I think our community knows its boundaries, we just don’t respect them. That puts us in the same boat as many other communities, and I believe we’ll find eventually that it’s not a good place to be.
Boundaries for communities are our limitations, the lines that are drawn that we must not step over or we pay the consequences.
The nations of the world are just now recognizing that there are boundaries for the entire planet that we are in danger of crossing, concerning the atmosphere, global warming, the acidification of the oceans, the pollution and misuse of fresh water, the corruption of lands and forests, and extreme losses in biodiversity.
There is a scrambling now to come up with solutions and a crazy opposition to the science that says there are problems, and a frightening denial that any danger exists at all.
I don’t know if the world’s industrial nations and rising nations can ever get together to work it out. They don’t seem to be doing so well, so far.
On the smaller community level, the Vernon level, our boundaries involve land use and encroachment, water availability, waste disposal, and air quality, and probably a few more. Our municipal government shows some effort toward controlling these areas, but mostly control seems to be not much more than keeping the headlong rush to boundary trespass in some kind of order, taking each challenge as it comes.
I don’t mean to belittle city government effort; the city does quite well considering the pressures from business and industry, and various groups and individuals with their own agendas, mainly making money, growing, and getting and providing jobs for happy families. Because councils are elected they are careful about stepping on toes with too many controls, especially controls that call for changes that mean people have to adjust to different ways. We have had a few examples locally of how difficult it is for some people to accept change.
Growth, as I see it, is the major problem. The more people come here, the more houses have to be built, the more business and industry have to grow to accommodate them, and the chain of necessary expansion continues and becomes problematical. Our hospital is feeling the pressure as we are all aware. Schools are pressured. Housing creeps up the hillsides and snakes into the districts requiring umbilical provision of water and sewage.
We have a marvellous land disposal spray irrigation system here to take care of sewage effluent, but it is not limitless: there will come a time when sewage effluent goes into a lake.
Landfill has worked for us in disposing of solids, but it isn’t infinite. What then?
As the population grows, residents have to have water and our sources, while excellent and monitored, are limited. Face it, some time in the future we are just not going to have water for everybody without severe rationing even in wet years.
Think of what might happen here with three years of severe drought, which could occur given climate change and the fact that we are already technically a semi-arid region. Our demands on water are big, and the monster houses we seem to favor now demand even more.
I am not recommending we shut the doors to newcomers and tell our kids they will have to go elsewhere, but I am saying that we have to start paying more attention to our boundaries and somehow start setting standards that consider our limitations.
If we don’t, the downgrading, perhaps even ruining, of our environment, our personal living spaces, will be inevitable to some degree. We may not go thirsty or see raw sewage anywhere, but what will happen will influence the lives of residents in ways they are not influenced now. And they won’t like it.
Official plans exist, and watchdog committees. I am aware of that. To them, however, I believe we must add putting severe stops on those population demands that are taking us beyond reasonable boundaries.
I don’t have the answers, but I believe the base of solutions will be economic. In future those who want to come here to live, and those who want to stay here should expect to pay well for the privilege, and Vernon should be strong enough to figure out how, and do more than just accommodate.
Political will is something that will have to be there. Is there a chance of that?
John J. Clarke, Vernon