Two years ago, the province of British Columbia committed to protecting a region of the province referred to as The Great Bear Rainforest under a new conservancy. All the
stakeholders—the provincial government, logging companies, First Nations and environmentalists—agreed. They committed to a new approach to resource planning, and it was to be implemented by March 31, 2009. Yes, steps have been made in this direction, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s not a sure thing. A promise isn’t always a promise in politics, is it?
I know about Save the Great Bear because every day (for the duration of the initial campaign) I drove past giant billboards featuring kermode bears with the URL tag “Raincoast.org”. I found this mildly amusing and annoying because at the time I was the internet marketing manager for Raincoast.com. There were interesting traffic mix-ups that I was happily taking advantage of by directing visitors to our ancient-forest friendly webpages (which I’ll tell you about in a second.)
I was also cynical about the “spirit bear” (the white kermode bear) and the emotional pull the initial ad campaign was using to raise awareness of this region, but I was working in marketing (how cynical could I be about a tactic that I would use).
Despite these thoughts, the campaign did work to raise public awareness of the kermode bear, which in turn led to greater awareness of the bears’ habitat. Now that—the habitat—was what really interested me. The company I was working for, Raincoast.com, is a book publisher. Trees are pretty important to the process of publishing books. At the same time as the Great Bear Rainforest campaign was running, we were also working to get other publishers on board with Markets Initiative to print on 100% post-consumer, recycled paper instead of virgin paper made from our boreal forests. This is the “ancient-forest friendly” bit that I mentioned earlier.
Here’s what I can tell you about the temperature rainforest:
The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest tract of intact coastal temperate rainforest left on Earth.
One quarter of the world’s temperate rainforests are in coastal British Columbia.
The Great Bear Rainforest is more biodiverse than most forests and ecosystems in the world.
It covers 77,000 square kms—about the size of Austria.
It’s home to 3 kinds of bears: grizzly, black and kermode (white bear—there are only a handful in the world)
Six million migratory birds live here
There are 3000 genetically distinct salmon stocks in its waters
And many species of plants are unique to the region.
The Great Bear Rainforest is an important part of the world, it’s not just important to BC, and not just because there are bears and trees. This forest is a lifebelt. I, for one, am a fan of the oxygen forests produce. I also love this part of the world. It’s right on my doorstep.
Come on Province of BC! Keep the promise.
Gordon (as in Premier Gordon Campbell), you said you’d put the long term interests of the community first. That you’d protect this part of the world. Please see this one all the way through. Charles gets it ...
If you want to save the bears, save the trees, save yourself, send a message to the government of British Columbia by signing an online petition (non-BC and non-Canadian residents can send the message too, Gordon promised the international community he’d protect the forest, he didn’t just promise us).
Why am I on about this today? Because Debbie, the world’s oldest polar bear died today at the Winnipeg Zoo (42 years old), because I’m from Winnipeg and now live here—much closer to bears in the wild—because I love this part of the world, because I hate when governments make promises they don’t keep, especially promises that involve protecting things that I care about, because, because, because ...
Still don’t know what I’m on about? Watch some bears, look at the forest they’re moving through, check out the stream.
2) NowPublic.com. Now Public is a participatory news network. There are a number of tools on the site that let people share news more easily, comment on things in the news, and let them add their own news stories. I’ve been reading the site for a while and recently became a member. Today I posted my first story, “Epic Salmon Migration”. Catchy title, I know. I should have got James to think of a headline.
Let me know what you think of the story, and if you have your own salmon photos, become a member of Now Public and add your photos, or comment on my story.
Like anything, salmon are interesting if you think about them.
As I mentioned in a previous post, James and I followed the route of the sockeye salmon from the Pacific Ocean, along the Fraser River, up the Thompson River and all the way to the Adams River where the salmon mate, spawn and die.
I started the trip knowing very little about salmon. I assumed I’d learn a lot more. And I was hoping to capture some mental images of these incredible red fish, and some digital and film images of the same fish for the Pacific Salmon Foundation and their THINK SALMON campaign. (I have no idea why THINK SALMON is in all caps, but I’ve been told this is the style so for now THINK SALMON, ALL CAPS, I’m yelling it out, hooray!)
To the point, the story I was hoping to tell was not the earnest story of how these small creatures make their way across vast spans of the continent to find their way back to their birth place to start the process again. Sounded boring, but that’s the story people like to tell. The story of this great struggle. How they come over 400 km to procreate almost exactly in the spot where they were born. How water temperatures, pollution, human development, natural predators all conspire against the mighty salmon. Yes, okay, that’s interesting, but why? The why is the story I hoped to tell.
So why are salmon interesting? As I say, like anything, salmon are interesting if you think about them.
I picked up hundreds of little salmon facts this weekend. Some of them I’ll remember, most I’ll need reminding of at a later date. The big picture is what I will remember.
The word “salmon” in some native languages means “sacred life.”
Our basic instinct as humans is to protect ourselves, to protect our homes and to protect those smaller than us.
We value the idealism of children. Their enthusiasm to recycle, to protect the planet, and to believe that they can change the world. We reinforce this at every step of their lives, until they leave home and set out on their own and get jaded and pessimistic about life, work, down payments, growing old, basically until they become us, adults.
Some where along the line the enthusiasm wears off. We still believe it’s important to save the planet, but we think we can pay other people to do that, or the government will fund something, or global warming doesn’t exist, scientists just want to scare us. Saving the world is hard. I don’t have time. It’s costs money. Money I don’t have. It requires too much effort. If things were wrong there would be more panic.
Even among the politicans and activists who spoke at the salmon festival this weekend, you could see in their eyes or hear in their voices these niggling thoughts.
But I think salmon are interesting for this very reason. They allow us to hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously: salmon are good and should be protected, and I can’t do anything to protect them.
Salmon have a pretty short life cycle, 1-4 years. We can easily imagine a year in the life of salmon. We can identify with their struggles. They’re sleek and colourful and powerful. They’re tasty. We can see them up close in the wild. We can have fun catching them. We can buy them frozen in the store. What I’m saying is that there are lots of “on ramps” here. Lots of ways for us to identify with salmon, lots of ways to start having the conversation about the bigger picture, what salmon tell us about the health of our part of the world.
From salmon stocks we can tell water temperatures, water health (how much silt, how many nutrients in the soil), and water levels.
Water is what sustains us on Earth.
Salmon are interesting because when we start to understand salmon we understand how delicate they are, how development along river banks destroys their world. Without large numbers of salmon coming back to spawn and then die, their bodies can’t decompose and enrich the soil. The trees on the banks can’t survive. The birds have no where to nest. The insects and smaller plants don’t have the nutrients to grow. Smaller fish can’t survive without the insects and plants. Bears lose a source of food. Suddenly we’re moving quickly up the food chain and the life sustaining elements on the bottom rungs are rotten or gone.
When we have an experience that shows us how incredible and awesome the world is, it become very difficult to ignore our role.
Salmon are interesting because they remind us:
1) Not to put poison in our source of food, and
2) Not to piss up river and think it’s not going to affect us later downstream.
It’s tough being an adult.
Try thinking like a kid but with the knowledge of an adult. THINK SALMON