Oil, the Environment, and the Future of Canada: A Meeting Report


Last fall I moved from Vancouver to Salt Spring Island. From our house at the south end of the island, I can see the distant high-rises of the towns south of Vancouver, yet I’m living in another world now. Deer pass through the front yard, eagles and ravens circle, and the silence is wonderful. After four years volunteering with the Suzuki Elders in various capacities, I knew I would miss my Suzuki Elder friends who had shared my deep concerns for the direction we are heading and the problems that lie in store for us. But Salt Spring islanders are environmentally savvy and open to new ideas, and I soon joined the Salt Spring Forum, a speaker’s series that has hosted world-renowned environmentalists including David Suzuki, Bill McKibben, Lester Brown, and George Monbiot.

Last weekend (March 8-9, 2014), Dr. Michael Byers, a UBC political science professor and organizer of the Forum, brought ten graduate students from his seminar course to present their papers at a conference entitled “Oil, the Environment, and the Future of Canada.” This is the second year he has done so, and he plans to make this a yearly event.

Mainlanders and Salt Spring Islanders, including interested high school students and Forum members, made up the audience of about 75, and half of the time was dedicated to questions and discussion. The high quality of the presentations and enthusiastic discussions left the audience feeling uplifted by the talent, insights, and passion of these young people.

As the Conference title suggests, topics were wide-ranging and included:

  • a discussion of the problems in navigating arctic waters (don’t count on any oil spills being cleaned up, and the northwest passage may yet end up being designated “international waters”),
  • whether Canada has a national energy policy (yes, but it’s not called that, and it’s more of a plan to sell off our oil and gas as quickly as possible with little regard to environmental consequences),
  • whether there is a national security risk associated with allowing foreign acquisitions of Canadian natural resources (yes, current actions could compromise Canada’s legislative and judicial sovereignty). This problem was illustrated with regard to the FIPA trade agreement with China: Chinese investors would be able to sue the Canadian government if they feel the investor’s profit is being compromised, and minority ownership is sufficient for this purpose. Also, under FIPA, investors are subject to Canadian laws, but only those in place at the time of agreement. At the moment, Canada has no legal framework for assessing the risk of a security threat by resource acquisition.
  • whether there is a public relations problem with respect to the oil sands (yes: the government has the resources to mount an ad campaign that is largely divorced from science and meant to sell the political position that the oil sands industries provide jobs and economic benefits). The position of environmental groups is more legitimate, being rooted in scientific fact. However, getting the message out to the uninformed public is difficult. Social media were considered important in this regard.
  •  What decisions are carrying Canada towards being a petro state, and is oil wealth compatible with democracy? The radicalization of environmentalists (those with opposing opinions) and the disregard for environmental contamination (inadequate monitoring) were given as evidence of a problem. Energy represents less than 6% of Canada’s GDP questioning whether energy should be taking centre stage. Norway was compared as another “western” petro state, but unlike Canada, Norway demands much higher royalties, has state-owned oil companies (70% of the Alberta oil sands is foreign-owned), has proportional representation, and has more consultation with their indigenous people.
  • How to say no to big oil? Indigenous rights, with respect to obtaining free, prior, informed consent, were argued to best support environmental activists and the public in defeating pipeline proposals (using the example of the defeat of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline in the 70’s). Civil disobedience may need to be employed.

Letter to a friend on his granddaughter and inflammation, obesity, Alzheimer’s Disease and Attention Deficit Disorders

by Dr. Dan Kingsbury

Hi Friend:

Re your question about your granddaughter’s gastrointestinal (GI) problem. There is a recent and very disturbing paper by Samsel and Seneff on the inhibitory effect of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) on the enzyme chemistry of GI microorganisms. They look at the broader population, not specifically as a causal etiology to any specific GI disorder, but useful perhaps as a contributing factor!

hi-doctor-patient-852-cp-is-8colCytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in the GI tract play a crucial role in detoxifying xenobiotics (foreign chemical substances such as antibiotics occurring in very small concentrations). Glyphosate thus enhances the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. The negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems. According to Samsell and Seneff, the potential consequences include most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet – gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Glyphosate residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. The herbicide may not necessarily be a direct cause of GI-related pathology, but could certainly act as a contributing factor.

Monsanto-Agriculturally-Biotech-Giant-Buys-Climate-Corporation-weather-and-data-tracking-firmPesticides may be “safe” for humans but are not safe for our GI bacteria and related micro-organisms responsible for a symbiotic relationship with us. These co-inhabitants of our bodies are being challenged by a growing food-for-profit industry using pesticides for greater yields to provide greater profits and to meet the demands of burgeoning global populations. As such, they deserve far more study and inquiry than they’re currently receiving. You could build a conspiracy theory here, but you don’t have to.

