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.

December 19, 2013

We've got work to do, Salish Sea Savers!

Year-end reviews are supposed to be positive and upbeat, as everyone heads into the holidays wanting to think of nothing more than festive parties, mulled wine and relaxing time off with family and friends.

But it’s hard to relax and stay positive when it feels like we are swimming against a tidal wave of fossil fuel developments that threaten to transform BC from a green leader to an environmental laggard.

Photo credit: Leadnow on Flickr
Especially when we have a week like this one. Monday, Kinder Morgan formally files their application to the National Energy Board to triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Tuesday, Port Metro Vancouver closes public comments on the environmental assessment of a new coal terminal in Surrey. (Incidentally, on the same day, a 3-week public comment period opened on the type of environmental assessment that should be required for a new LNG project that would ship 40 LNG tankers through Howe Sound each year). Thursday, the Joint Review Panel approves the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

Really? They couldn’t stagger their announcements and give us a chance to reflect before coming back the next day with another round of threats to our coast, communities and climate? Of course, even a moderate conspiracy theorist might suggest that the timing is deliberate, and fossil fuel proponents and governments are trying to bury controversial news in the midst of holiday madness.

Although Kinder Morgan’s mammoth application (2 metres tall if printed out, as their press department was keen to point out) will take time to digest, one or two deeply disturbing facts jumped out at me. For example, a spill off Salt Spring Island could coat 427 kilometres of our world-famous beaches in oil and even without a spill. And the impacts of routine tanker traffic resulting from the expanded pipeline on our southern resident killer whales will be “high magnitude, high probability and significant.” We responded to Kinder Morgan’s application by releasing the preliminary results of our Salish Sea Spill Mapping project with our partners at Raincoast Conservation Foundation, showing what a Kinder Morgan oil spill could look like. The bottom line is this: oil can cover long distances quickly, and a spill anywhere in the Salish Sea would impact much of the south coast: our beaches, our national parks, our waterfront property – and our killer whales.

Meanwhile, a coal terminal proposed in Surrey would send 8 million tonnes of coal each year on open barges down the Fraser River and through the Strait of Georgia to Texada Island, bound for export to Asian markets. When burned, this coal would be responsible for about 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – more than a quarter of BC’s total annual emissions.

And then we have Enbridge Northern Gateway, a project that would ship supertankers laden with toxic diluted bitumen from the tar sands through the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. It’s also a project that is opposed by the majority of British Columbians, and that has been formally rejected by the Government of BC, the Union of BC Municipalities and over 100 First Nations. It has lit a fire in BC’s environmental movement that harkens back to the days of Clayoquot Sound, and faced massive community resistance from residents of Northern BC – many of whom are today vowing to do whatever it takes to stop Northern Gateway from being built.

And that’s why, dear readers, this will in fact be a positive post and will escape a title along the lines of “Merry Pipemas, Mr. Grinch”. All of these reckless projects are ultimately about using BC to export fossil fuels – and climate change – to the world in order to increase the profits of an already wealthy industry. BC carries the risk – to our environment, our economy, our communities, our health and our reputation – and doesn’t get the rewards. And for this reason and countless others, these projects have met with determined, diverse and organized opposition. British Columbians are standing up for themselves, and for this amazing corner of the earth we are so lucky to call home – and will continue to do so whatever politicians in Ottawa and Victoria decide. We have a different vision for our future and we will stand together to make it a reality.

So for our part, with our Save the Salish Sea campaign, we want to highlight the combined impacts of these projects: the risks from the sheer number of ships jostling for position in our crowded waters; of everyday impacts on marine life even in the absence of an accident; of the total ‘carbon spill’ that will result when all these fossil fuels are burned. It’s high time everyone – citizens, campaigners, and governments – paid more attention to that big picture threat.

