Desperation is a stinky cologne (and this is a scent-free zone)

Community, employment, new economy, powell river

Enter Salesman (image: rabideye)

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”
-William S. Burroughs

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert Heinlein 

This week in Powell River featured a well-though-out and accessible talk by marine biologist, Mark Biagi on the proposed plan to bring trash incinerators to Powell River on Catalyst Paper Mill lands. Biagi went into the nitty gritty of how these so-called ‘state-of-the-art’ plants turn much of what is compost-able and recyclable “trash” into toxic waste that has been shown to cause cancers and birth defects. The 100 or so people in attendance listened quietly to the speaker in awe that the City would even entertain such ideas. (check out the No Incinerator for Powell River Facebook Group). But it was also shown through the question period that while the Regional District controls solid waste (and they- according to director Colin Palmer – had no inkling of a deal between the City and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.Urbaser  until the local news story (see the Powell River Peak article). The issue, as brought by City councillor Maggie Hathaway, is that while the Regional District has jurisdiction over what we do with our own solid waste, the City and Catalyst can grease the wheels (and maybe profit from) a business on mill lands that will incinerate trash from other communities. Great. So, in theory we can reach our Regional District’s goal of zero-waste and still have an incinerator in the middle of our city spewing the toxic filth of other people’s garbage into our faces. Section 21** (see below) was put in place in 1955 when the City consolidated . It basically (and outrageously) gives the Mill free rein on doing whatever they need to do to make the business viable. Burning other people’s trash might just be “sustainable” indeed — sustaining their coffers, or at least delaying bankruptcy. Councillors Maggie Hathaway along with Myrna Leishman stated that while Powell River City Council has tried to address the repeal of this bylaw before (it was rejected, but no one there remembered if a reason was given), she would look into this. According to Biagi, there is a lot of money to be gained by the multinational corporation that has a history of lawsuits and ‘settlements’ under its belt. Billions, in fact. They won’t give up so easily without a fight.

Which brings us to the title of this post [“Desperation is a stinky cologne (and this is a scent-free zone)] and how a pattern is forming that spells ‘open for (always outside) business’: corporations reach out to the City to sell them on a brand new idea that will bring back the heyday of  unheard-of wealth for labourers at the mill (Powell River had the highest per capita income in Canada until the 1960’s). Yrainucep’s antics , the attempt by the City and this company to remove lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve ALR to build an airport and gated community, the  Liquid Natural Gas transportation by water idea, the Enbridge proposed Northern Gateway plan to transport tar sands oil across our land, and now even a new wave of coal mining close to home.

Governments like to say that they are open to everyone, and after all ‘corporations are people too’, but this disregards the influence that these incredibly powerful multinationals have to affect policy, all toward short-term corporate gains where the next quarter-year is as far as they can see. We need to see further. When people ask ‘where are the good ideas?!’, meaning that all we have before us are these destructive ones, we need to remember that the people who bring us these obviously bad ideas to local, provincial and federal governments are very well paid to do so, and constantly. We have many great ideas here via our organizations including Transition Town, and even in our own blasted Sustainability Charter. But these won’t bring the $80,000/year wages, and they don’t have a lobby and start-up cash or access to huge loans like large corporations have; it seems overly obvious to say so, but the cards are stacked against local ingenuity and real sustainable practices. The great ideas are not publicized and many are not supported by locals because there is a mistrust in our own ability to pull these ideas off. We need micro-loans where local people invest in local projects of all kinds, especially local cooperative projects. We need to become locally resilient to the changes that are upon us already. It’s just not going to stop until we project the air of confidence it takes to keep these corporate vampires away.

 Meanwhile, our governments are all throwing lots of money, time and other resources into industry-led projects that tend to either pollute, deplete our natural resources (and fast), or both. Usually, it’s both. This smacks of desperation and the sharks are circling, always. We see it in the news every day. Of course, it’s not just a Powell River issue. We have been trained to a very high standard of living that is so incredibly and truly unsustainable (in the real sense of the word) that our addictions (to gas, sugar, etc.), sense of ownership and entitlement blind us to the point where we can’t think ahead 2 years, let alone the Iroquois concept of seven generations. We continue to pillage and plunder our resources at the expense of our children (and even our own!) health and future welfare. As someone said at the incineration information session, we need high paying jobs. But what is less talked about is what kind of jobs are ‘high-paying’: jobs that involve raping the earth, polluting our species and others, killing and controlling other people, making and selling each other garbage food/clothes/cars/computers  and … garbage itself (as well as the incineration thereof), cheating people out of their savings, gambling, extortion, lobbying governments and tweaking laws to make them fit into corporate profit plans.