Here is a classic conflict between our corporate industries’ right to pursue a “for-profit risk-based” business model for its shareholders and our competing right to a healthy environment and a tendency to a precautionary-based approach for everyone.

Does a person have a right to seeds and water? Not if money is to be made. Ask Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer, Shell and Dow who are in agribusiness. Are their corporate profits coming at the expense and health of others? Absolutely, and we are seeing it everywhere. One in every two people in North America is living with chronic disease, you and me included. If you can’t see it in yourself – inflammatory disease AKA heart disease – then perhaps you will see it in your grandchildren? If you can imagine that, then you can also understand how insidious and pervasive this could be.

gmo-veggiesAll it takes is reading the labels of the foods you eat, avoiding GMO foods as much as possible, and becoming a “responsible consumer” by purchasing your food with this set of lenses on. Personally, since my wife had cancer, we switched to “organic”. We recently learned that as much as 50% of organic produce has some pesticide residues. We can’t get away from the stuff even though we try. Such is the way of a Green Dentist, seeing the world through this set of lenses, and looking upstream for casual factors in our health and environment.

We have already been down this road before with tobacco and, guess what? We still make a profit from it, don’t we? As evidence for the hypothesis, inclusive of profit and self-interest skewing data, I refer generally to the obesity epidemic that we, as a sick, chronic diseased society, accommodate. This is not a chicken and egg type inquiry, as we know obesity is what came after the chemical era. And that is my greater point – if the host species is not thriving then, instead of looking at the individual patient or friend (who, by-the-way, may over-eat and be lazy) – look at the environment. That’s the Petri dish our species is living in, AKA the biosphere. Every day we treat the land, the air and the water as if they were still providing support for a much smaller population. Here is the rub and the great delusion of our society. We think we are still in that seemingly familiar, smaller population world. Yet we are, in fact, in a very different world. Take a look around!



Farmed salmon – toxins in and toxins out

Farmed salmon toxins in toxins out

Environmentalism has failed. Or has it?

A tale of two paradigms

by Stan Hirst

fight copyBack in May 2012 David Suzuki famously declared in his blog that “environmentalism has failed”  He went on to explain that, over the past 50 years, environmentalists had failed to realize that environmental battles reflect fundamentally different ways of seeing our place in the world, and that our deep underlying worldview determines the way we treat our surroundings.

He noted that we, as a species, had not come to grips with the explosive events that have changed our relationship with the planet. In trying to address  the problems we created  dedicated environmental departments in our national, regional and local governments, but this just turned environment into one more special interest, like education, health, and agriculture. This “anthropocentric” view envisions the world revolving around US. So we create departments of forests, fisheries and oceans, and environment whose ministers and top bureaucrats are less concerned with the health and well-being of the actual forests, fish, oceans or the environment than with the resources and the economies that depend on them and are derived from them. We had still failed to make the point, and to act accordingly, that our lives, health and livelihoods absolutely depend on the biosphere — quality air, water, soil, sunlight, and biodiversity.

David’s concerns are not new, in fact they’re related to two prevailing social paradigms, one of which has been around for at least five millennia. The Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP) is comprised of three basic beliefs:

  1. technology will spare the planet, and all things detrimental can be resolved with continued pursuit of industrial advancement;
  2. economic growth and prosperity will resolve any disinterest or dissatisfaction with societal problems; and
  3. political representatives in office are there for the benefit of the people and their country, and that ultimately they, and only they, have the capability to handle policies that effect society as a whole.

We can see this basic philosophy as driving current top-level Canadian philosophy surrounding resources development and management.

Widespread societal concern for environmental deterioration, by comparison, is relatively new. The New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) had its roots in the US environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and was partly inspired by Rachel Carson and her bestseller Silent Spring which drew sharp attention to the ecosystem dangers of chemical pollution. The NEP has been loosely based on three key propositions:

  1. environmental protection is possible through limitations on industrial and population growth;
  2. planetary demise is directly correlated with human-influenced interactions with natural ecosystems and landscapes; and
  3. humans are one, usually the major, cause of global environmental deterioration.

Four decades after the birth of the NEP there continues to be ongoing argument on how to properly address global issues. Significantly, social surveys of DSP and NEP protagonists have not, so far, revealed any great willingness on either side to change behaviours or beliefs.

All of this has very practical implications for the Suzuki Elders and the ways in which we carry out our activities. As we state in our strategic plan our goals are to mentor, motivate and support others in dialogue and action on environmental issues, and we attempt to achieve this through educating, communicating and non-partisan advocacy.  It follows that nothing much will be achieved if we’re trying to communicate with policy-makers, political representatives, business leaders and/or  our fellow Canadians if they’re all imbued with lots of DSP. In fact, that’s the main reason for the oft-heard lament from the Elders “Why won’t they listen to us?”

