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.

June 29, 2012

A trek to MEC Bikefest and a tasting of Vancouver Island’s Farmers Markets

BMX performer Travis Collier at MEC Bikefest
Photo credit: Isabelle Gendron-Lemieux
Deanna and I departed for Vancouver last Friday night to attend MEC Bikefest. Feeling ambitious and in the spirit of alternative transportation, we decided to go car-less. We thus embarked on the ferry rolling our tent and our display material on a trolley. After braving the pouring rain and some technical difficulties (obviously!), we finally made it to our final destination. The next morning when we arrived in Athlete’s Plaza and the sun was shining on the exhibitors setting up for Bikefest, we looked at each other and smiled. The ring layout of the event was great and stimulated an engaging atmosphere-- it also meant that we got to watch the bicycle demonstrations from our booth! A lot of bike enthusiasts, interested in knowing what a marine conservation organization was doing at a celebration of land-based activities, gathered around our booth to learn more about our new online communities atlas. We also had great discussions about oil tankers in the Strait and alternative energy sources, salmon aquaculture and wild salmon conservation issues, and sustainability in general. Thank you to Adam Hoogeveen from MEC Vancouver for organizing this "superbe" event!

Our new raffle whale tail poster!

After a good night’s rest, we packed the car and headed to the Cedar Farmers Market on Yellow Point Road in Nanaimo. Following a great experience at the Bowen Road Farmers Market earlier in the week, we were ready to discover another of Vancouver Island’s fine markets. With approximately 50 vendors, the market had a wealth of delicious local food and exciting artisan wares. In the midst of this celebration of local goods, our booth attracted market-goers interested in learning more about us, as well as current GSA members looking for the latest news about environmental issues in the Strait. The sunshine and the great music made for a very festive Farmers Market. Thank you George for welcoming us to the market! We hope to be back later this summer! 

Thank you to everybody who bought raffle tickets this weekend! Our new raffle whale tail poster proved successful! 

Au revoir et à la prochaine!

                                            - Isabelle

June 22, 2012

Breezy BC Shellfish Fest, and a care-free Car-Free Day

Isabelle and Deanna enjoying the novelty of lying
 in the street at Car-Free.
Isabelle and I attended BC ‘s largest Shellfish Fest in the lovely town of Comox last Saturday. My, but it was a blustery day! We got a workout chasing after brochures and foiling our crafty tent’s repeated escape attempts. However, the wind rather added to the seaside ambiance of the festival, and in no way hampered the enthusiasm of attending shellfish lovers. We enjoyed the delicious smells wafting from the food vendors’ booths and from the cups of contest-winning chowder everyone was carrying around. What a great way to celebrate and appreciate what our coastal waters have to offer, and to bring awareness to how much is at stake! We also really appreciated talking with and learning from the Comox Sierra Club, and the group from Coal Watch about the proposed Raven Coal Mine, and environmental activism. Keep up the great work everyone!
Our dedicated and enthusiastic selves then jumped in the car, zoomed down island, and caught the last ferry to Vancouver (the trip across the Strait was spent performing emergency surgery on our very special Octopus friend).  After a few hours sleep, we were off to Car-Free Vancouver on Main St. Despite some VERY ominous looking clouds at the start of the day, we had a fairly nice afternoon (especially by Juneuary standards!). I don’t know about the other Car-Free venues, but the Main St. crowd was vibrant, diverse and absolutely FULL of energy! It was interesting to discover which issues in the Strait were of most concern to Lower Mainlanders. Not surprisingly, Oil Tankers topped the bill, but ecosystem health, farmed salmon, and toxin reduction were high on the list as well. The day marked the official launch of our Octopus (who is yet to be officially named), and our most successful display to date. Thanks to everyone who came out to chat, participate and buy raffle tickets!
We hope to see you at MEC Bike fest in Vancouver and Cedar Farmer’s Market this weekend. Tourlou/Toodle-oo, until next time!  

June 20, 2012

Take Heart

After a very severe cardiac arrest in January (see Crossing The Strait of Georgia - A Very Personal Journey), it has taken many months to get back to a semblance of normal (as in before my cardiac arrest) life.
After almost five months and a number of complications I was finally given the all clear to start a cardiac rehabilitation program called "Take Heart" run at the North Ridge Fitness Centre in Nanaimo twice a week. It's a fantastic supervised physical program that will last 3 months in total and is aimed at increasing my cardiovascular capacity and giving me more confidence to resume a normal life.

