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.