Roy L. Hales: Renewable Opportunities For Cortes Island By 2030
There are presently fewer than a thousand residents on Cortes Island, which is presently a six-hour drive (and three ferry trips) north of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. There will be many renewable opportunities for Cortes Island by 2030.
Our most important issue is forestry. Though two-thirds of British Columbia is clad by trees, logging companies can presently clearcut forests after they are 80 years old. As a result, most of the mature stands of our province’s past are primarily found in historical photographs. Only 1% of the once-plentiful Douglas fir remain. Most of the timber that reaches market is now half sapwood. (Mature trees are almost totally heartwood.)
It takes about 180 yearsfor many species to reach maturity, and the lifetime of a Douglas fir is about five centuries. Most of the mosses, lichens, and ferns that take nitrogen and other nutrients out of the atmosphere grow in forests that are at least 150–250 years old.
According to a study by Sierra Club BC, the province’s logging practices have transformed our forests into a carbon emitter. Two hundred and seventy million tons of carbon emissions — six times British Columbia’s official annual emissions! — were released into the atmosphere in 2003. This is not sustainable.
Though Cortes Island’s Community Forest initiative is scheduled to start cutting in April 2015, one of its top priorities is restoring the island’s forests. For this reason, no old or mature timber will be harvested for many decades. Where logging is allowed, it may limit the cut to 15% of the available timber in a plot. This is believed to be a sustainable level, which would allow the harvested area to continue developing. By 2030, Cortes Island will model how BC’s forests can be logged in a way that allows them to return to their former glory.
The periodic power outages Cortes presently experiences will be a thing of the past. There will be a 5 MW energy storage facility on the island and many of the homes on the island’s sunny south side utilize solar panels to produce more energy than they use. Cortes Island will be a net energy producer, rather than consumer, of energy.
Only zero net energy homes should be built after 2020 and the vast majority of older homes will utilize PACE financing to pay for energy-saving upgrades that enabled them to cut their usage by anywhere from 50% to 90%.
There will be only a handful of “gas cars” left on the island. After the price of EVs went below that of “normal cars” and their range reached 500 miles per charge — in the 2020s — sales of combustion-propelled vehicles fell to less than 1% of the market. Manufacturers did not find that sustainable and started producing only EVs.
Most Cortes residents will prefer the eBus, or bicycles (to keep fit), for on-island trips.
A large number will also prefer public transportation for most of their longer trips. After the provincial government’s priority shifted from serving corporate interests, to serving the people of BC, it found ways to make the system work. People will board the eBus to Campbell River and then catch either high-speed rail or, if they are willing to pay the additional fee, a flight to any destination in the world.
EVs are still invaluable for reaching remote locations but, as a growing number of people are recognizing, if they need a car, they can rent one or use a car-sharing program.
These are all renewable opportunities Cortes Island can develop by 2030.
- Graph showing how sapwood decreases as trees mature, courtesy David Shipway’s article,Forestry Quality Always Takes Time, on the ECOreport
- Note the scarcity of mosses, lichens, and ferns in this +80-year-old forest on Cortes Island — Roy L Hales photo
- Coast Douglas-fir, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1887 — released in the public domain
- Bicycling at Wildwood Recreation Site, Welches — Mt Hood Territory, CC BY-SA 2.0
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