Green Issues -- Urban and Rural Living


The face of Canada and even of Saskatchewan has radically changed over the past 50 or 60 years. During the first half of the 20th century much of Canada's population was living in rural areas, on farms or in small farm service communities.

That is no longer the case even in a province like Saskatchewan which still has a significant agricultural economic base. Even though many urban residents are only one or two generations removed from rural living, the nature of the lives urban and rural residents lead is quite different.

Some people may argue that rural living has changed the most to become more like that of the urban cousin. The argument points to the high level of technology and "urban" comforts available to rural residents. While this is probably correct, I would argue that access to technology is really a rather small part of what makes up the quality of one's life. The nature of the community in which one is formed and in which one operates, and the resources that a community generates for the benefits of its members is vastly different in rural and urban settings. Ask the rural school student who spends over two hours per day on a school bus if his/her school experience is the same as the city cousin. Ask the rural parent who has no access to day care or who has to take hours or even a full day to do family "shopping' or make a visit to a doctor or dentist.

Rural living has progressively been impoverished as local rural communities, which used to provide social and other supports, shrank and then vanished in the face of dwindling rural population.

The movement of rural residents to do their business and even to seek their entertainment in the city has exaggerated the impact of rural depopulation.

Clean air and good food used to be thought to be benefits of rural living over urban living. With increased use of pesticides, herbicides, stubble burning, manure spreading from mega livestock operations, etc. have done much to eliminate this "advantage" of rural living. Food purchased by rural residents is no more likely to come from local organic sources than the food of the urban resident, being purchased from the same retail outlets and supplied by the same trans-national food industry.

People living in rural environments might now find themselves hours from full medical care, and have to find long-term care supports far from home and family support. A rural senior used to move into the local village after retiring from the farm. Today they are much more likely to move into the larger urban settings, as these are the only places where services and facilities are still available locally to someone with decreased mobility.


While I have focused to the increasing disadvantage of rural living and not on the disadvantages of urban living, some ideas about urban living are more myth than reality.

Crime rates are not usually calculated or broadcast for rural areas, while crime statistics in larger urban centres make the front page of newspapers. The reality is that per / capita, there are probably higher crime rates in rural areas. Incidents of personal injury while at work or road accidents are higher in rural areas. Rural domestic life is not free of stress and domestic abuse situations, but the adult or child victim of that abuse is less likely to have a viable safety net available. Employment opportunities may be generally limited, but most would agree that employment opportunities in rural areas are much less than in urban centres. When you leave the rural area to complete your education or to make a career, you are not very likely to return to the rural setting to live the rest of your life.



This entire disintegration of the quality of life in rural areas is not inevitable and it is reversible. What is needed is a new vision of community and community-based economics.

The more that is done to sustain and grow rural community life, the better will be the experience of urban life as well, preventing the development of mega-city communities and their attendant problems.

The new vision of community and community-based economics must be rooted in a new vision of respect for the earth and the relation of people to that sustaining earth. The new vision must be rooted in the recognition that the wealth created by communities must be recycled back to the community and not just siphoned off to the large city , or as is often the case, siphoned out of province, and out of country, and beyond the capacity of Canadian governments to regulate it.

Let's take a look at what can be different. Let's begin to dream of a better society, for both rural and urban communities, working in partnership to sustain each other. Then, let's talk about the kinds of things that have proven successful and which can be used as models for others. Let's talk about policies for our governments that will mobilize the will and the strength of our people to make a better future.