Viewpoint: An Island Allegory

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By JAYNE LLOYD-JONES

Once upon a time long, long ago, on an island not far from here, Anne and Al bought a fairytale home and retired to tend to their large garden, and to read to their hearts’ content.

Their dreams of a happy retirement had all come true. They loved their island-ness — their coffee dates, dinners at their favourite restaurants and live music venues. They felt at home among these happy islanders where everyone had everything they could ever need. (They even tolerated the visitors who came to the island to share their good luck.)

And then one day, the unthinkable happened: a plague struck the world and slowly things began to change. Soon the island was no longer the happy place that it used to be. Visitors stopped coming, most of the shops and restaurants had to close, there was no more market, no music, and everyone stayed locked up in their homes.

The island people were sad: they longed to hug one another, to share news over a beer, to dance to live music, or to visit the library. And the children, who no longer went to school, began to miss their friends, their teachers, and the games they used to play.

But for Anne and Al, this new isolation suited their needs quite nicely. They did not need to see people; they hardly missed the hustle and bustle. They were self-sufficient and wondered why other people did not also like this new world.

“We are happy here, we love the peace and quiet,” they said, “now that we are alone on our island.” They started to wish that life would stay this way forever.

The saddest group was the young people and families, who once had a summer of serving, harvesting, cleaning and keeping the tourism businesses on the island running.

“Where has all the work gone, we are part of the community too!” they said. “We love to be busy, to earn our keep, to jump in the lake. Now there is lots of housing but no work!”

Slowly the plague went away, but the island did not go back to the way it was before — and visitors stayed away. Many businesses had already closed their doors: the B&Bs, the shops and then the restaurants too.

“Now we are happy,” said Anne and Al, who liked it when the island was quiet and peaceful. “But where can we buy our lattes, who is still open for dinner, why are so many shops boarded up? We will have to move off the island, but wait, who will buy our house?”

“Be careful what you wish for,” said the pied piper. He had led the visitors away to other communities who valued them more and where young people and families were appreciated.

2 Comments
  1. Geoff says

    Oh really – sounds a little more like “The Boy (Woman) Who Cried Wolf.” We are a resilient and resourceful community and should not be relying on tourism to be the main source of income for the island. Servicing the needs of the local community first should be our priority, not tourism.

  2. Peter says

    In reply to Geoff: Whether you like it or not, tourism is the main industry (after retirement – if you can call that an industry) on Salt Spring and is the economic driver for most activities, including retail, restaurants, farming (in part), construction, etc. so we need ideas about what other industries could replace tourism as a viable economic driver and also work with the existing government structures. We may well be resilient and resourceful, but unfortunately that does not pay the bills. So if you have constructive ideas as to what could replace or augment tourism on Salt Spring, I think readers would love to hear it. I agree we need to diversify the economy here and the pandemic has clearly shown that more than ever.

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