At the moment one of the activities is to spend time on a treadmill walking at a steadily increasing but still slow pace. While walking I have time to look out the window and contemplate what is happening in the world. Indeed, because I have had a great deal of time resting over the last few months, I've had plenty of opportunity to read and see and hear lots of news, so have much to contemplate.

Maybe it's just my perspective but it appears to me that there has been an inordinate amount of reporting on the environmental challenges facing our planet. From extreme weather to oil spills to bill C-38 and more, there seems much to be concerned about at this point in time. More than usual maybe.

There also seems little hope that the concerns of those who care about the long term health of this region and the planet will ever be listened to by big oil and pipeline companies, shipping interests or our federal and provincial governments. Indeed we have been branded as "radicals" on the assumption that's a bad thing, and our access to meager funding gets more hampered every day because of what they say. It seems like science and common sense and a truly healthy planet are no longer valued by these people and short term profits and growth are the only way. Sigh...and I continue plodding on my treadmill!

I suppose if I want to make parallels I could look at the all those environmental threats to our region, such as sewage,pulp and other pollution, habitat destruction, unnecessary resource development and fish farming as being similar to angina (pay attention now!) while Bill C38 is like a heart attack (almost the end!) for our environment.

Fortunately the treadmill has a view. Beyond the roads and the housing developments, the snow capped Coast Mountains are a backdrop to a beautiful blue of Georgia Strait, glistening in the afternoon sun. A lone sailboat slowly glides along near the shoreline making it's way to adventures unknown and further out a tug and barge make its way towards it's southerly destination. Out another window a BC ferry is leaving a wake on it's journey to Horseshoe Bay on the mainland. And maybe, just maybe, I can see the tiny splashes of a pod of Orcas playing in the sun.

As I lookout on the Strait I remember all my own adventures on and around this amazing body of water. Of all the magical encounters with wildlife and the wild places still to be found by most. Of secluded coves and magical beaches. Of the enormous variety of plants and creatures above and below the water. Of rivers and streams that course down from spectacular mountains. Of an energy that changes with the changing moods of the Strait.

I also remember the hundreds, maybe thousands of wonderful people I have met during my years working to protect Georgia Strait and know how they care deeply about this very special part of our planet. And also of the hundreds of thousands of others who I have not met but know also care very deeply.

As I stare out on this biologically, spiritually and economically rich body of water, I know deep in my heart (which beats strongly now)that all is not lost. That there are many people who do care and who do get it. That commonsense and reverence and respect for the natural world has not disappeared. That, in fact, there is plenty of reason for me and everyone to be positive. That the Strait, Canada and the planet can get better, fitter, stronger, and more healthy! It will take some time and some bumps along the way but with determination and patience, anything is possible.

Now as I continue my rehabilitation, my program does more than give me hope for my own physical well being. It enables me to truly "Take Heart" for now and for the future.

June 14, 2012

Making a splash at World Oceans Day in Victoria

GSA's summer students, Isabelle (left) and
 Deanna (right), with the orange octopus
The first year of World Oceans Day in Victoria was a success! It was good to get down to Victoria and raise awareness about the issues in the Strait of Georgia. Although a lot of the people that approached us were tourists, they had a strong interest in knowing more about the place they were visiting. Their enthusiasm was contagious! We enjoyed making friends with the other exhibitors and sampling the many fine products of the Bastion Square Market (Peppers and sauces and baked goods, oh my!). Thank you to all the lovely vendors, exhibitors and visitors who bought raffle tickets, and to the Maritime Museum and Oceans Network Canada for organizing the event! Here's hoping World Ocean Day 2013 is even better and that our friend, the orange dancing octopus returns. All in all, it was a fabulous way to kick off our summer outreach tour!

Stay tuned, we will be at the BC Shellfish Festival in Comox on Saturday June 16 and at Car Free Day on Main Street in Vancouver on Sunday June 17. We hope to see you there! To keep up on where we will be this summer, check out our event page.