Avocados and Christmas Trees – Vancouver Land Use; ALR; Food

avo xmas copy

In view of yesterday’s spirited and informative discussion (thanks, all), we have withdrawn this morning’s teed-up anecdote and invite the continuation of yesterday’s discussion here today. [Here are a few comments from yesterday’s thread]:

“There seem to be some misconceptions about the size and capacity of the ALR.
“The minimum amount of agricultural land necessary for sustainable food security, with a diversified diet similar to those of North America and Western Europe (hence including meat), is 0.5 of a hectare per person. This does not allow for any land degradation such as soil erosion, and it assumes adequate water supplies. Very few populous countries have more than an average of 0.25 of a hectare. It is realistic to suppose that the absolute minimum of arable land to support one person is a mere 0.07 of a hectare–and this assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no land degradation or water shortages, virtually no post-harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc. [FAO, 1993]”
Total hectares of ALR in fraser valley: 132,760 in 2009 (stats canada) (less today)
132,760/0.07 = 1.9 million people. That’s how many the ALR can support, best case scenario. That’s for people fed a subsistence, almost vegan diet, where one crop failure means famine.
Keeping current diets up: 265,500 people. (That’s 0.26 million).
Current lower mainland population: 2.6 million.
While fishing adds to the total number of people, we are nevertheless completely dependent on food imports. Any food supply chain disruption is going to cause a slight… inconvenience to the normal process of cellular respiration. Worth keeping in mind when we look at the planned growth strategy for the region – was it 4 million by 2050?”

– The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

“Out of anything that should be outsourced and diversified for stability shouldn’t food be? Locavore sentiments are great, but in reality, being able to transfer food from areas of plenty to areas with little is sort of a fundamental requirement for stable societies. Starving people tend to get pretty cranky.”
– UBCghettodweller

“The issue is transportation. We are wholly dependent on liquid fuels for that, and they just quadrupled in cost in a decade. It’s an awfully long way by sailboat or horsewagon from the places that have the food to those that don’t. The second issue are chemical fertilizers, which will also become scarcer, diminishing yields per acre everywhere.”
– The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

“The ALR is not about locavore sentiments. It’s about security. It’s well and good to diversify and outsource food production, but if one day one of the areas with plenty can’t or won’t send the food shipments for whatever reason, a shitload of people get very cranky, very quickly.”
– The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

“Acquaculture? More factory chicken farms? Electrified railways supplied by nuclear or hydro power? Nuclear generated hydrogen for transport? Not to be flippant or anything, but I’ve been hearing about the end of the world for over 2,000 years, and science has proven that mankind is unsustainable for 200 years. Yet our food production and productivity continues to grow, birthrate is declining in most countries, and we’ve always solved our problems before. I think it’s a bit egotistical to think that, even though everything, been (comparatively) skittles and beer for our species for 200,000 years now, it’s all going to go pear shaped before this generation passes the baton.”
– Ralph Cramdown

““Running out of land”. “Immigration”. “Mountains”. “Water”. “Hard asset”. The list goes on. What these rationales have in common, besides being fallacious, is that they’re nice ‘n easy for folks to understand, and make handy talking points for promoters. And how about this gem, heard from a senior RBC advisor, in defence of Vancouver’s current real estate prices: “Well, everyone needs a roof over their head!”
– El Ninja

“We are completely dependent on food imports.”
Then, why are we growing Christmas trees instead of wheat in the ALR?

– Cyril Tourneur

“Christmas trees? That’s part of what the Fraser Institute calls “human ingenuity and market forces.” Have you all considered that this obsession with being self-sufficient in the lower mainland is just a group version of ‘Prepper’ madness?
“Britain has not been fully self-sufficient since the eighteenth century. It imported large quantities of wheat, eggs and sugar during the Victorian era, growing an increasingly small proportion of what it ate until World War II, when millions of consumers followed the plea to “dig for victory”. This self-sufficiency trend was immediately reversed after the war ended, however.”
Even at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, people weren’t starving in Britain. Those in the cities weren’t eating well, but they weren’t starving. And, not to put too fine a point on it, commodity and shipping prices were rather high at that point. Y’all are wanting to prepare for a worse scenario than that?”

– Ralph Cramdown

A few thoughts from a non-expert in this field:

This all looks like a problem with dietary behaviours as much as it is a problem with land use.
As an example, Vancouver Island apparently imports 90% of its food. We suspect that number could be reduced by a lot, but people choose not to produce the food and/or change their diets.

It seems people enjoy having access to the dietary variety offered by foods sourced globally. Who wants to give up avocados and bananas unless necessary? Consequently, dietary behaviour will likely be shaped by circumstance rather than choice: people will only give up certain items when they become unavailable, or prohibitively expensive. Fuel costs and other such considerations will likely apply natural pressures in this regard. People will have to adapt. If such changes happen in a precipitous fashion, that could be a problem.

As a society, should we put the effort and resources into developing an arrangement where we ensure that adequate ongoing protein and calories supplies for our entire population are available from BC & Canadian sources? We could do this, but there would be substantial expense involved. A bit like earthquake preparation, or forms of insurance. A diet from such sources would likely be far less diversified than we currently enjoy; it’d be more an emergency measure than an immediate and total replacement for current diets. Surplus during non-crisis periods (such as the present) could be exported, perhaps making the system partly self-supporting.
How close are we to having such a plan working right now?
If we had to immediately stop all food imports/exports, what would our diets look like?
Would we have enough calories/protein to sustain the Canadian population?