It’s time to look at ourselves and decide what we can do without, and not only what we can do with the waste and destruction we leave behind by living and wanting to continue to live this way. If we want real change, we need to support each other on a micro level.

*The first part of title from this post is a quote from the  film Starship Troopers (based on the Robert Heinlein  novel)

caution: rough (but funny) language:

** 3.13 Millsite Industrial & Millsite Boundary (see page 48 in this document:

Historic industrial development in Powell River is dominated by the Catalyst Paper mill,  now modernized and one  of the largest in the Province.  This industrial complex was first established in 1912, when the first paper machines turned out newsprint (see Part 1.6). In 1955, when the City of Powell River was incorporated, the owners of the Townsite and mill needed  to protect their interests from any new potentially “unfriendly” or calamitous land use regulations. Section 21 of the Powell River Incorporation  Act recognized the mill’s important role and exempted the Mill from any and all regulatory bylaws restricting operations of pulp, paper or other mill-related uses within the “Millsite”.  This unique exemption applies to all lands and waters shown within the red outline on Map 1. Catalyst Paper has designated those parcels not required for mill operations as nonstrategic or surplus including a tract of waterfront known as “the old golf course”. This land was a part of the Millsite industrial area but is now in a state of transition.  The community, particularly the residents of the Townsite, have long used this area for walking and other recreational purposes. Catalyst Paper has requested to transfer Section 21 designation from the surplus lands to Block 55.The Millsite Industrial designation as shown on Map 1 applies to lands currently subject to Section 21 of the Powell River Incorporation Act.  The Millsite Boundary outlines the 1956 effective area of the Millsite including park lands now owned by the City.


Millsite Industrial Objectives & Policy

(a) Given little direct City jurisdiction over the operation of the mill or Millsite, the objectives for the Millsite Industrial are limited to ensuring the ongoing viability and vitality of the mill operations as an essential element of the region’s economy.

(b) The  City will work with  Catalyst Paper and senior levels of government to facilitate the successful ongoing operation of the mill.

(c) The City supports the transfer of Section 21 provision to Block 55 subject to  Catalyst Paper meeting all Provincial and Federal applicable regulations, particularly as relates to the environment.

Return to Never-ever-ever-ever-land

Community, powell river

I’ve been interested in design issues for many years now; grappling with information to make it intelligible and seamless. Distilling and clarifying ideas without meandering and misleading by wallowing in details, requires a lot of skill and forethought.

There is a massive amount of information and opinion out in wikigooglefaceland, but even more disinformation and opinion-masking-as-fact. It’s a truism that the barrage of available statistical information has led to a watering down of informed opinion. Even the ‘massive trove’ of malfeasance unleashed by Wikileaks has left most people cold and shrugging at the mountain of data, while we become increasingly comfortable with convicting whistle-blowers.  There must have been a sweet spot somewhere along the way where we achieved the perfect mix of facts and the ability to make sense of them. But we’re past that, apparently.

This whole  Powell River library situation for me mimics what is going on everywhere: short-term, fear-based myopic thinking and knee-jerk reactions, coupled with a disregard for lessons learned in the past (here and elsewhere), parade as discourse. Excellent design gets left in the dust.  Good ideas are (potentially) gutted. Smallness of spirit rules the day.

Information Design by Clare Mervyn (click to see larger)

Solutions to design problems are repeatedly forgotten or disregarded. We think we know better, somehow. Witness the new disigner teapot that spills tea over the top, or dribbles– this after 500 years of teapots designed not to; there are endless bad design choices out there (check out this, erm… rather unattractive site that leads to many good examples of bad design).

The point is: things that seem obvious, often aren’t. Good design takes research, thought, creativity, imagination, skill and testing in real-life situations, over a period of time, by many different types of people, plus resources (time, money, materials).

To consider are:

  • our physical limitations and our own unique ‘design’ as humans
  • environmental concerns (both in terms of ‘being green’ and in terms of design products’ interaction with the natural elements or context in which the design product will be used)
  • the ability of people to learn how to deal with new design products
  • a view to the future life of a that design product in the real world, whether it be applied to a city, street, building, piece of software or teapot.

