Category Archives: Advocacy

Never Give Up

Never Give UpNever Give Up has a strong ring. It’s full of courage, determination, perseverance…

Never Give Up need not be callous, hard-hearted, without compassionate, rigid, or inflexible.  It gives us guidance on our journey, can offer advice when we’re flagging, help us remember the bigger picture, remind ourselves that we’re in this for the long haul and, most importantly perhaps, that we’re in this together, through thick and thin.

In the aftermath of the most recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida, I read about the dedicated activist for whom the school was named – Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

I became further inspired by the students from Parkland, now standing up, showing up, speaking out, loudly and clearly, and who are now, as I write this, in Tallahassee speaking to legislators about stopping gun violence.

Here just two clips:

Douglas, who challenged the political and business establishment of her day, would be proud of the students’ courageous efforts to galvanize a movement for gun control, which now includes a nationwide walkout by students and teachers scheduled for April 20.”


“Be a nuisance where it counts,” Douglas once said. “Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.”

Never Give UpI quote another of my heros, Howard Zinn. His final point in his essay On Getting Along is  “Don’t look for a moment of total triumph. See it as an ongoing struggle, with victories and defeats, but in the long run the consciousness of people growing. So you need patience, persistence, and need to understand that even when you don’t “win” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that you have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile.”  

Never Give Up, and enjoy the ride!


Grizzly facts

Grizzly, grizzlies. bears, hunting, conservation

by Stan Hirst

“Wildlife management is a mish-mash of science, public relations and politics, not necessarily in that order”.

I came across that humble homily in a bundle of 50-year old lecture notes from my graduate student days. Why would I keep lecture notes for that long? I have no idea, probably an elder(ly) thing.

B.C. has several wild species which exemplify this categorization of resource governance: sockeye salmon, caribou and orcas come to mind. But the species that perhaps best exemplifies the sentiment for B.C. is probably the grizzly bear. Grizzlies have been in the news lately, not because they have munched anybody significant, but because of their conservation status.


Effective November 30, 2017 B.C.’s new NDP government legislated a total ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears throughout the province. The announcement of the ban from the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development included the telling statement that “grizzly trophy hunting is not a socially acceptable practice [in B.C.] in 2017”.

Under the November proclamation, hunting of grizzles for food was still permissible under licence in the province outside of the Great Bear Rainforest. To forestall any devious behaviour, so-called “meat hunters” would not have been permitted to legally possess the paws, head and/or hide of a killed grizzly.

However, in the days following the proclamation the Ministry received more than 4000 emails from the public, of which 80% expressed strong opposition to the continued food hunt. Government reaction to the public repose was surprisingly rapid, and within a month the government announced a total ban on hunting of grizzly bears for trophies and food, effective immediately across B.C.

First Nations were the only exception to the ban and the new legislation recognized their aboriginal right to hunt grizzlies for food, social and ceremonial purposes. However, most First Nations have continued to express little interest in killing grizzlies for any purpose. The Coastal First Nations had originally led the move to stop hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest of B.C.


Grizzly bears in B.C. are classified as Vulnerable by the Conservation Data Centre and are listed as a Species of Special Concern by the Federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). They once ranged over most of B.C. and large parts of Alberta. They have been extirpated from several regions in British Columbia where they historically ranged, including the southern-central interior from the US border to north of Quesnel, the Peace Lowlands around Ft. St. John and Dawson Creek, and the lower Fraser Valley and the Sunshine Coast. Present-day habitat quality and population density vary widely across the province.

Ministry statistics reveal that, until the recent legislation changed the situation, about 170 grizzlies were killed annually in B.C. by resident hunters, and a further 80 by foreign hunters. The government issued about 1,700 grizzly bear permits in 2017, mostly to B.C. hunters.

Commercial grizzly hunts had generated about half a million dollars annually for B.C. provincial coffers from hunting licences, and further undisclosed sums in fees to commercial guides who typically make tens of thousands of dollars per grizzly hunt. In announcing the ban on trophy hunting the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development stated that recent research had indicated values higher than this for the economic value of grizzly viewing in many parts of the province.

