Or “How Peak Oil, the Financial Crisis and Climate Change will affect our quality of life”…

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle GraffitiNot 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.

Food Security

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.

Health Care

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?

Published by 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.

15 replies on “Short Term Sustainability in the Kootenays”

  1. I think you’re spending predictions are pretty spot-on.

    As for food security, after seeing the cost of milk go up by 50 cents in the last 4 months, I am even more pessimistic about being able to eat properly in the next few months, let alone years. I went to buy oatmeal yesterday and it was up 50 cents too. My modest food budget is in peril – and I don’t have land to grow much stuff on and neither does my family.

    And don’t get me started about health care. I could rant on and on about it and the sad services at the local hospital, but I do have to say that ER wait times are shorter (or at least have been in my case) and as a consumer of mental health services, I’d much rather be living here than in an urban area or Ontario (where I lived when I previously needed mental health services – and it wasn’t pretty).

    Wandering Coyotes last blog post..Photo Meme

  2. I’d much rather be living here than Ontario too 🙂

    I realized after posting that I haven’t provided any solutions to the problems, something I always try to do, but I think this post might, as a set of predictions, be enough for the moment. Are there solutions that can be rationally discussed at this point – while we live in relative security and comfort? Food is a scary one, photos from the great depression are pretty chilling. Food Bank Stats from New York are already grim…
    Economic crisis same old for city’s poor

    The precrisis figures are so astonishing that one has to wonder if the mayor and the Council are even aware of them.

    According to the Food Bank, “as of 2007, more than one out of every five children [397,000] in New York City relies on soup kitchens and food pantries, up 48% from 269,000 in 2004.”

  3. I thiink Andrew English from the UK Telegraph expresses the change ahead quite elegantly, if in a particularly british manner….

    What halcyon days the turn of the millennium now seem. When atmosphere was something you paid extra for in the saloon bar. Nowadays you are lucky to find a local boozer. They’ve all going out of business as skint and depressed Britons head home to hide under the duvet with a four-pack of alcopops.

  4. I’ve have just arrived home in Ontario after a weeks drive through the Kootenay’s. I’m considering moving to Kimberley and am looking for opinions about housing costs and what some might expect them to do. My guess at present is that prices are at a high.Any ideas welcome..

  5. Thanks for ending up on UrbanWorkbench in your quest for information.
    First question – would you be looking for employment in Kimberly? It’s been a while since I stopped in Kimberly, we used to ski there often while living in Calgary. Now we are in Castlegar, Red Mountain in Rossland is the hill of choice.

    Prices:There are houses that have sat un-sold for months in this area. Back in April 2008 I heard a statistic that in the Columbia Valley from Canal Flats (North of Kimberly) to Radium there were over 600 properties for sale. I can’t see that having improved, and this is typically a good time to sell in this part of the world. Ask a realtor or two what they see as the market drivers and forecasts for the region. The base economic model of most of these communities relies on lumber, pulp, mining or tourism. All of which are currently suffering a decline due to the US economy among other reasons.

    If you really want to live in the Kootenays, move here, regardless of the cost, it’s a great place to be. Just be aware that the global (or at least continental) outlook will still have impacts in the Kootenays.

  6. I have a job with the CPR. I would be working out of Cranbrook and living in Kimberley. For me at this point, it’s all about timing given the flux in housing prices nationally. When prices hit bottom in Kimberley you’ll find me there!! It’s simply beautiful!

  7. Sustainable Healthcare in Castlegar – October 14th, 2010 – The Ultra Sound Debate
    (Question – To what extent will access to Healthcare affect the sustainable future of this area.?)
    October 14th, 2010

    Re: Removal of Ultra Sound Machine from the Castlegar Health Centre.

    Brenda Rebman, VP People and Clinical Services. IHA
    Norman Embree, Chair of IHA Board
    Allan Sinclair, VP of Acute Services
    Linda Basran, Community Area Director, IH East,

    Alex Atamanenko, MP
    Katrina Conroy, MLA
    Lawrence Chernoff, Mayor, Castlegar
    Debbie McIntosh, City Councillor, Castlegar

    c.c. Sally Williams, Chair, Castlegar & District Health Watch

    Please record my concern regarding the proposed removal of Ultra Sound capacity from the Castlegar Health Centre.

    I am citizen of Castlegar, currently struggling with Squamous Cell Carcinoma — a potentially life threatening cancer.

    Part of the reason that I am still alive today, is early detection, close to home … in Castlegar.

    Any actions that lower the level of medical service for my family, friends and neighbours in Castlegar, constitute a very serious concern for me.

    One of the major obstacles that I have faced over the last 17 months has been the cost of accessing the necessary healthcare diagnosis, treatment and care not available in my hometown of Castlegar.

    The removal of any healthcare service from Castlegar, represents a further erosion of our Citizens, Taxpayers and Voters access to appropriate healthcare, ‘where and when we need it’. *

    Please respond to me directly, indicating what you are doing to actively lobby for, & maintain healthcare services, including effective access to Ultra Sound for the residents of Castlegar & District.

    Thank you.

    Raymond Koehler

    619 – 9th Avenue,

    Castlegar, BC V1N 1M5


    * BC Liberal Party Policy – 2001

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