Even if we did set up such a plan, we’d expect people to continue to enjoy the diversified globally-sourced diet, while it was still available. Ingenuity may allow for current circumstances to continue for far longer than many anticipate.

Yesterday I expressed the opinion: “I think that the ‘scarcity’ of land (in Vancouver) is greatly over exaggerated, even within the ALR restraints. At the same time, I suspect that the ALR applies even further artificial limitations on land that is available… I suspect that there is massive amounts of land available for the accommodation of people, AND enough land to meet our agricultural needs.” Perhaps I’m wrong on the latter bit, as TPFKAA has suggested.
But what percentage of Vancouver’s food supply currently comes from the ALR?
If the ALR is only supplying us with a small fraction of our current diets, how important is it as part of any future food supply plan?
If the ALR is being used to grow Christmas trees, to support ‘hobby farms’, and to grow crops that are largely exported, why not more strongly encourage it to be used it for local food supply, or, alternatively, use it for housing?

– vreaa

Pre-emptive retort from TPFKAA:
“We need to start creating infrastructure that can tap other sources, or changing our profligacy with energy use, or both. While in principle there may be enough alternative energy to supply our needs, it takes many, many years to put the machinery in place to tap into these energies. You can’t build the port mann bridge in a day, nor can you replace the energy from oil at the pace of market forces. Market forces will lead to an abrupt cutoff, with not enough time to put that infrastructure in place. It’s hard to build and design shit when you hungry, the lights don’t work, and trucks can’t carry yo shit around. S’all I’m sayin, y’know?
The ALR is a damn important piece of land that needs not to have condos and sprawly mcmansions slapped onto it. It is a part of the solution.”

104 responses to “Avocados and Christmas Trees – Vancouver Land Use; ALR; Food

  1. ? Not to be flippant or anything, but I’ve been hearing about the end of the world for over 2,000 years, and science has proven that mankind is unsustainable for 200 years. Yet our food production and productivity continues to grow, birthrate is declining in most countries, and we’ve always solved our problems before.

    The things that need to be pointed out here are:

    1. A lot of the population and food growth is due to technologies we’ve developed over the last 100 or so years.
    2. A lot of the food production today is fuelled either directly or indirectly by oil.
    3. Cheap energy has allowed us to move ourselves and goods around more easily.

    Having said that, we have seen a marketable increase in the cost for fuel and energy in general. We also “cheated” nature, instead of letting land lie fallow for a year to recover we now pump it full of fertilizer to offset the mineral loss. This already has and will continue to increase the loss of top soil, without it we can’t really grow a lot.

    Lastly, there is the question about the change in climate, let’s ignore for a moment if it is a natural cycle, man made or man influenced. The end result will still be the same, weather pattern will change, pests will spread a lot further in a warm climate and water shortages in parts of the world are almost guaranteed (let’s not even talk about the risk of flooding and more severe storms).

    So yes, you are right. People always saw the end of the world right behind the next corner, the difference is that we have gotten past the point where the planet could feed us all, especially on a North American diet, by itself. We have pushed our boundaries with technology, but so have other societies before until nature outran their technical ability. I see no reason why we shouldn’t hit a wall ourselves, especially considering how slow we are in preparing / adapting for the problems that are already apparent.

  2. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    I have a metaphor that I feel captures the interplay of energy and market forces:

    A bunch of people living on a dull, uninteresting island with only millet to eat find an aircraft sitting on a runway. After much study, they discover the engines will fire up! They are thrilled. They all get on board and gun it down the runway. It takes off! They are even more thrilled. Their lifestyle has never been better. They settle down to enjoy their shrimp cocktails and champagne. About two hours into the flight, someone starts to wonder if it was smart to go up without checking to see how much fuel there is. Others poo-poo it, saying there is plenty. It hasn’t run out yet, so it never will. “But is it smart to be in the air without a plan in case it does run out,” she asks? “I’ll handle this!” an economist pipes up. “Market forces and human ingenuity will come up with a solution, don’t worry.” People concur and go back to their caviar with brie. An hour later, the fuel runs out, over the ocean.

    The market force to find an alternative is suddenly so strong that everyone immediately offers every dime they have to the person who discovers an alternative fuel. The people roll up their sleeves and get innovating. What happens next? I think it is pretty obvious.

    Now suppose the engines splutter for a few hours before conking out. People begin to realise the fuel may be running out. The innovators sweatily rig up parachutes while others look for islands to use as landing sites. Do they make it? Maybe.

    Our best hope as a society, is relying on the engines to splutter for long enough to allow market forces to precpitate innovation that reduces our dependence on the aviation fuel left in the tanks. I agree that this may be the case. All depends on the steepness of the dropoff curve for fossil energies. At the moment, it is looking like it may be steeper than most anticipate.

  3. When the Land Reserve was created, it created sheer havoc in BC…..as the NDP had created a comprehensive land freeze ie froze any development.

    All development froze…which affected even their union supporters and created a backlash. The NDP was envisioning far more control over what Local Gov’ts previously had jurisdiction over ie local land use zonings .