Some design products are so new that they need to be learned from scratch (think of computer technology in the 1980’s when even GUI was all-new, clunky and weird), the goal here is to make something that does not ‘come naturally’ into something that does seem intuitive, and as quickly as possible. Fast learners adapt and develop a sort of pattern recognition where similar design traits are learned and recognized as repeating across design products of all kinds, making future learning faster and less painful. This takes some time, imagination and resilience.

To imagine a library at the old arena site means to intellectually inhabit the space, to ‘see’ the people moving around in the space, to visualize them getting off the bus, biking up to lock their bike under the overhanging eaves, parking a car and walking to the door, using a wheelchair or walker along the Willingdon Beach trail or along the soon-to-be-extended seawalk to Willingdon Ave. past the Westview Ferry Terminal to pop in to the library with the kids, maybe to check out a new DVD or see some art, borrow a book or test drive some new magazines the library newly has room to display; to meet a friend and grab a coffee nearby, do some research on the web at the library, or use their wireless connection outside it while on a lunch break away from your work site nearby.

As the  informative and well-designed leaflets above suggest, our current old library does not respond to many of the community’s needs.

The new library design as presented months ago works (at least in theory, but that’s all we have now) because it pays attention to, and responds to what common sense, building codes, a long history and experience in library design (with a keen eye on future uses of libraries), and public input have indicated. But what if it’s raining? What if it’s windy or sunny? What if there is an earthquake?

Good design takes predictable conditions and occurrences into account;  informed design and planning mean visualizing the big picture and not getting lost in the details, because if the plan is strong, the details will fill themselves in, organically. Good design works for people; it is not meant to just look nice, but to also to have a utilitarian and social function. What we have at the old arena site is an empty gravel parking lot that isn’t even usable as one. Bad design is a shame, forever.

Keeping things as they are means living with dysfunction, and while (sadly) I’m starting to wonder if as a community we have the will, strength and tools to forge a culturally rich and economically diversified future for Powell River, I feel the new library — carefully designed in the carefully-selected location — will be a bigger part of this shift than some can imagine now.

Drive to Work Week



This was an April Fool’s prank meant as a fun way to poke at the absurdity of life in our moment. It’s an obvious nod to Bike to Work Week (coming up May 28-June 3rd, 2012), where even if people participate, it still means (in theory) that they are driving the other 51 weeks of the year. Few noticed the posters and most were taken down almost immediately. So much for that.

Of course I support Bike to Work Week; it was a good idea, but ‘it should have been a start, and ended up being an end’. I am noticing much more traffic on the roads and really bad,  ‘bike lanes’ that make for dangerous biking on our few major roads here in Powell River. Yet, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation: more bikers on the roads we pay for means more demand for better paths.

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Free Willie

new economy, powell river

Welcome to Hostage Beach

Ok, so I made the decision to stop and chat with one of the “Save Willingdon Beach” folks beached there on the endless vigil to save that patch you see above (a.k.a The Old Arena Site). I do think that this amorphous group needs to be heard. Their petition of “we want a referendum” deserves an answer to the question of “why?” There’s a lot of effort and time that they are putting into this; who knows how many dogs are left unwalked, pleasure boats left unattended, houses left uncleaned and books left unread as a sacrifice to this cause. It’s heart-breaking.

Anyhow, so I asked a few questions, and while the responses are not to be seen as representative of the whole (apparently) leaderless group, and mine as not representative of any group either. I did get some more information that I figured I’d jot down as more notes to myself regarding this whole thing, because I really think it digs into the heart of this place.

The brief chat revealed some aspects of the debate that I had an inkling of at one point, but that has to do with the vision that long-time (“born and bred”) residents with strong ties to the paper mill have: a sense of their own personal and individual ownership of this spot of land they supposedly treasure, but nevertheless somehow left to moulder for the ages.

That “new” people like me are envisioning something there that is different from the trees or whatnot the de vieille souche* supposedly envisioned there, is irksome and hurtful to them. The fear of condo development is very strong here, and the fact that the library design does not include condos and would actually prevent condos from being built on the site if it is re-zoned, was met with “this is just Phase 1: they want to build a museum, a cultural centre, and maybe even City Hall here”. Unlikely, as the footprint barely accommodates a small library, once all the set-backs and zoning regulations are followed.

