Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

July 14, 2010

Sailing, Shakespeare, Seals, Shags and Slicks!

Last weekend my family and I were lucky enough to travel to Vancouver to see the wonderful Bard on the Beach production of Antony and Cleopatra. Surprisingly it was our 12 year old son's choice. We sailed over from Gabriola Island with an 18 NW knot breeze to push us along. Glorious conditions saw us sail right to our anchorage in False Creek where we anchored for the night. A short dingy trip ashore then a detour to Granville Island for some delectable chocolate eclairs.

On our way out of Granville Island, a large crowd was gathered on the board walk under the Bridge. My curiosity piqued, I wandered over to see what the attraction was. On the dock of a fishing boat charter company some folks were feeding a Harbour Seal. As the seal came back again and again for treats I watched the intense enthusiasm of the crowd as they oohed and ahhed at its antics. Just like when the Grey Whale visited False Creek recently, it reinforced for me, once again, that people are enamored by wild marine creatures and that there is a connection between our species.

As I continued to observe this phenomena I looked more around the waterfront and could not help but notice the scum on the water's surface undoubtedly consisting of once airborne particulates, spilled hydrocarbons and oily bilge discharge. Along with a couple of plastic bags and disposable coffee cups, this made for a not very nice place for marine critters to hang out.

Why the heck as humans, when many of us love and respect wild creatures, we just don't get it when it comes to looking after their (and our) habitat? Why don't folks understand that as long as we pour, spill and throw our waste into the waters (accidentally or otherwise) we will continue to degrade the very home of the critters that give us so much joy. I guess it gets much more complex than that when we start to look at the waste created by the production and transport of everything we buy and every thing we do, but as a start we should at least look at our direct discharges to our beautiful waters!

The show was fantastic and the highlight for many was when a Pelagic Cormorant entered stage right just as Antony died in Cleopatra's arms. The bewildered bird flapped and flopped around in front of the audience as Cleopatra embraced it's appearance and somehow made it part of the show! The bird exited stage right as if on cue!

Next day we dodged the myriad of shipping in English Bay before setting course for Silva Bay. With once again a beautiful breeze we enjoyed yet another crossing of this wonderful body of water. Just outside of our home port we were treated to visit of 50+ Pacific White Sided Dolphins who rode our bow wave and cavorted around us for some time before continuing their journey north. We really do live in a most magnificent part of the world and we need to look after it.

July 7, 2010

Loss of a lifestyle - musings over cell phones

Just recently, a "temporary" cell phone tower has appeared on the shores of Silva Bay on Gabriola island. I assume it was brought in to fill the little black hole of cell phone coverage we had in this neck of the woods. It seems some folks figure this is a good idea to increase communication in case of disaster or emergencies and perhaps to help alleviate the stress caused to those people who arrive here and suddenly find they are "connected' no longer.

You know, I can appreciate the desire to have a supposedly"flawless" communications system in case of emergencies or disaster, to have another level on all those things we have already in place but I can't help wondering at what cost we are doing this. I'm no expert on the cumulative effects of electromagnetic radiation and such things that are associated with technology of these sorts but several learned friends and associates of mine assure me it's not necessarily benign. More on that side of things can be discovered at

I also wonder however, about a more subtle effect. One that talks to our developing mindset as a culture and our life experience as individuals. In this world of high tech gadgetry it's easy to be connected to the internet 24/7 if you want or if you are addicted. Lots of good stuff on the internet. Lots of great connections with voice or texting on your cell phone. I mean, all over the world we see folks on their phones or blackberries or laptops being "connected" while they are in restaurants, playing golf, walking down the street (or even the beach), driving and yes, even boating. Heck, I do it myself sometimes!

I just can't help wondering what that constant connection or ability to be connected does to us. I remember when I was a young man and when my freedom meant everything to me, I would go wild places by myself and have no way of connecting to any other human being and no one would know where I was. It gave me a wonderful sense of freedom, independence and self reliance. If I got in trouble of any sort I only had myself to rely on.

Perhaps it was a bit extreme and I've certainly mellowed but I still cherish those times when my connection to "civilization" is limited. When I'm disconnected I am far more present, far more aware of my surroundings, far more aware of the need to look out for myself and whoever is with me and far more aware of the need to be properly prepared. It also allows me to really connect with the natural world and the rhythms of the tides and weather and wild critters. Something that is crucial to really understanding why there is an ever-increasing need for environmental best practices.

Enter the cell phone and other devices with constant connection to the "world". Now I don't need to be as prepared. 911 is just a call away. Now I can keep up with my stock portfolio. Now I can connect with my"friends" and tell them how wonderful it is to be in such a beautiful place but not really experience it or understand what is needed to keep it beautiful.

Perhaps it is a risk to live or go somewhere without cell phone coverage but what sort of characters do we develop if we eliminate all risk? What sort of characters do we develop if we are able to connect all the time wherever we go? What sort of characters would we have if we did not question those things that are foisted upon us?

How can we, as individuals and as a community, really look after this precious part of the world if we do not spend time immersed in it and paying real attention to it's needs without being constantly distracted? I for one am not in need of more cell phone coverage. I'm in need of more time being disconnected.