Missing Vancouver

2011-08-03

in Daily updates, Economics, Toronto

There is a lot I miss about Vancouver. There are the obvious things, like all the friends and family I have in that city. There are also more esoteric things, like riding the stretch of the Skytrain between Chinatown and the wild outer reaches of New Westminster, walking across the False Creek bridges in the middle of the night, or trekking between North Vancouver coffee shops by means of wild parks with dangerous rivers in them.

Moving to Toronto, I am sure I will find things to appreciate about the city. On the basis of all the trips I have made there since 2007, I certainly have an awareness of the virtues of the city, from the active arts community to the sheer wonderful anonymous size. I look forward to disappearing into the mass.

One day it seems likely that I will find a way to live in Vancouver again, at least temporarily. It is probably a city with long-term economic vitality. At least until all the soil is depleted, British Columbia will remain a massive engine for producing wood demanded in other places. Vancouver has an excellent harbour, and doesn’t seem to be too vulnerable to sea level rise (aside from the unfortunate suburbs kept dry by levees). There will be a gigantic earthquake one day, but the city will survive – particularly the buildings with wooden or steel frames. British Columbia has lots of hydroelectric power and a reasonable amount of arable land.

For someone who avoids flying, getting back to Vancouver from the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto zone is quite an undertaking. The bus journey is a long and unpleasant one, and the train is both much more expensive and much less environmentally sustainable. Flying, of course, is the ‘nice for me, too bad for people in future generations’ option.

Still, as long as the visit is going to be a fairly extended one, it is worth putting in the time and carbon to get back to the west coast. To be in Vancouver with a decent job and a good place to live would be an enviable situation. It may also be a decent option for doing a doctorate, if I decide to pursue that strategy. Walking around the UBC campus while it is milling with new undergrads would surely be a bit strange. I wonder what the first-year version of me would think of the version from ten years later. I have certainly grown a great deal more pessimistic about the future of the world, and probably more realistic about my ability to alter it.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah August 4, 2011 at 1:37 am

It is probably a city with long-term economic vitality. I’m not so sure. As far as I can see, Vancouver has the astronomical living costs of somewhere like New York, but without the job opportunities or incomes to match. If you don’t believe me, take a look at last year’s CBC news article entitled “Vancouver has world’s least affordable housing: report” http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2010/01/26/consumer-home-affordability.html .

In the time I’ve been here I’ve witnessed an accelerating flight of twenty and thirty somethings because housing is so expensive relative to incomes, and the only people I know who can pay those living prices are wealthy computer programmers (one of the very few industries where there are reliably jobs in Vancouver for smart people). Increasingly, I think Vancouver’s economic model is based on tourism, building condos, and hoping that the property bubble doesn’t burst.

Milan August 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I certainly don’t mean that the economy of Vancouver can always remain as it is now – just that there are factors that suggest the place has long-term viability as a human settlement.

It may also be unusually resilient to the effects of modest climate change and/or fossil fuel depletion accompanied by dramatic price increases for fuel.

oleh August 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I am hoping that there will be a substantial drop in housing costs in the Vancouver area so that it is more affordable. I believe it is an unhealthy situation when teachers and firefighters cannot afford to live in the community they serve.

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