Turning problems into opportunities

Now that winter is over in Northwestern Ontario, this can be fun to think about what does Thunder Bay have in common with Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia), Sapporo (Japan), and Lulea (Sweden)?
All are “winter cities,” and there are a lot more! The international Association of Winter Cities is doing its best to turn the cold, white season into an asset.
You’d be surprised at how well one can turn problems into opportunities. Or would you? I heard on CBC radio that Red Lake is attracting physicians with an ad that publicizes its isolation and the noble hardships of being overworked!
I understand it was a tongue-in-cheek ad but it also told the truth. And it got results!
The ninth biennial conference of Mayors of Northern Cities was held near Lulea, Sweden in February. Its theme was Sustainable Development of Winter Cities, and it drew well over 1,000 visitors for a week.
Lulea is carving its niche as a centre of metallurgical science-technology; mountain climbing and wilderness camping; mining history; and Lapp culture.
Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia is making a name as the sunniest, coldest winter capital of the world. It is unique in having 70 percent of its population under age 35, and 40 percent under age 16.
At the same time, it has a history of almost 400 years, and is a tourist attraction of historical sites, and Buddhist shrines and temples.
Sapporo, Japan is getting ready to host the Winter Cities 2002 Conference. This city’s specialty is Disaster Prevention. They started contingency planning after the great earthquake of 1995, and have continued research ever since.
Scientists set up different scenarios. “Preparing for the worst” includes securing heat and energy supplies through a quake-resistant facilities and back-up systems; arranging emergency transportation routes that take heavy snowfall into account; preparing winter shelters; and training volunteers for rescue work at sub-zero temperatures.
All three cities are creating their unique socio-economic base in a global world.
Let’s be glad we only have winter to contend with, and lack the additional challenges of natural disaster proneness or extreme youth population. Let’s also turn our perceived problems into opportunities.
The Winter Cities Forum ’99 in Prince George, B.C. provided examples. Workshops addressed winter tourism, winter festivals, and “lightscaping” (as at the Old Fort William), living in harmony with winter, climate sensitive design principles, northern specialty food production, northern architecture, and more.
Snow blankets and transforms some of the waste we don’t manage. It purifies the environment. It culls. Winter controls pests through death by freezing, and promotes plant hardiness of important crops.
Isn’t it great to sing winter’s praises when it is over?! But for a better future of our region, this also is a good time to think about shifting our perceptions and actions about winter from liability to asset.

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