    However, given Local Gov’t OCP’s in place at the time….this was going to create a nightmare, so the NDP backed off. However in order to still have some control, the NDP froze use of UNdeveloped land. How did it do this ? With few exceptions, Local Gov’ts raw undeveloped land with no certain plans is designated Agriculture(AG). This has nothing to do with agri – viability, it is simply a nice sounding housekeeping measure. ie There are Garbage Dumps in the ALR all over the province

    So, what the NDP did was to state that any land in any Local Gov’t /Regional District that has any land designated as AG, will also be placed in the ALR. However, the Local Gov’t were given a (5) year window to amend their OCP’s to allow for future growth and such land would be excluded from the ALR.

    EXAMPLE: Lansdowne Mall ..the land was zone AG, and could have easily been in the ALR under the aforemtioned criteria, but was excluded from ALR inclusion.

    EXAMPLE: Chilliwack. Lots of farmed land being farmed near the City. However much of it is NOT in the ALR, as Chilliwack stated it wanted it excluded for future growth, hence Chilliwack has sole jurisdiction on theses lands use

    The NDP stated they had the right to do this, as in essence they could trump Local Gov’t zoning powers and act as the “Province Wide Local Gov’t” and this control this specific zoning .

  4. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    @ Cyril Tourneur RE: farming on mountains, prequel thread:

    Terrace farming on hillsides, yes. Go and farm on our rocky, acidic hillsides at altitude and you will see what difficulties I summarized by saying “you can’t farm on mountains”. Heck, go and terrace farm on the North shore mountains and see what yields you get.

    It is always hard in internet discussions… some people will often not allow you to economize words and paint in broad strokes, rather than getting mired in explaining minutiae.

  5. As I mentioned in the last post, think of the ALR as unbuildable land or lakes, then try to plot a course for the region given those constraints. There is, in reality, lots of density to be had “out there”:

    • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

      I concur. As others mentioned, the price:rent ratio imbalance has occurred even with the ALR priced in a long time ago. There is still plenty of density to be had out there while leaving all that gorgeous alluvial silt for the grandkids. Density is coming, and prices will go up in line with long term demand and wages… right now the delta between the price trend line and the demand/wages trend line needs a little diminishing so the two trend lines can track upward together at the same pace again.

      Translation: housing can be cheaper and better for less money than it costs today, while still leaving the ALR UNTOUCHED!!We don’t need to sprawl more for prices to come down.

      • Agreed, as I’ve said “‘scarcity’ of land is greatly over exaggerated, even within the ALR restraints.” Discussion here has always been premised on the ALR being seen as ‘sacred’, and never to be considered available for housing. Comments on these two threads have further convinced me that that is the case.

      • Having lived most of my life in Mexico City, with stints in Rio de Janeiro, NYC, and Seoul, all I can say as far as density goes is that Vancouver ain’t seen nothing yet…

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        I believe that you could be right if we continue with this madness of growth for growth sakes.
        Instead of copying unlivable mega cities, we should be looking for places like Vienna and Munich for answers.
        And it may not be too late. Cross our fingers.

  6. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    @ Cyril Tourneur | 11 December 2012 at 6:33 am |
    “We are completely dependent on food imports.”
    Then, why are we growing Christmas trees instead of wheat in the ALR?

    Precisely because there is currently no need to grow any food at all on the ALR. We are COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON IMPORTS. Which means, we currently IMPORT most of the food we eat.

    This has not been a problem for the past 50 odd years, nor is it a problem today. You just pay your money and the food gets put on a truck or a boat, and it arrives in Vancouver. In fact, it is a lot cheaper to do that than it is to growe it locally and ship it 5 kms. That is what cheap liquid fuels have allowed, and continue to allow today.

    The point is that that will not always continue to be the case. It would be prudent to keep some land in reserve JUST IN CASE someday we can’t truck it here cheaper than growing it locally.

    • this is true of any urban area … it is the most vulnerable place to be if the network of services is disrupted … and why the bugout plan for preppers are low density spots surplus wrt water/food/fuel and with local community … productivity of arable land varies so much that i doubt a figure such as 0.5 ha/person has much meaning … if food/fuel prices rise, people most easily adjust through net migration – whether from urban to rural, state to state or nation to nation … just like they do for opportunity … i’d expect gen A (is that the current term) will prove highly mobile and accelerate the downward arc

  7. The main food net exporters of the world are USA, Canada and Australia. These countries have the best combination of arable land and low population density.

    While bananas and oranges and other winter fruit will have to travel some distance to make it to Vancouver, it is always better to have at least some of your food sourced locally, as long-distance transportation will continue to be a major source of global environmental problems.

    The lower mainland has plenty of sprawl; why use up good land to create more when there are plenty of other parts of the lower mainland that the developers can, er, develop.

  8. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    @ VREAA

    “But what percentage of Vancouver’s food supply currently comes from the ALR?
    If the ALR is only supplying us with a small fraction of our current diets, how important is it as part of any future food supply plan?
    If the ALR is being used to grow Christmas trees, to support ‘hobby farms’, and to grow crops that are largely exported, why not more strongly encourage it to be used it for local food supply, or, alternatively, use it for housing?”

    There is no need or incentive to encourage the ALR to be farmed for local produce. Market forces dictate that we buy our food from the US, China, Mexico, Chile, Vietnam, etc. etc.

    That is the whole point of the discussion. For good or evil, we import most of the calories consumed here. That is a fact. Opening the ALR up for development and filling the whole valley with a megacity would have no impact on Vancouver’s food supply at all – it would still continue to be imported.

