Ominous Calm

It is evening and I am walking over the smoothed pebbled foreshore at high tide toward a weathered log to sit and watch the colours set in before dark. The bay is calm except for the quiet conversations of others watching the scene. As I look out I see some movement on the boat moored in the bay near the kelp beds, and in the distance, the Fraser valley mountains are outlined above the gulfs islands. It is very calm quiet and restful and the thoughts of earlier in the day are now distant.

In the early morning, I had been reading about the mega-fires in the interior that were approaching the main hydro and gas lines from the North. These thin lines run from the northern gas fields, whose leaking wellheads are fueling these fires, to almost every house in the South. A fragile line that allows us to ride out future more sustained and intense heat domes.

Later I found myself walking on the tinder-dry grass by the ocean, nothing was green. I walked out onto a small peninsula and stopped to look at the clouds that spread out towards me from the snow-capped Olympic mountains. It is dry, hot and I can not remember when it last rained, was it a month ago? Even then the last rain barely wet the ground. Yes, what would happen as these events escalate and those electrical and gas lines are severed more and more frequently?

Winding my way through the yellow grass following a path around the rounded edges of the stones that emerge from the grass, couples are sitting distanced on the benches scattered around the rise I am climbing. With the exception of one lone runner passing, it is still. I am thinking how the internet is not a single thin line but a series of webs and nodes. Not prone to fail catastrophically like that fragile lines that power it.

The path narrows and approaching the stairs to the beach I walk beside the stairs, and carefully find my way down beside the stairs to given the people ascending the necessary 6 feet. There on the beach is an elderly man in a toque and jacket passing those cooling themselves in the water and sunbathing. It reminds me of how fragile he is and how we too are fragile in these extremes of heat and cold, of how dependent we are on this tenuous centralized energy system. Why have we not move past this archaic method of creating and delivering energy, likely they will not survive the tipping points bringing on new extremes?

I turn from the beach into a cool tree canopy and onto another staircase, again I move over onto the grass to give those descending a safe space. This time there is a thank you as I make my way up across the grass and turn into a nearby street. At the corner, there is a cluster of trees interwoven and thriving. Their interconnection reminds me of what Dr. Suzanne Simard is exploring in her mother tree project. The complex network or web trees create to ensure survival, the strong sending life-giving nutrients to the weak. Why would we not design our energy systems in the same ways as these trees? How is it that trees see this necessity and we do not?

We are stuck in a century-old paradigm trying to overcome inertia. We know that net-zero plus houses can push energy back into the grid and this energy can be stored in household battery systems and cars. We have windows and roofs that can now act as solar panels. We have invented small geothermal neighbourhood closed-loop systems that can produce electricity 24 hours a day. Implementing these ideas would seem the thing to do, yet we are still going in the wrong direction.

Returning along the cliff the trail winds through the dry grass along the rocky shore, I stop and watch the sailboat healing sightly in the wind. Then press on in the heat.