So, the $75,000-$100,000 and time/effort spent on the process of deciding on an appropriate location, paying people to design it, the many public consultations, etc. is money, time and effort that they are willing to forfeit; “we should have been given a referendum”.

Now, we must all pay for that bit of naughtiness, both with money and the continued pitiful lack of a proper library. You can just imagine the likelihood of going through a referendum process to have the people decide where a building should now go, how much to spend on  it, finance another round of research and site-specific design of a library at a more “central location behind the recreation complex”(that is accessible to … cars, has no social or economic benefits for locally-owned shops and is removed from view: our little shame).

It will never happen.

And that’s apparently just fine by them. ‘So be it. Who needs a library anyway? There’s the internet!’

There was a satisfied air about the whole thing; that this is the biggest petition in the history of Powell River, that “95% of the merchants on Marine are against development” of the sandy pit, and that the City ‘deserves’ to lose the money spent on the process, like it’s the money of a few people at the much-hated City Hall and not everyone’s money at a time when there is barely enough to go around. “We want to save this space for everyone” was the last straw, as I pointed to the empty gravel area and suggested that libraries are for everyone. “But not everyone uses libraries!”. Well, infinitely fewer people use that gravel patch, and for that matter, not everyone uses Willingdon Beach or the many lovely, welcoming green spaces around it. Is it public only if everyone uses it?

I was half-expecting my nose to be dragged through that kitty litter box being guarded. The emotion here is wrath. While it was  acknowledged that the City never had (and certainly doesn’t now have) the money or intention to replant that long-destroyed area that is unfit for plantlife, there has been no outcry over the use of this spot for actual parkland, until now. It’s “a pox on both your houses” time for the Save Willingdon Beach fans, and in my view, it’s still misleading and toxic.


*Literally “old stumps”, a word I carry here from my Quebec roots where second-class citizen status was bestowed by le Parti Quebecois upon anyone not of old French stock, but the concept is used world-wide, of course.

The “Petition”


I just want to reclarify that when I wrote the blog post “The Library” on Feb. 18, 2012, the petition I reprinted was sent to me (as I said) and I was not sure this was the only one circulating (as I said). It turns out that the petition that has since been the “official petition” of the group since formed calling itself “Save Willingdon Beach” is not the same as the one I had responded to. It was February 17th and what came to be the “official petition” was really not yet being circulated, I don’t think.

I’m very sorry that this has resulted in people hassling businesses (or individuals) over items in that petition that were not written by them. The petition that is being circulated apparently only reads (and I am taking this from their facebook page

“We, the undersigned, DO NOT want the new library on the Willingdon Beach Site. Willingdon Beach Site referring to South Willingdon (Old Arena Site). We would also like a referendum on the new library decision.”

That said, I have personally heard many of the reasons listed in the letter I reproduced, but these do not appear on the said petition that has been circulating. When does a letter in the form of a petition transform itself into a petition, I don’t know. All I know is that they need to stop harrassing people over this red herring concocted as a smoke-screen for their reasons that I think are really weak. Many people have many different reasons for supporting or opposing the library, and we are all legally able to voice our opinions. There is no “official opinion”.

(un)Willingdon Beach

Community, powell river

The poster.

(Update related to this post here:

It’s been about a month since I wrote my last post in something  like 20 minutes. Between this and the image I created (in 10 minutes; see at left), I can safely say that I  never had as much response to anything I’ve even done. Weird, and kind of sad.

It’s a community-defining moment for sure; questioning values, visions for the future of this place and ideas of democracy. No, it’s not really about the location of a library. Scratch the surface a tiny bit and repeatedly, we start to see elements of what I hope is not coming: that ‘every man for himself’ attitude that increasingly seems to rear its head when we’re asked as a community to share in imagining, paying for and supporting something that feeds into The Commons.

