I know I am lucky. I live in arguably one of the nicest places in the world. Certainly, it is one of the nicest in Canada. The town I call home is the small community of White Rock, a beach town located on the sheltered Boundary Bay (or Semiahmoo of the first nations people) on the Pacific Ocean. White Rock was named after the gigantic pure white boulder that resides on the beach just above the high tide line. Romantic first nation legends surround the presence of the rock – which is the only one like it in the region.
I was born not far from here, and I grew up in the area. But as it goes, it wasn’t until I was an adult and I had lived in a variety of other cities around North America, that I realized how nice it was at home. The town was quiet in those days, populated by middle-class people who wanted to be there because of the beach, the natural surroundings, and the arts community. There was a strong arts scene in White Rock – it was far enough from Vancouver that the artists could live there inexpensively and be inspired by the natural beauty surrounding them. Hippies, artists, crabbers and commercial fishermen, old-timers, and the occasional biker made up an interesting tapestry of the local community fabric. These characters lived together as neighbours in balance and mostly harmony. They didn’t always get along, but they managed.
In those days you could walk on the beach for an hour, only seeing one or two other people. Seals, whales, and salmon could often be seen in the water not far off shore. The wildlife is mostly still there, but unfortunately, White Rock was discovered. It was discovered by wealthy urbanites, looking to escape from their reality of crowded cities, associated noise, and poor air quality. Looking to escape the expensive real estate prices of cities, during an explosion of international travel and business, they came from around the world. They bought up the small, quaint beach houses, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. To them, the houses were cheap, so why not take a few? The inevitable happened. Demand outpaced supply and prices quickly went up. Soon, only the wealthy could afford to live in White Rock. Today, the little beach houses are long gone, replaced by modern glass and stainless steel. The VW vans and hippies have been replaced by expensive European SUVs and yuppies. The artists that gave the community its vibe have been forced out, replaced by chic galleries displaying artists from around the world. Small businesses now closed; the new residents have no ties and would prefer to shop at the luxury big box stores out by the freeway instead.
I’m lucky; I got to live here when it was still really cool. I’m lucky; I bought an old house 20 years ago. I’m lucky; I stand to profit when I sell. But somehow it just seems bittersweet. I could go on, but it’s not so happy now is it?
Thankfully, there are areas near me that are still like the White Rock of old. I just spent the last couple of days in one. It is called Blank Island, off the eastern coast of Vancouver Island near a city called Nanaimo. The island is truly isolated; there is a small passenger and car ferry that runs a few times per day making the 30-minute run with predictable unpredictability. Sometimes the weather might be too rough to cross, other times the ferry crew might be short-staffed. Either way, the last ferry is at 11:00 pm so if you don’t make that one, you don’t get home. This has led to a much slower pace of life there. The year-round population of Blank Island is around 4000 people, roughly doubling in the summer months. The artist community is respected and remains healthy. Housing is cheap compared to everywhere else in greater Vancouver and as a result, the artist community thrives. Per capita, there are more artists living on there than anywhere else in Canada – it is known as the island of the arts.
Some would say it’s behind the times, I’d say it’s pretty darned nice the way it is. But even on Blank, change is coming. Technology is making inroads but in a different way. The locals utilize the internet to access markets far beyond their physical reach, selling unique art, food products, and goods too many to mention. The cost of bringing power to an off-grid lot might be far greater than a solar array that can do the same job. There is waste to energy, biodiesel, water desalination, and a variety of interesting ways for people to live and thrive with a lower impact on the land. It appears to be close to a circular economy. The people of the Southern Gulf Islands of BC are finding a way to maintain their way of life by using the best of technology with a minimal impact on the planet. While there are too many people on the planet for us all to live on remote islands, this manner of thinking about how we live in the world is something more of us should consider.
Clean Energy Moves Ahead in Spain
For example, in the number 1 spot this week: Spain just brought online the largest solar plant in the world. The Núñez de Balboa facility is located in the middle of the Iberian peninsula in the Extremadura region of Spain, and near the border with Portugal. Run by Spanish power utility Iberdrola, the project consists of more than 1.4 million solar panels and is able to supply the energy needs of 250,000 people per year. The project was completed in December of 2019 and brought online last month. It shows that despite setbacks due to Covid19, the push for clean energy continues.
