Sunday, July 30, 2006

Proportionality, war and urban planning

With apologies to Rex Murphy

The doctrines of green v. greed

Proportionality is the cry of the day since the crisis in the Fraser Valley began.

The transformation of a natural place to an agricultural place to built place; the as it were abduction of the natural world by human race is the immediate occasion of the current state of affairs between the pro-development and pro-green factions of this far-west region. The launching of the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s Livable Region Strategic Plan in 1996 may be said to provide its bristling content.

Proportionality would, I suppose, have called for the protectors of our green zone and agricultural land reserves to send in commandos abduct at least one realtor for every acre of land abducted for the purpose sprawl. For the sake of perfection balance in the planned world would thus have been met. A realtor or developer abducted from the District within which a particular acre was lost would help to make the tit-for-tat policy as immaculate as can be.

“Proportionality,” in the words of Rex Murphy, “may be easy to pronounce but, as can be seen, it’s delicate and refined in practice.”

As far as is known the green lobby does not protect itself with legal expertise when launching provoked or for that matter unprovoked attacks on the corporate development world, hiding writs, injunctions and private land deals that may later entrap the profiteers. The profiteers such as SmartCentres in the human form of Mitchell Goldhar, on the contrary, conducts its (ad)ventures only under these conditions. The presence of the legal profession representing SmartCentres at this past week’s Official Community Plan hearing bears sinister witness to what one may expect when it comes deciding the future of the Albion Flats in the District of Maple Ridge.

Council and staff have the decency to be tormented by the loss of green space; at least that is what they say. SmartCentres view the agricultural zoned casualties as a tactical and public relations utility.

The green-activists in Maple Ridge are a self-nominated militia that operates under the aegis of the Suzuki Foundation, among others, and the goodwill of British Columbia’s academic elite. The development community for its part answers to its own government – the Real Estate Board – and does not oblige itself with freelancing on its own or others' bidding.

It should be clear that to attempt the proportionality that has become so popular a cry against those who wish to protect our green zones and food-bearing lands run up against some eminently practical difficulties, not least the very idea of any rules – tactical, political or moral – being though to pertain to a green militia.

Even-handed, balanced, neutral, proportional-how do any of these words fit into the current conflict in the Fraser Valley and more particularly in Maple Ridge.

Proportionality, as the word is currently used in war and in urban planning, appears to me, anyway, to be a kind of code. The environmentalists are allowed from time to time to respond to those who threaten our green spaces and those spaces we have wrested from the natural environment for agriculture, but in no way may such a response result in putting a permanent end to the threat of development and actually end the debate permanently. The green lobby may only counter the development community according to rules that do not apply to the development community.

To accept this understanding of proportionality is to accept that the green faction is in a perpetual war of attrition, that is always obliged to contain what force it has so that it is always balanced, even to ideal equivalence, with the force so enjoyed by the developers and the institutions that attack it.

Rex Murphy says that he cannot think of any of any other state in the world that is asked and, and by the truly high-minded, expected to live in perpetual dynamic of attack and response-with the initiatives always understood to be with its enemies. When writing that statement I am sure that the furthest from his mind were issues of global warming and the fragility of planet earth, yet to this writer there is a an ever-increasing and evidence-ridden theory that human conflict, while unkind and even deadly to mankind, has more dire implications for this vessel we call earth.

Such is proportionality. It is a doctrine of cruelty and folly when it comes to the State of Israel. When it comes to the state our planet it is a doctrine of life and death.

Proportionality and the degree of force used to win an argument seem one and the same whether we are debating the loss of green space or the needless loss of the innocent in the heat of the argument itself.