    The only thing I am pointing out is this relationship of dependence. If there is no disruption to having our food grown an ocean away and brought here daily, all will be well forever. If something should disrupt that flow, we would be forced to farm locally, and/or starve if enough calories could be generated.

    It’s all about risk management. Everyone’s mileage varies. I prefer having that alternative in the bank, of knowing that there is enough land to support a local population here, should anything disrupt the food imports.

    What does everyone else think? happy with relying on ships and trucks?

    • I understand your position.
      Any thoughts on: “If we had to immediately stop all food imports/exports, what would our diets look like? Would we have enough calories/protein to sustain the Canadian population?”

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        Due the warm autumn this year we had bumper crops of fruit.
        But when I go and buy an apple, it is imported and of crappy quality.
        It’s just insane, many people have fruit trees, but they just let the fruit rot.

    • The assumption is that locally-grown food is more secure in supply. But is it, really? Could not local disruptions be every bit as damaging as foreign disruptions? Is not the concentrated nature of local production riskier than a diversified, global supply network? After all, we don’t import food from one location, but from hundreds.

      • It seems the argument is that even though we import food from many sources, the single weak link is that oil is essential for the transport of all of that food, and thus we aren’t really that diversified.

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        of course you are correct. Pests, floods, earthquakes could devastate the local crop and decimate the population that depends on it. It is an inherently bad idea to rely on one region alone, if given the choice.

        That is one reason we import so much food today! It gets bought from wherever has a surplus. It is better that way, so we do it that way – you see what I mean? We are diversified, and risk is spread out.

        But you forgot one important dependency and concomitant source of risk: transportation of food. If this link fails, the entire supply network fails and food does not arrive at the ports in large enough quantities.

        liquid fuels are currently necessary for our lives to continue to function the way they do. They power the ships and trucks and freezer holds that bring the food before it spoils… And this is ignoring the role fossil energy plays in ensuring there is a surplus in the producing areas that we can buy from in the first place.

        There is only one leg that this stool stands on. While that leg stands, the stool functions beautifully.

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        Oh V… you beat me to it, and with such beautiful economy of words. I almost want to cry into my still warm keyboard. 🙂

      • hahaha
        Almost coughed on my cup of beverage-sourced-from-warmer-climes.

      • Vreaa / Poster: Understood that oil is the common denominator here. However, not convinced as to the weakness of the link. Despite OPEC, oil is a competitive market with multiple players and sizeable reserves.

      • Yeah, this is why I personally wouldn’t expect things to change precipitously… there will likely be a grinding application of various pressures over many years… and people will likely adapt (not via miraculous innovation, just via mundane alteration of behaviour.. diet composition, source).

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        That’s a tough one to respond to. You know how the RE market in Vancouver has been bullish for many years… and there were always one or two lonely bear voices bleating that it can’t go on… and then the chorus grew and grew, and more and more little bear voices were heard here, there, and everywhere? And then one day there was the moment of awakening: you popped out of the bull matrix and realised something. You began to investigate those voices to see if what they were saying had a any grounding. You learned more and more,studied the arguments, sat on the fence for a long time, considered the evidence, considered it again an then sought more. One day, you just knew that the bears may have been right.

        The chorus of voices far more informed, more intelligent, and more qualified than most has been growing stronger and stronger about the changes afoot in the world of oil. This includes former and current top level executives of oil conglomerates, scientists, engineers, high level elected politicians, government policy advisors, national security agencies of several countries, and even the odd economist. While this is just an argumentum ad verecundiam, there are pages and pages of evidence to study and pore over. It took me years to realise that a) there might be a problem if production tails off and b) that production has a >60% probability of dropping off over the next decade.

        Because of built in systemic dependencies, even small declines in production can have non-linear effects, such as abrupt price spikes and wars which can disrupt global supply networks.

        Oil appears less robust now than it did ten years ago. there is no reason to suggest it will be more robust in the next ten. But even so, while the market appears robust today, we all know a finite quantity is finite.

        You may be right for ten years, and no problems occur. But I posit you this question:

        Se non ora, Quando?

        If not now, when? It is coming, so why not prepare?

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        V, that is my biggest hope. A gentle downslope would be best for all; we would have time to adapt.

        I recommend listening to this guy, Chris Martenson, for usually eloquent summaries of the present state of knowledge as a starting point for study on the topic. Here is a good interview:


      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        @ El:

        also, check out this graph from the definitive source of all information on oil reserves and production, the IEA:


        look at the dark blue part. That is the bulk of oil we have been relying on. It is steeply sloping downward, starting in 2007 or so. Now look at what is expected to replace this supply: “Fields yet to be discovered or developed” and an increase in natural gas liquids, and unconventional oil. The unconventional oil part, in yellow, includes all tar sands and shales.

        See the problem? Oil peaked in 2007, and now we have to produce oil from fields yet to be developed or found. The unconventionals will only ever make up a very small fraction of our usage.

      • @ Poster: You’re on fire!

        I’m all too familiar with peak oil theory. Alas, I don’t subscribe. Too complex / lengthy an issue to get into here. But hey, the future is unknown, and I respect alternative views…

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous


        I am very curious to know your views on peak oil. I agree that this may not be the appropriate forum. It is a lengthy and complicated discussion. It is also rarely clear what someone means by the term “peak oil”. The terms need to be carefully defined so that we understand what we are talking about. In a nutshell, though, could you tell me if you believe global oil production will increase indefinitely, or do you believe some other mechanism will substitute for the energy and utility derived from oil when its extraction rate plateaus?