I am grateful to all of you who are stepping up and getting involved, whether you’re sending emails to decision makers, coming out to town hall meetings, or quietly bending the ear of your neighbour at a holiday party. It all counts... and it all deserves a toast! So, here’s to you all! Wishing you and yours the very best for the holiday season, and we look forward to working together to Save the Salish Sea in the New Year.

December 13, 2013

Goodbye Gorgeous Georgia Strait

This fall, Karen Jørgensen joined the GSA team as a volunteer and we were so happy to have her on board. Here is her last blog before she heads home.
I can’t believe that it is time for me to go already.

For almost three months now, I have been a volunteer at Georgia Strait Alliance. I have really enjoyed discovering what it is like to work at a non-profit organization. Unfortunately, it is time for me to return to my studies back in Denmark, which means leaving this great organization and beautiful province behind. With me I will be bringing all the experience and knowledge I have gained from my months here at GSA.

During my three months of volunteering, I have learned how it only takes a few people to make a difference in speaking up for this precious Georgia Strait region, seeing as it can’t speak for itself.

My time at Georgia Strait Alliance has also taught me that when volunteering for a non-profit organization, the tasks can vary a lot. Some days can be spent sorting out papers and filling out excel sheets, while others can be spent writing a blog and updating the social media.  

Back in Denmark I study international business communication. I definitely feel that volunteering for GSA has given me a solid insight into what business communication is all about, especially with the various communication related tasks I have accomplished during my time at this organization. It has been an eye opener for me to see all the hard work and long hours that each staff member has committed to GSA making the organization what it is today. I feel very privileged to have been a part of it.

One of the highlights of my time here included attending the “Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities” rally at Science World in November. Hundreds of people showed an interest in our work by signing up for our newsletters, signing letters to BC`s Premier Christy Clark, as well as giving generous donations. Another highlight was “An evening with the Strait” in Victoria in October where I got to meet the former Environment Minister.

To everyone considering volunteering at Georgia Strait Alliance, my only advice to you is to `Go for it`. I found that volunteering at an organization where people are so passionate about their job is very encouraging and motivating, as their results make a difference not only for the Georgia Strait and the marine habitat, but also to BCs future and economy!

December 11, 2013

The greenest city… or the biggest coal exporter in North America?

Port Metro Vancouver is currently considering an application from Fraser Surrey Docks to build a coal facility at its terminal in Surrey, designed to handle coal from United States producers who are struggling to find export routes south of the border. 
When complete, the coal terminal would be responsible for about 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – more than a quarter of BC’s total annual emissions. Combined with an already approved expansion at the Neptune facilities in North Vancouver and recent upgrades at Delta’s Westshore Terminal, a green light for Fraser Surrey Docks would make Metro Vancouver the biggest coal exporter in North America. Pretty hard to reconcile with the vision many of us share for Vancouver: a clean, healthy and beautiful city and a global environmental leader.
The Fraser Surrey Docks project will directly threaten the health of our communities with coal dust and diesel particulates from the coal trains and barges that will transport the coal through the Lower Mainland, and past the Sechelt Peninsula, the East coast of Vancouver Island, Denman, Hornby and Lasqueti Islands, on its way to a new coal transfer facility on Texada Island.
The project has faced significant opposition from concerned citizens, local governments, health authorities and environmental groups – about both the impacts of the proposal itself, and the flaws in Port Metro Vancouver’s review of it. Find out more about Georgia Strait Alliance’s concerns in our letter to the Port
Port Metro Vancouver has given the public 30 days to comment on the Fraser Surrey Docks environmental impact assessment, and we are urging people to use this opportunity to share their concerns about the project.
Together with our partners at the Wilderness Committee, we've created a handy letter-writing tool for you to use. Please take action now, and ask Port Metro Vancouver to say no to the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal, for the sake our climate and our communities.

November 26, 2013

Defend our climate, defend our communities

This fall, Karen Jørgensen has joined the GSA team as a volunteer and we're so happy to have her on board. From time to time, she'll be sharing her experiences of her work with us and our coast as a guest blogger.
On Saturday November 16th, I took part in a massive rally at Science World in Vancouver as part of the nationwide “Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities” day of action.

