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cone-of-silence

The Kootenay Cone of Silence

Aside from what you read on the internet, life in the Kootenays just keeps on rollin’ on. Who would know that a whole ecosystem was being destroyed in what could be described as a technogenic catastrophe down in Louisiana right now, a nasty byproduct of the lifestyle we’ve pursued as a society. The various bailouts, negotiations and promises being talked about across Europe, first regarding Greece, but likely others soon enough, have literally barely permeated the surface of discussion in this part of the world.

Municipalities across the US are all but bankrupt while they attempt to continue providing services to populations who are likely to start demanding more of everything. The rate of foreclosures doesn’t seem to be slowing, and in any case, these numbers are likely manufactured by banks who really don’t want to deal with the reality of massively depreciated assets clogging up their books.

Despite the persistent belief locally that Canada, British Columbia and particularly the Kootenays is somehow immune from the effects of any of these events – the truth is far more sobering – we are not that far removed from the civil uprisings in Greece, or the massive job cuts seen across the US in recent months. All our efforts of recycling, reducing emissions and changing out light bulbs might amount to one of the most futile efforts ever undertaken, the final realization of a society in overreach mode. It is like we are living within a cone of silence – willful ignorance.

But there are some glimmers of hope.

Recently, the group “Transition Nelson” held a gathering and expo to “celebrate the many efforts already underway to strengthen our local economy and build a resilient community”.  These efforts acknowledge that the current patterns of settlement, the economic base, food production and consumer attitudes are all dependent on cheap abundant fossil fuels and a Ponziconomy.

Food has been an issue across many of the communities in the Kootenays since the now infamous Future of Foods Conference, which was the catalyst for many of the amazing projects that are actively addressing the many concerns. Even in Rossland, an alpine community, a group of dedicated volunteers has established possibly the highest community garden in British Columbia.

The City of Castlegar has garnered input from many of the thought leaders in the community on issues of sustainability in preparation for a revision to the Official Community Plan. The City has a great opportunity in using this information to guide decision making on future projects, lets hope they use it.

These efforts show a willingness for community and cooperation, this is an essential component of any local resiliency, open transparent dialog and decision making for the future that respects that the future is likely to be quite different from the past or even the present.

But…

We’re not ahead of the curve. These projects are all currently at a small scale and there are big issues looming on the horizon. The changes required to actually become resilient are massive. As communities face rising gas prices, shrinking fuel availability, market fluctuations, potential food shortages, climate change and anything else that pops up from this crazy world to bite us; our ability to thrive and prosper will be tested. Make no mistake about it – “business as usual” policies will fail communities miserably, the increasing reliance on a saviour state is already showing cracks even here in Canada, where apparently it is different up here (aside from the huge debt ratio, of course 🙂 ).

On a Final Note – I have been seriously absent from my regular writing, some of this is work related, I’m in the middle of a tender process, but also, I’ve been feeling pretty discouraged about what is happening out there and how little impact it is having in Canada, and especially locally. Sometimes when I read this stuff, I feel encouraged to write about it and share the importance of putting it all into perspective, but I have been overwhelmed by the incongruity of headlines sharing the same space that appear to be from two different realities.

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.

3 thoughts on “The Kootenay Cone of Silence

  1. Hey Mike,

    I appreciate your insight and wisdom … and I hear your frustration.

    I’m not smart enough to be able to articulate a global soluntion to it all right now, but here are some of my favourite quotes addressing the dilema.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that
    matter.” —Martin Luther King Jr.–

    “All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the
    dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it
    wasvanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they
    dreamtheir dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.”
    –T.E. Lawrence (AKA Lawrence of Arabia)

    “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest
    of my Life there.” — Charles Kettering

    “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” — Bertrand Russell

    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed.
    Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being
    self-evident.” — Arthur Schopenhauer, — German philosopher
    (February 22, 1788 – September 21, 1860)

    “A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.” – Proverb

    “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
    — Apple Computer Inc.

    Hang in there, Bro!

    Raymond Koehler

    619 -9th Avenue,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 1M5

    250.304.2157

  2. Regarding ‘The Kootenay Cone of Silence’ … and Public Messaging:

    For a week now, while the world has been grappling with significant and challenging issues, Castlegar’s on-line ‘newspaper’ has been leading its coverage of the ‘news’ — broadcasting across the globe — with… ‘Castlegar Residents gearing up for dancin’ in the streets’ …

    Are we surpised that locally in “Happily Ever After …” Land … there may be a public ‘blind spot’ around the broader issues of Planning & Sustainability.

    The same concern can be directed at the ‘messaging’ from City Hall.

    Sure … let’s have some ‘good news’ stories … but what is actually required for the future, is a growth of public awareness of the challenges and the SOLUTIONS.

    Let’s see more of THOSE good news stories, rather than the emphsis on ‘feel good’ fluff.

    Does anyone remember a story about an ant & a grasshopper preparing for winter?

    … or a person who played the violin … (… nothing here against ‘culture’… ) … while the city burned…

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

    250.304.2157

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