AWARE.: definitely not a WASTE


With Ken Melamed’s  upcoming speaker series on the history of habitat conservation in the Whistler Valley, we figured it was an opportune time to look into the history of AWARE (Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment) the local environmental advocacy group that Ken played a formative role in during the 1990s.

AWARE’s origins cold not be any more grassroots; in October 1988 Michelle Bush (still in Whistler today, best known as a  Village Host and as a stage actor/performing artist) was ankle deep in junk mail at the post office, and couldn’t believe that pristine BC forests were being cut down just to create this waste. Instead of shrugging it off, Michelle placed a classified ad inviting anyone and everyone who was similarly fed up.

Roughly 15 people showed up at Citta’s that autumn day to talk about the lack of recycling in Whistler, and to figure out a solution.  They realized pretty quickly that they were going to need a name for their fledgling group. Two witty acronyms were considered: “Whistler Association to Save The Environment” had a nice ring to it, but the acronym WASTE was too negative sounding, so they opted for AWARE.

Fitzsimmons Creek is one of several important habitat areas in the Whistler Valley, protected thanks to AWARE's environmental advocacy. Bob Brett photo.
Fitzsimmons Creek is one of several important habitat areas in the Whistler Valley, protected thanks to AWARE’s environmental advocacy. Bob Brett photo.

An Earth Day fundraiser was organized for that April (a band named Zumac headlined) and the money raised went towards a municipal waste management study. It took some effort convincing the more “old school” administrators at muni hall, but, with the help of now-retired municipal official Cliff Jennings (who was part of the original AWARE group but had to back out due to conflict of interest with his muni position), Whistler’s first municipal recycling system came on board through the early 1990s.

In 1990 Ken Melamed became AWARE’s president, and with the success of its recycling campaign, the organization’s focus shifted to habitat conservation. Coinciding with North American economic recovery starting in the late 1980s, this period saw another boom cycle of development in the valley. Vancouver-based Intrawest entered the Whistler scene, Upper Village was built, and development proposals were expanding throughout the valley.

And thus, AWARE took it upon themselves to act as stewards of our valley’s important wildlife habitat and sensitive ecosystems. It was these prominent environmental campaigns that helped lead Ken (and others) into an even more prominent role in local politics as a councillor and later mayor. But we’ll let Ken tell that part of the story.

Make sure to pick up tickets before this sells event out, it promises to be a compelling and informative presentation. We’ll check back in next Saturday with a recap of Ken’s talk, and we’ll continue this story with some of AWARE’s more recent work.

Mar 2013 SS Poster-small


When: Wednesday, March 20th; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm
Where: Whistler Museum
Who: 19+
Cost: $7 regular price, $5 for museum members

To purchase tickets (seating is limited), call the Whistler Museum at 604.932.2019, or visit us at 4333 Main Street, just behind the library.

There will be a cash bar featuring the Whistler Brewing Company and Jackson Triggs Wines, as well as complimentary coffee served courtesy of the Whistler Roasting Company and teas from Namasthé.

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