I had a great time working at GSA’s table with Jessie, who like me is also a volunteer at Georgia Strait Alliance. Both of us were happily surprised to see how busy we were during the rally due to the amount of people that came by to chat with us. We had great conversations with people about GSA and asked them to sign a letter to BCs Premier Christy Clark requesting her to stand up for BC and take back our power to say no to the proposal to build twin the Kinder Morgan pipeline!

In more than 130 communities across Canada thousands of people came together to show that there is a growing movement to stop pipelines, reckless tar sands expansion and runaway climate change. I was really glad to see not only the number of people and organizations at the event but also the diversity in the people who attended. Children, couples, university students and seniors all gathered to express their support and concerns! Despite the cold weather, thousands of people showed up at the Science World rally to ensure they had a say in this matter.

One image from the event is still on my mind today. I saw a little girl of about five years of age holding her mom’s hand with one hand and a homemade sign in the other with a picture of a dead whale and the words “I want my favorite animal to have a future. Say no to a dumb pipeline”. I found this message very powerful, as it came straight from the heart of a child. She will grow up having to live with the devastation that both the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan proposal would bring if an oil spill occurred and the ever increasing threat of climate disruption. One single oil spill would not only risk killing this little girl’s favourite animal, but would also damage the whole ecosystem in the Georgia Strait region and therefore our economy as well. You can read more here about what is at risk if the expansion plans of oil and gas industry become a reality.

Despite the cold weather, I would definitely call the rally a success. Thanks to all of you who came by to chat with us at the event, signed the letter to Christy Clark and supported us generously with donations!

November 18, 2013

Make your voice heard at the upcoming Kinder Morgan hearings

The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal pipeline regulator, is holding online information sessions about public participation in the upcoming review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion proposal.

You can take part in the sessions online or by phone. The sessions started last week and run till the end of November; dates and instructions for how to register are available here.

Photo by James Fehon
We’re encouraging everyone to join these sessions and find out more about the public participation process. It’s also a good chance to ask some tough questions about why public involvement will  be so limited, and why major impacts associated with the pipeline expansion – such as climate change – won’t be considered in the review.

Due to changes brought in by the federal government as part of last year’s Omnibus Bill C38, the NEB now gets to decide who can – and cannot – take part in the hearings, and what ‘level’ of participation members of the public will be allowed.  You can read more about what we expect from the process in this background briefing, and this presentation by the NEB.

In the application to participate, people will be asked to show either that they are ‘directly affected’, or have ‘relevant information or expertise’. We won’t know exactly how the NEB will interpret these requirements until the process is underway, but it’s a key question to raise in the information sessions. 
If you don’t live on the pipeline route, will you be excluded from participating because you are not considered ‘directly affected’? We all have a stake in how our resources are developed, and we will all be directly affected by the impacts of climate change. We believe that everyone who cares about this issue and wants to take the time to get involved should be allowed to have their say – not be potentially excluded by the NEB, or simply put off by an over-complicated, burdensome application process.

Once Kinder Morgan files their application, likely some time in December this year, there will be a very short window of time for the public to apply to participate. We at GSA, alongside many other environmental groups, will be providing information and support to anyone who wants to get involved. But because of the short time-frame, it’s important to prepare now.

So please do sign up for one of the NEB information sessions, and let us know what you think – and how we can help you claim your right to have your voice heard.

Investing in the long view

We’re really lucky in BC to have so many different environmental groups working to protect our air and water.  Each represents a different focus or perspective, which is incredibly valuable but understandably that diversity can seem overwhelming to the public at times. So it’s not surprising that I’m frequently asked, “Who is Georgia Strait Alliance and how are you different?”

You might think I would answer that question with some words about our regional focus or our grassroots beginning, but to me, GSA’s story is much more than that. It’s also about how we choose to focus on a specific issue, and how we carry out the work once we’ve made the commitment to take action.

