Tag Archives: Kelowna

Sustainability and A Planet Out of Whack

We are talking more and more about sustainability, as an end to our oil resources is something almost calculable by now. As our living space will decrease with population growth and demands on usable water will increase. As our landfills overflow and seep toxic gunk into the groundwater.  As our land turns to dustbowls or swamps and arable land becomes scarce, as millions of cars belch fumes into the sky.

Right now fires are sweeping across BC, again, threatening people living in cities. In Westbank/Kelowna 11,000 people have been evacuated with another 6,000 on alert. This echoes the terrible, devastatingly traumatic fires that swept through parts of Australia earlier this year. Fires so intense and vicious that they caught people as they tried to get into their cars, that burned land to a cinder killing all living things, whether plant or animal, that stood upon the land. Australia faces the collapse of its wine industry, vines grown for years either burned to a crisp or without water to keep the crops going. Their cattle industry is also in danger. A whole country and continent without enough water.

This is not a new thing. Disasters and climatic devastation have happened throughout history but the ferocity and frequency are increasing as the planet warms and suffers under the onslaught of chemicals and fumes not meant to play with nature. The change in the planet probably began with the industrial revolution, once machines were chugging blue smoke into the sky and sluicing runoff into the streams. It began with the first car. And if we think about it, that was only about a hundred years ago. A tenth of a millennium and civilization has existed for at least twenty thousand years.

Think about it. We are exponentially increasing the danger to the planet and to ourselves, and sticking our heads in the sand won’t make it go away. So just what is sustainability? Let’s look at defining it first, from Merriam Webster: 1: capable of being sustained 2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society> 

So that a resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Wow. Perhaps it’s easier to look at what is not sustainable than what is. What’s left over is what we have to work with. Let’s start with the biggest resource. Our planet. It is of a finite circumference with finite water and land. The world population is at 6.7 billion. It is expected to increase to 9 billion in 2040. That’s within a lot of our lifetimes. There will be less land to live on and the more building that happens takes away from land to grow upon. Water is already an issue in many places. What will it be like in thirty years?

This means no matter how much you love children, think they’re cute, want to be surrounded by bundles of joy or your religion has said, go forth and multiply, it is just not sustainable. Everyone can take personal responsibility and for every couple have one child. That will bring our population down. It will make the planet breathe a sigh of relief and continue a bit longer. Plagues, diseases and flus won’t spread like wildfire. And yes, businesses will have to restructure from the grow grow grow buy more mentality. But we’ll survive.

What is not sustainable is manufacturing more and cheaper cars, SUVs, Hummers and every gas guzzling monster. For sustainability they should be outlawed. And we see right now the glacial progress of moving to electric cars. Governments need to move faster on this and provide incentives to get people to change. More cars plug city thoroughfares and raise costs in maintenance, accident prevention and care. Fewer cars and bigger carpool systems will lessen the strain and road rage. Electric cars, bicycles, viable and cheap public transit will help alleviate both pollution and the sucking of the world’s limited oil and metal resources. Another unsustainable depleting resource.

Manufacturing that uses water needs to be looked at, if our water is becoming limited. Healthy, interactive systems of filtration need to be used to keep our water pure and reusable. We could end up like the people in the novel Dune, having to wear suits that recycle and sweat and urine into drinkable fluids over and over because the planet is desert. Water saving devices for taps, toilets and showers must be used. Education will help stem the tide there.

Building homes and offices, making paper all work on depleting trees. The forestry industry has been made responsible for replanting for quite a few years. But you can chop down more trees in a day than will grow in  a year. it takes years to get a big tree, centuries. Ripping out too many tress not only affects flora and fauna of an ecosystem but also affects the topsoil, the nutrients and the infrastructure of the land for both stability and water.

I could go on but every person as well as every company and government must take responsibility and look at what they use and how it’s reused or discarded. Everything from food to clothing. If we don’t start now, we should have started fifty years ago. And if you truly love children, start now and look at what you can do for sustainability because there could be no tomorrow.

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Penticton and Wayward Travels

I drove up with friends yesterday (this was July 1 but there have been internet issues) to Penticton. This is an extended Canada Day that will go until the weekend. The drive started out fine and one car took the Hope-Princeton route and they other, my car, the Coquihalla route. It’s been about four years since I was last out this way, I think, so how much could it change?

I have never wanted to drive through the Interior during the winter, especially on the Coquihalla Highway, which is a top of the world sort of place and has high snow. In fact, they insist you have chains and/or snow tires. The road seemed a little rougher than it had been in the past, but then it’s probably graded or plowed in the winter, which can scrape and damage pavement. As well, the temperatures go from freezing to hot, which will give it wear. But it makes me wonder where all those tolls went over the years–perhaps not to highway maintenance.

We passed a semi, upside down in the ditch, obviously there for a day or so but waiting to be removed. We also passed a guy with his car in the center ditch, facing sideways to the road, with the tow truck there to remove it. The Coquihalla may look deceptively smooth, with gentle curves but this says it can be treacherous still when absolutely bone dry (and when speeding too much).

One of Gordon Campbell’s election ploys was to remove the tolls suddenly (without even telling the workers–that went over well) so no tolls anymore. I was still expecting the toll booths. And because there weren’t any and I was talking with my friend, we missed the connector turnoff and ended up in Kamloops going, what? When did this build up so much? And then, “I thought we went through Merritt.”

