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Deus Exurban Machina

By Hannah Macready

Illustration by Jason Logan

Deus Exurban Machina - FeaturedImage_Illustration-by-Jason-Logan-of-a-person-enjoying-sunshine-on-top-of-a-building

People in the city always want to move. To a bigger apartment. To a house with a yard. Downtown. Uptown. Or out of the city entirely. I’ve watched my friend group fragment over the years as people trade SkyTrain stops for suburban parking spots and walkable routes for more bedrooms.

Here in British Columbia, the obvious remedy for metropolitan burnout is its exact opposite: rural living. Penticton. Nelson. Fernie. Squamish. Every year, these rustic small towns see an influx of urban defectors seeking local coffee shops, artisanal farmers’ markets and houses with woods so thick you can’t see or hear the road.

For a long time, I thought, eventually, I would be among them. I wanted space for my dogs to run. I wanted a backyard criss-crossed with hiking trails. I longed to watch the quiet magic of evaporating morning dew.

I wanted all of this — that is, until the fires started. The past decade has brought a steady invasion of wildfires to B.C.’s interior communities. In 2021, the village of Lytton literally burned to the ground — vanished in just a few hours. My friends and family members who live outside of the city have spent the past five years on rotating evacuation notices. Summer, now, is a time of deep stress and uncertainty.

Apprehension abounds, and as citizens of Canada’s most expensive city, Vancouverites have already lived through too much housing uncertainty. So, what do we do when our dreams get torched? We hit pause on our rural plans and find new dreams. We bring the rural here.

Instead of saving for a four-bedroom house in Summerland, we’re starting community gardens and raising backyard chickens. We’re buying Mitsubishi Delicas and converting them into movable homes. Tomato plants and basil sprigs overflow from our balconies. Soon, we’ll build rooftop farms, set up cocktail bars in gardens and plant enough shrubbery and security cameras to capture the morning dew from the comfort of our 25th-floor apartments.

This isn’t to say that urbanization can replace the rural. Or that the plight of those who already live in these small towns is theirs to bear alone. But I am suggesting that we city folk stay put and make our dreams come true right where we are.

Vancouver can be our Osoyoos, Revelstoke or Argenta. Vancouver can be our wooden, rural dream. We don’t have to leave the city to find peace. We just need to be creative in how we live in it.

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