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Looking Backward and Looking to the Future

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Today is an exciting day for Americans, a new President, almost a new outlook on life. The inauguration yesterday inspired me to do some thinking about the past and the future on a personal level.

I’ve been blogging for over 5 years now on various topics, and UrbanWorkbench, as so many things, started as a side project. At the time, I was busy with a young family (I still am), working hard as a consulting engineer, and in the process of deciding where and when to move to in Canada from Australia. Back then I never imagined that I would be living in a rural town in the middle of beautiful mountains with big rivers and spectacular lakes all around. I didn’t imagine that I would be passionate about gardening – all our gardens in Australia had been moderately successful, but we never lived on enough land to actually see it as any more than a novelty.

I was passionate about the engineering solutions to our problems, building better houses, better subdivisions with higher density and greener infrastructure, I also saw that many of the problems on the horizon were coming home to roost in the near future. I never predicted peak oil or anything so grand, but I did take seriously the challenges of water and energy consumption and our willfull neglect of the limitations of supplying both in ever increasing quantities to a passive population. When we bought this house with its huge garden, we didn’t really understand the level of effort it would require, but on the flip side, now we are working the soil we couldn’t be happier with the opportunity to learn about food and teach our children too.

Where are we going? This is a 40,000 foot level question that nags at me when I am reading or having a break from work. Where are we going?

As a nation and society it’s not looking good. As a community, Castlegar needs some serious peak-oil prioritization projects like servicing the airport lands and putting nighttime ariport beacons are a waste of time. We don’t need more big boix stores or mulit national corporations to set up shop, rather we need to start developing transitional ideas to help this community survive an energy descent that could start occuring in the next couple of years.

As a family, we are building skills and equipment to grow a larger portion of our food requirements. We live in a suburban neighbourhood of a City of 7,500 people in a valley system that is quite isolated from the rest of Canada. The isolation means that the communities cannot rely heavily onoutside support in a long emergency and will have to learn how to look after their own. Our family is ready to be part of that type of community, and there is a growing understanding from many like-minded folks in the region that this is a soft-path way forward that doesn’t have to be catastrophic.

Personally, the future is daunting, I’m not particularly scared or excited by it. I’m concerned that the younger generation will not step up to the plate and take some responsibility. As James Howard Kunstler said about our southern neighbors in the States, “we’ve become a nation of cry babies”.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

One thought on “Looking Backward and Looking to the Future

  1. I think peak oil is something we can all be very scared of and is an issue that needs serious consideration. The threat is very real and many people believe oil has already peaked. There is a good book on this subject called crossing the rubicon that you might enjoy.

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