Are we faced with a permanent stand-off between the DSP’ers and the NEP’ers?  Possibly. The DSP has been around for a long time, indicating that at least some of its concepts are deeply embedded in the human psyche.  But, in thinking more about it, I suggest we NEP’ers, like the rest of humanity, easily fall into the boundary trap.

We love sharp boundaries between categories of things, be they rocks, birds, people or ideas. “Them” and “us”.  “Good” and “bad”. “Black” and “white”. “Red-shafted flickers” and “yellow-shafted flickers”. “Good” ideas and “bad” ideas. The list is endless.  But the categorization is usually for our personal satisfaction, it doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.  Modern genetics has shown that many groups of animals or plants assigned to different genera or species are actually more similar to one another than they are different. Politicians spend inordinate amounts of time haranguing one another over policy differences, but then seem quite capable of reaching a commonly accepted solution when they run out of debating time.

So I’m suggesting two things:-

  1. that the differences between people, communities, interest groups and the like on the subjects of environmental protection, resource exploitation and all similar issues which take up much space and time in our daily media are not sharply divided but are rather blobs on a continuum of personal opinion and involvement from one extreme to the other; and
  2. a significantly big proportion of the general population doesn’t yet know enough about many environmental issues to clearly choose a position, either because they’re still young and haven’t yet learned what the issues are, or they have no great interest in environmental issues anyway.  Public opinion surveys conducted over the past five years across Canada have found, amongst other things, that 20% Canadians are not sure whether global temperatures are rising, 23% are not concerned at all about climate change, 55% have never heard the expression “cap and trade” and 25% of people voting conservative in national elections consider that climate change is not real. There is thus still much scope and opportunity for environmental education and general awareness building across the country.

The environmental glass is half full

by Neale Adams    

David Suzuki is a visionary and a great Canadian.wine-glass He is seriously discouraged by what he perceives to be a lack of response to his alarms. He is impatient, as visionaries tend to be. That response is slow does not mean it is not happening.

  1. Environmentalism has made great strides during the past 50 years. Once billowing smokes stacks were a sign of progress; today they are symbols of pollution and global warming. There are people stuck in an earlier world view who refuse to deal with the reality of our environmental system. However they are mostly old and dying out. The young are environmentally conscious. Generational change takes generations.
  2. We have increasingly become aware of the serious nature of our environmental situation. Awareness continues to grow. Scientific consensus about the nature of our most serious problem, global warming due to the use of fossil fuels that put carbon into the atmosphere, is hardly 30 years old. The first UN conference on the environment was in 1992, only 22 years ago. Society is a great ocean liner. Turning it around takes time. (Hopefully, meanwhile, there are no icebergs.)
  3. While the environment is crucial—air, land, and water—so too are food supply, public health, the provision of energy and housing. To consider all but environmentalism as “special interests” except concern about the environment is wrong. Democratic values are important. The structure of our economy and the distribution of wealth matter also. Governments must and do pay attention to all these issues. Is enough attention paid to the environment? No, but attention is rapidly growing.
  4. Human beings are a four million-year-old species primarily interested in the state of human beings. Of course they have an “anthropocentric” view—what other view could they have? The environment is a serious issue, not because trees and plants and animals are of value in themselves, but because a degraded environment affects human beings. We need healthy forests, fish, oceans, etc., because we are connected to them. If humankind disappears, one need not worry about most other species—most would survive and probably do quite well without us.

The Dominant Social Paradigm was that humankind can experience continued progress. That view is in disarray for many reasons, chiefly because the post-World War II boom is long behind us. Generally, people have become too pessimistic. A grounded environmentalism can be the basis for restoring social optimism.

  1. Technology in many areas has denigrated the environment, but it in other areas it has cause improvement. What matters is how technology is used. Environmentalists can neither embrace all technology, not reject it. They must help people figure out how to best use it.
  2. In addition to growing environmental awareness, more people are coming to realize that economic growth does not, and cannot, solve all of society’s problems. Our economic and social institutions however have failed to come to grips with this realization.
  3. Political representatives hold office to benefit the people they represent as they best can according to their knowledge and understanding. However, Canadians believe that ultimately the will of the people is and can be expressed through elections and other means.

The New Ecological Paradigm is a useful way of understanding what action is needed to solve our environmental problems, but has its limitations and must be constantly examined and renewed.

  1. Population growth slows and can reverse when people have a decent standard of living. The economic challenge is to provide that standard while using less of earth’s resources. Simply limiting industry or population growth by fiat (e.g., the one child policy in China) does not work well.
  2. A proper interaction of a population with the natural landscape (however defined) is healthy for both.
  3. We will never return to a “State of Nature.” The idea of Eden is a useful myth, but still a myth.