Restrictions on grizzly hunting in B.C. are not new. A total ban was legislated by the NDP back in 2001. This was rescinded by the incoming Liberal government in the same year.

There are now an estimated 15,000 grizzly bears in B.C. About 16% of the total provincial population is classified as threatened. Provincial statistics show that 10-15 grizzlies are killed illegally each year, and a further 20-30 by animal control officers dealing with human/bear conflicts.


The advent of the new legislation exposed a long-standing schism in society about our social behaviour towards wild species. Conservation and green groups have generally applauded the decision banning trophy hunting and food hunting of grizzlies. Guiding and hunting groups, on the other hand, predictably criticized the ban on trophy hunting as being costly in terms of jobs and commercial benefits since the hunting ban will remove millions of future dollars from the industry in terms of fees, lodging, bush-plane and other travel and equipment.

Provincial political opposition framed the NDP government decision as an abandonment of scientific-based decision making in favour of “an appeasement of U.S.-based environmental groups”.


It is informative to compare the B.C. grizzly situation with that in the Yellowstone area in the western U.S. There the new federal administration in Washington moved to delist the Grizzly bear as an endangered species and awarded management responsibility to the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. This means in effect that grizzlies can now be legally hunted in these western states (outside of national park boundaries).

A key factor in the decision was the fact that when grizzlies were declared endangered in the US way back in 1975 there were an estimated 136 bears in and around the Yellowstone ecosystem (which includes the national park plus surrounding federal, state and private lands). Today, following a quarter-century of strict protection, there an estimated 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone area, both inside and outside the national park.


The partisan reaction to the legalization of grizzly hunting in the Yellowstone area has been comparable to that in B.C. for the banning of legal hunting. Guiding industries and interests have predictably endorsed the change, while the broad conservation community has condemned it. Some 125 western U.S. tribes have signed a treaty opposing trophy hunting grizzly bears, which Native Americans consider a sacred animal.

Conservation groups insist that Yellowstone bears face threats to their continued existence from many sources, not just hunting. They have cited climate change and other factors. They observe that the US Endangered Species Act, under which grizzlies remain listed as an endangered species, sets strict rules to protect species from being killed or their habitat from being harmed. State management agencies, now in control of public hunting and harvesting, classify hunting and/or trapping as valid and legal measures to keep wildlife population in check.


Emotion is usually at the forefront of public debate on the hunting and killing of grizzly bears in North America. When the debates and deliberations move to agency board rooms and academic seminar rooms the exchanges become way more measured, extensive and rational, and reveal the biological, social and political complexities of managing an iconic and far-ranging species such as the grizzly.

Is hunting harmful to grizzly bear populations? (“Stupid question” I hear the animal rights folks muttering, but I point out the use of the word ‘populations’, which is what government and various agencies are mandated to address). The answer is complex and to be sought in huge piles of field notes, research studies, theses, journals and coffee-table volumes.

Hunting and killing are certainly the prime factors which reduced North American grizzlies from their historic abundance to their present-day status. When Europeans first set foot on the continent there were roughly 100,000 grizzly bears ranging from the Mississippi to the California coast, and throughout Canada and Alaska to Mexico. By the seventies they had been drastically reduced in numbers and were categorized as vulnerable in Canada and endangered in the US.

But the direct killing of grizzlies is not the only factor leading to a decline in numbers. Habitat loss has probably eliminated far more bears from the scene over the decades, and continues to do so, either directly or by fragmenting vulnerable bear populations. In addition, hunting has negative effects which extend beyond the direct killing of the animals. Studies have revealed negative indirect effects on hunted bear population through destabilization of social structure and increased mortality in cubs and juveniles.



Pick a Mantra

by Jill Schroder

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions and then not keeping them, what if we decided to pick a mantra? The current issue of Future Crunch, my favorite good news publication and source of much valuable and encouraging information, suggests just that: Pick a Mantra.

