By Tom Read
As I mentioned in a previous post, “On becoming a localist,” it’s becoming clearer to many of us that economic, energy and environmental “issues” are converging into an ever-tightening squeeze on the whole world, including our idyllic island; now is the time for personal and community preparations. This post sets out a few basic assumptions about why Texadans, as individuals and as a community, should plan to adapt to a future that may look quite different from the present.
Here on Texada Island, we see unmistakable warnings of rising economic stress — another round of quarry layoffs, pricier cost-of-living, falling real estate prices, investment portfolio losses affecting many folks including those who thought they had “retired.” We’re uneasy about the unprecedented volatility in oil and gas prices, wondering when, not if, the cost of gasoline, diesel, heating oil, propane and even firewood will shoot up again. And the weather: extremes are becoming the new “normal” everywhere — including our recent local bout with excessive snow and cold, the likes of which Texadans hadn’t seen since 1964. My shorthand name for this multi-pronged predicament is “Triple-E,” for simultaneous Economic, Energy and Environmental challenges.
Islanders know about being prepared to meet our own needs in an emergency. For example, Texada’s official emergency preparedness plan merely states the obvious when it informs us that rural households should expect to be on their own for awhile when a regional emergency occurs. This “everybody for himself” emergency plan merely reflects the reality that our local government lacks the resources to provide relief during a widespread emergency. Meanwhile, the provincial and federal governments would surely have other priorities during a widespread emergency, such as helping major population centres grapple with meeting their basic needs. It’s the same with the Triple-E situation: we’re on our own.
Fortunately, the Triple-E predicament isn’t an immediate disaster like an earthquake, so there’s no panic about it — yet. Relatively few Texadans have lost their incomes so far, but based on conversations I’ve had with many friends and neighbours, there are growing concerns about the future economic and social well-being of our island community. Could such concerns translate into organized local preparations for coping with economic contraction, energy instability and climate change? Perhaps, but first we would have to overcome the inertia of business-as-usual and its stultifying twin, the mystical hope that global economic recovery will magically begin in a matter of months, or at the very latest sometime next year.
For now, the economic recovery delusion seems driven by a massive media spotlight on Canadian, US and other governments’ economic stimulus spending plans. What happens, I wonder, if the unlikely miracle of economic stimulus plans doesn’t work?
Not to overdo the gloom and doom thing, but it’s just common sense to realize that there really is no “solution” to global economic contraction, or unstable energy prices based ultimately on finite resources, or accelerating global climate change, let alone all three happening at the same time. We can only adapt to these changing situations.
Thus, it’s up to us as individual households, as informal networks of friends and neighbours, and as a small rural island community, to decide how we will best meet our own basic needs. It won’t happen because of some consultant-driven, top-down “regional sustainability plan,” or a change in the balance of power in Victoria, Ottawa or Washington, DC. Instead, we should have faith in ourselves, and start talking more openly about how we can help each other survive the unfolding Triple-E crisis.
In some ways we’ve already started to do this on Texada. Texadans are becoming more involved in gardening, animal husbandry, beekeeping and learning about our island’s history and ecology. There’s even more carpooling and mutual aid among extended families and neighbours. Without formal announcement or fanfare, quiet networks of islanders seem to be evolving in response to the worrisome news from beyond our shores. At the moment I don’t have charts and graphs of hard data to back up these statements, but I can think of many examples. For me, it all adds up to a gut feeling that we’ve got ourselves a healthy trend toward increasing local self-reliance.
In future posts I’ll take a closer look at how Texada is beginning to evolve toward greater sustainability, and imagine different scenarios that could hold real promise for successful local adaptation to the uncertain times ahead.