At GSA, we understand that meaningful change doesn’t come quickly.  That is why we have focused our resources on issues that, often, have required well over a decade of hard work to see real change.  A good example is the need for more sustainable approaches to salmon farming. 

Taking the long view
Photo: Bryan Nordley
When we decide where to focus our energy and resources, we’ve often start by looking for important issues where environmental leadership is lacking.  Then our job is to raise awareness about the threats, offer long-term solutions, bring together the broad cross section of people who have a stake in the issue, and continue to advocate – until we see that governments and communities have taken on the leadership that is needed.  At that point, GSA’s job is to step back and move on to address the next big issue that requires our effort and advocacy – because inevitably, there will always be another big issue needing our focus.

A good example of how we’ve done this in the past is our campaign to bring sewage treatment to Victoria.  Twenty years ago, GSA and a very few others were lone voices on stopping this pollution threat to the region.  Federally, provincially, regionally and locally, there was solid denial of the need for action – so for next two decades we worked hard to educate, advocate and nurture leadership. 

Today, all four levels of government have made the commitment to action, including putting money on the table and creating laws that mandate treatment.  Though the precise details are still being worked out and our voice is required from time to time, GSA no longer needs to expend our limited resources on the Victoria sewage campaign, because others are now leading. That’s how it should be, eventually, for all the issues we address.

Understanding this history helps to highlight why we’re beginning to focus on new issues, like our innovative new Waterfront Initiative and on the serious threats from the major increase in crude oil pipeline capacity and tanker traffic planned for our region.  

In addition to these newer initiatives, we’ll be spending time in 2014 renewing our focus on protecting the habitat of at-risk species like the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. After all, protection of these species is really at the heart of GSA’s program and campaigns, so we’re looking for ways to make that an increased priority in the future.

But no matter the issues at hand, what won’t change is GSA’s approach:  raising awareness, offering solutions, bringing people together, advocating, building new leadership within our communities – and staying focused on an issue for the many years that might be needed to do this.

In the end, our approach is only possible because of the support of individuals and communities who realize that meaningful change takes time.  Investing in GSA bears real, tangible results – so please consider making a donation today to support these long term positive changes in our region.  As always, we’ll continue to ensure that we’re making the greatest possible impact with the funds you entrust to us.  

November 1, 2013

An Evening with the Strait

This fall, Karen Jørgensen has joined the GSA team as a volunteer and we're so happy to have her on board.  From time to time, she'll be sharing her experiences of her work with us and our coast as a guest blogger.

I had such a lovely evening taking part in Georgia Strait Alliance’s successful fundraising event last Thursday at the Robert Bateman Centre Gallery, in Victoria. Meeting the former environment minister John Cashore, and Doug White who is the chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, were just some of the highlights of the evening.

I found it both inspiring and rewarding to have the opportunity to chat with people who have the same interests and concerns as I do about our precious coastline. Talking with these people gave me a sense of hope and encouragement.

Combining the inspirational speeches and chats together with the samples of Denman Island Chocolates, wine and sustainable seafood contributed to an even better evening. In addition to being an enjoyable evening, the event was a fundraiser with all the money raised going towards GSA’s ongoing work in the region.

The Robert Bateman centre gallery certainly was an excellent location for this fundraiser. Each piece of Bateman’s interpretations of nature and wildlife had an individual story to tell. This made for a perfect surrounding for the event as it reminded me how unique and incredible wildlife really is.

For those of you who were not able to join us this time, you can still support our efforts by making a charitable donation. I really do hope to see you at one of our future events!

October 29, 2013

Help create maps of a potential oil spill in the Salish Sea

If you’re out exploring the coast this week, you might spot a bright yellow wooden card lying on the beach. Pick it up and hang on to it; the cards are part of a new research project we've launched with Raincoast Conservation Foundation to map where oil might travel if there were to be a spill in the Salish Sea.

