Ten Years Into the Future: social and ecological sustainability in the Okanagan and British Columbia

This post is a sketch of a detailed, viable alternative to this document:



There are solutions in this blog for every problem listed in this document, that avoid its high technology assumptions and their support for a continued suppression of indigenous peoples and the domination of the living land by imported technology. This post is not a reaction against technology. There is a wealth of technology below, and creatively developed it should yield much more wealth to come. I wrote about “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” yesterday (and its images from outside of B.C.), here: click. This post gathers some of this blog’s posts on this important issue. (Try to forget for the moment that there are some 2400 other posts on the blog as well. I’ve tried to weed them down for you here.)



Let me begin with a few first principles from a post on eco-agricultural writing:

First Principles

A first note towards an academy of eco-agricultural writing:

1. The earth is the story. We are not separate from this story. We are walking in it. We are eating its words. We are drinking its water. We are breathing its air.
2. Eco-agriculture is worked out in relationship with the land’s processes, not with purified essences derived from them and used for independent ends.
3. Language is part of the process. How we employ it matters.

Here’s another post that takes up the theme: Eco Agriculture in a Spring Light


In short, our answers come from the land. Accordingly, our education does as well. I have collected nine of my posts on education in the Okanagan Valley. Let me be clear. This blog takes the position that:

Education belongs to everyone and is the responsibility of everyone.

Much education comes from the land and the water themselves.

Schooling and higher education can augment this learning or stand in its way.

These posts follow. As with all these posts, please read as little or as much as you like, but do consider that when this entire blog is assembled in one place it embodies an educational institution tied to and rising from the land itself, unifying many disciplines and transferring energy between them. I believe we need such an institution. In its lack, I have tried to sketch out its parameters:


Note that I have not included my posts on the arts, although I consider them linked.


Closely linked to the modern university is technology and its applications. Given that “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” is a technological document, and one that envisions the university as a school of one particular kind of technological development only, I offer alternatives. You will note that they include Indigenous understandings. There are many more posts on the blog, and I’m working on other documents along this line, but this is a good start:


Note that some of these posts are closely linked to posts on water, which follow.

A farm water system.

One of the defining characteristics of the Okanagan Valley (and the entire Intermontane shrub steppe environment of which it is a part) is the apparent lack of water, coupled with apparent heat. In a sense, these characteristics are real. In a sense they are misunderstandings. They are, however, bound together. Indigenous understandings gleaned from at least 16,000 years of life in this environment (and perhaps 120,000 in California), link the two in one concept: not land and water, but land-and-water. One thing and yet two. Nonetheless, colonial culture here understands the land as a desert that can be made to bloom by the application of water. Now that water is becoming scarce due to overpopulation (with no end in sight), and now that climate is changing, many arguments, including those of “The Future of B.C.’s Food System”, hold that in this deteriorating situation only increased technological interventions of an industrial kind can save human populations. That is simply not true. What such interventions have a chance at is at saving those kinds of technological interventions and the kind of society they support. As I argued yesterday, that society can change, and when it does, the need for those interventions, and the massive social problems that they inadvertently (?) cause, will be mitigated, if not erased. Erased is probably too much to hope for, but mitigation is still positive. In that spirit, here is a collection of writings on water. Many link to the observations on technology above and to notes on Indigenous agriculture, which follow them.


Note that the first few posts are introductory vision statements observing water in place.

Bountiful Water.

Environmental and social understandings of human life linked simultaneously with land and water are not unique to Indigenous societies. They stand at the root of the Euro-American experience here as well. The short list of posts I have included below does not delve into the historical reasons why many of these understandings were abandoned or grievously altered during the colonization process. I wanted to keep a tighter focus on agriculture than that, although the posts are in the blog as a whole. Accordingly, I have included a few posts on the commons, in which land and water are universally owned by the people, and the Agricultural Land Reserve (the ALR), a nearly 50-year-old reserve of agricultural land to protect it from industrial or residential development and preserve it for agriculture. “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” argues that this land is becoming so expensive that only industrializing it through technological systems will save it. I argue that it does not contain the whole of B.C.’s usable crop land, and is not always used wisely. In short, positive change can be effected politically. We do not live in a hopeless situation.

The Commons and the ALR

Land in Peril

If we are to develop the full potential of our land by supporting it so it can support us (a primary Indigenous principle, by the way), some economic and land-use reforms will be necessary. These will include different ways of using the tools of the university to assess pathways open to us.  They also promise alleviation of some distressing social problems, including poverty and unemployment, and the health problems linked to them. The health of our relationship to the land and the water is closely linked to this social health. There, we can take our measure.

