Community, key to success.

January 21, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

Why doesn’t the government do something about it?  What nonsense!  Government has a role to play, i.e. Legislating policy. Approving action. Providing grants, etc. but implementation requires co-operative effort by all elements of society.  A valuable lesson learned years ago, ‘If its going to be its up to me’, getting things done depends on local initiative.  If there is anything to be learned from the present pandemic, its DYI (Do it yourself), a commonly heard comment, i.e. grass-roots responsibility rather than expecting government/ corporations to implement.

An article in the ‘Insite’ section of the Toronto Star, December 12th, ‘Meet the net zero neighbours’ provided a good illustration of folk taking such a concept seriously.  A small group of neighbours in downtown Toronto determined to help the city to achieve its goal of net zero production of carbon greenhouse gases. A committee was formed, ‘The Harbord Village Residents Association, which pledged to convert their home heating/cooling energy from fossil fuels to renewable energy including rethinking changes in their transportation systems. They also agreed to work with other community groups having similar goals.

Driving though communities is rural Ontario provided a sense of promise for even greater change. A few homes had added solar panels for local production of energy. West of Shelburne many had opted for windmills to supply electricity. There were indications that society was beginning to think self-reliance to offset long range transmission of energy. One could almost feel optimistic that folk were starting to take control of their own affairs. Unfortunately, recent government action discourages development of such local initiatives.

The use of bicycles in Canadian urban communities has been a source of controversy but in many European cities pedestrians and cyclists abound.  Individuals chose to use personal energy instead of CO2 producing transportation. Many used public electrical rail transport. Holland completely operates rail transport by electricity. Increased energy stations are largely based on solar and wind. Countries such as Germany rely heavily on solar farms. Numerous miles of windmills were observed off shore in Denmark. The use of renewable energy at the community level is becoming common practice world-wide and is central to thinking at the grass roots level.

Folk in North America will have to buy electric cars in the future as industry is changing production policy eliminating supply of fossil fuel burning cars within the next ten or fifteen years. Decision to restrict production of oil or natural gas is being made by the market as the cost of renewables decline while development cost of fossil fuels increases. Many truck companies have already converted to electricity power.  Some short-term flights now are based on electrically powered aircraft while considerable research is in the works for the use of hydrogen power for long distant flights in the future. Travel costs based on burning fossil fuels are proving to be more costly than the use of alternative fuels. Industry as well as grass roots society is making the change that ‘big oil’ is refusing to make.

Society has much to learn from Aboriginal philosophy. Aki Energy, a small non-profit Aboriginal company in Manitoba is working on conversion of tribal homes from fossil fuels to geothermal energy, (Getting to Zero, Tony Clarke, 2018).  At time of publication the small community organization had modified 150 homes of members and contracted for conversion of another 850. Houses across Canada with electrical heating and cooling are very fortunate and writing on the wall suggests that eventually construction codes will be changed to similar policy for new houses in the future.

Aboriginal communities generally relate more closely to natural elements of the planet. A visit to a community forest in northern Wisconsin illustrated that community use of forest land can provide the economic base for municipal life while retaining forest cover ensuring quality of life for members of the tribe. Profit from selective cutting and management of forests on their 10 townships provided roads, schooling, hospitals, etc. for the community while a photograph of the community showed an ecologically sound forested area in an otherwise marginal agricultural setting.

Indigenous wisdom illustrated the value of grass root community control where corporate and top down government decision-making failed to ‘get the job done’.

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