Watch us on Global TV explaining the project
Over the past week, we dropped 1000 of these drift cards at locations where there is a higher risk of an accident along the tanker route that runs from Burrard Inlet, through the Gulf Islands and out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Just like a message in a bottle, the drift cards carry a simple message: this could be oil.

Hundreds of the cards have already been found, and plotted on a map via our new website at You can explore the map to see how far and fast oil could travel, and which beaches, communities and wildlife habitats could be affected in the event of a spill.

High school students launching drift cards 
under Second Narrows Bridge
Photo by Jill Fitz Herschbold
How does it work? Much like oil on water, drift cards are influenced by both surface ocean currents and wind. Each card (made of FSC-certified plywood and eco-friendly paints and labels) bears a unique number that links the location where it was found to the site where it was dropped, which allows us to broadly track the card’s movements, and how long it took to travel between the two points. Drift cards have commonly been used as part of oil spill research by universities and government agencies. You can read more about the science of drift card research, including how we chose our drop locations and some of the differences between oil and plywood cards, here.  

We have two goals with this project. The first is to create a set of maps showing different scenarios for a spill on BC’s south coast – data which has so far not been readily available to the public. The second is to raise awareness about the threat of an oil spill in the Salish Sea due to Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion, and highlight how unprepared we are to deal with a major spill – especially one involving diluted bitumen.
The little coloured markers that represent oil on our map already ring the iconic skyline of Vancouver Harbour. As we were launching some of the cards yesterday near Salt Spring Island, we had a humpback whale for company. No matter where oil was to spill in the Salish Sea, we have so much to lose.

So if you spot one of our yellow drift cards while walking along your favourite beach, imagine the consequences if it were oil instead. Then please tell us you’ve found a card (by phone, email or online) and take action to protect this incredible place we call home. 

With thanks to Patagonia and the Brainerd Foundation for their generous support of this project.

October 23, 2013

Crossing Georgia Strait

This fall, Karen Jørgensen has joined the GSA team as a volunteer and we're so happy to have her on board.  From time to time, she'll be sharing her experiences of her work with us and our coast as a guest blogger.

Last Wednesday, I enjoyed a scenic ferry ride from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay. Some of the things I enjoy most about taking the BC ferries include checking out what the gift shop has to offer, wandering around the deck in hopes of spotting wildlife as well as just taking in the view from a comfy seat inside, as it has a very calming effect on me.

Photo: Karen Jørgensen
As always, the crossing of the Georgia Strait was gorgeous - beautiful mountains in the horizon, sailboats on the water and a blue sky which gradually turned red during the sailing. I have only encountered scenery as stunning as this here in coastal BC. I have spent most of my life in Denmark where the landscape is pretty
 but lacks the exquisite wildlife that BC has to offer. I have no doubt that I will miss the BC coast and mountains when I return to Denmark in a few months.

Sailing on this mighty inland ocean really made me realize how fortunate I am to be living on this side of the world right now. There are so many undiscovered treasures to explore. Although I did not spot any wildlife on this ferry ride, as I had hoped, the crossing was still great because of the spectacular scenery. In fact, I did not mind the 15 min delay leaving from Nanaimo since it gave me more time to sit back and enjoy all my stunning surroundings!
I certainly do look forward to crossing the Georgia Strait once again this Thursday when I will be going to Georgia Strait Alliance’s fundraising event in Victoria. The event takes place from 6 to 8 pm at the new Robert Bateman Centre Gallery and will include a silent auction and sustainable seafood.

I really hope to see you there!

October 10, 2013

Art meets conservation – and celebration

The idea that social change and the arts are siloed and separate is never a world view I’ve shared. Growing up in Ontario, we had political discussions around the evening newscast while many weekends we spent attending artistic performances at Stratford, the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto or the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-lake.  Dance, music, visual arts, theatre – and combinations of these – were the norm and often they delved into complex nature of politics and the human experience.  They were all one.

