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.

October 25, 2012

How do you stop a pipeline or two?

Monday I joined thousands of people on the lawn of the Provincial Legislature as part of the Defend our Coast movement to ‘stop the pipelines’.
Coastal indigenous people arrived in an impressive procession with a clear message that any pipeline and any increase in tankers on the coast is unacceptable.

It was invigorating to see so many people willing to travel from around the province, give up their day, stand in the rain and the cold for hours in hopes of sending a message that the people do not want the land and water of BC exposed to the risk that increasing oil pipelines and tankers would present.

The messages were passionate articulate and variations on a theme. We heard a heartbreaking call to ‘stop it at the source’ because of the unrecoverable damage that the development of the tar sands have wreaked on the neighbouring villages and ecosystems; a plea to refuse to allow Enbridge to drive a stake into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, and steadfast refusal to allow increased tanker traffic in coastal waters. The crowd was diverse, determined and inventive. There were very few organizations in evidence. This was all about the people. Creativity, thoughtfulness and humour flourished in the variety of signs, puppets and costumes.

I watched for hours wondering what exactly it is that we need to do in order for our governments to hear and understand what we feel is essential for the future of our world and our children.
Hundreds of people sat with a banner of equivalent length to one supertanker proposed for the coast, which is by the way equal to the length of three quarters of the legislature lawn – sobering when you see how it essentially doesn’t look like it would fit anywhere easily. Some sat for hours, indicating willingness to put their bodies on the line – to engage in the time-honoured tradition of civil disobedience – when all other avenues of opposition to unacceptable political action have been exhausted and there is nothing else to be done.
Have we done all we can? Have we written all the letters, made all the calls we possibly could? Have we bombarded the media with our thoughts and concerns? Have we pushed for alternate energy sources? Do we use them whenever we can? Have we exhausted our fertile imaginations?

Two days later people gathered in the hundreds in over 60 communities around the province to send a message to the Provincial Government that pipelines through BC are not to be negotiated.
We sang along with the Raging Grannies and shouted our determination to protect our coast and call on our government to do the right thing and protect what we love and what will sustain us for generations. 
Ruby as salmon at Courtenay rally

There is a ground swell of passionate resistance to pipeline and tanker development. Growing numbers of people of all political persuasions  are finding ways to voice their concern. There is still time to convince our governments that enough of us feel strongly enough. Let your politicians know that stopping the pipelines and protecting our waters from increased tanker traffic would turn them into heroes. Let them know that we support the courage it takes to stand up for a healthy future for the planet, our economy, and our children.

To find your MLA (provincial) go to:
To find your MP(federal) go to:                                                                                         To help protect the incredible Strait of Georgia check out:

October 18, 2012

Challenges Ahead

Since my cardiac arrest in January this year (see Crossing The Strait of Georgia - A Very Personal Journey), it's been a long journey of recovery and rehabilitation. After a number of setbacks, I was cleared to undertake a cardio rehab program (see Take Heart) with trained professionals. That program, which finished over a month ago, took over 3 months to complete and I've been in charge of my continued rehabilitation since.The trick now is to continue to challenge myself (but not too much). And to be honest it's bloody hard!

It's kind of like our work...
In order for the health of Georgia Strait to improve we must challenge ourselves. We must not give in to despair when the odds are against us. We must not back down just because we are challenged. We must push ourselves when we don't feel like it. We must set goals and aim to achieve them strategically. We must be open minded to ideas of others. We must nurture ourselves when we need it. We must not push too hard all the time. We must accept setbacks and keep positive. We must celebrate our successes and our victories. Perhaps, above all, in order to sustain our work we must take time to be rejuvenated by the natural world.

For many of us who live, work and play around Georgia Strait, being immersed in the natural world means being out on the water, on the beach or even beneath the waves. It's the deep connection to this part of the planet that allows us to understand what is at stake here.

 For the Strait there are many challenges ahead. Some small and insidious. Others large and overwhelming. I'd like to think that proponents of all projects in the Georgia Strait region believe what they are doing is right. Some projects however will potentially harm the ecological balance of Georgia Strait, and I do wonder if folks supporting these are missing that deep connection to the natural world so needed by us all.

