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General News · 25th February 2010
norberto rodriguez dela vega
Reflecting on all the articles, letters and comments at the flyers and the tideline about the Community Halls Service dispute, as well as other similar situations in our community, has confirmed couple of theories I have had for some time.

Let me share these thoughts.

My first theory is on the vulnerability of our community.

I think this Community Halls Service situation the problem was not about taxes, nor about how the Halls are operated, nor about who use the Halls the most. All of the above are only symptoms. The root-cause of the problem may be our high dependency in one single source of “easy-money” (the Gaming grant) that has helped many local groups, organizations and facilities. For the past few years, the primary source of income for many of these groups has been this lottery money, and every year we took it for granted, and we didn’t put that much effort on looking for alternative funding sources.

But now that the province desperately needs all the money available to cover the Circus 2010 (the Olympics!), they are re-allocating all available funds to pay for the stupid two-week boondoggle, so to keep the masses distracted from our crude reality. And I am afraid this is just the beginning of more taxes, more cuts and new increases in everything, we will be paying the consequences for many years to come.

Our vulnerability level is not only because of this dependency of funds coming from one single source, in other words, for a lack of diversity in income. Other key area in similar situation is our local economy. We can easy say that we only have 3 or 4 major industries in the island. For the past 10 years or so, our main local industries have been Summer tourism, shellfish and building houses.

Further more, let me suggest there is a third key area that makes our community very vulnerable: our high-dependency on imported goods and services. I dare to suggest that at least 80% of our food is imported. An easy way to understand this is by thinking what would happen if our ferry ceases to run. Can you imagine how many things we will miss?

Now, vulnerability is usually related to environmental hazards, but it is much more than that. Vulnerability refers to the tendency of something to be damaged. The opposite of this is resilience, or the ability to resist and/or recover from damage. That is, something is vulnerable to the extent that it is not resilient, and visa versa. Vulnerability and resilience are opposites sides of a single coin.

The idea of vulnerability-resilience applies equally well to physical entities (people, ecosystems, coastlines) and to abstract concepts (social systems, economic systems, countries).

My second theory is more like a question: are we reaching some kind of peak community in Cortes Island?

This follows the concept of peak oil that refers to that moment in time when the world will achieve its maximum possible rate of oil extraction; from then on, for reasons having mostly to do with geology, the amount of petroleum available to society on a daily or yearly basis will begin to dwindle.

In our community there are certain limited resources that may be reaching that peak, for instance: volunteerism, money, jobs, public spaces, intergenerational solidarity. Even more, there are other natural resources that may also be close to their peak: freshwater, waste absorption, soil.

In other words we may be reaching peak community because too many of us are using too much too fast, while competing for diminishing resources.

On the other hand, there is one key community value that is not even close to its peak: the caring component. This includes things like community spirit, spiritual and cultural feelings, sharing things and helping each other and caring about Nature. All of the above are simply priceless.

The bottom line is we need to figure out how to build resilience in our community, and building resilience requires integrating ecological, social and economic perspectives.
Resilience is not about staying the same, nor is it about preventing change. It is about increasing our capacity to change and adapt.

Let me share a few basic concepts from the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal:

“Resilience does not imply changing into something completely different, but rather adapting to shifts in our environment in order to preserve what we value most. Resilient communities balance adapting to change or letting go, and retaining what is essential.
Resilient communities also act in ways that build capacity of organizations and citizens to participate. So in essence, resilient behaviours breed more resilience within the community. Resilient communities make efforts to strengthen the personal and collective capacity of citizens, enterprises and organizations”

A simpler definition I like is: resilience refers to a capacity for continuous reconstruction.

In practical ways, we could build resilience in our community by:

- focusing on more action, opposite to endless plans, talks, visions and dreams;
- prioritizing local food over all imports by encouraging small-scale agricultural systems that build on the knowledge of local farmers;
- focusing on building local capacity;
- organizing the community around shared priorities;
- maximizing our local limited resources on actions that promise the greatest benefit for the whole community;
- creating new local industries to give a boost to the local economy. New Co-ops and the idea of micro-financing will help in this area;
- having a diversity of land use: farms, community gardens, aquaculture, forests, orchards;
- shifting the attitude of "business as usual" for a continuous change and adaptation behaviour;
- shifting from the entitlement mind-set to one of “we are on this together”, based on a collaboration, sharing and trust spirit;
- waking up and face reality instead of keep living in a hopeless dream


re-stupid 2week boondoggle
Comment by Wendy Legare on 28th February 2010

many interesting points
Comment by romina on 25th February 2010
Vulnerability and resilience taps into my concerns. I fear if we can't support public meeting spaces, families, elders, youth and active community-minded people in general will not have places to meet, talk and share ideas, knowledge and activities. Our halls are really our only zocalos where people can make connections and build community. Whether it be walking group or parents and tots, french club, community dinners or morning tai chi, our time spent together in shared space keeps us alive and vibrant as a community. To be a real community we need to see each other face to face. Having met people at the hall, I now have relationships that have led me to work with others and help them as they have helped me.

Because they are the only type of village centres we have for community endeavors, I fear simply letting our halls slowly shutdown, will do the same for the surrounding community. Cortes without community activities and places to meet and engage is not, for most, a very attractive or healthy place to live, whether that be physically, mentally or economically. Maybe we'll just end up an island of hermits but the loss of diversity in our population even for hermits impedes resilience.

I'm not here to debate the hall issue, I only hope we find solutions to support our public meeting spaces, and I truly hope 10 years from now I'm not living in a ghost-town.