Jim Morris
Today, the siloes exist even less in my life. Being married to a theatrical lighting and set designer, many of our evenings are spent taking in the latest theatrical presentation at theatre houses small and large around Vancouver.  I also sit on the Board of a small theatre company and of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.  Artists are our story tellers and our conscience and so often help us begin to make sense of the complex issues the surrounds us.  I couldn’t imagine my life without regularly diving into their interpretations of the human condition. That artists and social changes makers are working more together to build and understand the world we live in makes sense – and together, we are a powerful force.

Last week I attended a Symposium at the Artists for Conservation Festival and I felt right at home. Surrounded by the creations of dozens of incredible artists, leading conservationists talked about their work, and of the challenges we face.  Some talked about specific issues, while others spoke about how we needed to develop a new way of thinking about what conservation was and how environmentalism worked – and how art and artists (in all their forms) were becoming more important in how we connected with people and how we were going to build a better world.  Raincoast Foundation's recent “Art for an Oil Free Coast” initiative showed just how powerful that partnership can be. 

On October 24th, Georgia Strait Alliance will be holding a fundraiser at the new Bateman Centre in Victoria – and the location couldn’t be more perfect.  Robert Bateman’s art has helped many generations of Canadians better understand the natural world around them and be more engaged in protecting what we have.  What better way to celebrate our work and our future than surrounded by the art of one so committed to the same cause we are – ensuring that the richness of our land and water is here to support us for generations to come. 

We hope you’ll come and celebrate with us on the 24th.   It will be an inspirational evening – and we hope one of many to come where the arts and the environment share an equal stage.

October 4, 2013

First time shoreline cleanup participant tells her tale

This fall, Karen Jørgensen is joining the GSA team as a volunteer and we're so happy to have her on board.  From time to time, she'll be sharing her experiences of her work with us and our coast as a guest blogger.

On September 28th I took part in the Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup for the first time. Despite the wet and cold weather, I joined around 25 volunteers who showed up to clean the shores along Burrard Inlet by Portside Park.

Photo: Karen Jørgensen
Even though the shore looked fairly clean at first glance, once we were done, our recording sheets and our collecting bags showed things were not as they seemed. We were divided into groups of three or four people and in my group alone we collected 3000 cigarette butts, several plastic bags, a couple of needles and a few batteries. All of this and much more causes great harm to our beautiful coast, which should be there for all of us to enjoy without having to look at all this garbage. I find it very unfortunate that people litter in such a gorgeous place.

One thing is certain - this Shore Cleanup will certainly not be my last. I felt really thankful for being part of the event as spending time along the coast, breathing in the fresh air - and even removing trash from coast - was a great feeling - as Portside Park became a cleaner shore after the cleanup. Despite the sadness I felt at all the litter left behind, it was rewarding to be a part of the cleanup as our work showed off immediately. Also, seeing the difference volunteers of all ages can make for our shores was great and I felt wonderful being a part of it. I would definitely recommend that you join the shore Cleanup next year – you won’t regret it!

October 2, 2013

Just asking for a little leadership

As I came out of a meeting today, I realized this mind-boggling fact - I’ve been involved in discussions, consultations and campaigns around wastewater treatment in the region for over 11 years.  I don’t remember seeing ‘advanced wastewater treatment advocate’ on my guidance councillor’s list of careers when I was in high school, but somehow I’ve ended up in this place where my knowledge of treatment technologies and processes is pretty deep – terrifyingly deep! 

Having been involved in public and community consultations in Metro Vancouver, the Capital Regional District of Victoria, the Regional District of Nanaimo, along with national level consultations, I could go on ad nauseum about biosolids, total suspended solids and fecal coliform levels – but who really wants to read about that over dinner?!

