Guest Opinion | A New Vision

— from Joe Symons —

Imagine a county whose population of residents and visitors chooses to honor its rural, wild, sustainable, refreshing, slow, nature-dominated, non-exploitive, respectful, in-perpetuity heritage.

Imagine stepping off the ferry into a sacred sanctuary.

Imagine that while everything looks the same, humans operate with a mindset of humility, acceptance, compassion, and respect.

Imagine that each person: property owner, visitor, resident, family member, supplier, takes off his/her “I’m the dominant species here” mindset and metaphorically, spiritually, and behaviorally embraces the perspective that “I’m a custodian/steward for a precious and threatened national/international park-sanctuary. I will endeavor to exercise zero-impact behavior in all aspects of my actions here. When I leave no one would know I had been here. I am not only a steward; I am a visitor in a sacred, special, delicate, and vulnerable land; I am here to restore myself and restore the integrity and beauty of this wild and precious group of islands.

“I am here to be part of, and not separate from, the community of peoples, animals, plants, rocks, shoreline, air, birds, orcas, and the gentle timeless spirit of this still-wild, still solid, still interwoven tapestry of life. It is a privilege to be here; I will honor that privilege. I am blessed to be able to share in this experience and I want those who join and follow me to feel and act with the same awe, reverence, and joy that I experience.

“I believe in the vision of these islands as “Forever Wild” and fully subscribe to the Guiding Principles and Goals. I know achieving this vision will take conversation, behavior change, and compromise, and I am honored to be able to be a player in achieving this transformation.”

Now imagine this verbal description condensed into a graphic image that captures the soul of its imagination and relates it to everyday concerns. That image exists. You can see it here.

Further, imagine that this package, a graphic and description, is more than a sugar-coated window dressing designed to promote a new brand for the San Juans intended to advance the tourism and construction industries. Rather this is a real package that was elevated to the central core of the Vision for San Juan County and embodied in the principles and development codes of the Comprehensive Plan now being updated. Imagine that those who live here, own property here, and visit here actually treasure these values and vision and will do what it takes to ensure that this county does not follow the standard “love it to death” process that has happened to essentially every other beautiful small (at one point “undiscovered”) rural community virtually anywhere in the world.

To make this happen, we have to move from talk to walk. The operant terms here are “we” and “walk”. This vision will not happen if the majority in a community waves flags as a few citizens walk in a parade. This vision will happen if, like Olga Daze, everyone is in the parade.

A few citizens have already started the parade. Exhibit A is the incredibly rich work done by those who, beginning in January, have participated in the new Vision and Pillars for Eastsound  under the auspices of the EPRC. Other citizens have separately started a Comp Plan parade which parallels the Orcas effort to embrace the entire county, since the Comprehensive Plan is county wide.

You can join the parade, today, now, as you complete reading this, by going to, where you can learn about past and future challenges, sign up, participate in various surveys and petitions, send pre-addressed (and if you choose, pre-written) letters to the County Council, and let your voice be heard.

I am confident that, for the vast majority of residents and visitors, you know in your heart that you love it here. I am confident that you do not want to see your emotional, physical, and financial investments degrade as visitor and resident population growth inevitably compromises—if not eviscerates—carrying capacity, sustainability, and Growth Management Act principles. I believe that it is likely, if the lessons revealed (but not learned) from many other communities are a guide, that your vision, hope,s and expectations are much more likely to be betrayed than fulfilled.

This is big stuff. Everyone is on overload. No one can predict the future. The local and global horizons do not look pretty. There are challenges everywhere. It is very easy to be distracted.
This is your home, your community, your opportunity to walk your heart’s talk; here, you really can make a difference.

The unraveling has begun. A stitch in time saves nine. The needle and thread are a click away.

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Guest Opinion | A New Vision — 3 Comments

  1. Joe,
    I understand your vision because I’m a deeply rational person. A deeply rational person is a very self-aware person. A very self-aware person is aware of not just his or her presence but of his or her surroundings and the presence of others including all the dots that connect life in the broadest sense. From this awareness comes an intelligence that springs from the ground quite literally. This intelligence doesn’t make irrational assumptions regarding overburdening our eco-system and human habitats via overpopulation or over-density planning. It accepts nature and what is revealed about it and us through observation and science without the filter of socio/politicial agendas.

    The above is what’s required to comprehend the implication of your very sound message. I call it “intelligent living.” It requires sacrifice, humility and compassion. For any of these three traits to reach an authentic level, an honest assessment devoid of the politics of power redistribution is required.

    We need to be honest and hold each other to account when what we espouse denigrates life, our eco-system, and the delicate balance between ourselves and our diverse biosphere. We cannot let politics corrupt science and the more objective assessment it provides us often to no avail. Over density and over population are human made problems often based on contrived irrational belief systems the world over. We must heed the call of common sense that is deeply tuned into our natural habitat and reconcile ourselves to this one and only objective reality. Almost by definition that makes most, if not all, political agendas suspect and ill advised; that is, assuming species survival and planetary health are relevant considerations.

    Thank you for expressing your vision. I’ll participate however I am able.

  2. Beautifully said, Joe Symons. These words are music to my ears and heart. Thank you. You said so eloquently and gracefully what needs to be said, again and again. Your vision is the only one that makes total “sense” to me; I’ll join the parade.