Saturday, May 12, 2007


I should like to recall a remark that Dr. Neil Dawe of the Qualicum Institute made some time ago to the effect that Canada could sustain its present population level of 32 million people --- if, and this was his guess---we consumed at the level we did in the 1950’s. As a child of the 50’s, can I tell you what that level was for the average trade union household in an “affluent” working class Burnaby neighbourhood? Seven people, three small bedrooms, one bathroom, one car. The iceman came once a week with his calipers to fit a block of ice customized for our ice box. I never heard of ice cream until we got our first refrigerator in 1958. That was also the year we acquired our first TV—a small black and white set with rabbit ears that you were constantly adjusting to receive just 4 channels. You could never rely on the reception from one night to the next and it seemed that every ten minutes you had to get up to pound your fists on the console in anger to make the snow and the lines disappear. One TV for the whole house, and like the bathroom, you fought for its possession. There was a radio, which had been the centre of our lives until the TV arrived, and the record player which played scratchy music that seemed quite wonderful at the time. Canadians today would find it amazing that for us, one bath a week sufficed for hygiene. Greasy hair was not a problem because you wanted it greasy—in fact you added Brylcream (“a little dab’ll do ya’”). I shared my bathwater with my two brothers as well as my bedroom. I never had my own bedroom until they were married. We were satisfied with this standard of living because, frankly, we never had it so good. And yet our quality of life, by the terms that I would measure it, was much better than today. We knew all of our neighbours. They waved at us as they drove by, they dropped by with their surplus vegetables, baby-sat, helped my dad with renovations and we never ever locked our doors. In fact, people left their cars at English Bay unlocked with the windows open. Kids were never “street-proofed” or driven to school. Traffic congestion was a joke by contemporary standards. Parks were not over-used. I’m sorry if this sounds like a Leave-it-to-Beaver nostalgic whitewash of an era that is so often depicted as oppressive and conformist. But what I say is essentially true. My bumper sticker summarizes my sentiments: “The 1950’s: Fewer Toys, Fewer Choices, Happier Times”.
But could I go back there? I know what “quality of life” means to me but what does it mean to Canadians under 30? Would they willingly accede to that level of material existence? Richard Wakefield, in his “The Future of the Quality of Life in Canada”, would answer with an emphatic “No!”. Any Canadian government that tried on a “Green Agenda” that would severely slash our consumption levels-- a power-down-- would be quickly tossed out of office like yesterday’s newspaper. It is fashionable to get on the green bandwagon now, but wait until we get down to brass tacks and ask people to give up their toys. They won’t. Except under the duress of a collapse of unprecedented magnitude, which seems inevitable. That’s Richard’s grim assessment.
Mine is that cutting back consumption is actually a tougher nut to crack than reducing population, despite all the roadblocks that are thrown in front of us. Yeah, theoretically if we all lived like Mahatma Ghandhi you could make a case for not beating the drum so loudly about population growth. But the reality is, we won’t. And we are not alone in our attachment to consumerism. Affluenza is a western epidemic. An April 2007 study carried out by the Demoskop polling institute revealed that 60% of people living in the richest nation on earth—Sweden—would not be prepared to lower their standard of living in order to fight global warming.
I think I am on the right track. A moratorium on immigration would not solve all our problems but at least it wouldn’t exacerbate them. If you haven’t read Richard’s essay, read it. It’s at

