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Mayor’s Column – June 27, 2018

June 27, 2018

 

Contrary to the ideology promoted by special interest groups I could name, it’s not about money. Certainly not now (maybe it never was). Certainly not on this side of the divide! Of course I know that money keeps the wheels turning but only if the money keeps circulating. Even members of special interest groups have to circulate money; they buy food, pay rent, educate their children, travel from home base to third base, prime for the home run, clothe their nakedness, prevent dental caries, and visit their aging parents in care homes – at least they should; it all takes money.

No, it can’t be about money. But it might be about life. We choose the lives we live and many of us have chosen for generations to live close to nature, as close as nature allows, learning its secrets, appreciating its values. I’ve lived close to nature for most of my almost 80 years since I moved into the wilderness with my parents in a horse-drawn wagon. Yes, and we sheltered for weeks under a tarp stretched between trees as dad, with inexpert help from his boys, built a log cabin from fire-killed aspen. (This ain’t no stretch of the veracity of my words.)

After sampling life for fifteen years in various places such as Michigan, California, Washington, and our very own Vancouver, I found myself with my own young family back on the original home site. Close to nature, we fed the squirrels from our finger tips, marvelled at the water music from the lake, revelled in the call of the loon, and slipped into sleep to the serenade of the wolves.

In such circumstances, it couldn’t have been about money. I could have been much richer in money had I opted for any one of my interregnum locations. I might have found myself living in a filing cabinet, riding my bike to the office, and playing tennis on a beautifully groomed court. Who knows where leads the road not taken? But it was about life!

Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself had said, “It’s about life!”

It’s about a life we are determined to save and we’ll leave no trail, track, or spoor unexplored until we save that life. Singular intended. It is a life, a way of living, that we are determined to salvage from forces that would take it from us without a second thought.

We live here because of nature; because of lakes, rivers, wetlands, dunes, and mountains, and the wonderful creatures who live thereon, often unseen by the rest of us. It is because of the squirrels, the loons, the eagles, the moose, the bears, the birds, the bees, and the caribou; it’s because of the whole interconnecting, interlocking, interdependent system of life that we chose to live here and choose to live here from now on. It’s not about money! Understand?

If it was about money we could uproot and drive away to Vancouver or Winnipeg or Halifax and busk for a living. But it’s not. (Can you imagine my busking? You can’t; nor can I.)

And it’s not about corporations, international or otherwise. Vancouver is a mining town, a sawmilling town, a shipping centre, a town of corporations. There are thousands of folks living quietly on shady, wide streets who have made their livings and their lives by the corporations that extract the coal, harvest the trees, and pump the petroleum – for everyone’s comfort and convenience. So don’t forget how our houses are built, heated, and illuminated (that said, may jolly, round, yellow Mr. Sun have an ever-increasing, increasingly important role in that process).

And now to the caribou, one of the beautiful peoples of our shared mountains and forests. Yes, coal miners, loggers, farmers, recreationists, and oilers care about caribou! Caribou are part of our life; they are part of the reason we chose to live here. The decline of the caribou, inexplicable and tragic as it is, cannot be attributed solely to the presence the human species. The science has not been done to the point of definitively identifying the challenges they face. We only guess at the reasons. The caribou of Tweedsmuir Park who have been virtually free of human intervention for at least 80 years, are in decline like any other local population unit (herd). The answer is not forthcoming. And unproven guesses don’t get us to the truth.

Is their decline due to increasing parasite attacks? Maybe. How about to a changing food supply? Maybe. To hungrier, faster, smarter predators? Who knows?  To the warming trends in the climate cycle? Could be. Have they simply lost the will to live? Why? We simply don’t know.

Sadly, the sole recovery tool in our federal tool box, as I have noted earlier, is habitat protection. If habitat protection is carried out in the South Peace in the way the Federal Government may order as early as this fall, the results could be catastrophic to our human way of life with no measurable advantage for the caribou.

Let’s not go down that path to soon.

Local government, industry, First Nations, all of us who live here and cherish our life, need to put our collective minds to the task of caribou recovery with preservation of our human way of life. It must not be one or the other. (And maybe we need to really understand the meaning of recovery.) So I urge our senior governments to allow time for local governments, industry, and First Nations, sitting at the same table, to arrive at a solution that takes into consideration the needs of each without diminishing the lives of any.

Oh, by the way, there is much we can learn from the wisdom of the ancients: “The prudent see danger and take refuge. The simple keep going and pay the penalty.” There is great danger in pursuing a one-solution-fits-all-local-population-units fix for the caribou. Let’s slow up a bit and study the science a lot more closely before charging ahead with unproven habitat protection.

 

Merlin Nichols, Mayor