There will always be argument on how to live and properly address global issues. However, it is likely that human society will adopt strategies to reverse environmental degradation. Either that will happen, or it won’t. We are likely near the tipping point at which growing environmental consciousness will result in startling economic and environmental change. However, environmental apocalypticism has limited use in promoting this change.

The Blessing of Living the Questions?

Ramblings from Solstice 2013 to January 2, 2014

by Michael Lewis

Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal

Mike Lewis

As one contemplates 2014, the wondrous, unique, tiny blue dot we dwell upon is in deep trouble. It is no news to anyone who knows me that I live between despair and hope. There are plenty of reasons for both. Alas, uncertainty is the only constant.

The personal question that continuously emerges from accepting this tension is where to put one’s tiny repository of time and talent. If one is committed to making hope more concrete rather than despair more convincing, how do I concentrate my little bit? At the age of 61, this is the question I cannot seem to shake.

The fact that I am a Canadian exacerbates the restlessness this question provokes. I like to think I am a reasonable Canadian that has been shaped by the reasonableness of the country I grew up in. My problem is I am feeling more and more unreasonable. Is this because I am becoming a grumpy old man? Or, might it be my country is becoming more and more unreasonable?

As the gloomy evidence related to the catastrophic impact of human-generated carbon becomes more and more unassailable, our Federal government is doing all it can to accelerate the expansion of the tar sands in Alberta, a province which, if it were a nation, would be the highest per capita carbon emitter in the world.

As much of the world is cutting back on burning carbon-rich coal (good news), American industry and various governmental agencies in Canada are doing all they can to facilitate more and more thermal coal (the dirtier grades) to be transported from south of the border by longer and longer trains in order to find a temporary home at a new port installation smack dab in the middle of the Fraser River delta. Why? So that it can be loaded onto bigger and bigger ships destined for Asian markets, where it can be burned to produce more and more carbon spewing electricity to further clog our overloaded atmosphere, that is why!

Continuous claims that all this activity is being managed by a ‘reasonable’ approach to balancing interests is buttressed by advertising campaigns designed to soothe us with a promise of renewal and prosperity and protection of our natural environment. Those with a contrary perspective are seen as unreasonable, unwilling dreamers with their heads up their back ends who do not seem to comprehend the reality that the world needs our oil, and quickly. Those with a contrary perspective that dare to publically challenge government and industry elites pushing the fossil fuel agenda are labeled somewhat more harshly; they are the foreign financed radicals deemed to be bordering on terrorist activity.

So much for democracy. Deception, lying, threats, self-dealing, denial and deflection of evidence – is this our lot, the new Canada, a managed citizenry controlled by a combination of threats and a constricting but economically grandiose vision of being the prosperous new energy super-power?

So, back to the question. Here I am. I live on the only earth we will ever know. I am a Canadian. I live in the westernmost province; the proverbial gateway to Asia. I am 61. I have six grandchildren. I am of a generation that is the biggest though mainly unwitting beneficiary of fossil fuel-induced economic growth. I want us to radically but systematically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, a goal that is premised on the best evidence available. Unfortunately, I am living in a country where a small but powerful, ideologically bound, self-interested cabal is eschewing their responsibility to help Canadians make a positive transition to a low carbon economy.

Given such a miserable set of circumstance, what then are the options then for an aging lotus-land WASP to responsibly share his time, talents and spirit?

Is my consideration of heading for the front lines of civil disobedience ‘responsible’, or not? Would it be a relevant witness to all I care for and love or would I merely be a sop to my momentary lapses into despair and a yearning for more timely relevance? It is a good question; after all, I have been a primary beneficiary of the age of fossil fuels and economic growth, so now that I know better, do I not have a primary responsibility to add my weight to the growing numbers of young and old actively taking the risks necessary to change the course being set to accelerate the rush for the spoils we seem bent on in this country? Is this not reasonable thing to ask of myself?

Or, should I stay on my path of writing, researching, consulting, speaking and spreading ideas and innovations that represent resilient pathways to meeting our basic needs into the future? Is this a ‘reasonable’ approach? After all, I have been doing this for 40 years and have a good idea of how long it takes to advance innovations that have proven themselves. Might confining my attention to this domain be akin to hiding my head in the sand? After all, alternatives, no matter how successful, are not invulnerable to the gathering onslaughts of ever more volatile climate ‘events’. Would not focusing on reducing the risks of carbon be a wiser choice for the use of limited time, talent and resources?

Or, perhaps, I should just stop all of it and just live day to day. Many good and wonderful people I know are on this path; love those you are with and have faith that hardened hearts will be softened through acceptance and active caring. After all, without a ‘change of heart’ we will not prevail in the bigger issues. But is this attractive variation on the Zen thematic not merely a somewhat convenient way of just hiding out from the rather inconvenient truth that our challenges are systemic, not merely matters of the heart or even individual behaviour? Change in both are necessary.

