Resilience on Cortes Island

Originally published on Cortes

Folk U Friday for April 3, 2020: Resilience on Cortes Island 101: Food resilience and storage, energy systems, and much more! with Mark Lombard and Eli McKenty 

Mark Lombard and Eli McKenty are two members of a group of Cortesians interested in the infrastructure for resilience brought together by Karen Mahon and the Cortes Climate Hope organization. They spoke about some of the elements necessary to help create a Cortes that would be more self-sufficient and survive short term natural disasters such as fire, earthquake, and extended power outages. Of course, they had no idea when they started meeting that it would be just in time for a pandemic to hit, nevertheless their group had numerous practical suggestions that many are beginning to think about with new enthusiasm.

Some of the ideas that were discussed in greater detail including what is passive solar house design and how can we use more of these ideas to reduce the need for fuel to heat our homes, how we might cluster housing and resources on the island so that there is more opportunity for neighbours to share resources with neighbours with less driving and car dependence, and how we can prepare our own properties to better withstand emergencies such as forest fire. 

There were also lots of very practical suggestions that we can all do today: 

  1. There are neighbourhood groups forming throughout Cortes. Is your neighbourhood organized yet? Learn more about how you can help organize a neighbourhood group by emailing Ayton Novak. Every “neighbourhood” needs a captain to get started.  Learn more:
  2. Burn Alder. Compared with Douglas Fir, a Hectare of Alder grows about 3 times more BTUs per hectare each year. Alder also grows well without much human intervention, whereas Fir needs to be protected from deer browse, requires a lot of sunlight, and does not do well in small selective harvests. The relative heat content for a an air dry cord of firewood are: 
    • Douglas Fir 26 million BTU/dry cord
    • Western Hemlock 24 million BTU/dry cord
    • Red Alder 19 million BTU/dry cord
    • Grand Fir 20 million BTU/dry cord
  3. One last note, give your firewood lots of time to dry – a year is ideal. Hemlock takes longer to dry than Alder or Fir, but once dry makes great firewood!
  4. Fire smart your house. Did you know if there is a large forest fire we will be evacuated and most likely our homes will be left to burn? You can help ensure your home is as fire-safe as it can be and there are local people to  help. One of these is Matt Cuscianna at (250) 202-7348.

Just a little tip: did you know if you have a chimney fire the thing to do is to throw a cup of water into the body of the stove and close the door? The steam will react with the oxygen to suffocate the fire. 

Thanks for tuning in!

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Folk University is an experiment in slow learning. It’s a living question that asks: in these divisive times can we use our ideas, interests, and skills to bring us closer together and make us more resilient as individuals and a community? You can participate every Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. when one of your neighbours shares some of their interests right here on cortes community radio. Ask questions, share a little tidbit of information, or give ideas for future topics at