In the 1950s, this building in downtown Victoria – photographed here in the 1920s – would become a Buckerfield’s. Company CEO Kelvin McCulloch asks: Can we limit our demands and expectations to return to a more sustainable existence?

There Was a Time…

Let’s think about our early beginnings … and try to find our way back to a place of sustainability

By Kelvin McCulloch

Buckerfield’s CEO

The picture above was taken in the early 1900s in front of what is now the Swan Pub in Victoria, B.C. This feed dealership would eventually become a Buckerfield’s store in the 1950s.

The picture shows what commerce looked like in the last days of environmental sustainability. Greenhouse gas emissions were minimal. Natural processes rather than man-made ones dominated the evolution of the planet. Industry relied on manual labour, horse-drawn carriages, the emerging motorcar, rail, hydroelectricity, coal and steam levels that could be sustained.

Global business was limited. There was no plastic, no computers, no cell phones, no digital cameras, no television, no air travel, no GPS, no satellites, no box stores, no credit cards, no online shopping, no social media.

The pace was slower. Expectations and offerings were simpler.

There are two horse-drawn wagons and two trucks in the picture. The wagons operated at a classical two horsepower each, that’s four horsepower. The two commercial trucks might have operated at 40 horsepower each. All the motive transportation in the picture might have produced a whopping 84 horsepower. That’s how the business was operated.

Now, picture the cars in a big box store parking lot one week before Christmas. Imagine the mountains of consumer goods that will be put into those cars and transported home. Virtually every car in the lot will have more than 130 horsepower. Many will have up to 400 horsepower to do about the same kind of work as one of the horse-drawn wagons in the picture. In total, there will be tens of thousands of horsepower sitting in the box store parking lot at any one time. Imagine for a moment the amount of carbon dioxide produced by all that horsepower.

Now imagine all the box store products, the extruded plastics, the computers, the consumer electronics, small appliances, major appliances, on and on. None of these things existed in the 1920s.

Imagine the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the manufacturing processes required to create all the box store products. Imagine how much greenhouse gas is produced transporting all those products from the factories in China where they are made to the box stores in our communities.

Now picture the waste material produced by a 1920s consumer. What did it look like? How much was there per person? Compare that with the waste that will be generated when all the cars in the box store parking lot drive home and the unboxing begins. Picture all the styrofoam and plastic and cardboard discarded.

Much of that box store product comes from China, hence the need for all that packaging. Not so in the 1920s when people’s needs were simpler and many of the products were produced in their own local areas and domestic markets.

How do we go forward – or backward – to a time when the environment is truly life giving and sustainable again? Can we get by with one or two horsepower? Can we limit our demands and expectations? Can we re-establish simple, local markets to minimize our carbon footprint? Can we minimize our waste gases and other materials to levels that do not alter the climate and destroy the planet? Let’s think about our early beginnings, remember there was a time … and try to find our way once again, before it’s too late.

 

Piles of waste will be generated this holiday season from imported consumer products. Can shopping closer to home help reduce that?

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Parksville council members vote themselves a hike in pay

Mayor goes from $40.9K to $52.5K and councillors from $16.9K to $30K

Multi-use village green space proposed for Qualicum Beach

Early development plans see a gathering space at the old bus garage site

UPDATE: City of Parksville buys 222 Corfield site

With the purchase, the city will not facilitate cold-weather shelter on property

Thirty trees destroyed in Parksville’s Cedar Ridge Estates

Damage estimated at $30K; city says vandals intended to permanently ruin the trees

600 new campsites coming to provincial parks and recreation sites across B.C.

Tourism Minister announced half of the new spots to 13 most popular provincial parks

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Parksville mom who lost son to brain tumour joins 24th annual walk

Brain Tumour Walk takes place at the University of Victoria on Sunday, May 26

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the southern Interior

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Most Read