An Introduction

The mission of Virtual Manitoba is to relentlessly promote all things Manitoban.  I tend to focus on rural and natural places because the larger communities do a great job of promoting themselves. Some communities and regions are over-represented simply because they are closer to where I live and work, and I just have more info about them.

They also tend to be celebratory as opposed to being critical.  I assume that my bias towards what I consider to be healthy sustainable, interactions with natural settings is readily apparent. I think activities involving motors and spectacles get enough promotion.

Generally I believe that accentuating the positive is the best way to move forward.


There are issues that are just too important to ignore.

And there are times when, in order to try to persuade people or governments to do what is right, we have to start with some observations about what they are doing wrong.

First, however we have to SEE those things that we all are doing wrong.

There is a scene in a movie about the 2008 sub-prime mortgage meltdown where two characters, in an effort to better understand the situation, take an unusual step. They leave their urban offices and visit a few housing developments. They talk to people who have taken out some of these questionable mortgages. The meet a man who is about to be evicted from his home because he purchased it with one of these loans and he can no longer make the payments.

And, just like that, they get it. They see what is obvious to anyone involved, on location, and affected. They saw what most of the experts, with their economic theories and statistic-ridden reports, had totally missed.

The system was unsustainable - the bubble would burst.

When we look back on our failed efforts to avoid a much more serious catastrophe, that of the degradation of the natural world, and try to understand why we steadfastly avoided doing what needed to be done, we will see some parallels.

The connection I am making here is that for the past twenty years, I have visited hundreds of Manitoba communities at ground level. I have walked, hiked, biked, and paddled. I have been a regular pedestrian and cyclist in my home community; I see things at ground level. My thoughts about healthy communities are rooted in personal experience.

When you travel at ground level you simply see things differently. When I recount some examples of things I think local governments are doing wrong I realize that part of the reason we do things wrong is that we simply don’t notice.

Communities can decide to become healthier. They can be designed to encourage and promote healthy lifestyles. They can enact legislation that favours healthy activities.

There are success stories throughout all of this collection I call
Virtual Manitoba. Beautiful parks and natural areas, hundreds of navigable streams, interesting small town museums, well-documented historic sites. Things I love to talk about and promote.

But, there is a problem with success stories. Over the past three decades the media has focused on success stories and mild admonitions regarding climate change. It balanced that with the "other side of the story". The other side of the story, as all objective scientists knew all along, was a skillfully coordinated and lavishly funded campaign to deny, delay and derail attempts to solve a very real problem. The strategy worked so well that large parts of the planet are becoming uninhabitable.

We are living in the midst of a totally preventable, seeable, predictable disaster.

Perhaps we need more gloom and doom!

Success stories sell. Success stories don't offend. Success stories lead us to believe that everything is under control. Just a few tweaks and everything will be fine. 

One would think, now that even politicians who were on the wrong side of the climate change "debate" seem to be waking up, that we would start to make some progress on, at the very least, mitigating the damage. So far …not so much.

The battle for healthier communities is a subset of the battle to avert climate change. In both cases the problem is that our governments have subsidized the wrong things, and rewarded the wrong behaviors.

We have to start with the problem, and the reason for the problem. With luck we may stray into the reason it took us so long to recognize that we have a problem.

This is a huge topic so we will try to keep it local. I live in Brandon, Manitoba so I will use my community, when speaking of urban issues, and when speaking of small towns and natural areas I will also tend towards what I know best.

What follows is a loosely connected series of observations and rants. The topics will range from transportation and recreation, to air and water quality. We’ll look at food and housing issues and examine ways in which local governments could encourage healthy lifestyles. I will post on a weekly basis until I run out of things to say. Could happen.

Ken Storie
Feb 3, 2020