Sunday, May 6, 2007

THE COST OF GROWTH DOWN UNDER----A Letter From an Aussie Friend

I may not be as pessimistic as you, but I think it's all up
with climate change. It's finally being talked about by politicians, and
there was a report released yesterday that in 60 years Sydney will be 5-7 C
hotter with 40% less rain. It is already an arid hell. The kindest thing
would be a mercy cull of everybody under 30! I expect lots more talk, but
no action. The PM has said a number of times that global warming is a
serious problem, but he won't take any measures that damage the economy. I
can't fathom that sort of blinkered thinking, but that's all we'll get from
any politicians. They are too steeped in their thinking about growth being
good, consumption being good, spending being good, prosperity being good
etc etc. The trouble is that a dollar value is not put on the real costs of
all this growth. Yes, we are far richer than before and have lots more
stuff; but out society is totally buggered. What's the social cost of
traffic jams, long commutes, mad working hours, delinquent and crazed kids,
crime of every sort, unsafe streets, ethnic conflict, the atmosphere of
living in an anarchic mad-house created by the tsunami of graffiti that
totally defaces Sydney and most other cities? I'd go back to being much
poorer but living in a sane society like the one we had when I was a kid -
though I know it had lots that needed improving.
I'm not too worried about oil. I think they'll get around that, though
it'll be costly;. Personally, I'd be happy to see petrol cost $3 a litre,
if it would price the fool-boxes (4 WDs) off the roads.
Of course, we are plonking urban sprawl on our farm land too. Sydney used
to have an extensive network of market-gardens, orchards and dairy farms on
the river flats and other fertile land in the basin it is in, but most have
gone and the rest will go.
I must go too, but I'll keep in touch. I hope you are going well, even if
the world isn't.

Thoughts of best mate Stephen Collier, Armidale, NSW

Tim Murray and check out

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Portland, Oregon was long held up as an example of how growth can be "managed". You know, the usual Sierra Club/progressive developer cant about densifying urban areas and containing people within those boundaries so as to preserve open green space. Sounds nice. After all, we don't want urban sprawl, do we? OK, so your lovely land-use restrictions and "smart-growth" strategy are in place.

But what happens when, over the following ten years, your state is flooded with 309,700 foreign-born migrants and the population grows by 20% from 1990-2000? It's pretty hard to keep people confined in these tight urban sheep pens when they are bursting at the seams and developers are chomping at the bit.

This is taken from "Immigration in Your Backyard", Federation for American Immigration Reform: Immigration Impact: Oregon:

"Disappearing open space: Each year, Oregon loses 20,800 acres of open space and farmland due to development.18 In December 2002, the Portland area’s regional government voted to allow development on 18,600 acres of rural land in and around its suburbs.19 Portland, once a model for limiting urban growth, has been forced by a growing population to repeatedly expand its urban boundary, most recently urbanizing 200 hundred acres in nearby Hillsboro, 370 acres in West Lynn, 520 acres bordering Forest Park, and 720 acres in Bethany (which is about half of its farmland).20 About eight acres in Portland were paved for development each day during the 1990s.21 Portland’s population increase has forced more and more development of the area within the growth boundary, crowding current residents and eating up any pastoral areas."

Oh dear me. It looks like another "smart-growth" cure went bad. Oregonians can now commiserate with the British, who are seeing their 60 year experiment with Greenbelt protection crumble because their towns and cities cannot hold the development pressures that build up from the population growth from annual injections of 170,000 immigrants or more. Perhaps folks in either of those localities could do us a service by telling the David Suzuki Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Environment critic of the British Columbia New Democratic Party--the developer with a green hat--that "smart growth" is a dumb option. It simply ain't what it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


The same way of thinking that got us into these environmental problems is not going to get us out.

All I hear in the news is how we are looking for alternative energy sources. (obviously to prop up more population growth)

Whatever energy humans have been able to exploit, they've used it to grow their population, which only makes them more dependent on new energy sources.

If humans did stumble upon a source of energy more abundant than oil, there would be a population explosion that would rapidly wipe out the earth's natural capital.

Here is an example of how alternative energies combined with Canada's mass immigration only make matters worse.

There is a 900 acre Solar panel farm planned near Sarnia, Ontario.

According to: the solar farm will generate 40 megawatts or provide power to 6,000 homes.

From 2004-2005 Canada netted 244,600 immigrants. (even higher in 2005-2006, but we'll go with this conservative estimate)

Since there is about 2.6 people per household in Canada as of 2001 ( ) ...