They suggest choosing one word that resonates for you, and making it your focus for the year – a guide, a touchstone, something to return to.  For a number of reasons the editors chose Optimism.  Not blind, or pollyanna optimism, but realistic, compassionate, courageous optimism. When I thought about picking a mantra what came to mind for me and for the year ahead was Simplify.

I love the ring of it, the flavour, the effect on my body when I feel into what that could mean for me and how it could manifest in my life.  And this is especially nice, even startling, because not that long ago Simplify meant ‘give up’, ‘stop doing’, ‘slow down…’  it felt like a lot of “shoulds” being laid on me — with all the fun taken away!  That’s a bit of an exaggeration but if I had been asked to pick a mantra five years ago, it would definitely not have been this one.

Why Simplify?  What does it mean, where does it reside, how does it resonate? First of all, I’d like to cull.…in many areas of my life.  I love passing on, getting rid of, consolidating, organizing.  It’s always easy.  For example, take the things I really like but never use.  Simplify would be a helpful, gentle guide when I get down to it: clothes, files, family pictures, stuff in general.

Then there’s my schedule, activities, use of time. Simplify would help me assess, with compassion and kindness, what really matters… day to day, and on through the year – activism, food, exercise, contribution, mind-body-spirit balance…

Plastic Pollution is the new focus of the Green Team in my building.  We are trying raise awareness, and encourage people to face this huge problem – reducing the amount of plastic that we use, especially single use. Have a look at A Plastic Voyage, a depressing yet inspiring documentary made by the daughter of a resident in our building. Simplify would help me, help us all, take a closer look at our consumer choices.  Little things done often by us all add up to a significant difference.

And then this biggie arrived today, Salient Facts and Actions regarding climate change.  In a nutshell it comes down to Fly less, Drive less, Eat less meat (especially beef). We could add, Buy Less (new stuff in particular).

Pick a Mantra.  Mine is Simplify.  I feel light (a little heavy too, if I’m wholly honest, but mostly light) and heartened.  Like starting a new adventure.  I feel my shoulders relax, my breathing slow, space opening up, right now, in the moment.

What might be a helpful mantra for you in 2018?



Stewardship: Being Involved

by Josef Kuhn

As human-beings we interact on an ongoing basis with other beings. Some of these beings are living, some are not. Alive or not, all beings come from the creative flow of the universe, the Supreme Being, God, the Creator, or other cultural designation of highest spiritual recognition and respect. We human-beings are especially gifted, and challenged, to play a meaningful role in creation. Being involved in stewardship empowers us, individually and collectively, in assessing opportunities and problems and making choices for the protection and enhancement of life, especially human life.

Stewardship of the wonders of creation, also referred to as conservation and environmental protection, is an ethical choice for each of us. Maintaining our truly awesome life-support systems, our ecosystems, through stewardship is being involved in a responsible way. It requires respect, appreciation and working with others making choices and taking action that can contribute to the well-being of our children and grandchildren, and bring joy to our lives.

Being involved requires being in the present. Stories of the past and visions of the future exist in our individual and collective minds. This is an aspect of our unique human nature, but it is not being present, as Eckhart Tolle explains so well in his book A New Earth. This awareness, consciousness at a deeper level, is becoming much stronger around the world as more and more people recognize the rapidly developing life crises we all face, or ignore, each day.

Being is about the creative flow of energy. Quantum physics, one of our newer learning tools, is showing us that energy not only moves and changes things in the universe, it forms strings that develop into matter and ultimately into beings, including ecosystems and us human-beings. Ecologists are concerned about entropy, the loss of energy and biodiversity, when ecosystems break down. The time has come for people who are not ecologists to share this concern and become more involved in protecting ecosystems, in stewardship.

When the Sun radiates energy to the Earth, life is created in countless forms that share this energy. I think of this life as a collective being, as Mother Nature, the daughter of Mother Earth and the Sun. Human-beings need to recognize, respect and care for this life. We are part of it. We can practice stewardship and protect life, or we can do great harm. Human-beings had limited impact on ecosystems in the initial 200,000 or so years of our existence. However, in the last couple of hundred years we have ‘developed’ and now take an approach to life that is vague about homeland, consumes and pollutes at very high levels, and mostly ignores stewardship.