What I will say is that in my experience the best processes that I’ve been involved with are the ones where staff, politicians and those giving of their time on advisory committees all work together to create a vision for what wastewater treatment can bring to a community.  Not only is the conversation about deadlines, technology and cost, but about how this investment will make our waters cleaner, communities healthier and even produce resources that can provide a revenue stream.  I tip my hat to Metro Vancouver for their willingness to make their liquid resource management plan (yes, resource, not waste!) better by working with and listening to the Reference Panel that had been created to offer advice.  Thanks to the willingness of senior staff to put in the time with us, the plan is better – and that’s good for all of us.  Other regions could learn from this process and I hope they do.

Photo: Bryan Nordley
But there is one thing I would wish for all regional districts when it comes to building large infrastructure projects, and that is – trust your citizens.  Too often I see plans presented not built around a vision of benefits to a region or community, but starting with fear about the cost.  The public are not fools but if you don’t provide information for why you want to invest in better wastewater treatment – and that you feel forced to by national regulations is not a vision - a self-fulfilling prophecy of opposition will occur.  No one likes their taxes to go up, but most of us can be inspired to invest our hard earned money if we see that the project will, in the case of wastewater treatment, protect our coastal waters and wildlife and our communities.

We saw this in Vancouver when the community itself chose the plan for the Public Library, even though it was going to cost more than other plans.  Now we have a building that is iconic and provides a wonderful gathering place for its citizens.

So regional governments -- trust your citizens and help lead us towards a better future.  I know personally, it’s one I would be more than happy to build with you.

September 27, 2013

Meet our Morale Officer, Miss Beazley!

Beazley's first time in a boat
I'm a very fortunate person, for many reasons. Not only do I find my job incredibly rewarding, but I also get to bring my dog to work. I mean, how awesome is that!

Miss Beazley is an Australian Shepherd crossed with I-don't-know-what. She is one of 18 pups born in a barn in Cedar on Vancouver Island, and her new home with me was at the north end of Georgia Strait on Sonora Island.

Beazley Passage between Hoskyn and Okisollo Channels (an ocean rapid pass near our former Discovery Islands home) is the origin of her name. It is a bit of a misnomer as my dog is not only gentle and sweet, but afraid of rough water, while Beazley Pass can be quite a wild ride at full flood.

Beazley is so loveable that our ED Christianne gave her the title of Morale Officer. Having her in the office lifts everyone's spirits, and she's my personal morale officer too. She has been with me through some pretty rough waters, both literally and figuratively.

This line of work can be very challenging, and social and legislative change is often a very time consuming and arduous process, to say the least. So simple little things like bringing Beazley to the office mean the world to me.

Thank you Georgia Strait Alliance! And Beazley says 'woof'!

September 18, 2013

Helping North Vancouver make up its mind about Kinder Morgan

As federal Ministers prepare to head west to beat the drum for tar sands pipelines, one local government took a more balanced approach. Last week, the District of North Vancouver held a public information session to allow local residents to hear both sides of the argument and make up their own minds about whether the risks of Kinder Morgan’s expansion plan outweigh its benefits.

Speaking at the North Van public meeting

I was invited to share GSA’s concerns as part of a panel that included representatives from Kinder Morgan, Port Metro Vancouver and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.  I talked about the disastrous environmental, community and economic impacts of an oil spill in North Van’s ocean backyard; the fact that, as we have been warned time and time again, we have nowhere near the physical, human or financial resources required to clean up a massive spill of conventional crude, let alone much riskier diluted bitumen; and that approval of the Kinder Morgan project would guarantee a ‘carbon spill’ with every tanker load of fuel that’s burned, and lock us into an unsustainable future that most British Columbians don’t want.

Much of the audience apparently shared our concerns, and Kinder Morgan was given a tough grilling during the Q&A. Some of the most pointed questions were about exactly what chemicals are contained in the ‘diluent’ that is mixed with bitumen to allow it to flow through the pipeline (the answer was unclear), and why Kinder Morgan’s research claims diluted bitumen would float for 10 days, while other studies suggest it would sink much sooner.

But the comment that stuck with me the most came from Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. He said: don’t take my word for it, or Kinder Morgan’s – find out what’s going on for yourself. In that spirit, here’s a link to a full recording and news coverage of the evening.  

