Saturday, August 6, 2011

On the Road in BC -- Forests, Sustainability, the Roots of Activism

It's been thirty seven years since I was in Powell River, British Columbia. It's the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, two  ferry rides to get from Vancouver (now that town is a complete metamorphosed place since I was there before this year -- 30 years ago).

I've been camping with dogs and my significant other. We are going into the old city of Powell River, an historic site, so to speak, with the pulp and paper mill doing about 1/8 its original output. That was here my grandfather worked, and this town is where my mom grew up. The times I was here were when I was in second grade, one semester, while my father was in Paris getting the things read to move the family over to France. I remember the sulfur smell, all the ash, the cars getting pitted, people hacking up phlegm. My mom had chronic lung disease. Speaking with old timers and those my age, I find that many folk had major COPD, emphasima, and a slow death. "Oh, that was in the old days, when they didn't have all that smog equipment on." Or," Well, the mill doesn't do kraft paper anymore."

Kraft paper, uncontrolled pollution, and salmon fishing around the dead ship log barrier the company put out in the bay. People canning all their own vegetables. One time, a run in with mother grizzly and two cubs. Steelhead 12 pounds; rainbows at 9 pounds; Coho and silvers at 60 pounds.

Blackberries, Russian immigrants, the Greeks and Italians, grandmothers to me. The socialism, the old timers from Ireland, Scotland and England. The respect for land and peace, but the heavy interest in resource harvesting, hunting and fishing.

It's a different time. Canada is becoming like the USA. I talked with a guy selling organic French Fries in the new Powell River, Westview, and he calls Canadians "sheeple," just like Americans. Tar sands, civil rights being abused, the heavy hand of the law and military here in Canada. Mike went to MIT, traveled around the world, ended up in Florida, and even my old haunt, Juarez. He is a conspiracy theory buff, smart, and sees the heavy hand of corporations eating at human independence. He laments that this part of Canada is only one that is gmo -- genetically modified organism -- free, and that few in Powell River know about GMOs.

He's selling fries, living an outside the mainstream life, and telling everyone he can about the world, the word, the truths of a world that is being run amok by corporations and their government conspirators.

Yes, BC is clean, people smile more up here, the campgrounds are gorgeous, there's less trash, few highway cops. But, Canada is being taken over, or has been for a few decades, by multi-national corporations and nutcase politicians.

I think my love of the ocean started here, looking at cod, anemones, dog fish, all the sea life on the shore. I had grown up in the Azores, after six months in my birthplace, San Pedro, California. Always around sea my first few years of life, and then Paris, Munich, Maryland and then Arizona.

I ended up becoming an unregistered scuba diver at 14 in Tucson, then a dive shop helper, instructor and divemaster, all along the Sea of Cortez, then into the Baja, and then into the Yucatan coast, Honduras, Belize, even in the Red Sea and Vietnam and Thailand.

This place is incredible, for sure, and it's changed, tourist-oriented, and totally a rich man's paradise. Hippies own shoppes, there are permaculturalists, sustainability folk, etc.

But, the place feels like it will change once again in 20 years. Morphed into a corporate state. Funny thing is Namoi Klein, of the Shock Doctrine fame, and the Take fame, spoke here July 16, 2011. Maybe there is hope for the sheeple. Maybe not. More dispatches from BC.

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