My mom: bad for growth

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, November 2013

Is the government losing sight of “us” in its rush to exploit resources?

If my mother lived in this province I don’t think Christy Clark would like her much. She contributes so little to the economy that if every British Columbian was like her it would be hard to justify all the frenetic growth the government has planned for the next four years.

For starters, people like my mom would negate whatever justification we have for our bullish energy agenda. Several years ago she cut her own year-round electric bill in half by installing twin heat exchangers and a solar water heating system. Imagine if we were to do that en masse: We’d force the province to rethink the mammoth Site C Dam project since our collective energy savings would go a long way in supplying both the export market and all the fracking ventures that Site C is supposedly meant to power. Yes, scrapping the dam would mean short-term jobs lost—always a sensitive area for the government. But thousands more would be found in the manufacture and large-scale installation of residential solar, geothermal, and heat exchange systems.  

The stumbling block here is not lack of innovation but resistance from government and traditional industry, who, among other ploys, spook us into fearing real change. Well, life at the crossroads is always nerve-wracking. The switch from horse and buggy to the automobile, for example, would have had significant negative impact on farmers, horse dealers, feed suppliers, blacksmiths, carriage makers, and so on. And remember the outcry from tobacco farmers when the demand for their crop fizzled? Definitely there was short-term upheaval as they struggled to sell or find new uses for their land. But (and in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that smoking is a deadly practice) people adapted and new enterprises rose up to replace the old. They always do.

But back to my dissident mother; let me admit that she doesn’t support the pharmaceutical industry either. Blessed with good genes but also resolved to stay healthy, she has for decades followed a prescription of walking, staying connected and being purposefully active. She doesn’t need the local gym, which would falter if everyone behaved that way. And the odd municipal job would be in peril too, if more people followed her lead and picked up the litter around their neighbourhood. My mother tidies up while she’s walking and keeping prescription drugs at bay. That kind of efficiency will kill an economy, no? 

She’s equally noncompliant when it comes to her car and driving. Despite the local newspaper’s attempt to entice her with its weekly feature on everything new and exciting about cars, she’s sticking with the one she bought two decades ago. What’s more, she runs multiple errands in a single trip. That just doesn’t support the fuel and motor vehicle industries. A legion of people like her would drive these behemoths into the ground.

Shopping isn’t a great passion of hers either. My mom doesn’t like clutter and couldn’t imagine owning so much as to require rented storage space (which, in these uber-ironic times, seems to be one of the fastest-growing industries in our town). Why drag so much stuff through life, she might ask. Why not own less, shop more judiciously and take better care of what we have? (Over the years she’s mended enough clothing to dress a small army.) 

Premier Clark would have us believe she has our back when she champions jobs and growth above all else, but my mother is not so easily convinced. What kind of jobs, she would want to know. A lot of work in our resource-based economy is dangerous or miserable or demands excessive time away from family. A lot of it also degrades our environment. The government thinks money is good compensation. My mother would disagree, pointing out that the resource-based projects currently on tap favour the already deep pockets of the corporate world over the interests of people and community. We’ve been so propagandized about growth being the only way to prosperity that it’s stonewalled (maybe intentionally) any vision for a toned-down, purposeful, community-oriented life. 

It’s enough to make us wonder if our government still knows it is “us” and still understands what it means to be a society. Ordinary people would like to know. So would my mother.

TDM strives to find new ways to live sustainably and hopes she's inherited at least some of her mother's good genetics and constitution.