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20 Years in BC’s Environmental Movement

by Guy Dauncey

First published in Common Ground Magazine, November 2002
http://commonground.ca

"Take a look back at how the environmental movement has progressed over the past twenty years, and name some of its heroes", Robert asked. "In 800 words". "But that’s impossible!" I said, negotiating some extra words. So many people, so much commitment. The only way to tackle it all is to break it down, area by area:

1. Energy, Climate Change

Twenty years ago, the environmental movement was coming out of ten years of successful campaigning to stop BC Hydro’s dinosaur mega-projects, involving nuclear power, coal-fired power plants, and mega dams such as Site C, in the Peace River country. As a result, BC Hydro changed its focus and switched to energy conservation, and the movement went to sleep. Today, BC Hydro is gearing up again, this time for gas-fired mega-projects, and the movement is re-awakening, stimulated by concerns around global warming.

My personal, subjective sense of our progress towards the goal of full ecological sustainability: 5%

Some of the heroes (there are many more, in every category): Arthur Caldicott, Bo Martin, Bruce Torrie, Ezra Auerbach, Gerry Scott, Kevin Pegg, Michael Margolis, Richard Kadulski, Stuart Hertzog, Tom Hackney, Walt Taylor.

2. Wilderness Protection

When B.C. historians look back on the 1980s and 1990s, they will be astonished at the range of success that was achieved. In addition to Strathcona Park, we celebrate the permanent protection of Valhalla Provincial Park, the White Grizzly, South Moresby (Haida Gwaii), the Kitlope, the Stein, the Tatshenshini, the Khutzeymateen, half of the Walbran, and other wilderness areas. As a result of the 1993 protest in Clayoquot Sound, most logging there has stopped, or is circumscribed by tough ecological standards. It looks as if much of the Great Bear Rainforest has been saved, but it is still being clearcut at the rate of 15 truckloads per hour. On Vancouver Island, meanwhile, 85 of the 90 large primary watersheds are being logged. The Lillooet Rainshadow Wilderness and the Stoltmann Wilderness are being logged; the South Chilcotins Mountain Park is at risk of being de-listed by the Liberal government. The struggle continues.

Progress: 50%

Some of the heroes: Adriane Carr, Betty Krawczyk, Bob Peart, Bristol Foster, Byron Spinks, Catherine Stewart, Chris Genovali, Colleen McCrory, Dan Lewis, Doug Radies, George Smith, Grant Copeland, Gujaaw, Ian McAllister, Ivan Thompson, Jeff Gibbs, Jim Bourquin, Joe Foy, Joe Loursa, Joe Martin, John Broadhead, John Clarke, John McCandless, John Nelson, Julia Gardner, Karen Mahon, Karen McAllister, Ken Wu, Kira MacDuffee, Lavina White, Lloyd Manchester, Lynne Milnes, Maureen Fraser, Mistee MacDuffee, Moe Sihota, Myron Kozak, Ocean Hellman, Pat Moss, Paul George, Peter McAllister, Randy Stoltman, Ray Zimmerman, Ric Careless, Rosemary Fox, Ruby Dunstan, Ruth Masters, Sharon Chow, Susan Holvenstot, Tzeporah Berman, Valerie Langer, Vicky Husband, Wayne McCrory, Wayne Sawchuk.

3. EcoForestry

Twenty years ago, Merve Wilkinson stood alone with his vision and successful practice of ecoforestry at Wildwood, near Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. Today, there is a whole new movement, and many future foresters are being trained in ecosystem based forestry. We saw a degree of success with the NDP’s Forest Practices Code, but it’s gone into the shredder with the Liberals, who are promoting a "results-based" code, to be monitored by the logging companies themselves. Most private land, meanwhile, is being logged with almost no sensitivity to habitat or sustainability.

Progress: 3%

Some of the heroes: Al Hopwood, Bob Nixon, Cam Brewer, Cheri Burda, Harold Macy, Henry Brownrigg, Herb Hammond, Jim Pine, Merve Wilkinson, Ray Travers.

4. Oceans, Marine Protection

During the last 10 years, the Georgia Strait Alliance has helped us become aware of the vulnerability of our waters, and the same awareness is happening for the Fraser. We’re getting federal Marine Protected Areas, which might help. The resident Orca whale population has fallen from 98 to 79 in just 6 years, however, and they are now an endangered species. For the most part, we are still enormously ignorant of what happens under the surface of our ocean – which the Liberals are opening up to fish farming and offshore oil and gas exploration.

Progress: 10%

Some of the heroes: Alexandra Morton, Catherine Stewart, Fin Donnelly, Jennifer Lash, Laurie MacBride, Lynn Hunter, Terry Glavin.

5. Fish, Rivers, Watersheds

Twenty years ago, the word ‘watershed’ was hardly heard, and almost no creeks had stewardship groups. Today, on the east side of Vancouver Island up to Campbell River, almost every creek has a stewardship society. We have a Heritage Rivers program, and every year, thousands of people join in stream clean-ups and fishery enhancements. It was also a success for the fish when the Kemano Completion Project was cancelled, on the Nechako River.

Progress: 20%

Some of the heroes: Chris Hilliar, Clive Callaway, Danny Gerak, Eugene Rogers, Ian Keen, Mark Angelo, Pete Dixon, Sarah Kipp, Will Koop, Will Paulik.