But, really, the lack of imagination in all this is the most alarming. Many could obviously not even allow themselves to imagine a library that would be accessible, leave enough land to walk the dog, provide shelter and seating and common meeting spaces inside and outside, the maintaining of a graffiti wall, access to public transportation, ample parking and an unobstructed view. These people question the value of a library, not just the location of one. Yes, studies so show that they make  financial sense. But more importantly, they provide information and a gathering place in a democratic way, to the masses. Without libraries, there would be no proper democracy, as the one-dollar-one-vote would be the default in a society where money=knowledge; where only if you can personally afford to buy the newspapers/pay for monthly internet charges/ buy expensive books, magazines or films, will you know what is going on around you. Democracy relies on an informed population. I mention ‘Democracy’ here not only because I believe in it, and that a lack of true democracy is what is bringing about our socio-economic collapse (see The Occupy Movement as a reaction to this voicelessness of the 99%), but also because the anti-library folks repeatedly demand that we should vote for the location of a library, and then another vote on whether to spend money on this, and maybe a third on how much. Maybe there should be a referendum on the shape of the doorknobs as well… Meanwhile their own Facebook page (“Save Willingdon Beach“, apparently with over 3,900 signatures to prevent the library from being built there, and thus from being built at all) disallows comments from those who are not part of the group. So much for free speech.

My point here is that an informed population is required to make things work if not for everyone, then for most, and for the greater good. The information is out there all over the place on the value of accessible information, for those who choose to view it: and a visit to their library would be a great start.

I feel that a functional and living library will enable our transition from a resource-based town to something more sustainable and more secure. It won’t save us by itself, but it will provide the space, knowledge and resources to enable us to save ourselves. The torrent of comments pro and con, to the Facebook event page dedicated to pursuing the dream of a library at the so-called ‘Willingdon Beach’ site (by inviting people to show up at a Council meeting on March 1st, 2012) showed the many differing opinions. With its thousands of messages/ideas, it’s an amazing collection that in a digital form can just be zapped away never to be seen again; a definite drawback to social media. Still, there is no way such an archive would have been collected any other way. And how democratic is that!

Click here to see the new library website

The new library designers have accumulated the ideas of those who bothered to attend and give their design ideas (as opposed to vocal and inconsolable protest over the misuse of public land for public use) over the last six months or so, based on the so-called ‘Willingdon Beach’ site and will present another Open House on Monday, March 26 from 3PM-9PM at the Recreation Complex (5001 Joyce Ave), where they will reveal how they have incorporated the community’s ideas on the three projects they proposed at the last public meeting on February 14th. Hope to see you there!

The Library


The library in Ballard, Wa. Built in 2005 at a cost of just under $11 million, the Ballard Library features an innovative “green roof” consisting of native grasses and sedums planted 4 to 6 inches deep in a custom growing medium topped with a biodegradable coconut fiber mat. Image and Text from:

 Facebook event page: click here

(UPDATE related to this post:

The said update contains:

I just want to reclarify that when I wrote the blog post “The Library” on Feb. 18, 2012, the petition I reprinted was sent to me (as I said) and I was not sure this was the only one circulating (as I said). It turns out that the petition that has since been the “official petition” of the group since formed calling itself “Save Willingdon Beach” is not the same as the one I had responded to (which ended up actually being a letter to Council- Ed.). It was February 17th and what came to be the “official petition” was really not yet being circulated, I don’t think.

and on with the sad spectacle….

I won’t go into the detailed benefits of having a functional and beautiful library in a town like Powell River, because I could go on and on.

The benefits are so numerous: social cohesion (we could use it for gatherings and meetings as opposed to meeting at grocery store cafes), artistic expression (art on the walls, sculpture garden, art as part of the building itself, book readings, kids activities with room for them and the adults), and learning (from books, DVDs computers, etc.)

Even in huge cities like Seattle and Vancouver, libraries form important cultural hubs that enrich and enliven the areas they are in. What a proper library can do for Powell River fills me with excitement and joy.

That there is a “Save Willingdon Beach” campaign/ petition (see below) against building the library at the current chosen site on one underused section of Willingdon Beach (which was used as a site for the three basic designs that were produced from the community-guided design charette and subsequent public unveiling) is disheartening.

So, I want to respond this petition (there may be several, but this is the one I was sent by a lovely person who is against the library at that site). Here it is in italics with my personal responses in green. I urge you to make your ideas known to the City Council. Contact info here.

The Petition against the building of a new Powell River library at the Willingdon Beach site appears below in black letters; my response to these 10 points is in green.

We, the undersigned, who hold library cards (!), STRONGLY OPPOSE the placement of any new library at the old arena site near Willingdon Beach for the 10 reasons below.  We would like a response from City Council Members that will explain to us why these concerns seem to be of little importance to them in the choice of a site for a new library.

