trump political madness.

Coming from San Diego, both were part that state’s forward leaning attitude towards environmental protection and adapting to climate change.

And, they have found that same attitude percolating within the Okanagan, a movement they are helping to bring together in unified voice to address climate change issues facing the valley in the years ahead.

With the invitation of former UBC Okanagan vice-chancellor Debra Buszard, Saltman organized a dinner at Summerhill Winery that brought together 45 people in political, academic, private sector and Indigenous leadership roles to discuss environment issues.

The gathering generated a positive response and a wish among some for a group or organization that could keep the discussion on a variety of issues moving forward, which led to the formation of the Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council.

Planned dinner meetings were cut short by COVID-19 public gathering restrictions, but Saltman has developed a new idea to keep the movement going forward, a series of three virtual leadership forums fueled by documentary films.

The other two will focus on food security, food resiliency and sustainable agriculture; and turning our waste into useful resources instead of filling up landfills.

The first forum, scheduled for Oct. 21, titled Building Okanagan Flood Resiliency, will raise how utilizing natural assets in low cost ways to replace aging, depreciating infrastructure and bring controls for flood prevention and water quality.

Among those interviewed for the documentary are Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrest, Okanagan Nation Alliance researcher Tessa Terbasket, Okanagan Basin Water Board executive director Anna Warwick Sears, Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance co-founder Taryn Skalbania, and Gibson city administrator and chair of the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative Emanuel Machado.

Saltman said the debate about defining climate change in scientific terms is wasted energy. Instead examining the human behaviour symptoms behind changing traditional weather patterns can lead to genuine solutions to a valley climate that is going to continue to get warmer and wetter.

To ignore that impact comes at a cost. Saltman cites the example of a community like Peachland having to build a water quality filtration system. He says watershed logging has weakened the ecosystem’s natural water filtration system, allowing more sediment into the water supply.

Saltman believes the Indigenous people’s cultural perspective, to not dominate or exploit nature but be a part of and respect our natural surroundings, offers important lessons that should be integrated into future policies on agriculture, water and land management.

Those lessons he learned from his past work experiences, most notable heading up the Surfrider Foundation, which won the largest clean water act lawsuit in American history, a $100 million judgment against two pulp mills in California.

“We were a rag tag group of surfers who took on the largest laws firms and wound up winning. Surf Rider is still up and running with chapters all over the world,” he said.

His wife Camille is the director of entrepreneurship for UBC Okanagan, which helped produce the documentary, and an advocate for both clean-tech innovation and sustainable business development.

“Where I get comfort about the future is the huge economic opportunities for our kids when we start focusing on climate change and sustainable food product solutions, and not on the problems,” he said.

Viewers interested in the documentary presentation can register free online at https://events.ok.ubc.ca/event/entrepreneurshipubco-leadership-forum/.

READ MORE: Green Party says it would set path to make B.C. carbon-neutral by 2045

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