British Columbia’s (BC) climate change policy has put pressure on the province’s rural communities to become ‘carbon-neutral’. This research examines the experience of one such community, McBride, a resource-based town in north-eastern BC struggling to reduce its emissions while also trying to restructure its depressed economy. The thesis asks what opportunities and challenges McBride faces to reduce its emissions and transition to a ‘low-carbon’ community. It focuses on the politics of scale, asking what role the 'local' plays in climate change mitigation, and the distinctive qualities of the ‘rural’ local scale in these efforts. McBride has several opportunities that might abet the community’s transition to a “green economy”: abundant renewable energy resources, potential value-added commodity production in the forest sector, and an emerging local agricultural movement. But it also faces geographically specific obstacles to reaching these goals: limited financial and human capital, internal division, restricted political capacity, isolation, and inadequate and misplaced articulations with higher levels of governance. The thesis argues that to confront the impact of climate change, BC must move beyond its urban political bias, and work with the geographic specificities of rural communities across the province. This requires taking a regional approach: building up horizontal connections between rural communities, decentralizing industry and populations across BC, and increasing political and economic resource distribution outside of major population centres. Higher scales of governance must reconceive rural communities, not as technical problems to be ‘fixed’ with ‘aid’, but as collaborators in democratic, political, economic, and ecological change.
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Thesis advisor: Mann, Geoff
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