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Peak Oil Vignette 5 – Hope and Reality

Walking from the large brick building that used to house the airport terminal operations, but now was given new life as a fruit farming centre, Janie scanned the snow line on the mountains surrounding the valley.  The flat land around what was once known as the West Kootenay Regional Airport was once a living farm. In fact, it was only a generation before, that this land was used for pasture and orchards. The hardy pioneers who tamed this valley were known as the Doukhobors, and their heritage in the Castlegar valley held a mythical quality for the likes of Janie, a scrawny fourteen year old girl with strong tanned arms from working the land on her daddy’s community farm. The heritage of these Russian immigrants somehow survived the arrival of the automobile and the airplane, and was rekindled in less than a generation from when these vehicles stopped their noisy incessant travels, at least that’s how her daddy described it, she smiled.

But for Janie, she only remembers the time after that time, when the hopeful believers in technology insisted that the runways be maintained -she could imagine the arguments in the Council Chambers, where her daddy now sat as Mayor, there was violence at the meeting that decided it. She guessed that these people were hanging onto a hope of sameness. Unfortunately, they just didn’t understand or accept that the rest of the world could no longer keep sacrificing itself to maintain North America;s standard of living. But when troubles in far away lands began impacting the supply of technology, the inter-related parts of the economy and supply chain crumbled, particularly in the remote parts of British Columbia.

So, for many years the runway was preserved, cracks were filled, weeds were burnt down, even the tower was manned long after the last planes left or rotted on the edges of the tarmac. Hope.

Janie knew these actions, they were from the same place deep down inside every human who plants a seed and believes that the effort of cultivating, watering, weeding and finally harvesting will produce fruit. It is hope for a harvest, it is hope for good to overcome adversity. At fourteen, she had already seen this hope shrivel in some of the old timers. It was the young folks like her dad who stood together, shoulder to the wheel to re-building the critical infrastructure while many of the older folk sat around waiting for a handout, or as they put it, “a solution” from the government. Her daddy had a quotable quote for everything – “Some people give up, others put up, but the winners git back up”.

Janie put the wheelbarrow of tools down, drawing up to the orchard that now filled the defunct runway. Sandbags and shallow ditches had been strategically placed to divert rainwater to the well mulched fruit trees, each occupying a hole carved out of the runway in a grid laid out along the fading runway painted lines. Janie’s job during the months of March and April was to prune the community orchard in preparation for the growing season to come. Although only fourteen, the skills she had inherited from her mother through her Doukhobor bloodlines made her one of the most qualified orchard operators in the valley, being responsible for managing the tree nursery during the summer months. She smiled at the stories her daddy told her of how children used to go to school, sometimes until they were in their twenties or thirties to learn esoteric arts with little benefit to the communities they came from, often returning to live with their parents, not because that was how society was meant to function, but because society, despite encouraging this level of study found little use for the results of such an educational. These were the days when food was trucked from Mexico and California, when you could go to the supermarket and buy anything for a fraction of its true value. Just like most of the products that lined the shelves, communities treated their youth as disposable, the strength found in young bodies that could have been useful in building communities, wasted in telelmarketing factories selling even more disposable crapola to overfed North Americans.

As Janie studied the closest tree, analyzing the new growth and pruning lines from last Spring, she considered the importance of this project and these trees. Less than a generation old, planted in the middle of a monument to a previous generation, planted as an object of hope, of community, of permanence, planted to ensure the resilience of the community, planted in the spirit of the Doukhobor pioneers, planted against the will of many of the old timers stuck in a dreamland, these trees and the fruit they will produce this season were a symbol of hope and reality for the future.

Peak Oil Vignettes are fictional snapshots of a future life without cheap plentiful oil.

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.

6 thoughts on “Peak Oil Vignette 5 – Hope and Reality

  1. OUCH!!!!

    Hey Mike! — why not cut loose and REALLY share your perspective with the Planners, Developers and Politicians!

    Power piece for the ‘Sustainability’ agenda.

    Well done!

    Raymond Koehler
    619 – 9th Avenue,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 1M5

    250.304.2157

  2. Mike, writing a story that makes a statement about the future of a small town airport and local food. Genius!

  3. —This sort of fits into the period just before the change—

    Crows in the garden
    by M Lucky Gold

    Welcome to our new square life.
    Boxed since I came back to
    our things on the walk,
    almost lovingly set there,
    and you, my littlest one, my last,
    shoulders curled, voice cracked,
    sniffing in the rain, a
    bunny in a sleeping bag.