 To that end let the challenge be for all residents and visitors to this wonderfully special part of the world to take time to be immersed in the natural Georgia Strait. Let the challenge be for all to understand this body of water and it's surrounds, not just in our heads and our wallets but in our hearts and our innermost beings. That way decisions can be made that support sustainability in all it's forms, economic, social and environmental.

October 12, 2012

Leadership where it matters most

I’m feeling pretty impressed with our local politicians these days. What an amazingly diverse array of dedicated caring people have been chosen by the people of British Columbia to represent them where it matters most – at the local level. I was fortunate to meet a number of them at The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, which happens every year.  This is when politicians and staff from the varied and scattered municipalities and regional governments around the province come together to consider issues which can and should be dealt with province-wide. They provide a very powerful message to the provincial government.

The UBCM is hosted by different communities around the province, and this year was Vancouver Island’s turn. On the shore of Georgia Strait, in the lovely city of Victoria, hundreds gathered with colleagues, representatives of the provincial government and other groups (like GSA!) to share stories and challenges and create plans for a better future.

GSA was there, connecting with old friends and making new, delighting in the interest and concern for the health of our beautiful marine environment, and building the relationships that help us be a voice for the Strait.  This year, we educated local leaders about the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), among other issues, commiserated about the gutting of environmental protection at the federal level, and celebrated the passing of the resolution regarding oil tankers on our coast, which calls on the province to ‘use whatever legislative and administrative means that are available to stop the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC coastal waters.’

Georgia Strait protected from tanker increase by local politicians
 It was a narrow victory, but as we’re learning from the press, the more people who understand the threats of increased tanker traffic, the more people who are opposed. It’s simply a matter of education and letting our friends and neighbours know that the risks are aren’t worth the rewards and more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is simply the wrong way to go. (See our handy tanker info kit)

I was also excited to note that several resolutions regarding issues that have been of concern to GSA, were carried by large margins. These included recommendations to maintain staffing levels of the Coast Guard, holding shippers of dangerous cargo responsible before a spill takes place and a ‘call upon the Government of Canada to develop revised Fisheries Act policies and regulations in collaboration with all stakeholders, specifically including local governments through the UBCM and Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to ensure changes address municipal concerns while strengthening environmental protection for our watercourses.’ 

The full text of all resolutions presented at the UBCM annual convention can be seen at: UBCM. It was a pleasure to spend time in the company of so many people from around the province who care so deeply about a healthy, sustainable future.  

October 9, 2012

Collaboration, GSA Style

Last week I had the remarkable experience of watching a seal catch and eat a beautiful bright silver salmon. The sleek head surprised a few of us as it emerged suddenly, triumphantly, wielding a large fish in its mouth. Those of us who gathered to watch, wondered how it would manage to eat the catch which was clearly too big for its mouth. Almost instantly, two other seals appeared, and as they tore at the fish, revealing bright pink and white flesh, we assumed they were fighting over the fish. As we watched however, it gradually became clear that they were not fighting, but rather helping each other and sharing the catch. After a bit, one of the smaller seals (a juvenile, perhaps?) retreated to the shore with a good chunk and the other two continued to rip apart and feast on their catch, periodically making room for a seagull or two to take part as well. It was a great opportunity for the young family watching with me; “see they’re sharing their food with each other and the birds.”

We so often think the world is about competing and fighting over meager shares, and seem surprised to notice cooperation. I had occasion to reflect further on this while attending Good Jobs for a Green Future, a Green Jobs BC conference of primarily trade unions and environmental groups, with a scattering of business and academics for good measure. We have been steeped in the rhetoric that we can either have a healthy environment or good jobs, but one is fundamentally opposed to the other. Well this gathering is out to prove the opposite. The development of green jobs means that we are able to work in a world where the health of the environment is paramount and from that we create meaningful work that supports healthy vibrant communities that are fun and interesting.

It’s about working together, collaborating to create the world we want to live in, rejecting the old jobs vs environment dichotomy.

GSA has always strived to work collaboratively, recognizing that we humans are an integral part of the beautiful, abundant, diverse Georgia Strait ecosystem and must figure out how to live and work in healthy connection with each other and the land and ocean with which we live. Like the seals, we need to work together to provide the sustenance necessary to support our families and communities.  From our multi-sector work in the Clean Marine Program to our push for salmon aquaculture transition to closed containment technology, GSA has always understood the importance of collaboration and inclusive problem solving.