      • @ Poster. Appreciate your question. Bear in mind that my answer may be clouded by my current state of drunkenness…

        I don’t believe oil production will increase indefinitely. However, I do think we are consistently myopic in our views about the future, and that the world’s oil supply (proven, unproven, and undiscovered) is underestimated. At the same time, new technologies will emerge. (Hard to imagine, given our current reliance on oil. But it wasn’t that long ago that we were reliant on whale fat…)

        Layered over all of this is the matter of efficiency. Energy consumption per capita is falling, and has been for decades. Similarly, energy use per unit of GDP is also falling.

        Just my two cents…

        Vreaa, trying to link this back to the subject at hand, i.e. Vancouver real estate, but the very nature of a bubble is that it is something of an isolated phenomenon…

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        Thanks, El. A well put argument even from a sober person! 🙂

        Ok, so you believe in a plateau, some time in the future, not near enough to worry about today… meanwhile we become more efficient, thus stretching it out further… and meanwhile new technologies step in alongside oil, augmenting at first, then eventually taking over.

        Not bad. It’s quite a plausible scenario. It’s the best and most optimistic case we have. (What you believe is that oil does, then, have a “peak” of production. You just don’t buy that it impacts civilization significantly).

        That’s pretty much the best of “technology will save us” argument blended with the “graceful diminishment of reliance on oil”. The very best outcome indeed. I have my fingers crossed for it. It gets a 20% probability from me.

      • @ Poster.

        Regarding “peak” oil. By definition a finite resource will at some point peak. The question on which we differ is when? And to what effect?

        I would re-phrase “technology will save us”, which implies impending doom, and say instead that continued innovation will support our energy needs. It always has: throughout history we have transitioned from one energy technology to another in just the way you describe. Wood to coal. Blubber to kerosene. Fossil fuels to nuclear. etc. etc. And so we will shift away from oil.

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        If you are still watching this quiet corner of the blogosphere… maybe it won’t matter too much if we have this conversation here. I just want to point out that every transition you mention has been up the ladder of energy density. This will be the first time we have to transition down the ladder to less potent energy sources, unless technology gives access to a hitherto unknown energy source.

        There is also a flaw in your reasoning. Technology changes in the past have occurred in response to discovery of the means to exploit a more concentrated, accessible, portable energy source. There are always strong market forces encouraging the adoption of superior energy sources. That’s why we switched from whale blubber and coal. However, without discovery of a more concentrated source, market force pressure to transition away from the easy energy does not exist.

        The problem with this is that the strongest incentive for the market is to eat up the easy energy until it can no longer supply existing needs. At that point there will be a forced transition to a more diffuse energy source, or huge pressures to discover an equally or more concentrated energy source. If that discovery is not made, and if the relatively massive infrastructure required to exploit less concentrated energy is not built quickly enough, we will face shortages. The shortages make it even less likely that we can discover/build alternatives. A vicious spiral ensues.

        Your model requires state intervention to put in place artificial incentives to exploit diffuse energy sources BEFORE the critical point is reached. . Let’s hope someone does that.

        On the other hand, we currently use a huge proportion of the available production in ridiculous ways that are relatively easy to rectify. If the US government mandated stricter mpg requirements, and we went down to 1.0 – 1.5 liter engines in most personal transportation vehicles as they used to be in Europe (I remember as a kid that a 2.0 liter engine was considered a large, high performance engine. 2.5 was a monster.) the usage of oil would go down by 20-30%. Up to now, the petro-industry has lobbied for the large 5 liter V-8s etc. and large SUVs as this increases consumption which increases revenues. This is one example of a relatively simple switch that would buy more time, if implemented in time before the crunch. That time could then be used to build the alternative infrastructure. For this reason I have slight faith in your predicted outcome.

    • “What does everyone else think? happy with relying on ships and trucks?”

      Yes. It’s a total non-issue. Food supply will be the last thing to fail in any doomsday scenario, unless you think people will be going (walking, presumably) to work, school, and vacation with nothing to eat. The economy fails in a catatrophic way well inadvance of adequate calories to go around, in which case you’ll likely have bigger problems.

      As for keeping land vacant just in case – if the food supply is ever in jeopardy in sure the government would be able to take possession of any land they wanted by the stroke of a pen.

      Quit worrying already.

  9. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    And as Robert points out, we import much of our food from the rest of Canada too. There are significant geographic barriers though, in absence of cheap fuels. I mean, we would literally need to cross BC east to west with horse-drawn carriages or electric trucks (haha-imagine the charging infrastructure!) or best case – electrified railways. The prairies would certainly supply all the calories we need, as long as they can be brought here in great enough quantities.

    That may be security enough for some. It’s not bad, but it would still be prudent to have some local productive capacity as a backup.

    • Backups cost money. If they were economically viable then they wouldn’t be backups – they’d be the primary source.

      You seriously think we should keep prime land close to the city empty in case of the slim possibility of the scenario you describe happening? Perhaps we should build a freshwater reservoir in yaletown while we’re at it? Better be on the safe side!

    • UBCghettodweller

      >The prairies would certainly supply all the calories we need, as long as they can be brought here in great enough quantities.

