Peak Oil Politics

It would seem that the transformative shifts that we will be required to make due to rising energy costs, and where we invest in public infrastructure, doesn’t necessarily mean we should rethink the sustainability of building and then operating and maintaining bigger and “better” new public buildings.

What is more curious is that this logic applies to using tax dollars for buying up and knocking down buildings (no carbon footprint there?) to build a bigger central library in Guelph, something we already have.

It would seem that for some, peak oil means investments into the road infrastructure we need to efficiently move most of our goods and people is a waste of money — but the business of storing and lending “media” at the library will require more investment in the form of a larger building going forward?

Even with our new gadgets, even with the internet? Even with all of the other demands on our tax dollars, generated from economic activity?

Let’s set aside all of the stuff around our tendency to… travel, alone or in groups, preferrably independantly, and what we as a species would likely do before we gave up on a lot of that, or of the carbon footprint of stop-and-go traffic, the carbon footprint of wear on all of our vehicles from driving over broken roads. Let’s also park from consideration what we expect from our “walkable communities” — which to me means more branch libraries before replacing an existing central library.

Let’s also suppose we can operate and maintain this new, larger building in a “sustainable” manner, having taken on debt to build it, accepting all that it means for everyone to do that. What about the transformative power of the internet and our media devices? If all of that is also part of how our transportation needs will necessarily change, how is it also impacting how we think of “books”?

How is it impacting, how should we expect it to impact on the business of storing and loaning “books”?

What does it take to store an e-book? What will the lending of media look like going forward? What does that mean for the libraries we build, the brick and mortar examples, when, just to be consistent about the impact of peak oil and on-going technological and societal change, a library may be no more that a website for many of us?

I’m not saying printed books will disappear.

The question is, do we agree that when it comes down to storing and lending media, would a bigger central library POSSIBLY be trending towards being… an impressively expensive, oddly vacant building that is out of scale with what we will really ever need in a downtown library? Possibly?

Could the composting plant we recently built POSSIBLY be out of scale for its use, for the time it is still operating? Is a new central library POSSIBLY another project out of scale with what we’ll ever really need, downtown? What cartwheels will we be doing in time towards justifying its expense?

I understand that a library serves as a community hub. The question is, are we building something that we will be re-purposing? At what expense? If it is a community hub that we are actually going for, in what ways should it be different from what we are looking to get in a central library?

In a time of peak oil politics, what are the priorities?

About Craig Chamberlain

Ward 3 Guelph resident, dad and step-dad.
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