    These two women next to me,
    I forget their names—
    Beanpole and Cougher—
    dip to the rubber table,
    nick it the way it’s been
    nicked since ’78, when
    they opened the place,
    or maybe ’06, when they
    renovated. I just arrived. Now,

    it’s 90 degrees,
    turn, lower, repeat.
    Raise the cutter 4,000 times;
    2,000 favour the left shoulder,
    2,000 favour the right.

    Appetite.

    Turn. Lower. Repeat.
    I want you to thrive, my last,
    my miracle. Be warm, glisten,
    even on paper noodles.
    But hide low, like water—go
    everywhere to grow old.

    I dream circles.
    Money arcs past, the need of it.
    Hoe tips and prayer flags the only
    corners cutting through earth and air.
    More precious than fame, new one,
    than porn, hip hop, movie stars:
    trees hang wormy calories
    in leftover lots, their limbs
    still frame logic of pruning.

    Even this table will dissolve in time.
    Crows in the garden, our biggest problem.

  4. Dear Friends,
    When I received this message this morning, I couldn’t help recalling Mike’s ‘Peak Oil Vignette 5 – Hope & Reality’ and his vision fo the Kootenay Boundary (Castlegar) Regional Airport.

    Raymond Koehler
    619 – 9th Avenue,
    Castlagar, BC V1N 1M5
    250.304.2157

    —– Original Message —–
    From: (a West Coast Activist Friend)
    Sent: Friday, April 23, 2010 8:41 AM
    Subject: Empty Skies Proved that Airports Cause Pollution, say Researchers

    What cruel irony it would be if we could only save ourselves (civilization) by giving up this plum of techno-ego-econo indulgence of flight through the air.

    Published on Thursday, April 22, 2010 by The Independent/UK
    Empty Skies Proved that Airports Cause Pollution, say Researchers
    by Michael McCarthy

    Scientists have used the no-flying period caused by the ash cloud to show for the first time that airports are themselves significant causes of pollution. Although long suspected, the fact that mass take-offs and landings are large pollution sources could never be proved before, because aircraft pollution could not be measured as separate from the pollution caused by vehicles operating near by.

    An analysis of the first three days of the unprecedented closure of UK airspace, at Heathrow and Gatwick, shows that there is a definite air pollution caused by air traffic in the vicinity of airport hubs. (Photo: Reuters)But an analysis of the first three days of the unprecedented closure of UK airspace, at Heathrow and Gatwick, shows that there is a definite air pollution caused by air traffic in the vicinity of airport hubs.

    Pollution near both airports dropped significantly during the first three days of the shutdown. During last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, levels of two major pollutants, NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and NOx (the generic term for oxides of nitrogen, taken together) fell virtually to zero.

    Such nitrogen pollutants can exacerbate breathing difficulties in older people and those suffering from cardiac conditions, and can react with sunlight to form an even more damaging pollutant, ozone, which causes the sort of “urban smogs” seen in Los Angeles. NOx and NO2 are particularly associated with jet aircraft, as they are produced by the high-temperature mix of aviation with fuel.

    The new analysis has been produced by Ben Barratt and Gary Fuller of the Environmental Research Group at King’s College, London. The group said yesterday: “This period of unprecedented closure during unexceptional weather conditions has allowed us to demonstrate that the airports have a clear measurable effect on NO2 concentrations, and that this effect disappeared entirely during the period of closure, leading to a temporary but significant fall in pollutant concentrations adjacent to the airport perimeters.”

    “We have always been fairly confident that there was this ‘airport effect’ but we have never been able to show it,” Dr Barratt commented. “The closure gave us the opportunity to look at it, and there is a very strong indication that it is the case.”

    The researchers are also going to study the pollution effects of the fall in airport motor traffic during the shutdown. Ed Dearnley, of Environmental Protection UK, which specialises in air quality campaigning, said yesterday: “This has been an excellent opportunity to find out exactly what the environmental impact of airports really is.”

    © 2010 The Independent

    Link: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/04/22-1

    Comments:

    “Maybe it is time for people to give up flying and return to riding trains and buses for land travels and return to ships for sea travels. May all of your volcanic ash clouds be Icelandic.”

    “…as I said on another thread, a pity another volcano doesn’t erupt and keep these polluting aircraft from the skies.”

  5. Life would surely be cleaner without air travel, I remember passing Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney and seeing the greasy haze of av-gas fumes settling down onto Botany bay as 747’s thundered into the sky, just a couple of hundred meters from fishermen on the shoreline or in boats.

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