Big City Life

Smoky River Regional Economic Development

by Dan Dibbelt

My wife and I just returned from a short weekend break in, surprisingly sunny, Vancouver. Vancouver is a lovely city, with amazing ocean and mountain views. And much to our surprise, we did have a very sunny couple days.

I am not a big city fan, but I must admit I enjoy the occasional weekend get-away to a large urban centre to take in the big city life. Vancouver is a great option. It has the aquarium, Stanley Park, the Science Centre, Capilano Bridge and the seawall. In Vancouver you can enjoy the big city, but still get away from it all.

We decided to use Airbnb and booked a downtown condo instead of staying in a hotel. We had the convenience of a kitchen, living room, separate bedroom and roof top patio with views of downtown and English Bay.

For most people living in Vancouver, our little suite would be a dream come true. We were on the 33rd floor, we had about 1,000 square feet of space and we had an amazing view. Saturday morning my wife and I got up, put on a pot of coffee and headed to the rooftop patio to enjoy a few moments of peace and serenity with an ocean view.

Well, the constant hum of traffic, sprinkled with jets flying overhead and sirens echoing up from the street, pretty much eliminated any serenity or peace. Still, trying to stay positive, we had an amazing view, a view most Vancouverites do not get to enjoy.

We spent the next couple days touring the sights, battling the crowds, adjusting to a new definition of personal space and adapting to life in a major urban. We stopped at the local eco supermarket to buy all the great organic foods which are priced considerably higher, and then spent just us much time trying to figure out which recycling bin the waste was supposed to go in.

Vancouver, appears to sell itself as a very environmentally friendly city. And yet as we walked on miles of pavement and concrete, surrounded by towers of concrete and glass and roads filled with luxury vehicles, I wondered just how much more green are they than us back home. Do Vancouverites know that they have been pipelining and shipping oil products from their port for more than 50 years now?

As we sat on our rooftop patio, looking at the eight cargo ships parked in English Bay I wondered if Vancouverites know that cargo shipping produces about five percent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions, two and half times what all of Canada produces.

As we walked the streets of Vancouver and were entertained by the immense amount of commercialism that defines Vancouver, I wondered if they realized that the majority of their product purchases use oil products either directly in the production of the item or in the machinery to make the item? And I wondered if they realized the majority of their products were likely shipped here from overseas, in those greenhouse gas emitting cargo ships?

As we traveled around Vancouver and saw numerous houses with a considerable life span still in them, being torn down to accommodate newer and bigger, and I wondered if they realized the amount of emissions caused from tearing down a perfectly fine home and building a new one?

Vancouver is a city of contradiction. We saw many stunning residential properties. We saw people dressed in haute couture. We saw a pristine concrete seawall with harbors loaded with yachts and sailboats that would make Gilligan giggle with envy. We saw dragon boat rowing teams in the channels, and we saw cyclists with bikes that are worth more than some cars and clothing that puts my best suit to shame.

And we saw countless homeless people who slept on flattened cardboard, nestled into abandoned shop front entrance ways and used shopping carts next to them, holding their worldly possessions. I don’t mean to criticize Vancouver initiatives for recycling and greenhouse gas reductions, or even their policies on dealing with the homeless, but I do have an issue with large city urbans attacking provinces like Alberta for their energy production.

We may not be as educated, or cultured or high class as many Vancouverites, but we are as intelligent, as environmentally sensitive and as classy as the best Vancouverite. And here, in northern Alberta, we can sit on our patio enjoying our morning coffee listening to the silence, with just the sounds of the leaves whispering in the morning breeze and enjoy the chickadees and sparrows chattering in the trees.

And in northern Alberta we don’t have to live in a concrete cubicle, work in a concrete cubicle and navigate through the swarms of people on the concrete sidewalks and roadways. The best part of visiting Vancouver, is coming back home.

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