Peak Oil Vignette 3 – River Traders

untitled by moominean on FlickrHe walked through the hazy morning sunshine, the dew seeping into the toes of his well-worn shoes. Some of the others were already lined up waiting for the shutters to open and the auction to begin. Most of them were here last night trying to get a glimpse of the goods as they were transferred from the paddlewheeler to the warehouse. Now, huddled outside the small shopfront, each clutching a purse or a bundle of paper notes – Castlegar Cash, the local currency that was introduced to retain some sense of normalcy as the value of the United North America Dollar plummeted five years ago. Up on the horizon, the residential and office towers built during the community stimulus period seem to crouch against the hillside, boarded up and empty, without electricity or heat, these wasteful attempt at government grandiosity brought bankruptcy rather than the promised economic growth.

That much maligned suggestion – “Stimulus” – rarely mentioned in these days of scarcity, he stifles a laugh at the thought of what was supposed to be, but never happened.

With a screech of metal-on-metal the rusty roll-a-doors rose, displaying an overweight man in a grubby white tee-shirt wiping his hands on sides of his pants as he chewed down the last of his breakfast. Jimmy Malone had once been a highways contractor, plowing and repairing the miles of blacktop that stretched from town to town in this remote part of the province. When funding dried up, he set up shop on the riverfront, amassing a junkyard of collectibles mined from the abandoned dwellings and businesses in the region. Whether by foresight or luck, his business was situated with optimum access to the river, which now formed the major artery for longer distance transportation of goods along the Kootenay and Columbia River network, extending up and down across what was once a well protected international border.

The thought of anyone spending millions of dollars these days seemed ludicrous. Reality had finally overtaken the dream and responsible fiscal behaviours now revolved around making do with what we had, recycling, salvaging and patching things up to make them last another year. Once again, the river was the highway for the Kootenays, portage routes wound their way up the valleys beside the remaining dams or rapids on the river systems, these short sections of pathway were often in better condition than the roadways that were built to an exacting standard all those years ago.

Money and goods moved slower these days, life on the river was tangible, it felt real, sometimes dangerous – but it was a life well lived.

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

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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