6,000 homes accounts for domestic electricity for only 15600 people.

In other words, this technological marvel will be cancelled out after 23 days of immigration.

In less than 1 month of business-as-usual immigration, this solar farm will in fact have a negative net environmental benefit!

When 15,600 immigrants are added in those 23 days, there will be a huge negative environmental effect since:

-the construction of this solar electricity plant consumed a lot of fossil fuels and exhausted a lot of GHG emissions
-the farm land that the solar panel site has taken over is lost forever, thereby increasing our reliance on food imports
-the immigrants will consume in many other ways besides household electricity (water, electronics, air-travel, paper products, etc) thereby pushing more species into extinction and paving over more greenspace.

Brishen Hoff

RE: Technological Advances Won't Save Us

Brishen Hoff’s logic is inescapable. More people only negate the gains made by energy-efficient technology. His analysis simply validates studies done in other countries that have made similar correlations between immigrant-driven population growth and increased energy use and pollution. Professor Mark Diesendorff warned that Australia would not be able to reduce its GHG emissions if it continued its mass immigration policies. Professor Kolankiewicz demonstrated that since 1970 88% of America’s increase in energy use was due to an increase in population, mostly driven by immigration, while only 12% was attributable to an increase in per capita energy consumption. In other words, it’s not so much that people are driving SUVs rather than fuel efficient cars, it’s just that there are 3 million more drivers each year out there. In the UK government statisticians reveal that of the 11 million new houses that will need to be built before 2050—much of it on formerly sacrosanct Greenbelt land—59% will be built to accommodate Britain’s growing population, nearly 70% of that from immigration. Only 17% of the new housing will be built because of lower household sizes. More immigrants, more people, more houses, more energy consumption, more emissions in one form or another. Since the publication of Dr. William Rees’ watershed book, the Green mantra has been to reduce our individual ecological footprint. But as these studies show, as Brishen Hoff’s analysis shows, it is the sum total of individual ecological footprints that matter. Ultimately it’s a numbers game. As always, Garrett Hardin said it best. “The population problem has no technical solution: It requires a fundamental extension in morality.”

“If we had the population level we did in the eighteenth century, it wouldn’t matter what energy source we used.” James Lovelock

SMART GROWTH ON QUADRA ISLAND? A response to Sierra Quadra's Oxymoronic Concept

The letter published in the DI (April 27/07) vindicates my decision to leave the Sierra Club. I am not interested in "accommodating" growth. Or managing it, or deflecting it, or making it "sustainable". I am only interested in stopping it. The only impediment to doing so is our belief that it cannot be done. "Smart growth" is not the antidote to urban sprawl, as the British are finding after 60 years of trying to defend their greenbelts. Urban densification and strict land use planning cannot indefinitely contain the development pressures that build up from continual injections of people. Eventually greenbelts and nature reserves will succumb to these pressures. There are only so many sardines that you can pack into a sardine can. With smart growth you get to the same destination, but at a slower pace. You want your cake, and develop it too. Smart or dumb, growth is still growth. However which way they are distributed, more people compete for fewer resources, pressure wildlife habitat, generate more GHG emissions and contribute to longer ferry line-ups, whether they live in dense villages or subdivided acreages.
"The population of Quadra will continue to grow". One of those matter-of-fact pronouncements taken as gospel that when unchallenged become self-fulfilling prophecies. It's going to happen whether we like it or not so lets-make-the-best-of-it kind of reasoning. Well, growth can be stopped. Population can be capped, not managed. Qualicum Beach, Okotoks, and even Lasqueti Island in their own fashion are doing it. And Boulder, Colorado too. See, once upon a time "planning" involved the selection of an ideal or optimal arrangement of resources and the formulation of guidelines to steer haphazard development toward it. Now it has come to mean merely the accommodation to projected trends that are said to be the signal of "inevitable" occurrences. Planners now simply forecast future demands and pander to them. Now the folks in Qualicum Beach, Okotoks and Boulder are restoring "planning" to its authentic meaning. This is the population level we want, so let's plan for it. If our current political structure does not afford us the levers to do that, then we had best deploy our energies in trying to exit from it.

