A perfect summer day. Last night to the Bard on the Beach Twelfth Night, a great production all round. No mumbling; no action on the hidden balcony; lots of humor; many laughs; and great acting. This is sustainable theater: a play that touches the heart, deals with eternal themes, and ends happily.
Today to the 30th wedding anniversary of a friend from university days so long ago. We old 47s and 49ers gathered in the flowered garden and talked of old times and the young who cannot afford houses in Vancouver, won’t get married, and have grandkids out of wedlock. The oldies are mostly civil engineers who have built things and now work for TransLink and MetroVancouver keeping the SkyTrain running, the water from Seymour Dam flowing, sewage to the ocean, and closing old mines. We can be proud of what we have done.
As I sat typing, yet another EduMine course (this one on geosynthetics in mining), there was a tentative knock at the front door. There was a dirty blond-haired youth. His hair hung to his shoulders. He was thin and mangy, with a dirty shirt and crumpled pants. In his arms a calendar of scenic pictures and a file of scruffy papers.
He introduced himself in a nervous manner and asked it I would support the campaign against mining in BC. “We must tread lightly on the earth. We must support the Indians who seek only to live the life they have lived forever. Why change things?” he asked.
My shackles rose. Responses surged through my brain. But he was so soft and unsure, that I took pity on him.
“How do we do that?” I asked.
“”Support my organization,” his response.
“But what do I do?” I asked again.
“Join for a family membership of $59 a year, get the calendar, and speak against Fish Lake being destroyed.”
“I do my share for the environment,” I protested.
“What do you do?” he asked.
“I am a civil engineer, and I help mines deal with their tailings. I help mines clean up and close responsibly,” I protested.
“That is good. I have a friend who is working for a mining company. He is taking water quality samples to see what the mine impact is,” was his lame response.
I thought this enough and sought to eject him, but there was a mad persistence in his manner. He seemed reluctant to leave, eager to please, and desperate for praise. I felt sorry for him, for he knew not what he had taken on nor the gravity of what he sought.
I confess I knew nothing of Fish Lake and the Taskeo Mine. I have since been on the web and read. Drain a lake to put tailings there? No, spend an extra $300 million and put the tailings upgradient. It gets mind-boggling pretty fast.
We chatted about the electric bicycle that I plan to buy; the need for metals and lead to power the bicycle; the cost of a new Stormer, and the inequality of it all.
And my mind jumped back to the conversations in the flowered gardens of privileged civil engineers this afternoon. We had concluded that the only kids who had houses in Vancouver were those whose parents had helped them buy. We concluded that without rich parents, or at least parents with professional careers like we had as civil engineers, the kids had no chance of buying a place.
“Sad for the kids whose parents earn less; for their kids will forever be without their own house.”
The Canadian lady opined: “I saved my baby-sitting money. I bought my first house at 22. Now we have a big house, a condo in downtown Vancouver, and my daughter is just graduated as a doctor and we bought her and her husband a house as a graduation present. Most people of our generation did not do that and most of their kids will have to rent all their lives. That’s the way it is.”
The very old friend told me his son has his own business as a gardener, and has just passed the UBC exams to become a woodworking teacher. His other son is a fully-fledged, union-card carrying electrician, who will start work next week on the new TrumpTower in downtown Vancouver, a job of four years at least. “Then he will go to UBC to get his electrical engineering degree.”
“The kids of immigrants do well,” said one of the Witsies. “They simply have to work harder to out-compete Canadian kids who are spoilt and lazy, or so infused with revolutionary ideas that they loose their way.”
To which the Canadian lady with a newly graduated doctor replied in indignation: “Not true. It is just that immigrants are striving people; that is why they come; their kids too are striving; it is in the blood. But do not discount us born Canadians and our kids. There are many who work, save, invest, educate, and buy houses for our kids. What you see here is the average—not all are able, hard-working, ambitious, and not all invest in property. They like the good life the waters & land of Canada provide in abundance. They seek other goals and examine other ways of life. Glad I don’t and glad my kids don’t, but we must grant them the right to explore, to criticize, and to seek to make things better.” She is a wise lady, in my opinion.
And so I shooed away the long-haired youth. And came to write this piece. I am confused. But I am glad I am a civil engineer as are my two daughters. I am glad they have houses and family and I am glad that at least one of them works for mining companies seeking to open new mines in a responsible way.