6. Plants, Animals, Habitat Protection

It’s so hard to measure progress here. The Vancouver Island marmot is close to extinction, its habitat lost to clearcut logging. The Grizzly bears are being hunted again after a brief moratorium, and there’s now a plan to cull the few remaining cougars and wolves on Vancouver Island since the deer population is falling – their winter habitat lost to clearcut logging. But progress has been fantastic. The Land Conservancy of BC now protects over 82,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands, and all over the province, groups are working to save critical habitat areas.

Progress: 20%

Some of the heroes: Alison Spriggs, Anne Hillyer, Barbara Hourston, Bill Turner, Bob Peart, Briony Penn, Eliza Olson, Nancy Turner, Nina Raginsky, Ric Searle, Tom Loring, Trudy Chatwin, Tyhson Banighen.

7. Cycling, Smart Transport

Twenty years ago, there was almost nothing. Today, there are active cycling groups in several cities, and a considerable commitment to the importance of cycle paths. In Vancouver, the planned Central Valley Greenway will wind through the communities of the Lower Mainland. Vancouver’s car-share co-op is a huge success, and car-pooling is steadily growing. On the other hand, the Liberal government has eliminated the 50:50 funding program for cycling projects, and transit still lingers, without the expansion and investment that it needs.

Progress: 15%

Some of the heroes: Al Craighead, Anne Marie Thornton, Cheeying Ho, David Cubberley, Denise Savoie, Francis van Loon, John Luton, Ray Straatsma, Richard Campbell, Steve Balyi, Todd Litman, Tracey Axelsson.

8. Green Cities, Green Architecture

Vancouver got a good start in the 1960s, after a furious struggle when City Council turned down an urban freeway through Chinatown, and went on to build South False Creek. Now there are exciting plans for a sustainable eco-community in Southeast False Creek, and awareness about smart growth urban design and green building methods is spreading fast. Cohousing is beginning to get a firm toehold. The standard of almost all new subdivisions is still abysmal, however; you couldn’t design much worse if you tried, and the 2010 Olympic bid is reviving talk of a new "TransVision" tunnel – Son of Freeway.

Progress: 10%

Some of the heroes: Alan Carpenter, Chris Mattock, Cornelia & Peter Oberlander, David Reid, David Rousseau, Deborah Curran, Eva Matsuzaki, Fiona Crofton, Freda Pagani, Gordon Price, Harold Kalke, Ian Theaker, Joe van Belleghem, Johnny Carline, Ken Cameron, Kevin Connery, Kim Rink, Kim Stephens, Mark Holland, Mark Roseland, Martin Pardoe, Mike Harcourt, Moura Quayle, Penny Gurstein, Peter Busby, Ray Cole, Robin Wark, Sebastian Moffat, Susan Haig, Teresa Coady, Tom Wilson.

9. The 3 ‘R’s

Reduce, re-use, recycle – remember? Ten years ago, BC set a goal of 50% recycling by 2000, but we only reached 30%. Meanwhile, the overall volume of waste keeps on growing. We’re not cutting back on consumerism at all, and while there’s been some progress in smart packaging (eg Nature’s Path cereals), the general direction is getting worse. The new goal is Zero Waste –the only rational place to be.

Progress: 20%

Some of the heroes: Andy Telfer, Ann Johnston, Gerry Howell Jones, John Cashore, Julie Johnston,

Ruth Lotzkar.

10: Health, Toxics Reduction

The air may seem dirty, but there has been good progress. BC’s pulp mills are a lot cleaner than they were, and there’s far greater awareness about the dangers of pesticides - local "pesticide-free city" bylaws will soon be arriving. On the other hand, we’ve hardly begun to get a handle on all the toxins we are permeated with, and the cancer epidemic is growing.

Progress: 3%

Some of the heroes: Delores Broten, Mae Burrows, Miranda Holmes, Peter Carter, Renate Kroese,

Ruth Madsen, Terry Jacks.

11. Organic Farming

We’ve seen fantastic progress here, from a starting point of almost 0. The organic community has become very well organized, and demand is growing by 20% a year. As a percentage of the overall food we consume, however, there’s a long way to go.

Progress: 7%

12. The Greening of the Economy

This is a catch-all category that includes the progress of green banking and eco-investments, community-based economic development and ownership, the greening of business (eg through The Natural Step), and big picture approaches such as ecological taxation, and tax-shifting.

Progress: 3%

Some of the heroes: Brian Nattrass, Coro Strandberg, David Levi, David van Seters, Deb Elliot, Donna Morton, Ian Gill, Joel Solomon, Ken Baker, Linda Crompton, Mary Altomare, Melanie Conn, Michael Clague, Michael Linton, Michael M’Gonigle, Pieter van Gils, Russell Precious.

This brief overview leaves out education, the media, and probably a lot more, but I will finish by mentioning those who don’t fit into any specific category. They’ve all made their contribution.

Some more of our heroes: Anne-Marie Sleeman, Anthony Dorcey, Bill Andrews, Bill Rees, Cathy Fox, Cliff Stainsby, David Cadman, David Garrick, David Springbett, David Suzuki, Greg McDade, Heather McAndrew, Ian McTaggart-Cowan, Jim Cooperman, Jim Fulton, John Christian, John Werring, Lloyd Manchester, Murray Rankin, Nora Layard, Paul Senez, Raffi, Robert & Birgit Bateman, Tara Cullis.

I’m sorry that this is a very incomplete list. Many thanks to you all – and to everyone who knows they have contributed. We honour and appreciate you all.

We’ve come a long way, but as the progress rates show, we’ve got a long long way to go, so we really need your help. You can find details of many of BC’s environmental groups through the BC Environment Network, at www.ecobc.org.

Guy Dauncey is an author, activist and sustainable communities consultant who lives in Victoria. www.earthfuture.com