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Pique N' Your Interest

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The choice is manage development or be managed by development

According to the Word Conservation Union’s Red List, there are 15,589 species on the brink of extinction. I propose adding one more species to that list: "humanus upper Sea to Sky corridorus."

Not that I don’t appreciate the plight of pandas, pikas and polar bears, I’m just a little worried about my own species. If I remember my junior high biology, in order for a species to prosper a number of environmental conditions have to be met. And if that species is predisposed to living in a capitalist culture with middle-class aspirations, the economic environment becomes very important.

By middle-class I am referring to the average Canadian who has met the expectations of growing up, getting an education, finding fulfilling work, buying a home and having the option of retiring at 65 years old. Those who have currently achieved these modest goals may be the last to do so.

If we’re going to get serious about self-preservation, I suggest we take a long hard look at that well-worn cliché "Children are our future." What does that mean? Considering the current state of affairs in Pemberton that hackneyed little phrase means nothing. (But then again, what can you expect? It did appear in a Whitney Houston song.) To suggest that children are our future, suggests that they have a future where we live. And currently, that is unlikely.

I realized this while mellowing out at a bucolic little lakeside cabin on Saltspring Island. Our hosts moved from Whistler about 15 years ago to exercise their love of the great outdoors somewhere that was more affordable. They opened Island Escapades, a kayaking adventure company that also features a sporting goods store in Ganges, the island’s main town, and the aforementioned accommodations on Cusheon Lake.

While chatting, the issue of escalating land values came up. The mad increases of the past five years meant something very personal to one of our hosts. She spoke of the change not in the usual way people tend to speak of rampant gains in equity. Instead of dollar signs dancing in her eyes, there was a genuine look of sorrow.

"When they’re ready to leave home, our children won’t be able to afford to live here," stated Candace Snow. Her sons are 12 and 14.

I glanced over at my Spousal Equivalent and considered Number One and Number Two’s futures. Would they be able to put down roots in Pemberton? The way things are going it’s not likely. Once the days of five per cent mortgage rate become myth, expensive real estate combined with too few well-paying jobs within commuting distance could seal the fate of many of Pemberton’s kids.

In small towns it is usually the lack of opportunity that generally drives youth to greener pastures. If you squint a bit you can see that things could be a pretty damned nice shade of emerald around here. For the past 15 years the provincial government mantra has been that B.C. is transitioning from a resource-based economy to a service-based economy. And while the term service-based economy conjures images of an army of paper hat sporting androids reciting, "Would you like fries with that?" the truth is that for "humanus upper Sea to Sky corridorus" service-based means tourism. In Pemberton it’s an industry that has only begun to be tapped.

Pemberton has quirky demographics. The place is crawling with babies. Seniors are clearly in the minority. An acquaintance related an anecdote about shopping with her visiting elderly mom at the local grocery store. In the middle of the produce section, the older woman belted out, "Jesus, I’m the only old person in here!"

Take a quick look around and you realize that the average age in Canada’s seed potato capital is somewhere around 40. That won’t be the case in another 25 years. Then the typical Pembertonian will be getting seniors’ rates at Whistler-Blackcomb and trying to compensate for a hip replacement in the half-pipe. By that time, today’s toddlers and pre-schoolers could be on the fast track to managing the tourism businesses we are building today. But what will the single family home that lists for $480,000 today be worth then? How can we insure that our future can meet its potential?

The answer will be in learning how to manage development, so development doesn’t manage us. It will be a hard lesson to learn, and will take some creative thinking, but to avoid learning it is to insure the extinction of "humanus upper Sea to Sky corridorus".

Let’s get creative.

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