long term project
cabin life: modern remote living
How will connectivity shape the future of remote communities?
The transformational power of new technology is buzzing across our planet - from the developing world to rural areas in North America. Technology has connected us like never before, ushering in a new era of empowerment and independence.
Regions with very little existing infrastructure are more agile, and implementation of even simple technology can foster substantial change in a short amount of time. This is the case in the Chilcotin - a vast, sparsely populated region of British Columbia.
modern remote living
Daryl and I bought 80 acres of remote ranchland in 2008, and between assignments abroad, we've built a simple log cabin and used leading edge technology to create the beginnings of a modern, sustainable, off-grid homestead – yet completely connected to the outside world.
Over the years, we've been involved in a project to bring high-speed broadband internet to our remote region, run entirely by wind and solar technology. The initiative has been successful and we're witnessing the shift as our little community finds its voice and enters the global conversation.
This is an ongoing story of a tightly woven community embracing change. Technology, sustainability and independent living come together to create a new world of opportunities and challenges.
Connectivity highlights the seemingly opposite movements toward globalization and localization, to form a compelling storytelling landscape.
a brief history
Traditionally, this is First Nations land. It was 'pioneered' in the late 1800s, then a wave of Americans arrived in the late-sixties, many of them draft-dodgers escaping service in the Vietnam War. Perhaps that wave has contributed to the independent spirit that somehow weaves us all together – we are an extremely diverse bunch, though we a share a strong sense of community and a deep love for the Canadian wilderness.
Ranching has always been the most common way of living a rural life. But in our relatively short span of documenting this community and the surrounding region, we've witnessed a shift to new ideas.
Many of our residents have moved here for a more simple life. There are no stores to go shopping, no banks or dry cleaners to run errands, amounting to less money spent and more time outdoors.
A local change maker
When John Kerr, an eccentric 77 year old and long time resident of Tatlayoko Lake, decided to take on a new project, he couldn't have foreseen this transformation. By designing a rather rogue system of 5 towers on the mountain tops surrounding our communities - all run entirely from wind and solar power - he was able to start beaming high speed broadband internet to most of the residents. This changed our world.
The Connectivity project has been strongly supported by the community. Everyone from the village doctor to our resident guitar maker have volunteered many days clearing trails, programming radios, extending towers. Even our local helicopter pilot subsidizes the cost of flying in the material to the extremely remote towers.
a whole new world for education and our local economy
Our students have connected to leading-edge educational platforms. They can view the night sky and study astrophysics online. They take music lessons from teachers at Berklee and are facilitating student exchanges across the globe. For a school with a total of 17 children, this connectivity changes everything.
Local business have become international ones - an ESL summer camp hosts students from all over the world, a local luthier sells his guitars in Japan.
On a personal note, Daryl and I have maintained client relationships from the East Coast to the Middle East all from our cabin, nestled deep in a wildlife corridor in the Pacific Northwest. The economic side of our work / life balance has allowed us to travel internationally for many months at a time without being saddled with big expenses back home.
All this is now possible, meanwhile retaining a simple, earthy, and inexpensive lifestyle. With access to the global market, opportunities for creativity abound.
a voice on climate change
Living on the edge of vast wilderness creates an interface between our human community and the rich forest life at our doorstep. A wide range of animals, from grizzly bears to hummingbirds, follow the natural corridor between the dry Chilcotin Plateau and British Columbia's wet coastal region. The health of our forests and wildlife provide a clear indication on climate change.
Connectivity has allowed us to join the global conversation and re-assess the value of our surrounding forests.
How can we leverage an intact natural forest and wildlife corridor for study - instead of stripping it for its 'standard resources' (i.e., logging, hunting, etc)?
A soft landing
How will rural communities transform and adapt as globalization and the migration crisis reach even the most remote communities on earth?
Our community has recently sponsored a refugee family from Sudan. As they have no English language skills yet, we rely heavily on google translate for Arabic language assistance. The family is able to keep in touch with their family for free via whatsapp.
Canada's unique system of citizen sponsorship is at the forefront of the current global immigration conversation. The sponsorship program, whereby a group of 5 or more people can sponsor a refugee family, has seen book clubs and hockey teams raise thousands of dollars to bring a family into their communities.
Our sponsorship committee has been working together for 2 years – researching, fundraising and hosting town hall discussions – and on February 15, 2018 we welcomed a refugee family from Sudan.
The family arrived in the middle of our worst blizzard of the year, and the initial stages of the transition have been challenging, fascinating, and heartwarming. 'Culture shock' has hit both sides. Many of our rural residents had "never seen a muslim before" and with no common language to communicate, the ability to reach out has been tough for everyone.
One of the strengths of a tiny community is direct involvement. For example, 8 volunteers have trained in ESL work and have created a year long, one-on-one intensive english course for both of the adults. We have formed teams to help with healthcare, education, transportation and recreation. Our school of 17 students has welcomed the 2 girls, ages 10 and 7, and they are receiving care and attention from the teachers and students. They play on the basketball team and are learning the songs to perform in the school musical.
As the experience unfolds, all of us are learning about ourselves, each other, and our wider world. Our multiple town hall meetings have screened documentary films and sparked therapist-moderated sessions on race, identity, economy and inclusion.
Basic tech, big changes
Easy-to-use, accessible technology has spurred the movement to live simply, consume less, and modernize rural life.
A few examples:
- Amazon Prime now delivers to our tiny post office
- The closest supermarket (a 3 hour drive away) has recently introduced online shopping, and online shopping has helped minimize long trips to the nearest cities.
- Solar technology has revolutionized the ability to live off-grid
- LED lightbulbs have illuminated cabin life with very little solar power
- Micro hydro systems provide year round electricity to several homesteads
- One of the old ranchers recently bought a drone to assist on his annual cattle drive through vast, mountainous rangeland
Simple, accessible technology has opened a whole new world of opportunities - even new ways to live.
- How will our new found Connectivity continue to shape our community in the near future?
- Can we use connectivity to shift the value of our natural resources to focus on education, environmental science, and a knowledge based economy?
- Given the chance (and inspiration) will more people leave the cities, buy affordable land, work online?