Sunday, August 06, 2006

WHISTLER 2020, inspiring models

(by Jamais Cascio)

Whistler 2020, a comprehensive civic sustainability plan crafted by the small Canadian town earlier this year, has just been given the International Livable Communities Award in the category of "Planning for the Future."
Whistler 2020 reimagines the resort community as a fully-sustainable, very low-footprint community, and spells out an ambitious -- yet practical -- agenda to make it so. The main document (PDF), published last May, outlines the goals and vision for the community; the resulting strategies document, adopted in August, provide more concrete steps for achieving that vision. Each of the sixteen categories, from arts & culture to water, gets a thorough examination of short and medium-term goals, along with policy recommendations for the next two years. The strategy documents have a good mix of idealism and practicality, with well-articulated (and plausible) descriptions of what a success scenario would look like alongside specific actions to be taken by civic planning authorities.

Whistler 2020 isn't a typical scenario exercise. It doesn't offer a narrative depiction of a future Whistler. Instead, it's an attempt to lay some ground rules for further development, rules that are predicated upon more than just the politics of the day. In doing so, it flips the traditional scenario practice of assuming that we must act in the face of an uncontrollable world, and posits that, at least in this case, the future is in our hands. What's most appealing to me about the Whistler 2020 project is its scope. Few communities are willing to talk about more than the next year or two in anything other than platitudes. Whistler 2020 does what I wish more cities need to do: ground urban planning in the context of processes that take years to unfold, and a responsibility to future generations. What's more, Whistler 2020 isn't seen as an end-point; the larger goal is Whistler 2060, where the city is fully-sustainable. At the same time, and ultimately of greater import, the quick look at 2060 emphasizes the relatively brief amount of time we have before that date is upon us, and the need to act before it's too late.

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