  1. It will be very difficult for those with mobility issues to navigate down and up the steep hill on Alberni Street from residential areas, and from the most frequented commercial area in town, which is Joyce avenue, between Alberni & Burnaby.

This is an opportunity to actually make that area newly accessible to those with mobility issues—to give real impetus to make that park accessible. Remember that with an indoor space, people with mobility issues will have benches , tables, chairs, couches, etc. and can for the first time enjoy the area both inside (protected from the elements) and outside, sheltered or unsheletered. If it stays how it is, it remains inaccessible to those with mobility issues.

2. The Library Board’s assertion that mobility-challenged people without cars will just have to bite the bullet and take the bus to go to the library, and take the bus again to get home, and a is a form of discrimination of which this disability-friendly town should be ashamed.

Taking the bus is discrimination now. Whew. People with mobility issues and no car currently get around walking using canes, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs… maybe even Pedicab, soon. The bus is a viable option. They are clean, cheap and terribly underused. Not everyone lives around the current library or the mall, after all, so to suggest that getting to the mall is a ‘cakewalk'(pun intended) for all is also wrong. So, many people in our diverse and hilly town and outskirts do have to use the bus to get to the library where it is now as well. There are many ways the entrance to the library can work (there may be two: one from Marine and one from below); it’s good to keep an eye on that issue, but to not build a library because of it is extreme.

3. If anywhere, a new library should be placed closer to the center of town, than its current location — closer to the Town Centre Mall, Crossroads Mall, Post Office, Hospital, and other Joyce Avenue businesses (the space beside the RCMP comes to mind), so that it is easier for all people to do their town chores with the least expenditure of gasoline, time and personal energy.

The “center of town” this petition refers to is the mall. I feel that just because the mall christened itself “Town Centre Mall” doesn’t necessarily make it so, but I catch the point. The Marine Avenue area near Willingdon Beach (zoned for civic use, not necessarily for park use) for me represent the heart of Powell River, accessible from the ferry terminal via a lovely walk down , facing a beautiful view — not an ugly parking lot and busy street, which it would at the mall– is where the library should be as a cultural (not commercial) icon to learning and the arts. That area needs revitalization and is perfect for tourism, and is already used for many festivals and summer markets. Artique, Breakwater Books and many other galleries and bookstores are there. It’s an obvious choice to me.

4. Placing a two-story building at the old arena site will take away the last remaining unimpeded public view of the ocean  that town folk and visitors have left in our town.  Please, don’t tell me that a citizen will have to have a library card or a job at the library to enjoy that view, because that would be unfair to the many local residents who won’t.

Powell River jealously guards its beautiful views, and rightfully so. Two of the three designs presented were one-story buildings built on a downward slope, leaving the view from the road basically and potentially as clear as it is now, so people whizzing by in their gas-guzzlers can take the view in for those 2 or 3 second. Hurrah!

PLUS, people will have greater access to that walkway from the street as well, if the design provides access from Marine Ave. as well. The zoning regulations as presented at the public consultation on the design of the new library show that something like 2/3 of the area cannot be built on, which will leave lots of space to walk, play, etc. When we should be guiding the democratic design process, the mood is poisoned by petitions. The library is open to everyone, and anyone can get a  library card. The views will be all of ours. The library is public and communal and non-commercial.

5. Rather than as a location for a civic building, the land has much greater value as a place for townsfolk and visitors to commune with nature, and take in our extraordinarily beautiful view across the Georgia Strait, a stunning panorama that changes across the day, from day to day, from season to season.

That unusable parking lot that is there now (old arena footprint) is NOT where people commune with nature now. Just like the huge yellow “Save Willingdon Beach” is misguiding, this line of reasoning lacks imagination. Yes, the land has great value, and that’s exactly the reason to build a library there and not commercial buildings which you can only imaging developers eyeing in regards to condos– and they won’t be single-story ones either, rest assured. The land would need to be rezoned to allow this to happen.

6. Placing a two-story building at this location will ruin the view from Breakwater Books and its café, which will not be good for readers in this town.

