Stephen Lewis offers high praise to UBCM
Keynote speaker at 2013 UBCM convention speaks about climage change, water quality issues
By his own admission, Stephen Lewis has attended four universities, but never managed to attain a degree (though he does have several honorary ones).
Nevertheless, he proved to be a brilliant keynote speaker at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention at the Vancouver Convention Centre, attended by more than 1,500 mayors, councillors and regional district directors from throughout the province.
The Canadian politician, diplomat and broadcaster spoke to the theme of community involvement, touching on his years as United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDs in Africa.
As a self-described "democratic socialist," he said he continues to believe that government has a responsibility to care for its citizens, but he also sees the value of communities coming together.
"I cannot over-emphasize the strength of communities," he said. Lewis noted that his experiences in Africa taught him a great deal about the srength of community. Later, he said we can also learn from "the strong sense of community found in aboriginal communities."
Lewis had words of praise for several resolutions endorsed at the 2013 UBCM convention regarding watershed protection and water quality testing. To a question from the audience about how Canadians can maintain soverignty over their water, he recommended Maude Barlow's book, Blue Future.
He recalled one overseas project supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation that involved simply building a latrine (forever after known as the "Stephen Lewis latrine," he laughed) as an example illustrating the importance of basic sanitation and clean water.
He also described the British Columbia Climate Action Charter, which comes with UBCM endorsement, as "one of the most admirable documents I've seen in quite some time." He said the document could serve as a model for all of Canada.
Lewis spoke passionately on the need for reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels and a move to alternative energies to avoid what he described as a climate "apocalypse."
He said it's already too late to reduce carbon emissions enough to affect anything very much before the year 2050. "But we can change what happens between 2050 and the end of the century," he said.
"I cannot emphasize enough what a race against time we're in," Lewis said. He asked municipal governments to strongly urge both provincial and federal levels of government to take climate change seriously.
Lewis offered additional kudos to the UBCM for its "progressive positions" on mobility issues faced by B.C. citizens.
Finally, he commended the UBCM for its efforts "to create a more decent and civilized society."