Environmental Accounting

Note: The chosen posts below concentrate on what might be described more-or-less typical economic measures, or at least close to them. The blog itself contains posts which use land-based measures. I leave those for your future discovery. Their real goal is to lead you out onto the land, so it can teach them to you.

Note: there is a role for government in preparing us for these measures.

Government Help Was Inadequate Here

The goal is to build a post-settler economy, one accountable to the environment.

Building The Post Settler Economy

Note: the second post below is a compendium of sixty principles that can be applied immediately to effect change. Some are simple. Some require community develop. All are completely do-able. None involve a need for continued alienation from the land and Indigenous people to protect our ability to feed ourselves.

Directly linked to that development is the development of an agriculture that works with living systems, geological systems, and atmospheric systems in this place. While you pore through them, I hope you will keep in mind that it is a primary assumption of the document “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” that society is unchangeable. Nothing about human history supports such a claim. Please, if nothing else, be wary of anyone making it.  They are not entirely trustworthy.

Towards an Indigenous Agriculture

Columbia Hawthorn

One of the reasons given in “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” for the need to embrace industrial technology is that the climate is changing, and crops are becoming increasingly vulnerable. My argument in okanaganokanogan has consistently been that only the wrong crops grown in the wrong way in the wrong place are vulnerable. In effect, these are social factors far more than environmental ones. Locally, much can be done to mitigate climate change by embracing Indigenous agricultural principles than defending inappropriate models of agriculture, distribution, environment and their implications for social relationships. Actually, far more can be done right here than can be achieved by agitating for C02 reductions (as important as they are) or hiding from the Earth in non-natural built environments.

New Climate

In the Grassland, Trees are Weeds

To complete that theme, we have the potential for new crops and a new food culture.

New Crops

Apostemon Bee in a Mariposa Lily

A new food culture could put us on an equal footing with French, Caribbean, or Chinese food cultures, rather than replicating them here, calling “local” anything harvested in the vast province of BC (The University of British Columbia once served me “local halibut” harvested 1000 kilometres away, over the mountains) or, simply, European or Californian recipes using locally-grown carrots. It also includes a respect for the local, and the integration of food culture with the environment. Practically, speaking, we have the potential to raise and harvest food on far more than the tiny fraction of land currently used both for urban and agricultural use, and in conflict with each other. Those are colonial spaces. We can leave them for the wealth that awaits us.

New Spaces
Vertical farming.

Self-Irrigating Orchard and Crop Land (With irrigated crops below)

One other technology advocated by “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” is genetic modification, on the basis that it allows crops to be tailored to combat pests and changes in climate. Another argument that has been used is that increase the marketability of our food. Aside from the fact that they represent privatization (and theft) of the common ancestral wealth of all people, in terms of the Okanagan Valley they also represent a total waste of effort. More has been gained here by simple plant breeding than GMO can every promise. As well, GMO technologies can only promise to preserve an inefficient food system and its problems, rather than relieve us of them. They are, in effect, socially-regressive and -repressive. They also represent an imposition of urban values on farmland and farm communities, even when they are inappropriate and land understandings have to be erased to even try to fit them. No people can hold a claim to the land in this way. It is, however, a good way to preserve violence.


Lost Knowledge

Finally, some notes on industrial agriculture itself. To be clear, I don’t have anything against industrial agriculture per se. I was raised on an industrial farm, and industrial agriculture has supported me for much of my life. It is a vital part of my foundational culture. However, I draw a line between industrialization that develops the land and industrialization that impoverishes it, and as Indigenous peoples are the land, that impoverishes our social relationships and keeps us from resolving the legal issues of who we are on the land. In 1862, Henry David Thoreau argued that only by embracing the land and becoming indigenous in its local forms could democracy be preserved in North America. His observation still stands.

Industrial Agriculture

The voice is ours. The answer is not protest but action to build a better future. Protest may or may not be a part of that, but without the action, and the knowledge behind that action, it will only lead us back to the same palette of failed ideas. Right now, British Columbians are showing a desire for social change and a commitment to social and environmental solidarity by defending our wild salmon stocks, protesting against massive energy projects, and fighting against social injustice. We are isolating ourselves to protect each other from a virus. “The Future of B.C.’s Food System” is another virus, with environmental, social and spiritual consequences. We do not have to hide from this one. For this one, we simply must come together, not as the people on the land, but as the people-and-the-land-and-water as one thing, and three at the same time. We will have to show our universities the benefits of siding with us.

Asparagus leading the way into the wild and going to seed. Let’s listen, and follow her.

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