August 4, 2020

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What would a time capsule tell Winnipeggers in 2069?

Editorial

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/5/2019 (438 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This week, the contents of a time capsule placed in the Public Safety Building when it was built in 1965 were unveiled to the public. Photographs, an audio recording and other records and artifacts provided a glimpse into the era in which they were created.

It calls to mind what we might place in a time capsule today, to be opened by future Winnipeggers 50 years hence, and what its contents might say about us.

We might, for example, include the day’s newspaper — both a record and an artifact, should disseminating news in print finally go the way of the telegraph.

To impress our descendents, we might include a copy of the digital edition to show our foresight, as long as we include a quaint device capable of displaying it.

Glancing at our headlines, those Winnipeggers of the 2060s (almost ’70s) might be ashamed we still had elected officials openly doubting scientific evidence of the climate change that would affect the lives of everyone born in the 21st century. They might be heartened by the fact that we knew of the mid-century Swedish parliamentarian and prime minister Greta Thunberg in her youth, even if we were slow to heed her call for climate action.

And they might be amused at the furor over the tiny numbers of refugees entering Canada in our day, compared to the masses they had seen migrating north of the border from an increasingly uninhabitable United States.

Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane opens a time capsule on Tuesday from 1965. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane opens a time capsule on Tuesday from 1965. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Would we include seeds for ash and elm, as a poignant reminder of vanished plants in a Winnipeg with few trees older than 50 years? Would we include data on our decade’s floods, whose records may well have been broken repeatedly by the time the capsule is opened?

We might be clever enough to include an example of our social-media footprint, which our descendants could enjoy in all its embarrassing minutiae, since future digital generations may well have passed appropriate personal-data ownership laws that make our current era of oversharing seem archaic. Maybe they will have ethically accountable social-media platforms by then. Or maybe they’ll have realized there’s no such thing.

On a municipal level, we could include minutes from recent city council meetings, or referendum results.

Councillors of the latter 21st century could chuckle at our debates to reopen the forever-closed-to-pedestrians Portage and Main, even as they face vociferous opposition to proposed developments that would mar the romance of endless parking lots and destroy the heritage of Kenaston and McGillivray.

On that note, maybe a set of car keys to an internal combustion vehicle, which by 2060 will be as much an anachronism as a steam engine.

Would our next time capsule include seeds for ash and elm, as a reminder of the trees that used to make up the city's green canopy? (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Would our next time capsule include seeds for ash and elm, as a reminder of the trees that used to make up the city's green canopy? (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

We might also send photos of the nascent development of Winnipeg’s urban reserves, which would provide an early glimpse of these cultural and economic wellsprings that will have become such an integral part of the city’s character.

A copy of the day’s sports pages might be useful, so future Winnipeggers can reflect on the frustration of current fans while revelling in the extended run of cups (Stanley and Grey) during the 2040s and ’50s that prompted city council to officially capitalize the first three letters of the city’s name on a permanent basis.

Of course, bold predictions and fond looks back are part of the same continuum that a time capsule provides.

The boldest assumption may be that in 50 years, after the great changes the world will have seen, there will still be a Winnipeg here to appreciate what we would leave them.

But then, that outcome depends on the choices we make today.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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