      And possibly for the first time ever, Vancouverites might have something positive to say about the prairies… or just complain about the new “Eastern Bastards.”

  10. Christmas Trees ?

    GOOGLE what qualifies as “Farming” or permitted on ALR land.
    Its all about taxes…..and if you get ” farm status”.

    Farm Status is based on a sliding scale.
    If you have less than 2 acres of land, you have to produce receipts of Primary Farm Income of $10,000 . If greater than 2 acres you only require $2500. If the BC Assessment Farm Assessor approves this, your land is granted Farm Status which effectively reduces the property tax down to approx $ 50 per acre.

    Christmas Trees , berry crops etc….will take a few years to grow. There are provisions which take this into account and allow for a (5) year window of approved Farm Status before income is required.

    So, the way the system works….if you have say 2.1 acres, and grow Christmas Trees and sell $2,500 worth…, or start to grow them, you save thousands in Property taxes.

    However, if you are in the ALR but do not “farm”, you pay full property taxes.

  11. The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

    There are other reasons for wanting to keep the ALR, even if you believe we can grow and transport enough food indefinitely.

    1) developed and undeveloped farmland is pretty. It makes it makes this area a lot more pleasant, IMO.

    2) drowning in other people’s wastes: the more people we add, the more strained the waste disposal infrastructure. I remember reading somewhere that the GV sewage system is really old and close to full capacity. We will need massive investment just to keep up with population growth in the densifying areas, without encouraging more settlement by opening the ALR.

    I’m sure there are more!

    • ‘Pretty’ is subjective. BC already has a ‘per capita pretty’ ratio that is very high. This is not the strongest argument for the ALR.

      Regarding effluent management: Isn’t it interesting how we seem to see population growth (via immigration, because that’s how it’s happening) as both an answer to problems and a creator of problems?!

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        Immigration, like everything else, has two sides.
        We usually hear only the “positive” side, ageing population, nation of immigrants etc.
        But if you point out negatives, you’re called a racist.

      • Yes. And let’s be clear: it’s NET immigration that matters. Vancouver may be receiving some new folks, but it’s losing a lot, too.

      • “Pretty” isn’t all that subjective. I believe that we are hardwired to find nature aesthetically pleasing; conversely much of architecture and infrastructure, being “inspired” by a utilitarian spirit, is considered by almost everyone to be extremely ugly.

        Come to Ontario and compare the aesthetics of a rural landscape dotted with farmhouses and a 1970s style residential highrise.

  12. Why are we trying to legislate and zone for any particular use of land at all? Why not let individuals operate freely to make their own decisions in regard to the use of their own property? Are the epic failures of centrally planned economies and communitarian property rights really that distant?

    • Real Estate Tsunami

      Well, that would be fun.
      Ever lived beside a neighbor with meter high grass and 10 rusting car wrecks on the front lawn.
      Was very common in Surrey in the 70s and 80s, until they enacted and enforced bylaws.

      • Ralph Cramdown

        I’ve noticed that. Now they cut the grass.

      • Cyril Tourneur

        Do you really think trans-ams on blocks and lethal pit bulls would suddenly appear in Shaughnessy if there were no bylaw restricting it?

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        Pointing to the exception is never a good strategy in a debate.

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        Cutting the grass around all the car wrecks must be tough.
        Thank God for weed-whackers.

      • Cyril Tourneur

        Nuisance laws are probably more effective than zoning bylaws.
        “Nuisance is one of the oldest causes of action known to the common law, with cases framed in nuisance going back almost to the beginning of recorded case law. Nuisance signifies that the “right of quiet enjoyment” is being disrupted to such a degree that a tort is being committed.”

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        I’m more of a civil law kinda guy.
        Common law, is just too common.

    • Ever hear of “The Great Fire of London” in 1666, Cyril? It was a defining moment in the Empire for the imposition of subsequent regulation and management of land use.


      • Ever hear of the “Black Death of 1348-1350” The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover.
        In fact led to the downfall of the “lord/serf” economy as with the death of millions of serfs, workers of farms, mills and smiths became a lot less disposable and more in demand

      • Cyril Tourneur

        Damn Catholics!

    • Everybody’s a libertarian ’till his neighbour becomes a crack house.

  13. Great story about political correctness/city councillors/journalists being raised on a Bambi cartoon diet.
    Rather than shoot pests. A thousand “stakeholders and bureaucratic tax funded dumbbells weigh in and get nothing done. Resulting in a small business owner having his livelihood dramatically affected and local food security eroded. I guess the Bambi fans are buying their processed foods by the pallet when buying Pollyanna DVD’s
    Its like public policy taking into account the sensibilities of eight year old girls.

    • This makes me want to cry. And I bet everyone of the Kommisars on the committees have absolutely NO experience or expertise and are just getting lobbied. But at 120,000 per moron per year plus benefits and pensions. Best to keep it in committee as long as possible. .
      Here is the quote…
      “CRD staff report summarizes a citizens advisory committee’s recommendations, which range from bylaws allowing higher fences to a trap-and-kill program. The report will go to the CRD board this month before being sent to municipalities.”

  14. “Stalin also imposed the Soviet system of land management known as collectivization. This resulted in the seizure of all privately owned farmlands and livestock, in a country where 80 percent of the people were traditional village farmers. Among those farmers, were a class of people called Kulaks by the Communists. They were formerly wealthy farmers that had owned 24 or more acres, or had employed farm workers. Stalin believed any future insurrection would be led by the Kulaks, thus he proclaimed a policy aimed at “liquidating the Kulaks as a class.””