My problem, or perhaps better put, my challenge is that I want it all. I want to help stop the madness, be an active participant putting in place the practical and hopeful alternatives rather than pressing the ‘pedal to the metal’ on the path to the precipice, and I want to be imbued with a spirit satisfied with loving and nourishing what is right in front of me day by day.

Hmmm….. I did confess at the beginning of this missive that reflection seems a chore at times,  “a sure indication it is time to stop long enough to see what bubbles up.” Well, at this point my search for the ‘new found land’ is yielding a strange aroma. My “want it all” conclusion feels like a lot of work and would take some serious attitude adjustments on my part, God forbid.

But might this just be what constitutes a generative pathway forward? Resisting what is wrong-headed and damaging, spreading alternatives that make ‘common sense’, and daily loving the people and the processes one is connected to – are these not gracefully militant and practical ways to live?

Thus ends my serious but light-hearted rambling reflection on the state of…….well, whatever. As you might surmise, my next communication of this sort could just as likely emanate from a prison, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a successful innovation transplanted, or from my pen while on a silent retreat where I will no doubt be personally bent on getting focused and experiencing stillness, an outcome which could be an inordinately long process.

I believe it is time for a rum and the dregs of the egg nog. Sometimes such arduous bouts of contemplation and the clarity of action that falls out of such deep thinking can be helped along by such intoxicating aids. Anything is possible.

May each of you have a wonderful and meaningful 2014 and may you and yours be showered with blessings as we all live the questions and challenges of our time on this earth. Keep posted. Maybe I will yet make some progress bringing resistance, building alternatives and living gracefully together into a nice neat and tidy whole.

Meanwhile, I wish the best to each of you this coming year.

The Elder image

I’ve come to expect very little from the film industry in their portrayal of elders on the silver screen.  They usually fall back on us only when they need a little comic relief or a brief moment of tear-jerking. But, just once in a while, an elder might be depicted in a more meaningful role.  The past year has left us with a mixed bag of elder imagery which deserves mention.

NEBRASKAIn Nebraska, the best film of the year (in my humble elder opinion), the main character is Woody Grant, an ornery old soak from Billings, Montana. As the film starts, Woody is seen walking along the freeway on his way to Lincoln, Nebraska (800 miles) to collect a million dollars from Publishers Clearing House. That immediately tells us where Woody is at.

The reason why I find this movie so moving and, at the same time, so disconcerting, is that it is absolutely true to life in its character depiction. I lived in the American heartland for a few years and those folks are exactly as depicted. Case in point – a group of senior men in Hawthorne, Nebraska, sit in the living room after Sunday lunch. All wear plaid shirts and all stare fixedly at a football game on TV. Occasionally two of them, without looking at one another, will converse in monosyllables about the cars they owned back in ’79. Another typical event – Woody hobbles into an auto shop he once owned for 25 years and asks the Hispanic mechanics if they know where Ed Pegram is. Ed was Woody’s former partner in the business. The mechanics have no idea who or where Ed Pegram is. Woody then heads for the battered tavern one block down the street, and the first person he meets at the bar is ….. Ed Pegram.

I found myself searching the Woody character, without much success, for something Elderly (capital “E”), something to offset his crankiness and his detachment from society, something to make it seem all worthwhile in the end, but to no avail. He had served his country in Korea in the 50′s, and maybe that was where he lost his connections.

The underlying thing about the movie that weighs on me is that I don’t really have to go to the flicks to see a character like Woody. There are clones of him on all the streets and in the malls buying lottery tickets right here in Vancouver.

Quartet-Tom-Courtenay-and-Maggie-SmithThe award-winning movie Quartet gave me a little more glimmer of hope for Elder values.

Reg, Wilf, Jean and Cissy are retired former opera singers living in Beecham House, a retirement home for gifted musicians. Whatever they were in previous lives, they’re very human at Beecham House. Jean is catty, vain and difficult to deal with, Cissy is starting to lose it and often goes walkabout, Reg is a curmudgeon who yells obscenities at the French maid for giving him apricot jam instead of marmalade at breakfast. Wilf is a classic senior – hides a bottle of scotch in the greenhouse and wees behind the shrubbery when he thinks nobody is watching.

The four were once part of a popular quartet famous for the best post-war recording of bella figlia dell’amore from Rigoletto. In the final scene they get their act together and sing the aria magnificently at a fund-raiser at Beecham House. That’s the Elder thing to do of course – retain one’s skills honed over the years for effective use later in life when the situation requires it.

