If you drive, then you’re probably aware that lately the price of gasoline seems to be on a never-ending climb upward. Gas prices across the country – and the world– are closing in on record highs. In Prince Rupert prices reached $1.40 per litre before the Easter weekend and economists are expecting them to continue climbing.
The Bank of Montreal is saying that Canadians should be ready for the possibility that prices reach $1.60 this summer. That prediction is already a harsh reality for those living on Haida Gwaii though, where the price of a litre of regular gasoline in Skidegate is $1.61.
Just as many Ruptertites feeling a sharp pain in their wallets caused by vicissitudes of the Oil and Gas Industry, a home-grown movement is emerging with plans to spend the next decade preparing Prince Rupert so that it can continue to exist in a post-oil world: Transition Prince Rupert.
The expressly non-political movement has been in the planning stages for over a year-and-a-half and is a local off-shoot of the Transition Towns movement which was originally started in the UK by a professor named Rob Hopkins. Since then the movement has spread across the globe and groups exist in cities as close as Vancouver and Smithers.
“It’s about creating a resilient community that has the adaptive capacity to respond to the challenges of climate change and economic instability. We’re not replacing economic development per se, we want to work along side it,” says Lee Brain, the Chair of the Transition Prince Rupert Steering Comittee.
Brain says its plain to see that the days of cheap, plentiful oil are a thing of the past, which has much wider implications than just the price at the pump. It’s the goal of Transition Prince Rupert, he says, to make sure that the city will be able to adapt to the changes that are coming in the next several decades.
“While we still have those resources, we need to start preparing ourselves for this inevitable time in the 21st century when there’s going to be lots of shortages in many different supplies globally. So resilience and adaptability are the two main keywords here,” says Brain.
Transition Prince Rupert has some admittedly lofty – if not outright idealistic – goals. Over the next five to ten years they hope to slowly change Prince Rupert in many fundamental ways into a community that can withstand whatever economic or environmental crisis is thrown its way.
If Transition Prince Rupert is as successful as they hope to be, the Prince Rupert of 2020 will be a very different place.
“If I were to think of the 2020 Prince Rupert, I’m thinking of local energy, local food, our own means of exchange within the community . . . our community affairs would be tailored to up-keeping the community so if there was this post-collapse scenario we could still exist here properly and still have the luxuries that we enjoy,” says Brain.
“Everything would be used. Our waste could be sent to a bio-reactor that where it would be used for energy production instead of a landfill where it’s being used for nothing.”
Preparing the city for an almost apocalyptic economic collapse, climate shift or peak oil (where the world literally runs out of new sources of oil to harvest) will certainly strike many people being survivalist, unrealistic, or just not all that important to a community with a long backlog existing infrastructure problems.
“People have to realize that we are not trying to destroy the fundamentals of how the world operates. We’re not trying to say ‘lets all run into the bush, hold hands, sit by a fire and sing Kumbayah until the sun rises. It’s not really about that,’” says Brain.
Brain points to the mudslide in 2007 that cut off the city’s gas line for about a week as an illustration of how ill-prepared the community is for even a minor supply problem.
“You had people going to the grocery stores taking up all the essential goods, you had gas rationing. I mean, what happens if that happens for a month or longer?”
Besides, says Brain, all these idea are just that: ideas. None of them have to be implemented, and the ones that are will be put in place slowly over several years.
What they want right now is for members of the community who are interested in the movement’s goals or have a project that they think might fit into those goals to get involved with them, so the community can decide for itself what ideas are best suited to work with the realities in Prince Rupert, which will be put together into a document called an Energy Descent Action Plan.
“We’re going to create space for discussion around these topics. I can’t say exactly how its all going to run but if we bring people together in a effective way, through a series of processes and we will figure out appropriate solutions . . . Transition doesn’t say you have to do this, you have to do that, and that,” says Brain.
Transition Prince Rupert is starting with small things before building up to the bigger things. The movement is throwing its support behind NWCC student Samantha Lewis’s proposal, currently being considered by the city council, to allow Rupertites to keep hens in their back yards — which jives with Transition’s goal of improving the community’s food security. They also say that an initiative for a community free-exchange is also in the works.
It is worth noting that city councillor, Jennifer Rice, is already a member of the movement’s Steering Committee, as well as their Partnerships Committee.
Over the next year or so, Transition Prince Rupert plans to spend its time raising awareness and finding people in the community and getting as many people as possible who are interested in the process to come out and participate. Once they reached a “critical mass” of interest the next phase to address some of the heavier issues facing a post-oil Prince Rupert will begin.
Brain says that they are thinking long term, and he hopes in a couple years Transition will be something everyone in the city will be talking about.
“There are a lot of initiatives in Prince Rupert that just fizzle out, this will not fizzle out. It’s going to be something that will continue to build momentum. It’s my personal belief that come two to three years from now this community will be engulfed in the culture of transition.”
More information on the specifics of how the Transition process works, or to get involved, see Transition Prince Rupert’s website.