Or “How Peak Oil, the Financial Crisis and Climate Change will affect our quality of life”…
Not much has been said locally regarding the implications of the US financial situation that has extended itself into Canada over the past week, or how this will interact with the other scenarios that are playing out around us, Peak Oil and Climate Change. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and this is one scenario that I can imagine – it’s not the only one, but I want to challenge your perception of security.
Before we begin – what do I mean by short term? Anything from 3 to 15 years. I know this is broad, but some of the factors have so little solid research that it is impossible to pin them down.
I wasn’t really intending to write a predictions sort of post, but it seems that too many converging issues are upon us, or close ahead, so here goes, its more of a what if, how would this play out discussion…
Please feel free to leave comments!
The provincial and federal governments have committed to providing improved “last mile” services for communications such as broadband internet, cell phones and wireless internet throughout rural areas. This will partially offset many of the effects from increased costs of transportation as companies and organizations invest in telecommuting and teleconferencing technologies that can utilize an improved service. Areas like the Kootenays will see massive uptake of any improvements in broadband over the next few years. The big isue is whether there will be the means to ensure this service remains viable at the current expectations.
Throughout the Kootenays, economic activity will slow down due to a much reduced tourism market from the US and across Western Canada. Likewise, local spending will be reduced as fears of mill closures and labor cuts as demand for local products declines. With an expected increase in fuel costs, spending on discretionary items from outside of the local area will reduce. Purchases of locally crafted goods are likely to increase, particularly those that are of a high quality and represent good value for money with minimal transportation costs. Developments that have been proposed in the past year will likely be put on hold indefinitely. It is obvious that things are going to slow down, and the housing market will stabilize, (if not retreat a little or a lot). In Castlegar for instance, this will be precipitated by the sale of many homes by Grandview Heights Co-op members who are looking to move into the newly constructed bungalows up on the hill in their new strata co-op subdivision. Foreclosures are likely to increase in the next couple of years as well, just like everywhere else.
Travel throughout the Kootenays by vehicles will remain stronger than many larger centres due to the distributed rural nature of the services. Travel by aircraft into airports like Trail, Castlegar and Cranbrook will slowly reduce as the cost of travel increases. It is likely that airlines like Air Canada will reduce services and intervention by higher levels of government may be required to ensure a base service is maintained. Road maintenance in winter time will remain a high priority for a number of years until the service can no longer be justified due to the cost of fuel and the reduced number of regular users. Local railways will be considered for use as passenger routes, but in the short term, investment will be lacking due to the persistence of the automobile and the initiative will be shelved until absolutely necessary.
It’s been a year since the first food security in the Kootenays Conference, the first time for many peope to hear of the unsustainable nature of our food supply, with as much as 95% of all food consumed brought in from more than 100 miles, and in some cases, thousands of miles. Local food production will increase with cities such as Creston and Castlegar refinding land value in agriculture, particularly in urban areas where tranportation is reduced for workers and for product delivery. Urban areas will likely permit animals such as chickens and possibly miniature (or full size) goats and cows to suppliment local food supplies. Many lawns will be converted to vegetable gardens as people attempt to offset the increased cost of purchasing food. The art of preserving food will become standard as people come to value the secuity of having food available all year round.
The Kootenays is blessed with an abundance of hydro power projects built over the past 60 years. Currently much of this power is exported from the region, but in the near future, this energy will be the source of major conflicts, as the highest bidder will benefit from the power rather than those who are close to the source.
With an aging population, the Kootenays faces similar challenges to many places in Canada, except due to its relative remoteness, hospital and longer term care will be in critical short supply. For many parts of the Kootenays, the easiest road routes in the winter are directly south into the States rather than east or west to Vancouver or Calgary. Will this be an option for health care?
Despite the headlines, it is unlikely that we will see a significant shift in climate in the Kootenays in the next five years. The range of variance from year to year is predictably greater than the moderate upward trend that is the result of global warming. However, with a greater awareness of the issues relating to climate change, people will be much more likely to conserve water and be prepared for more severe weather patterns.
The short term future for the Kootenays should be viewed with restrained optimism – when compared to many other areas of Canada which are likely to fare much worse. I am optimistic that the ingenuity in the community will be transferred to necessary endeavors such as food production techniques. All signs point to a changed quality of life, one that is focused less on reliance on cheap oil, and rather on local connections.
I’ve just touched on a few points, open up the comments, I’d love to hear what you think on these and other issues that you think might be pressing. Am I way off? Have I said anything that makes you angry? have I scared you? Let me know?