    • Funny you should mention Stalin….as the Police State is happening here.

      If you go on the ALC Web Site….the new Chair….Richard Bullock has a draft of the new vision he has for the ALR.

      They seem want to focus on more enforcement and regulations, as opposed to actually assisting farmers (which they would never do, because it would prove the ALR is a failure. .and nothing but a Land Bank.

      Proof? Next week I am going to attend Court to see an ALR property owner and his wife almost 80 years old face (4) charges re how he used his own private property. which he has owned for over 40 years .

      ALR is simply UNcompensated Expropriation

      • No disrespect, but since they are going to court what is the exact charge? ie: what were they doing with the land? Lot’s of things are illegal regardless of ALR or not land. I’m a land owner so just asking.

        If it’s illegal it’s illegal, haven’t heard “proof” as you say.

        Please explain

      • Thanks for those comments Roland – yours were by far the most insightful (and factual).

        My understanding is that is someone wants to developer their farm then they can “swap” ALR status with another person who wasn’t included in the original zoning freeze. Municipalities will support this is they free up land from the ALR which can then be rezoned and taxed higher. Yep – it is all about taxes.

        As for agricultural imports, peak oil, hectares required to support Western diet etc. etc. YAWN.

      • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

        Oh dear. You say YAWN, while I feel it is important enough to take time off work to talk about. Priorities, I guess.

    • This blasphemy will not ever pass in Canada.
      Jimmy Pattison
      Galen Weston

      We will have the egg, dairy, infectious disease lobbies as well as Bill Good “Gooder Than You” rail on about it. And then Michael Smyth and Vaughn Palmer will weigh in. No chance hippies

  15. There’s a few issues nobody’s mentioned which I feel deserve stressing:

    1) Farming SUCKS. It requires temporary, backbreaking unskilled labour, as cheaply as possible. So we bring 26,000 per year in from the third world, deny them the right to organize, and ship them back home after a few months. Even so, local apples cost 40% more than bananas from 3,000 miles away. The Germans, by the way, have a saying: “There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary worker.”

    2) Oil is CHEAP. It would take a couple hundred dollars worth to ship a container from Hong Kong to Vancouver (if my hasty calculations are correct) on the Emma Maersk. If the price of oil were to go to 5x or 10x its current price, it would still be economical to move many products by ship or rail. Consider that we currently transport such low cost commodities as metallurgical coal (price: $150/ton) halfway across the continent, load it on a ship and ship it halfway around the world.

    3) We have the technology: There are over 100 nuclear powered shiops currently operating.

    • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

      Yes, oil is very cheap. If you pare down non-essential uses, we could still sustain oil prices 5-10 times higher and move the more important items around. Some people fear that its the non-essential items getting cut that leads to the unemploment, that leads to instability, and unpredictable effects.

      We do have the nuclear technology to keep shipping essential stuff around. It just doesn’t exist in anything close to the capacity required. It takes a while to build ships.

      Will be interesting to see where the chips land on this one. There are good arguments for graceful transfer to alternatives, but equally good ones for there to be quite a few hiccups along the road. There are a few arguments that say we won’t need to worry about it for a generation or three since oil aplenty will keep on coming. (Those are popular but I can sadly find little evidence to support them. I sincerely hope someone can prove it to me with a facts-based argument. Any takers?)

      I still see very few good arguments for opening up the ALR to development.

      • if the Horse and Buggy lobby was as influential and as well funded as the petro lobby is today. We’d be oogling magazines of titanium diamond encrusted horsehoes for our Buggy Broughams.

    • Real Estate Tsunami

      “There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary worker”. Those German Germans are funny.
      I guess that’s why they declared multi kulti dead, like most other European countries. Just ain’t working.

    • the poster formerly known as anonymous

      oh yeah. and if oil goes to 5-10 times the price, food price goes up with it, which causes a few jiggles of discontent here and there around the globe.

  16. Real Estate Tsunami

    The scarcity that scares me the most is the lack of new infrastructure being build, in particular hospitals.
    St.Paul’s and Burnaby General are collapsing. Surrey General seems to be build shoddily (the ER has now been closed for about a month, due to a busted water pipe).
    Royal Columbian is bursting at it seams. Selective surgeries have wait list over 9 months.
    I could go and on.

    • The infrastructure calamity is looming on the Canadian horizon make no doubt aboot it, eh. With the vast majority of Canadian road, bridge, water, sewer, utility infrastructure built 40 years or more ago the present corrupt overpriced nepotistic supply side of simple infrastructure will overwhelm local municipalities

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        Could not have it said better myself.
        The Economists estimates that it will take about $ 300,000,000,000 to bring Canada’s infrastructure up to code.
        $ 10,000,000,000 alone will be needed to upgrade the dykes in the Lower Mainland.

      • ANyone comfortable leaving those funding decisions in the hands of the same elected officials populating one of the 12 odd muni boards in the lower mainland?….Really? WTF

  17. [NoteToEd: I’m with Tom…]

    • Thanks, Nem. I thought about this film when I was composing my post above. I see on tonight’s news that they’ve got the hickory sticks out in Michigan to suppress people who I’m supposed to call the anti-Right to Work camp… How the heck did Michigan, of all places, elect a Republican governor and majorities in their state house and senate and national congressional delegation?

