As part of its effort to help encourage the creation of a Sunshine Coast biodiversity strategy, the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society held its inaugural Biodiversity Summit May 29 to June 2.
Participants were encouraged to share ideas and concerns during break-out sessions with other audience members. Themes chosen for these groups ranged in topics from sharing knowledge on local biodiversity to discussions on future funding.
“There’s so much potential here on the Coast for people getting together and collaborating. Organizations and communities do so much already,” said Lagoon Society chair Michael Jackson.
Developing a biodiversity strategy for the Sunshine Coast that achieves a buy-in from residents as well as co-operation between governments and community groups won’t likely be easy for the Lagoon Society, but Jackson was optimistic.
“The thing about the Sunshine Coast is it’s an amazing melting pot for doing things, if you can just get everybody together,” he explained. “That’s all we’re trying to do here.”
Several speakers were invited to the three-day event to share their particular expertise, like zoologist Diane Srivastava from the University of British Columbia.
She argued that increased biodiversity increases the resistance of species, making their survival more likely. As was the case with other presenters, the hope was to encourage, fuel and inspire discussion.
But if one thing stands out about the Lagoon Society’s efforts to date, it might just be the amount of capital they’ve been able to mobilize.
By Jackson’s estimation, the organization has raised between three and four million dollars since it began life some 10 years ago.
“One message I always say: don’t believe people when they say you can’t make money [protecting the] environment,” he mused. “There’s all these people you can work with who are all on your side.”
A native plant garden at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden in West Sechelt is one way the group hopes its projects will form a biodiversity educational experience, especially for the young minds that have helped along the way.
At the same time, evidence of their reach amongst the older generations was readily apparent at the summit.
As guests enjoyed a lunch cooked with local ingredients provided by local suppliers, a group of four older men, the self-described “broom busters,” were busy at work volunteering their time — and their backs — to ridding the area of invasive Scotch broom.
“We’re here to get the process moving. We’re not like planners or policy makers, we’re basically like a catalyst,” Jackson said of the Lagoon Society’s vision for collusion on Coastal biodiversity issues. “We have the energy, we have the positive attitude, and that’s what I think we contribute.”