HBT-025881r.jpgThere is indeed a first-class Elder currently on display at the movies – Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. He can’t go wrong with that beard, that hat and that mellifluous voice just oozing wisdom. He is the quintessential mentor and more. When the going gets tough and the situation is waist-high in orcs, Gandalf has the moxie to hack his way out with his trusty sword or else he just summons up Gwahir the eagle for aerial evacuation. Clearly this is the mode we Elders all need to be in.

The only problem here is that Gandalf exists only in Middle Earth and in the fertile imagination of J.R. Tolkien. I’ve never met anyone even remotely close to his character. I will admit that a British lady, a member of the International Group in Lesotho, used to call me Gandalf. She was usually on her third gin and tonic at that stage.

Just when I was about to give up the search, I remembered one of the best and most believable Elder portrayals on film in the past year – Evelyn Greenslade in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Evelyn is a newly widowed housewife whose house in the U.K. had to be sold off to pay off her husband’s debts. Her twit of a son wants to “care” for her, without her input, but she elects instead to take the plunge and heads for Jaipur, India to live in a shambolic hotel for elderly expatriates. She finds a new, wholly unexpected and very challenging life, but she blossoms in the face of the adversities. Evelyn lands a job teaching English communication skills to an Indian call centre. She shares her activities through her blog, and happens to coin the best phrase of the movie “We get up in the morning, we do our best“. She also comes up with classically Elder snippets of basic wisdom which linger long after the movie has ended.IMG_8314.CR2

“Initially you’re overwhelmed, but gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist, and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it and you’ll swim out the other side.”

“The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment.”

“But it’s also true that the person who risks nothing, does nothing and has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be different. But perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So we must celebrate the changes.”

Suzuki Elders field trips for 2014


 with  David Cook

 Sunday February 9th, 2014

The Grand Tour: A hike through the old-growth forest of Pacific Spirit Regional Park above Wreck Beach. An interpretive field trip for Suzuki Elders: Bringing youth and elders together.

Trip leader: David Cook

Meeting time & location: 12:00 Noon at the north-western intersection of SW Marine Drive and Old Marine Drive in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. There is free parking along Old Marine Drive which is in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Entry by car onto Old Marine Drive is at the south-eastern intersection of Old Marine Drive and SW Marine Drive (SE of 16th Ave.).

Duration of field trip: 2 to 3 hours.

Registration: Not required.

General Description: This is the ‘Grand Tour’ because it is focused on the exceptional grand fir trees growing in the area. Unlike the majority of Pacific Spirit Regional Park, which was logged exhaustively in the 1890’s, the slopes above Wreck Beach and around the UBC Botanical Gardens are relatively intact old-growth forest; one of the most accessible and beautiful big tree routes in Metro Vancouver.

The Route: At our meeting point at the top of Totem Ravine we will have a view of one of North America’s largest grand firs. It is 64.5m to its broken top, has a wide base and an enormous and complex crown with numerous reiterations. We will then hike along the thickly forested Old Marine Drive to the top of Trail 7 in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, where we will take a look at a stand of grand firs and old-growth Douglas-firs before descending the Trail 7 staircase down to the beach. At the bottom of the staircase is a 2m thick old-growth Douglas-fir. Once on the beach we will stop at the bottom of Totem Ravine to look at another very large old-growth Douglas-fir and another grand fir of near-record size. Take note of many other large grand firs and bigleaf maples along the route and keep your eyes open for the Wreck Beach Douglas-fir which emerges quite spectacularly from the forest canopy above Wreck Beach. This Douglas-fir is probably the largest tree in the UBC area. Here there is an excellent panoramic view of the old-growth forest with the veteran trees rising above the canopy. Along the beach trail we will also look at the salt marsh ecology and one of the giant glacial erratics that are scattered along the beach and have First Nations significance (Musqueam). We then return to Old Marine Drive by ascending the Trail 6 staircase.

Trail Conditions: The trail along the beach is rough and uneven with potential hazards such as sections of mud, slippery roots, rocks and short sections of walking on logs to by-pass marshes. Therefore wear hiking boots with good-grip soles. The two stairways are steep and endless.

Bring snacks and a beverage.

A free public event sponsored by Suzuki Elders. All ages welcome. Membership in Suzuki Elders not required.

For further information about Suzuki Elders click this link.

Sunday April 20th, 2014

Can native and introduced plants live in harmony? A walk along Spanish Trail in Pacific Spirit Regional Park.

An interpretive field trip for Suzuki Elders: Bringing youth and elders together.

Trip leader: David Cook

Meeting time & location: 12 Noon at the trailhead of Spanish Banks Trail (Trail No. 23 on Metro Parks map) at NW Marine Drive. For the location of the trailhead see the Metro Parks map of Pacific Spirit Regional Park which can be viewed on the Metro Parks website www.metrovancouver.org.

Duration of field trip: Approximately 2 hours.

