Here come the 2020s: WKES director Montana Burgess

A series featuring local leaders writing their predictions for the future

Montana Burgess, the executive director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety, says 2030 still sounds like something out of a sci-fi story to her.

Will we finally have flying cars and the elusive hoverboard? Probably not, but the flying machines we already have, airplanes, will likely be electric across the globe. Did you hear that in December the Lower Mainland’s Harbour Air made history by completing the world’s first commercial electric-aircraft test flight? If there is one word I predict will be the word of the next decade, it’s “electric.”

2020 marks the beginning of the decade of transformation around the world. Scientists from across the globe have said that what we do over the next decade really, really matters. We either work together and make the necessary changes or we fail. Rainy winters and dry, hot summers with flooding, landslides, and wildfires have already made appearances in our local lives. We either change our course or we set ourselves up for problems on a scale I honestly can’t imagine. And I don’t want to imagine that world.

It’s a true nightmare and thinking about it will put me into a depressed little ball in bed if I spend my energy picturing the scale of death and destruction across the world. Instead I’m putting my energy into building the 2030 of my dreams: where people live healthy, safe, and strong lives in clean and thriving communities.

At the West Kootenay EcoSociety, we’ve been advocating for the transition to 100-per-cent renewable energy across the cities and towns of the West Kootenay, the province, the country, and the whole world. This means we need to phase out our collective use of oil and phase in clean and renewable energy — not just for our electricity use, but for heating and cooling buildings, getting from place to place, and in the products we use.

We need to use less energy in our homes, businesses, schools, rec centres, libraries, industries and vehicles. Then any remaining energy still being used needs to come from the sun, wind, water, and heat from the earth. We need to keep our natural assets — like big old trees — intact, so they can absorb the existing carbon pollution and keep other pollution in the ground. And we need to do all of this while respecting people and communities, and using materials that don’t take huge amounts of energy to make. This means things like megadams are usually not the solution.

To achieve this goal of 100-per-cent renewable energy by mid-century, and to not push us past the tipping point in our carbon pollution, we have to get almost halfway to 100-per-cent renewable energy by 2030. That’s a big job.

It’s going to take everyone working together. I’m proud that nine communities in our region have already said yes to the clean-energy future: Castlegar, Slocan, Nelson, Rossland, New Denver, Silverton, Warfield, Kaslo and the Regional District of Central Kootenay. I think the other towns in our area will also see the wide community support and join the energy transition to cleaner energy and healthier communities in the early years of the new decade.

I think we will work together to leverage the strengths of our communities to figure out how to do this transition fast, and reach that halfway point in the next 10 years. I predict that our beautiful part of the world will be the role model and leader for other rural and spread-out communities to successfully transition to 100-per-cent renewable energy. We will live the dream of safe communities, good careers, and, yes, even some fun and happiness.

I’m going all-in on this dream. I think we will get it together and lay the course we want and need. I think this will happen because this is what humans are amazing at doing: facing a crisis and working together to innovate and solve problems. We want to survive, so we figure out a way.

In 2030 my little toddler will be a teenager and I will be walking up the stairs to knock on the door of 50. I hope I will look back on these predictions I’m writing today and feel proud that we did work through the challenges together, and that we did achieve clean energy, healthy and strong community, and being the role models for sustainable small-town living. I hope when you look up the word electric, you read something about clean and renewable energy in the West Kootenay.

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