UN Collingwood World Summit

The Blue Mountains Future Story

Use of UN SDGs
Jeffery Fletcher
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Introduction Jeffery Fletcher Manager of Sustainability and Solid Waste – I am a voice of an environmental practitioner…

In this panel discussion I will talk about how the Town is using the UNSDGs in Sustainability Planning and explore where the SDGs might be taking us…

The Blue Mountains is a collection of small Towns and Hamlets situated on the southern shore of the Great Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay in the lands of Treaty 18 of 1818, and our municipality is crossed by the rocky green spin of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO recognized world biosphere. We have top tourism draws to rural and natural features and recreation – all the local ski hills are in TBM which are also complimented by hiking, biking, freshwater surfing and gourmet eating and much more…

Our Municipality decided to update the 2010 Community Sustainability Plan. The new plan is being positioned as a foundational plan for other directional plans and operations.

The structure of the sustainability plan was developed with assistance from a Committee of Council and public representatives that determined the UNSDGs should be considered and referenced throughout the development of the local plan’s Goals and Objectives.

We called our planning process The Blue Mountains Future Story. It is currently under way and we have conducted several points of engagement with the community including assistance from local artists at the Future Story Cafes. This was a blend of workshoping the community’s goals, hearing from the artists and layering in live inspirational (and RAD) music between group sessions.

The UNSDGs were used in the engagement process as discussion points in workshops but also to assist in focusing report structure into logical and recognized goals.

The Plan also used three systems, which the UNSDG were captured in. These systems and the goals acted as validation to the local issues being expressed by the community and assisted in organizing aeras of deeper dives.

Under each theme we used local, national and global data to dive deep and inspire discussion and give context to local perceptions. Our consultant called these sessions a “data walk”.

From the data walks conducted we framed the insights gathered into a system that highlighted the relevant SDGs as a best practice.

The systems or sustainable pillars were the typical three and within each the themes captured local issues and the themes tagged in single or multiple UNSDGs.

In a sustainability plan the environmental system tends to be the most topical and passionate point of discussion.

We took a deep dive into watershed health and used a local example of a QUALITATIVE indicator system (not numerical).

We used a watershed health report card that uses several different data sources to develop a qualitative view of aspects of the local watersheds.

I’d like to use this platform to outline the importance of this type of indicator or measurement. Under the economic system we are so familiar with managing a number and pushing growth with very little consideration for anything else. We can’t adopt this mind set in the environmental system. One might conclude if you can’t measure it, it’s not there. But, if we focus only on the QUANTATIVE measurements we will develop cultural blind spots to the intrinsic value of people and their relationships with the living world. We need to release ourselves from dominance and manipulation of nature to one of appropriate participation in the living system in which we have agency.


We can get bias toward the thing we are measuring, that we are able to measure and that is intrinsically amenable to measurement.

In this case that machine looks like the better option…

Myopic Measurement

But what if forests also have sacredness?

We have been ignoring the importance of complex biodiverse systems at great expense.

Complex Biodiverse Systems

The UNSDGs are a set of universal goals for sustainability and a platform for discussion of the issues – but where is this platform leading to?

It is or maybe has been a very common debate about what sustainability is – perhaps an enigma for some and for others debates over maybe you already are sustainable?

And hey depending on your definition you might be…

I prefer this positioning of sustainability – it is a goal but not the end goal – it is a bridge we need to cross to develop restorative and regenerative cultures. This is the path for creating conditions conducive to life in all of our intentions, design and activities.

Daniel Christian Wahl, Indian School of Development Management, 2019

Revolutionize to fit our human cultures into the life-sustaining ecosystem functions of the places and regions we inhabit.

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