Registration: Not required.

Description of event: On this beautiful forest walk we will see how native and non-native plant species co-exist to produce a functional but ever-changing whole. We will also look at the plantings of native plant species that have been done to enhance Spanish Creek for salmon spawning habitat.
A free public event sponsored by Suzuki Elders. All ages welcome. Membership in Suzuki Elders not required.

For further information about Suzuki Elders click this link.

Sunday June 22nd, 2014

The Champion Trees of Stanley Park

An interpretive field trip for Suzuki Elders: Bringing youth and elders together.

Trip leader: David Cook

Meeting time and location: 10:00 am in the parking lot at Third Beach concession stand in Stanley Park. Turn right at Tea House after the Hollow Tree then right again.

Duration of field trip: Approximately 2 hours.

Registration: Not required

Description: Stanley Park retains some specimens of Douglas-fir and western redcedar that are between 500 and 800 years old. Also in the park you will see two of the oldest bigleaf maples in BC, and a large red alder designated as a Champion BC tree. Our route will also take us past two of the most publicized cedars in BC; the Hollow Tree and the National Geographic Red Cedar. Share my fascination with these veteran giants and discover why some trees in the Pacific Northwest have reached such a great age and size.

A free public event sponsored by Suzuki Elders. All ages welcome. Membership in Suzuki Elders not required.

For further information about Suzuki Elders click this link.

Sunday August 24th, 2014

The Perfect Storm

An interpretive field trip for Suzuki Elders: Bringing youth and elders together.

Trip leader: David Cook

Meeting location & time: 10:00 am in the parking lot at Third Beach concession stand in Stanley Park. Turn right at Tea House after the Hollow Tree then right again.

Duration of field trip: 2 to 3 hours.

Registration: Not required

Description of event: You will walk with Biologist David Cook through the forest of Stanley Park where the effects of the storm of 2006 were most destructive and see how it is recovering by natural regeneration with some assistance by human management. We will discuss how such natural events are beneficial to the long term ecology of a forest. We will see how we as managers can influence the pace of forest recovery as well as guide it towards what we require as users of the forest.

A free public event sponsored by Suzuki Elders. All ages welcome. Membership in Suzuki Elders not required.

For further information about Suzuki Elders click this link.

David Cook has degrees in zoology and geology, and is a member of the Vancouver Natural History Society, the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society and the Suzuki Elders.

The Mystery of the Blasted Cove

by Jill Schroder

graphic 6

The story begins when  Snap the Seahorse hears a loud crashing noise.  Snap, Baghead the Octopus, and other savoury characters, resolve to find the source. They discover that pirates have dynamited their coral cove home.  The plucky team, with the help of a mermaid and a magic talisman, set out to find and stop them.

This story is offered in the hope that all who read it may grow in understanding and appreciation for our glorious oceans, the amazing creatures that inhabit them, the precious and fragile coral reefs that bejewel them, and some of the dangers that threaten them.

The whole story, by Grandma Jill, and with illustrations by the grandchildren, is available at the Mixbook site  [click here].

Jill Kremer Schroder is a writer, environmentalist and social activist, and a member of the Suzuki Elders. She lives in Vancouver.

Industrial Forestry or Ecoforestry: Alternative Cultures

by Josef Kuhn

7766096-lodgepole-pine-forest-with-a-small-fir-treeSome of the people I most respect and admire for their work in promoting forest conservation and stewardship of all of our natural resources are foresters. They often refer to themselves as forest ecologists as well as foresters, an important distinction that I want to make as clear as I can in this brief essay.

There are many foresters who are driven by motives and methods that do not truly respect forest ecology. These industrial foresters have developed a culture much like modern agriculture, asserting that they can replace natural forests with tree crops, thereby increasing economic benefits from harvesting trees from these management units which they refer to as forests.

In my view of life, which comes from both western culture and the ancient teachings of many tribal cultures, forests are created by Nature and are a gift from Mother Earth, the Sun and ultimately from the Creator. The natural ecosystems created by this life-giving process over eons of time contain a mix of interacting species best suited to the bio-physical conditions at each unique location. This view makes me and others who respect and value Nature and forest life part of the naturalist culture, which includes ecoforestry. It is very different from the industrial culture which values financial gain above Nature.

As a student working on a degree in forest management back in the 1960′s I became disillusioned with the university’s required courses. They were mostly about how to log forests to maximize industrial profits and produce a steady revenue flow to government ministries. There was one course in forest ecology and one in forest soils, but the rest were mostly about forest engineering and various aspects of financial management of timber and pulpwood resources. I had to change majors and get my degrees in geography and ecology in order to pursue the career path that was best for me.