Breakwater Books should only be so lucky to have a library at that site. This could encourage it to stay open later and on Sundays. I would like to hear their view on this. It can only increase business and if you actually look through their windows, there is zero way that anything less than a 5-story block would obscure their view– and even then, it would have to be about 3 times as wide as is legally permitted on that site. “Not good for readers in this town” to not have a view from a bookstore (assuming the view would be blocked, which it can’t)– meanwhile it must be assumed that the logic here leave to “NOT HAVING A PROPER LIBRARY IS GOOD FOR READERS”.

7. Ruining this view will be bad for business for Breakwater and other Marine/Alberni Corner businesses that will lose their views from a business cluster that may be the last viable location on Marine Avenue, as our economy shrinks.

“Bad for business”.  The land is on a slope. The library (if it is built on one level, which I think people generally want) there will be no obscuring of the view. And to think that businesses on Marine will mourn the extra foot traffic going through there is … let’s say ‘misleading’. The library there would breathe new life into precisely that area!

8. There are many in this town who will miss the use of this space for the carnival at Sea Fair.

I spoke with the woman who ran Seafair (and continues to work hard to make it happen), and yes, they desperately want the fair along the seaside. I asked her if she’d ever stepped foot into another library, anywhere. She said no. Our town needs a proper library. There are other areas along the seaside. It’s a seaside town. To hold the citizens hostage for a 3-day carnival — one that just has to be in that specific spot to function — a place that is largely unused the rest of the year (except for grafitti and as a kitty litter box/dog run with million dollar views) is not right.

9. Placing the library at the edge of the ocean will certainly require increased energy usage to dehumidify the interior 24/7/52 to protect the paper books, at a time when we are all trying to reduce energy use, and we are threatened with much higher electric bills with the forced installation of “Smart” Meters.

To me, that’s the single interesting design argument here. It would definitely need to be a design consideration to make sure the humidity is not a problem. There seem to be many ways to do this without dehumidifiers. Mixing the “Smart” meter issue here is baffling. Anyhow…

10. There has been no Regional Referendum regarding site choice, based on entirely fallacious reasoning.  This so-called reasoning claims that:

–  the site must be chosen – the architect’s plans drawn up based on that site, and    the funding achieved based on that site and those drawings

BEFORE a referendum can be held regarding the regional residents’ opinions about site choices.  However, this so-called reasoning simply makes no logical sense.  It certainly is not ethical.  To borrow a recent quote, “In our view, this would be a serious tactical error.”  Obviously, the referendum must come BEFORE the site choice.

It’s my understanding that there have been three referendums over the last 20 years on this library. None of them allowed a new library to be built. In order to gain funding the plan must be offered up for consideration, and must be relatively ready-to-go. Council has the authority to choose a site. The referendum will be on the cost of the library, which can only be known once the external grants or matching funds are knows.

It looks a lot like it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, and that’s unfortunate, as I agree that in a perfect world, everything would be transparent and voted on… but we need to move on. Not letting the library move past this design process (for which $70,000 has already been spent) will mean no library for who knows how long; maybe never. The petition people are focusing on the site, as if that’s in question, and that the library would destroy the beach for everyone. And that’s just unfathomable to me. And dishonest.

In the end, while there was money (or at least a willingness to go further into debt) to rebuild wharfs that will serve the wealthy really well, and supposedly bring tourists, but there will probably be no will to invest in something that everyone can use and that will raise the bar around here; but as the woman at the last public consultation yelled “We’re not city people”, which I guess means we will never get a library because learning’s not for us.

Cooperative solutions


cooperative (also co-operative or co-op) is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit.[1] A cooperative is defined by the International Cooperative Alliance’s Statement on the Cooperative Identity as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise“.[2]

My last post revolved around the Occupy movement and how this reflects a long-standing feeling that ‘something is wrong’; that as a society we aren’t taking care of each other anymore. In some countries, this long-standing and historical malaise is addressed through institutions like welfare or public medical care, pension plans, unions, laws against child labour, etc. These are all elements of ‘Socialism’ that have been put into place in a toxic Capitalist environment, to make life livable for most of those not in the top 1%.

These structures are always under attack, of course, and today it’s more in-your-face than it’s been in decades. Look at the US Primaries and how the race to the bottom is taking shape: people in the bottom rungs are actually responding positively to Republican calls for reduced government (well, reduced government services for the needy, anyhow– there is always room for massive expansion in the Military, of course); they wave around the word ‘Socialist’ at President Obama (if only), much like the word ‘Communist’ in the past. Calling someone a socialist is presented as an insult to the American spirit of every-man-for-himself. But what happens when these ‘men’ (under the law corporations are people too) wield so much power? Well, what always happens: corruption. 

