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Posted: April 29, 2018

A Carbon Fable

By Peter Christensen

Not long ago when I worked for the Province of BC/Ministry of Environment I attended yet another series of meetings in Victoria to talk about managing new protected areas.

It was winter and the meetings were held on the upper floor of a building overlooking the harbour. We were on the eleventh or twelfth floor. It was a windless day and as the morning progressed the room darkened, a layer of dark smudge and smog was thickening just below us at about the tenth floor level. By noon the roads below were obscured. There was no wind that day to “desmog” Victoria’s dirty secret. Like so many other large cities Victoria was an oil consuming, congested monster.

I was distracted during the meeting and was glancing at an article in the Victoria paper that reported that 80% of Canada’s fruits and vegetables were imported and that the average meal travels 1,200 km before it gets on the table. Amazingly just as I finished reading we were served a wonderful lunch: fresh avocados from Spain, succulent oranges from Florida, just ripe tomatoes from Mexico and even a nice glass of almond milk from Colorado made available as I had requested a non-dairy item.

Later that evening, at taxpayer expense, we dined on Alberta beef and fresh corn from Mexico, then grabbed a cab and went to a couple of bars for imported beers and Newfoundland chips. Next morning we drove to the airport and joined the other 8.7 million people who fly every day, (that is 3.1 billion per year roughly 43% of the world population and 2.5 million per day in the United States), and jetted back to Terrace in time to commute 20 miles to our office and put in a half day on the computer. Just kind of an average day for a lower management poorly paid bureaucrat!

On the news that evening was another pipeline protest, 10,000 people had gathered to say ‘just leave that oil in the ground.’ That was when it occurred to me that maybe what this crowd really wanted was for someone else to do something about their consumer habits, as they seemingly could not?

I don’t know where that thought came from but then I had one of those eureka moments: what if all those people quit driving, eating imported food and drink, didn’t take vacations to Hawaii, stayed home and just read books from the library? Pretty soon the demand for oil products to transport themselves and their daily food products would disappear.

As there would no longer be such a demand for oil, the smog over Victoria would no longer form and, there would be no need for new pipelines or wells. If people just stayed home and ate the produce they had grown then no more environmental problems. The solution was so simple; everybody should just stay home! Why had I not seen this?

But then I got thinking that I sure did enjoy the winter break and those fresh fruits and vegetables were mighty tasty and those imported beers are really good and where would I get my lactose free almond milk? Just a minute, just minute… there is a flaw in my reasoning: I don’t have to give up any of these things, just the people in Victoria do.

Peter Christensen is among many things an accomplished writer, poet and songwriter who calls Radium Hot Springs home much of the time

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