So, we ended up taking the long route through Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. One thing I noticed all through the Coquihalla and Kamloops was the number of dead pine trees. The Coquihalla is so high up that the trees are sparsely spaced. But in spots 50% were brown. I think this must be the mountain pine beetle, unless it had been some sort of selective fire, but the trees did not look like they had been burned. Shocking to see so many dead trees.

Penticton really hasn’t changed in some ways and yet has changed in others. I dropped my friend at the campground within the city limits, South Beach. How many cities can boast of a campground in the city limits? And as I drive into the campground, almost knowing where it is, I recognize it. My mother used to drag me and my younger brother to the Okanagan to pick fruit and collect rocks.

Okay, so it wasn’t quite all that but we were teenagers and wanted to hang out on the beach. So I recognized the campground, and the canal in the campground (but not the lovely lily pads, nor the trailer park, very nice trailer park, on the opposite bank), and the registration office, and the bathrooms. Yes, we used to stay at that campground, and I remember it quite well. I’m not sure how many years I went there, as a kid, but there are weeping willows, running water and electricity, which makes it a pretty good campground.

Today, we also went boating on Skaha Lake, the beach right outside South Beach campgrounds. My friends zipped about with an inner tube off the back of the boat so you can bounce along in the wake. Good fun and unfortunately I’m glowing a bit. When we returned the boat I noticed a swallow flying about,  a barn swallow I think. It came in under the roof of the boat rental place and duck into a nest made of mud and feathers and spit. And there were five little swallow babies with their wide mouths gaping. They only squawked when the parent appeared (there was a mom and dad) but were awfully cute and tiny.

And on the canal in the campground, there were ducks and ducklings, every age from the wee ones to the teenagers, making me wonder about the gestation and breeding periods of ducks (Mallards).  I also saw minnows, something larger (trout?, catfish?), red winged blackbirds, but I missed the beavers that my friends saw in the canal. It’s been relaxing so far and I’m feeling it’s too short. But at least I know where I’m going. Tomorrow, Peachland.

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The Ark: Spiders and Snails and Slug Trails

It’s raining here in Vancouver and some people might think that’s normal West Coast weather but we usually get a summer and intermittent periods of sun throughout the year. However this year, we had a particularly wet and cold spring, with the first ten days of June being the coldest on record. July was hot and dry and glorious.

And now…it’s raining like there will be no tomorrow. Time to build an ark. I mean, it’s torrential downpours lightening to heavy rain. Okay, so we are in a rainforest but still, there should be a good long summer. Back in 1998 I think we had a summer of no rain and no sun. It stayed cloudy and hazy the whole time. Plants barely grew and many yellowed and died in the ground because there just wasn’t enough heat or sun.

But back to that West Coast ark. The animals that would first board it, or slither onto it would be snails and banana slugs. There are the ubiquitous snails that crawl over our plants and the sides of houses. If one hankered for escargot (a fancy word for garlic flavored, butter dipped rubber), you could just pluck them from gardens. And slugs, when I first moved to Vancouver my friends in Calgary didn’t believe me when I said there were slugs up to a foot long. After all, the biggest a slug gets in Calgary is about two inches, if it’s massive. (They’re a different breed too.) But these natives to the coast are slimily large and have a high ooze factor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_slug 

The first banana slugs I ever saw were when we visited cousins in Kelowna. We were talking on the sidewalk as the sun started its descent and I kept looking back to the side of the stucco house. There were two large black things on it and I swore they had changed position. I finally pointed them out and my mother said, oh they’re giant slugs. She was joking but in fact they were and remain the longest I’ve ever seen, being each a foot long. Eyewww.

Then I spent a year upgrading hiking trails along the Baden Powell trail in North and West Van. That’s when I saw the rainbow of slimy critters. Sometimes they looked like glossy piles of pooh…until they moved. They were white, yellow, black and brown, sometimes with spots and averaged between 6-8 inches. I used to “accidentally” drop rocks on them. I was young and they disgusted me but I now realize they play an important part in decomposition and recycling of organic wastes into new soil. But they are so so slimy. Settle has had slug races in the past and you can buy life size magnets.

Slugs remind me of my younger brother’s wicked experiments when we were kids. He’d gather up a bunch of garden slugs and put them on the sidewalk in the hot sun. Then he’d surround them with a ring of salt. Death by salt or by sun. Usually they would try to swim the channel of white salt. They got their payback the day he was puttering in the garden. He went to take off his garden gloves and pulled them off with his teeth…getting a mouthful of slug. Hmmmm.

I also wrote a kids poem, a cautionary one about a slug that likes beer too much. You can leave a pot of it in your garden and they’ll just slide on in and drown drunk. Of course you’re left with the gooey stew to get rid of then.

I can’t forget that on this West Coast ark, besides snails and banana slugs, there would be wolf spiders. I once had arachnophobia (somehow cured by working those hiking trails) but wolf spiders still creep me out. They’re the size of small mice, have long eyestalks (okay it’s probably their mandibles but they look like eyestalks), are hairy and move fast, way too fast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_spider I usually find one in the tub, it having gone for a drink and getting trapped by the porcelain sides (It’s not true that they come up from drains, and I have a hair catcher on mine, though I wouldn’t put it past the buggers to push that hatch over.)

The other night I caught a bit on the Discovery channel of a computer re-enacted piece on prehistoric times. When the oxygen was super rich and the planet super warm, there were dragonflies the size of eagles and spiders the size of your head. Yeee. Keeping that in mind, wolf spiders don’t seem so bad but they still give me the heebie jeebies.

I’m hoping we’ll get sun again because there has been so much rain that all of these denizens are creeping and slithering about. If I had to board an ark with them, they’d get their own hermetically sealed section.

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