Cooperatives offer a model that is so familiar in most of the world, but kind of suspect here in the West, where we have traditionally prided ourselves in pulling ourselves up by our own boot straps, never mind the fact that we’re living on stolen land, having decimated native populations, damaged or destroyed the environment and depleted the rivers, oceans and land of wildlife, and even the soil of its nutrients. And now, with so much of our manufacturing and high-tech industries exporting work overseas to reduce costs and maximize profits by selling us 50-cent shoes for $50, the impossibly nervy corporations have themselves struck a nerve– in the population. “Those pesky 99%-ers, what do they want now?!”

But, unlike what the corporate news pundits, advertisers and lobbyists claim or even believe, it’s not these people want to be in that 1% that they protest; they want changes to happen to make the system fair and to work for us all. We deserve truly democratically-elected and responsive governments at all levels, as well as companies that work to better our lives, and not to collude and to destroy our physical, financial and mental well-being, and make money off of that, as well (hello, Big Pharma).

I see cooperatives as one of the solutions to the global crisis; we need to get together and invest in ourselves, with our time, energy, expertise, and money. It becomes clearer every day that supporting corporations from banks to chain stores, or in stocks (whether directly or indirectly) takes a huge amount of money out of the local into the realm of international finance, and this is inaccessible to us. We have no real say or knowledge of where these profits are going or what they are derived from.

One of the most visible moves to cooperative ways of thinking was the recent Bank Transfer Day and other campaigns for people to move their money out of banks and into credit unions. Cooperatives, whether for-profit (with profit-sharing) or non-profit social enterprises, offer control. One member=one vote, not one share/dollar=one vote. It’s the most democratic and viable system we have and it holds a lot of the values that Occupiers are highlighting. I hope that 2012 really does signal the ‘year of the cooperative‘; I can’t think of a better time for this to happen. 

Here is a very good article on cooperatives and Occupy by John Restakis:


Poking some holes

Community, employment, new economy

Not so much the holes, but what we see through them.

If anything, the message of Occupy: ‘it’s all wrong’.

Knowing and being able to share the idea that there is something wrong is a crucial part of the process, and remains a great function of the vocal and visible Occupy movement. But while there is a perception that the system’s working too well for the top 1%, ideas on whether the system is actually even serving them well (in the long run), never mind alternatives are rather sparse.

There is a perception that Occupy represents a generational malaise (following those of Gen-X, Y, Z…) of misplaced envy and need for the good life that culturally, we can’t seem to muster up for ourselves; the feeling that there just isn’t enough to go around, abounds. And it is true, there really isn’t enough (oil, money, resources, forethought, positive action, talent, creativity and acceptance of limits) to maintain the kind of lifestyle we have been guided into thinking is normal and desirable. It’s a world where even adults don’t recognize where real food and water come from, seeing these as taxable commodities and not human rights. What does it even mean to not have everything you want, when you want it.

The word sustainability still pops into the conversation, but less than it used to; people are shying away from not only that misused word but the idea behind it; who can think about that when you don’t have a job, or decent pay, or even food on the table? We’re culturally perplexed, looking for meaning in lives inundated with garbage (or so-to-be-garbage), making it a dangerous time that the opportunistic are ready to take advantage of. And like those clowns, no need to send them in; they’re already here.

With our elected government openly colluding with private corporations (i.e. privatizing energy, water, ferries, enabling big oil and gas, mining, etc. with citizen dollars) or simply succeeding in not setting up infrastructures to enable a diversified economy with viable alternatives,  it’s time to try something totally new. That, or fall back and  finish off the job: squeeze whatever we can from the decrepit frontier-town models based on resource extraction and related service industries serving up imported not-so-goods.

This fall-back ‘option’ we’re presented with (by the same corporations that gain from this world view) as the only viable options around. We need to get ‘back on track’ to economic recovery, they say. This, of course, is an economy that’s to work this way: Boom, bust, look at the pretty colours. While it’s not really a conspiracy or a mistake, it is environmental, and Occupy has poked a few holes into that perception.

But what do we see through these holes?

My next post (in time for Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative’s Social event) will cover how the cooperative model can offer some important mind-shifting solutions.