British Columbia’s Fraser Basin Council just released its Sustainability Snapshot 2 (large pdf). The resulting report is a frustrating piece of work. It’s rich with information but fails to tell a clear story that makes sense of it all.

So, here-in two points-is my distillation.

1. There’s plenty of progress to be proud of!

  • Air quality in the Fraser River Basin is not too bad, and it’s mostly getting better.
  • The basin—actually, the province overall—is 50 percent self-sufficient in food from just 5 percent of its land area.
  • Between 1990 and 2002, the basin achieved a 24 percent reduction in per capita disposal of solid waste, largely thanks to rising recycling rates.
  • Per-capita energy use also declined slightly, and per-capita domestic water use dipped by 4 percent between 1991 and 1999.
  • Health, measured by lifespans, is improving throughout the basin, and is remarkably good in Vancouver.

2. But there are at least two glaring flaws in this made-in-Canada miracle: two facts that make the province look like a laggard not a leader, from a global and long-term view.

  • The pace of emissions of climate-changing greenhouse is far too high. Plus, it’s rising.
  • The basin’s endowment of species and ecosystems is in peril. One fifth of vertebrate species in the Fraser Basin are known to be endangered or threatened. Another share is probably at risk unbeknownst to us. And the number of species at risk appears to be rising.

To me, the prescription implicit in the Fraser Basin Council’s description is this: make climate protection and biodiversity conservation the basin’s highest priorities.