If you’re a North Vancouver resident and you have concerns about Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline, now is the time to speak up. Unlike most other municipalities in the Lower Mainland, which have expressed their opposition to the Kinder Morgan proposal, the District of North Vancouver has yet to take a position. Councillors are making up their minds right now, so please reach out to them and share your concerns.

If you don’t live in North Van, you can find out where your local government stands here. If yours isn’t on the list, why not ask them to hold a similar public meeting to help them – and community members – make up their minds about Kinder Morgan?

August 27, 2013

A final goodbye from our summer outreach coordinators

Well, it’s been a fantastic three months, but it’s time for summer interns Mikaela and Megan to say goodbye and head on back to their university classes. Here are a few thoughts they wish to share about their summer with GSA:

We’ve had a great time working with Georgia Strait Alliance this summer. With just over 30 events stretched over 90 days and spanning 15 cities, it’s been a great way to see our beautiful region and meet hundreds of truly wonderful and friendly British Columbians. We’ve had the opportunity to share our knowledge with people about things we genuinely care about and show them how they can help make a difference in the health of the Strait of Georgia. We’ve heard many varying stances on our work, and every thoughtful opinion has taught us more about the very complex conservation issues so many communities are grappling with in our region. This summer was a great learning experience and a big eye-opener for us.

Hundreds of people stopped at our booths over the summer, keeping us busy even on those rainy days that we were convinced would be a colossal failure. We encountered individuals of all personalities and beliefs; from avid supporters and environmental advocates to business-minded idealists and “conspiracy theorists.” Some stopped and talked to us for hours, while others dropped by briefly just to buy a bumper sticker. We received many donations from generous individuals, and it really made us feel great to be able to help GSA directly by being out there to get these donations.

Enthusiastic M&M in late May (Photo by C. Booler)
For this great summer experience, we are truly grateful to everyone who we have worked with and met during our events. We thank all the event coordinators who organized the amazing events that we attended and those that went the extra mile to help us out with a broken tent or a site map mix-up. We also thank everyone who dropped by to talk to us, and especially those who made us think outside the box. And of course, we thank everyone at GSA (I won’t name them, because they all helped us and they’re all equally amazing!); these amazing people made our summer job more than just a job, and they were more than co-workers and employers. GSA is a tight-knit family unit that we were honoured to be a part of for this short summer.

So thanks everyone for your support, and we hope to see you around! GSA will still be at select events throughout the fall and winter, so don’t forget to check out the events page every now and then.

- Megan and Mikaela

BUT WAIT, I hear you say: what about the poor Mermaid? Weren’t you supposed to rename her? Isn’t that what we’ve all been voting for?

Oh yeah, we’ve got a new name for her. Thanks to the 80 people who voted, we have drawn a name from the voting ballots and that lucky individual will be contacted shortly to get their ToxicSmart prize pack. There are two other lucky individuals who will be getting their own mega-prize packs soon, and those are the two people who entered our winning name. Congratulations Rachel and Claudia for entering our winning name...... (drum-roll please) 


That’s right, folks! You agreed (by a very narrow margin) that our Mermaid was best represented by an “expressive melody.” We also later learned that Aria is the Latin term for air, which seems fitting. Please keep in mind that this name is pronounced Arr-eea (like a pirate), and not Air-eea (like the Disney character), mostly because we prefer it this way. Besides, we had so many adorable little girls entering Ariel as a name over the summer that we quickly grew tired of the idea, plus we want to steer clear of any copyright issues... 

The last issue with our Mermaid’s name is creating her full name. We had originally said we would make it Aria Georgia, but it doesn’t quite have the right ring to it, so we will be keeping the Mermaid’s name as Georgia Aria. These can of course be switched around to your heart’s content; Mermaid names don’t follow the same rules as Human names.

So thanks again everyone for voting, and look for our lovely Aria out on the town at an event near you!