Clean Covid19 Recovery Please
Some of the top companies in the world have recently signed a document urging world governments to focus on a green recovery post Covid19. In Companies Worth $2 Trillion Are Calling for a Green Recovery, top companies such as H&M, Unilever, Adobe and others all understand that the focus on recovery must be green. The global economy only has a limited amount of recovery money available, and some people estimate that there is only enough for one major stimulus program of this scale. I cannot believe it actually needs to be said, but we must move forward with focus on stimulus and subsidies for the types of industries that will mitigate climate change, not the ones that are killing us. If we fuck this up, we may not have enough to make a meaningful change again when the stakes are really high. We have run out of time for idle talk, the actions we take and policy changes we make today can either help us in 10 years or make the climate action that much more difficult to overcome.
Heat Resistant Coral for the Great Barrier Reef
Australia has been burning to a degree that has been unheard of in history. In fact, bush fires started in July 2019 have just been extinguished as of early May 2020. Absolutely horrible to think of the scale of this destruction, but it is not the only thing to be taking some hits in Australia. The great barrier reef has slowly been dying for years without much fanfare at all. Bleaching they call it, but white coral is dead coral. The reef is the largest coral reef in the world and is a huge draw for tourism. According to a Deloitte report published by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2013, the Reef’s 2,000 kilometers of coastline attracts tourism worth $6.4 billion annually and employs more than 64,000 people. No small contribution to the local economy of which a large percentage is service sector oriented. The potential loss of the reef to their economy would be huge and devastating for those who rely on it for their livelihood not to mention the fish and other species that need it. In Australian scientists develop ‘heat-resistant’ coral to fight climate change-induced bleaching, the writer explains how scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation are finding ways to culture and plant heat resistant coral in order to maintain the health of the coral reef. This is good news not only for the economy of Australia but also for the myriad of species both above and below the surface of the water that rely on an intact coral ecosystem for survival.
The Owls are Watching TV
Huge owl hatches chicks outside man’s window — now the brood watches TV with him. A man in Belgium found he had feathered visitors recently. But they were not the pigeons he normally receives. No, they were something different. And bigger – much bigger. It turns out that a nest was being built on his window ledge and in it were three eggs. The eggs of a Eurasian eagle-owl eventually hatched, and the chicks took great interest in the goings on in his home. While the mother was far warier of the man, the chicks knew no different and began watching TV with him, interestedly enjoying the different programs. The owls will soon fledge and be on their way, and there is no word whether the mother will return to the nest again next year, but maybe she will. I am sure he is hopeful; I know I am.
The Circular Economy Explained
Human society consists of a variety of people. Some must create art, others must provide healing and care, others need to build great things. None are right and none are wrong. All are possible together if we have balance among them and the powerful lend a hand to the weak. For the past 70 or so years, it would appear we have been out of balance. The capitalist economy is touted as the only way, and anything else is not taken seriously. You take resources, make products, and when consumers tire of them or they outlive their usefulness, they throw them away. Repeat ad infinitum. This take-make-toss model operates as if resources are infinite, but we now know they are not. Maybe we did know all along, but the world was so huge compared to our population that the idea of running out of something was unimaginable. A circular economy is the opposite. Instead, it uses resources over and over. When something is worn out or beyond the point of being repaired, its basic materials are recycled into a new product. The resources are reused and are not wasted. What is the Circular Economy? Explains how we can accommodate human nature’s need to create and produce products where the resources are not lost at end of life and in so doing can contribute far more to humanity than the simple slash and burn type of goods production that is so common in recent history. We are running out of easy to obtain natural resources, the time is now to start looking at how we can shift to a more sustainable way of driving the human economy.
There are a lot of interesting ways in which smart, talented, and enlightened people are working to make the world better. The economic recovery post Covid19 will long and hard but it will be full of promise and opportunity as well. We are at a unique turning point in human history and I for one am very optimistic about the future.
Happy Eco News, June 22, 2020
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