The Underappreciated Perks of Living on a Fault Line
Despite constant fear of The Big One, Vancouver’s geography makes it one of the best places to live
Opinions / July 18, 2019
It’s summer in B.C. and people are either jumping in their jorts for patio season, or complaining that it’s a) too hot, b) not hot enough, c) too expensive to do anything fun, or d) that there is nothing to do.
As British Columbians, we also deal with water restrictions and the potential threat of forest fires that turn the sky red and obscure what little sun this rainy city receives.
If you spent your elementary school days in B.C., then you might be familiar with yet another threat: The Big One, a major earthquake with the potential to destroy our less-than prepared city. You might also remember the days spent practicing earthquake emergency procedures, hiding under your desk, and counting to 60 with your classmates.
Call me optimistic for a pessimist, but even though B.C. faces a number of potential natural disasters, its literal geography makes it worth it to live here. Vancouver is located in the Cascadia Subduction zone, where the Juan de Fuca plate slips under the North American plate. This collision gives rise to the Coastal and Rocky Mountains that surround us on all sides—like a giant granite cradle holding you still—but the friction caused by the movement of these plates could also cause a lot of expensive damage.
Most people don’t realize that our pleasant summers and mild winters are directly influenced by the physical landscape of B.C. Without the mountains forcing warm ocean air to rise, we would get less rain and way more snow than the almost apocalyptic winter of 2016. All the rain keeps our forests green, and when those forests burn in the summers, it offers the land a chance to rejuvenate itself.
Without all of the mountains and glacial formations, there wouldn’t be any Instagram-worthy hikes for people to take; millions of years went into forming the Howe Sound along the Sea-to-Sky Highway and the brilliant turquoise blue of Joffre Lake.
I find that having access to outdoor spaces close to the city significantly improves my emotional well-being, my physical health, and my social life. It’s easy to organize a quick hike with my friends at Lindeman Lake near Chilliwack, get in a strenuous workout, eat good pizza at Beethoven’s, and still have time left over in the day for more activities.
Whenever I visit family in Winnipeg, I spend a lot of time indoors, in cars, and at the mall. Usually, I experience a lack of energy and desire to do anything. I find myself longing for the cool sea breeze of the Pacific as the sun bakes the Winnipeg suburbs and strip malls.
I love the fact that I can bike along the Seaside bike route from Stanley Park to Jericho Beach in about 20 minutes. In Winnipeg, it’s just over an hour drive (or a four-hour bike ride) to Gimli Beach. Even though homes are largely unaffordable no matter where you live in the Lower Mainland, you’re never too far from the ocean or some other large body of water.
It’s easy to complain as a way to purge our frustrations, or to deal with the very real housing crisis and earthquake threats, but each year Vancouver is named among the top ten cities to live in around the world. I think that makes up for every moment of frustration. We should also remember that most of us are uninvited guests on these unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam lands.
Sure, it’s a city that could be knocked the fuck out by nature at any moment, but it also offers easily accessible outdoor spaces, amenities for an active and social lifestyle, and a place to soak in the marvels of geological processes millions of years in the making.