      • whatever mi had wasn’t working … same thing already happened in nj and christie looks to repeat … i think after things get really screwy in ca, even that eventually goes red

    • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

      I echo those thanks. I had never seen the movie, but the book made a profound impact.

  18. Off-topic…

    Vreaa, an image for a future post?

  19. Ravi… 1920 – 2012

  20. Terminalcitygirl

    Soft landing achieved. So great to know so early into our bubble deflation. Thanks Scotiabank!

    Why do I even bother to look at these “news” stories anymore?!


    • I’d call it more of an expectations downclimb. Note how that report basically says “we’re conceding Vancouver and the Toronto condo market, but don’t expect a national decline in prices.” So they’re hoping SFH in Toronto is the pole that holds up an otherwise collapsing tent. Even sales mix can’t save you if your two biggest markets are showing price declines. I wonder where Adrienne Warren, Scotiabank’s senior economist, lives.

      Also note the report’s use of the old realtor canard: “Nationally, sales in October were down about 10% from strong spring levels, but only slightly below the average pace of the past decade.” Canada’s population has grown by 11% in the past decade, so if you’re slightly below the average, you’re at least 6% below trend.

  21. Hey, I have an idea about what to do with all those terrifying Amateur Landlords out there. Why don’t we herd them into the cranberry bog in the Agricultural Land Reserve and rename it the Amateur Landlord Reserve?

    As long as it keeps them from being Amateur Landlords….

  22. Everybody? knows

  23. I think everyone is vastly underestimating the amount of food that could be grown in dense urban areas. Dig up the front yard. Dig up the back yard. Put greenhouse on the roof. You’d be shocked to see how much food can be grown on an 80 ft^2 apartment balcony. I wouldn’t ditch the ALR – it mostly holds land unsuitable for buildings in the event of an earthquake. But I don’t have any food security concerns for the GVRD. People here have a lot of experience growing stuff in their homes.

    • A population that doesn’t even walk their own dogs or make their own coffee, and you want them to garden intensively? Things would have to be PRETTY bad…

    • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

      No, I always knew the potential to grow even in the urban areas. In China, they use traffic circles, plant up to the walls of buildings and up to the edges of roads. Every patch gets used.

      You do not realize the energy returned per square foot of land is a function of the number of photons of sunlight that land on that square foot per annum. Assuming perfect growth medium, with all trace elements required for plant growth, no losses to pests and diseases, and 12 hours of solid sunlight, you still do not have enough area to capture enough kilojoules of energy to feed everyone. That is what I mean by a “hard constraint” that cannot be overcome with any amount of ingenuity. Even if you push and engineer the plants to return 90% of all photons that land on their leaves as digestible energy for us to use, there still are not enough photons landing per year in the area we have available, to provide the kJ we need to stay alive.

      And that is an unrealisably optimistic conversion rate. Look at the difficulties organic farmers face when not using fertilizers and pesticides, which are all oil derived, and you would see the hopelessness of trying to feed a city on the area within the city.

      An unfortunate consequence of the massive energy density of oil is that very few people understand the physical limits that exist without the energy subsidy it provides. Just guesstimating based on a bumper crop of tomatoes your neighbour once grew on their balcony on a bottle of BabyBio is not valid science.

  24. You know, there is this technology called greenhouse that with proper infrastructure can be put on almost any land and grow a lot of tropical stuff like avacado, papaya, bananas that wouldn’t normally grow in our climate. Yes I know this might sound like a pie in the sky dream to use this greenhouse technology because it’s like on the bleeding edge of farming tech, having only been invented in the last 50 or 60 years?

    Seriously though, have you seen how farming is done in Asia where places are actually at a huge premium with a much less readily accessible water sources?? There are a lot of wasted / under-utilized land out there for farming. I don’t know what it is with Canada, especially BC, but we have such an abundance of natural resources that are just not being utilitized. Heck, if I had a $1M capital, i would totally invest in and start up a modern organic farm and sell probably directly to consumer. Hmmm….maybe the lack of capital is sapping the will to innovate and create….but then with every SFH in Vancouver at close to $1M, there isn’t exactly that much of lack of collateral for access to capital for this stuff….

    • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

      Wages. You can’t earn your Western lifestyle wages from growing produce locally, because the prices you would need to charge would be undercut by hard working folks who settle for less in the farms and paddies of the rest of the world. You also can’t compete with the high volume, intensive farming made possible here on our continent’s vast flat growing regions with the combine harvesting and processing infrastructure already in place. You also can’t compete with California’s sunshine and its effect on crop volumes. That’s why we don’t grow food here, and when we do, we import low wage workers to pick it.

  25. Real Estate Tsunami

    4 posts to get us over 100

  26. Real Estate Tsunami

    3 posts to get us over 100

  27. Real Estate Tsunami

    2 posts to get us over 100

  28. Real Estate Tsunami

    100th post.
    What do I win?

    • The Poster Formerly Known As Anonymous

      An IP ban?

      Just kidding! You actually win a bidding war for an East Side “investor alert” special. Congratulations!!

      Now sign here, here, here, and here. Don’t forget to sign the waiver absolving the Realturd from any responsibility for damages to net worth that may or may not occur.

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    • Naked Official #9000

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