Saturday, September 08, 2007

At Channel Rock...


I am "lost" in the wilderness of Cortes Island, in the archipelago of British Columbia, between Victoria Island and the mainland of Canada. Channel Rock is an interesting place, perched on a hill overlooking the crystal clear water of the Inland Waterway. There is a slightly fairytale feeling to the place, with squat buildings built into the surroundings on various elevations with various whimsical and functional appearances. It must be the pop culture influence of the wildly successful Lord of the Rings that make me expect a hobbit or perhaps a dwarf to amble out of the woods or one of the buildings and ask me to join them on a quest for something.

This place is quite a marvel. There are structures of all varieties, cobb constructed, stackwall constructed, canvas constructed (tee pees and yurts) and traditional wood framed building. The goal was (and is) to use as much material sourced locally as possible. We learned about the difficulty in achieving this (or the advantage) when told the story of cement used in the construction of the sauna. Lots of labor and energy used there, transporting the requisite sand to make the concrete and within the cement. The composting toilets are quite nice, from my perspective, and seem to accomplish their jobs admirably. I learned that urine is what causes odor problems in these facilities, not the big stuff. There is a solar heated shower that can supply 15 hot showers/day, assuming people shut off the water when they are soaping, which we all should be doing anyway (this gets into true cost accounting an the fact that city water is too inexpensive for people to care). I've often wondered why shower heads do not come with the small shut off valve pre-installed.

There is a garden, well kept and in full bloom with an assortment of fruits and vegetables to feed us well. In fact, dinner last night was a Mediterranean inspired feast with fresh tomatoes, greens of all sorts, yogurt, and hummus (I am unsure if the hummus and yogurt were sourced locally). There was no meat, and I know I did not care. Soon after my arrival, I noticed an apple tree laden with fruit. It reminded me of my time growing up in Granville, when my mother and I lived in an apartment in front of Jensen's Orchard. I used to ride my bike through the orchards, marveling at the trees with limbs bent down, seemingly reaching for the ground, but doing so under the influence of the apples' weight not by their own volition.
Everyone I have met is interesting, and has some connection with sustainable business or social responsibility. There are many backgrounds, from non profit managers and entrepreneurs to mid-career business professionals with little direct involvement with sustainability. The age range is quite broad as well, I am estimating from mid twenties to mid fifties. This should make for a good mix of opinions and view points, maybe event arguments...good.

The challenge I still face is opening myself the the experience; that there are indeed people that think about sustainability challenges and would like to do something about it. I have a tremendously difficult time wholeheartedly believing that our high-minded discussions about changing the world will lead anywhere, despite our best efforts. I suppose my cynicism runs deep, and will require additional good vibes and conversations to reduce it to what it was ten years ago.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Glad to hear you get out to our area in the west coast. Please email me at tony.muhlenkamp@imperiumrenewables.com

Cheers,