Forest aesthetics, biodiversity and soil and watershed protection considerations over the long term (seven generations in First Nations’ culture) are not the focus of most of the forest management plans which are being approved by our government ministries today. Outside ‘consultations’ are supposed to address these concerns, but these inputs are not given equal weight with so called economic development considerations.

Ecoforestry on the other hand focuses on watersheds and/or ecological land types, seeking understanding of the interactions taking place in these ecosystems. In our modern information technology world, forest and wildlife ecologists model and monitor natural processes and human impacts in natural resource stewardship/management programs, unless this is precluded by industrial forestry and other ‘development’ interests.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The use of ecosystem models such as geographic information systems (GIS) are absolutely essential if true stewardship of the natural resources our children and grandchildren will depend on for their well-being is ever to be accomplished. In addition, we, as citizens and stewards of our environment, must make sure that the cumulative impacts of logging and all resource extraction activities on our forests, wetlands and waters are being monitored and assessed on an ongoing basis to ensure that our ecosystems remain healthy.

In my opinion, government ministries upon which we rely to protect our forests and related natural resources should be employing more people educated in biological and earth sciences who demonstrate good ecological intelligence and a good grounding in the land ethic, established by Aldo Leopold in 1948. Along with forest ecology and ecoforestry, as well as a focus on ecosystem and human health, they can provide us with the more complete view needed for good stewardship.

Stewardship of primarily natural forests doesn’t require ending forest harvesting. Commercial forestry and other extractive enterprises have a role in natural resource stewardship and land use decision-making, but they should not dominate these processes. Selective harvesting of over-crowded and unhealthy trees on an ongoing basis can provide truly sustainable jobs for local people. Industrial foresters have been saying for decades that the only way to harvest the magnificent west coast rain forests is to clearcut them. It just isn’t so! Selective harvesting is practiced in many of the world’s forests and British Columbia’s outstanding ecoforestry pioneer Merv Wilkinson showed us that selection forestry can produce sustainable ecological and economic benefits in our west coast forests.

The ecoforestry harvesting approach benefits wildlife by letting more energy from the Sun reach the shrubs, grasses and herbs in the lower canopy levels of a healthy forest. It maintains a healthier soil cover, full of life and holding more water and nutrients than the compacted surface left by clearcut logging. These healthy forests are needed for cleaner water and to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere for a healthy climate.

We who care about our forests must insure that our political and business leaders know what kind of stewardship we want – industrial forestry or ecoforestry.

Josef Kuhn is a naturalist, ecologist and elder living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Elders and Youth Environmental Forum: Saturday: Vancouver, BC: 16 November 2013


An intergenerational event

This forum’s focus is on sharing inspiration and strategies that make social movements matter. Youth involved in environmental issues tell us they want to build a stronger movement, elders tell us of their deep concern about the future, and all of us want to get better at collaborating across the generations. We know “the facts” alone are not convincing people about the importance of environmental issues.

What’s your story about why you are called to action? Let’s use that in our community organizing. Michiah Prull, the David Suzuki Foundation’s Director of Communication and Public Engagement, will guide us in building our authentic personal stories – to connect, engage and help us make the ‘ask’ to action.

The day will also include:

  • Music with Ta’Kaiya Blaney, the Raging Grannies
  • Spontaneous activism moments
  • Hands-on learning and practice
  • An innovative program designed to connect youth and elders
  • Closing keynote with an intergenerational trio for the environment – Dr. David Suzuki, Sarika Cullis-Suzuki, Tamo Campos. Be inspired by the stories of Tamo, (David’s grandson), Sarika (David’s daughter) and David (the “family elder”) as they describe their passion for the environment, and why youth and elder energy is critical to moving forward.

Tamo Campos is an activist and co-founder of Beyond Boarding.  Sarika Cullis-Suzuki is a Marine Biology PhD candidate, a board member of the David Suzuki Foundation, and a member of WWF-Canada Oceans Advisory Committee. Dr. David Suzuki is a co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, and an award winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster.

  • There is no charge for attendance, which is by pre-registration only (click here to go to registration)
  • However, all participants will be charged $15 at the door to cover the cost of the vegan sandwich bag lunch (pre-ordered for everyone) and break refreshments. This is payable by cash or cheque.
  • Doors open for registration and refreshments at 8:45.
  • The venue for the Forum is the Longhouse at the First Nations House of Learning, UBC Campus, 1985 W Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2Longhouse FN House of Learning

If you know of other elders/high school youth involved in the environment movement and would like them to receive an invitation, please send along their name and e-mail by return e-mail to us, and we’ll put them on our Elders/Youth/ Environment Forum invitation list.

For more information, contact us at elders@davidsuzuki.org, or leave us a voice message by calling 604-732-4228 extension 1910.

Let’s connect, mentor and motivate elders and younger generations in shared dialogue and action on environmental issues and strategies.


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