Tim Murray

The Trade-Off Between Services and Quality of Life

I don’t want to talk about water tables, sewers and lot-sizes. I want to talk about our lack of contentment with what should satisfy us. For it is not only the desire of landowners to turn a profit from subdividing acreage that will be our undoing, but our own appetites for those things cities offer.

The argument that I want to wage locally here is that there are trade-offs between the extra amenities people want and what they have give up in exchange for getting those amenities. Each amenity or service requires a certain population base to make it viable. For example, in the early nineties, Quadra had less than 2500 people. Not enough to make a dental practice work, or a full-time doctor establish himself, or a drugstore. People also had to go to the Hospital in town to get a blood test. Quite an inconvenience. But we enjoyed a rural life style with trust and familiarity and community spirit. Quality of life. By 2000 there were 3000 people and two doctors working two days each were able to succeed, and two dentists were able to practice. Great. A year or two after that another breakthrough. We got a drugstore. At last we didn't have to go to town for medications or have them sent by ferry. With 3500 people however, there are some of us who still are not satisfied. They want their cake and eat it too. City amenities and rural living. A friend of mine said that she is afraid that the sushi bar in the village will not survive unless more people move here to support the business. And a lot of people want a swimming pool built. The tax base required for that would have to be huge. As for myself, I am irritated that the local office supply store won't carry print cartridges for my printer. I have to have them order them for me and wait 8 or even 20 days for it. The alternative is to order on line and the delivery charge is twice the cost of the cartridge itself. But for the office supply store to have those cartridges on hand would require twice or three times our current population level. The owner told me that when she stocked cartridges there wasn't enough turn-over because there weren't enough printers on the island. The cartridges got stale and she had to fire-sale them.
The question for me is, how badly do I want those print cartridges? How badly do people want a sushi bar? Or a swimming pool? At what price convenience? For there is a price. The price of more people, longer ferry line-ups, more crime, less familiarity among people, less trust, less community spirit. The change can be incremental and unnoticeable as it happens but retrospectively there would be a realization that something precious and irretrievable has been lost. Quadra is at 3500 or 4000 now. Maybe at 5000 not much of our quality of life would be lost. But there would be a fulcrum point. 5500, or 6000, and suddenly we are just an island suburbia, where people walk by without stopping to say hello and store clerks can't remember your name.
And there would be another casualty of population growth too. The wildlife. Sierra Quadra asked me to mail a postcard to the minister to protest the shooting of wolves on the island. Let me put it this way, there are no wolves or cougars left to shoot on Saltspring Island. They have 10,000 people or 55 per, vs. our current 13 per Proper game management and "smart growth" will not and has not shielded wildlife indefinitely from the pressures of human population growth. Noticeably absent from the April 28,2007 meeting were any representatives from the deer, wolf or cougar population of Quadra. I wonder how many homo sapiens they are willing to "accommodate" in their OCP? (Official Community Plan)
It seems to me that the proper course in developing a community plan is to first decide what an optimum population level for your community would be. Once you have established that, then you work down from there and fit Local Area Plans and an allotment for non-market housing for seniors and low-incomers within that framework. Ideally, growth is not something you "manage" or "accommodate" but cap, as Qualicum Beach, Okotoks and Boulder, Colorado have done. If our current political structure does not afford us the levers of control that these jurisdictions enjoy, then I would deploy my energies in exiting that structure and getting control. Growth will be limited by resource depletion---water or oil-- or by us. I would prefer that we find a way of doing it rather than surrendering to its "inevitability" and then hitting a brick wall called Peak Oil or biodiversity collapse.It should not be a given that we have to accept growth.

Tim Murray