‘Mandated mediocrity’ leaving ecosystems despoiled, paradise paved

Dear editor,

I would like to add my rant on the topics of homelessness, and the "Comox box" syndrome.

Dear editor,

I would like to add my rant to the other folks who have written letters to the editor recently on the topics of homelessness, and the “Comox box” syndrome.

Please excuse my use of long words, as I am originally British, and I can’t help it.

There was a hit song in the 1960s called Little Boxes by Pete Seeger, which had the refrain: “Little boxes, little boxes, all made of ticky tacky, all look just the same.”

His comments on the advent of suburbia were well ahead of his time, and he envisioned a rather bleak future.

Fast forward to the present.

I can understand Gillian Parker’s letters where she laments what she sees as the paving over of paradise. However, I think it’s less about the folks she mentions who live on Spitfire Road and other war-torn streets, and more about the lack of choices that are available to those who inhabit these supposedly bleak enclaves.

Since the end of World War II, around the mid/late 1940s, there has been the ubiquitous march of suburbia, strip malls, and freeways to nowhere. Some see this as inevitable, and welcome these results of so-called progress.

A few decades ago, big box stores loomed ominously on the horizon, their main purpose to siphon off the maximum profits they could. They promise cheap, disposable goods, that a year from their purchase will end up clogging our landfills.

Their products are made offshore (usually China), where the workers have to tolerate deplorable conditions, which would be considered a crime here.

Big box stores offer minimum, part-time wages, and are generally welcomed by councils who appear to have little awareness of the long-term impact on their communities. This often translates to the collapse of established local businesses (Read: what is now happening in downtown Courtenay.)

So what about the failed American Dream?  And who is to blame for this failure?

Perhaps, as Gillian Parker has inferred or stated, we should point the finger at the unelected staff of local governments whose main purpose is to maintain the status quo. In other words, don’t rock the boat that pays them handsomely to keep things as they are.

Maybe these people who earn six-figure salaries should be elected, just like their political counterparts. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if these “public servants” actually served their constituents, and faced the music for the mind-numbing results of their advice?

I do concede that a number of local governments now employ very dedicated individuals whose job it is to mitigate the effects of the above choices such as climate change, and work hard to promote more sustainable lifestyles.

I am sure that many people who live in “the sterile streets between Bolt Avenue and Quality Foods” in Comox are quite happy in their subdivisions. I take no issue with that.

It’s the mandated mediocrity which leaves ecosystems despoiled, paradise paved, etc. that I find so depressing. Yes, we all have to live somewhere, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in harmony with nature, rather than covering it with soulless asphalt and concrete?

So what’s all this got to do with the homeless? Maybe it’s the same myopic vision (or lack thereof) that condemns those unfortunate people that Graham Charlton described in his letter recently. Those who cant pay for the mortgages or rents, and are therefore unable to participate in the North American (Canadian) Dream. Despite wanting to (or maybe because they don’t want to), they are unable to be mortgaged up to the hilt, or pay ever-increasing tax burdens that the rest of us have to tolerate as a pre-condition for participation.

I sometimes envy these folks for their freedom, having either opted out voluntarily, or through circumstances beyond their control — like Rob, who died recently in Courtenay. I have been the happiest when I had nothing, although I never had to sleep under a bridge in the freezing weather.

Like Jerry in Cumberland, who cycles around collecting bottles for his survival. He always has a ready smile, perhaps because he has no mortgage, no credit card debt, no 9-5 wage enslavement. He appears to be always fit — so no gym fees either.

So can we be rescued from the gulags that Gillian Parker rails against? How about having some really affordable housing alternatives to the Comox Box?

Although there’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), it’s really a rich person’s band-aid concession to true sustainability. How about having homes designed not only for ecological integrity, but also actually within the reach of even those with the most modest incomes? The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Here’s where I unabashedly plug the recently-formed group I am involved in, called BC Alternative Housing. We are promoting something that will likely make many building inspectors quake in their boots: owner designed and built, affordable homes (not “spec houses”).

These use readily available local materials that don’t create toxins and pollution that are found in many conventionally-built houses. Materials such as clay, cob, straw, or cordwood. We even feature on our website a building style called Earthships made with recycled tires, used bottles and cans, and good old dirt.

You can find out more at www.althousing.org. Watch out for our workshops, coming to a location near you.

Richard Drake,


Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Comox town hall. Black Press file photo
Comox takes step closer to finalizing Northeast Comox Storm Water Management Plan

“(This has been a) tremendous work in progress for many years”

Town of Comox council (from left) Alex Bissinger, Ken Grant, Nicole Minions, Mayor Russ Arnott, Stephanie McGowan, Maureen Swift and Pat McKenna. Photo by Kim Stallknecht
Byelection coming to the Town of Comox

The latest municipal election was held in October 2018

The Kus-kus-sum site had been a sawmill on the Courtenay River. File photo
Restoration of Kus-kus-sum area in Courtenay to begin June 21

Restoration at the Kus-kus-sum site will begin June 21. This will be… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

Most Read