It is important for us to recognize the relationship between development and stewardship. Development is touted as a process to improve the well-being of people. Good development is possible, but only if people who really care about stewardship become involved in the regulatory framework that determines the use and the protection of our lands, waters and natural resources. Without stewardship this protection will not happen.

Legislation requiring bio-physical and socio-economic environmental impact assessment was supposed to insure this protection, but these laws are being diluted or ignored today. This happens by reporting only short-term benefits and costs of proposed development, and not relating these impacts to ecosystems. Information on long term impacts to life-support systems is missing. The biological and economic well-being of future generations is being ignored.

As our growing consumption contributes to climate change, including the warming and acidification of our oceans, we create tremendous energy disruptions, infrastructure and personal property damage. As we pollute our air and water and ignore the decline of fish and wildlife populations, we are causing ecosystems to lose the structure and beauty Nature provided. Sustainability of healthy, productive lives is compromised. This is not stewardship.

Each of us human-beings need to be aware of our stewardship responsibilities each day. Better interpretation of our laws and making necessary improvements is one aspect. This requires our being involved as citizens and communities in government decision-making processes and court rooms. In the private sector, how we use energy and spend and invest our money determines our positive and negative environmental impacts. What we teach our youth by example and in schools is also very important. Their future well-being depends on our stewardship today.



Dear Premier Notley

It is our pleasure as British Columbians to welcome you to Vancouver this coming week. We understand you have come to our fair city to address the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on the merits of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline project.

We must apologize for our weather; it is a bit dark and damp at the moment. That’s Vancouver in November for you. Mind you, better to visit now than too far into the future when it is likely to be positively stormy from the effects of this annoying climate change that is going around. It would have been warmer and drier had you popped over during the summer, but then again that was a tad too hot and dry. From all the smoke that drifted over your way from B.C. this past July and August you wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that 2017 brought us the largest total area burnt in a fire season in recorded history, the largest number of total evacuees in a fire season, and the largest single fire ever recorded in British Columbia. To say nothing of the costs incurred, which will be borne by the B.C. taxpayer. That’s jolly old climate change for you.

Now we are certain that the fine people down at Canada Place will give you a rousingly warm welcome and an enthusiastic response when you tout the many economic advantages of shoving yet more Alberta crude down the KM pipeline. After all, that’s what they know best – trade, jobs and profits.

But we really feel that you could be doing so much more with your valuable time here in southern B.C. You could be talking about the issues surrounding your pipeline that really matter with the local folks. Those would be the people most responsible for the current less-than-enthusiastic attitude towards Kinder Morgan in our fair city.

  • Like the Tseil-Waututh Nation who have lived directly across the Inlet from the Westridge Terminal for at least three millennia. The first things they now see in the morning and the last things at night are the loading platforms, the massive oil storage tanks and the endless stream of oil tankers coming in and going out.
  • Like the people who live in Westridge and on the slope of Burnaby Mountain who any day now could face fire and holocaust when the inevitable happens.
  • Like the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Vancouver (the 3rd most liveable city in the world according to The Economist) and who would have to contend with Aframax tankers crossing Burrard Inlet and English Bay as part of the daily scene, knowing that when the inevitable dilbit spills occur, not more than half can ever be recovered using the best available technologies.

However, we do realize that you are very busy these days and do not really have the time to dally in our fair city to have all the above conversations. So we would like to pose just one question to you as you dash by on your way to Canada Place. Our question is this:

You have proudly stated that Alberta’s plan on climate change is the cornerstone of Canada’s own climate initiative under the 2015 COP21 UN Climate Change agreement. You state further that Alberta’s contribution is to be based on a carbon tax, a cap on oil sands emissions, and a phase-out of coal-fired electricity in the province. We are with you one hundred percent on this. But how on earth does this square with the Kinder Morgan expansion, which will lead to the combustion of an additional 590,000 barrels of bitumen per day somewhere in Asia and the rest of world?

Yours truly,

Suzuki Elders



What’s in Your Sushi?

by  Patricia Plackett

A summary of a Suzuki Elder Salon held on 26 October 2017, Vancouver, B.C.

The salon was organized by:

Mel Bilko, David Clayton, Erzsi Institorisz, Yiman Jiang, Maria Kim, David Plackett, Patricia Plackett and Erlene Woollard.

Estimates suggest that between 5 and 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in oceans every year.  By 2050 it is projected that there could be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish; understandably, concerns about potential implications for all consumers of marine products are rapidly escalating.

This salon had two related goals – to give participants a deeper understanding of key issues associated with the growing amount of plastic in oceans and to provide them with a chance to discuss what they might do in their daily lives to contribute to solutions.

Four questions were addressed:

Question 1 – How big is the plastic in oceans problem?

Plastic is being used more and more widely because of its durability and other properties, often in rather surprising applications such as fleece jackets, shampoos and teabags. Currently, 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year and plastic debris has been documented in all marine environments – coastlines, open ocean, sea surface and sea floor as well as deep-sea sediments and Arctic sea ice.

How does plastic end up in the ocean?  —>

Question 2 – How serious is the plastic in oceans problem?

Oceanic winds and currents create huge circular whirlpools of plastic – the so-called garbage patches or gyres – that adversely affect marine life. Analyses of marine bird and animal stomach contents reveal an assortment of plastic bottle caps, lighters and pieces of plastic as well as plastic bags. The increasingly small fragments into which oceanic plastic breaks – microplastics – can be mistaken for marine food and the much smaller nanoplastic particles may even cross into the cells of marine organisms and into the human food chain.

David Attenborough in Plastic Oceans film —>

Question 3 – How much plastic is in seafood?

The marine food chain starts with phytoplankton and progresses up to large marine mammals such as orca whales. Although researchers have found plastic in the phytoplankton consumed by many sea creatures and also in fish and shellfish, they are still working to determine precisely how significantly plastic affects food safety and food security for human beings.

Microplastics entering the food chain —>

Question 4 – Doesn’t recycling help solve the plastic in oceans problem?

Although recycling is becoming more widespread and effective, it is estimated that less than 5% of plastic produced is recycled. It is said that every piece of plastic ever made, regardless of its composition, will be with us forever in one form or another. A recycling plant tour suggests that rather large amounts of plastic intended to be recycled may end up in trash under current recycling practices.

The Zero Waste Lifestyle—>

What about solutions?

It has been argued that we rely far too heavily on plastic for a very wide range of applications and yet we value it so little that much of it ends up as trash, often after a single use. Consequently, the real focus in rethinking plastics should be on placing a much higher value on it, regarding it as treasure and not as trash.

Strategies could involve eliminating applications for which other suitable options exist and also making waste plastic more recyclable into new products as well as adopting Zero Waste Lifestyles that reduce consumer needs for plastic packaging and plastic products.

Inspirational examples demonstrate some progress in finding solutions. Vancouver’s Nada, a zero-waste grocery store, and The Soap Dispensary, the city’s first dedicated refill shop, eliminate the need for plastic packaging. Some local communities have engaged in plastic waste reduction as in the case of Tofino where an exceptionally successful campaign focused on ridding local businesses of plastic straws and providing paper ones only upon request. Globally, there are various examples of products in which plastic has been replaced by other materials such as bagasse in tableware and seaweed in edible sachets and wrappers.

The solutions discussed in each of the salon discussion groups and those proposed at the end of the salon will be presented in subsequent posts on the ReThinking Plastic series on this website. Challenges will also be posted for those wishing to continue learning about the complex problem of plastic in oceans.

As we think about solutions that will reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans, let us remember the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: “We are continually faced with great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.

We welcome your views. Please share your thoughts under the Leave a comment heading (at the bottom of this post). Watch for related posts on this theme in the coming weeks and months.



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