2015

Earth Day Every Day 5: Dark

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Originally published Dec 16, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

At the community choir concert this past stormy weekend, every choir member carried a flash light. If the power had gone out (which, unfortunately, it didn’t), they would have continued by flash light, as they did briefly at one of their rehearsals, last month. So in one of our quirky Bowen moments, the choir left the stage with headlamps and flash lights in hand, and three headlamps still dangling from the rungs of a stool, on stage. And during intermission we hung around in the foyer of the Chapel, and some of us out in the windy dark night.

This is the time of darkness, when life and community brings us out to walk around caroling or shopping or visiting with friends, and an increasing amount of that time is spent in the dark. There’s something about the lack of light that makes us appreciate the gift of it, and everything else we often take for granted. As the sun drops off our horizon, we begin to see in different ways.

Dusk is confusing to me; my mind still believes I can see, but my eyes struggle to resolve the vast array of patterned greys. It’s like being lost in the half-tones of a rich intaglio print, and eventually I lose visual focus, reverting to other senses, as recourse. Have you ever noticed the sound of bats’ wings as they turn in flight, or the buzz of a night hawk’s dive? It’s a sound that strikes me at the top of my spine, as the world falls into dark.

I like to walk through the woods without a flash light. During my many walks throughout the year I have come to know these woods, so that darkness brings new experiences, but not often new footing. Still I have to feel my way along, and go much more slowly than I would during the day. The moon is a welcome lamp, but on moonless nights, like the one last week between the storms, even the stars give light. It takes a certain amount of darkness to be able to notice the stars’ light falling between the boughs of hemlock and cedar. I enjoy the softness of soggy needles underfoot, and the cool refreshing damp of the air on my cheeks. This is the joy of living in a rural place where we choose wilderness over concrete; sensual exploration over street lights and expediency. Especially at this time of year.

This is the time of darkness – not just because of the number of daylight hours, but because of the power outages, throwing our families into impromptu candlelight dinners and wood-stove-cooked meals, necessitating neighbourly helping-out, caretaking and community. We chose this island; we chose this lifestyle, and many of us delight in the inconvenience. This is the time we celebrate the darkness by lighting our cove and our homes, and by singing to our trees. Yes, my family sings to our trees.

On Midwinter morning we go out to get a Christmas tree. It’s always a tree that is slated or fated to come down anyway, and we bring it inside to decorate. As we hang up the cherished ornaments, some of them generations old, we sing, and share memories of years past. As the longest night of the year falls around us, we hit the main breaker for the house, light lanterns from the fire in the wood stove, and parade out into the dark, weaving a stream of firelight through the yard. We sing the Tree Wassail to all the fruit trees and to many other cherished trees, as well. As we walk around singing, tripping, laughing, holding hands and trekking through swampy areas, we feel the world around us. In rainy years, the rain slips in around our necks and soaks our heads as we go. When it’s frosty the grass crunches under our feet and sometimes the sky opens up to reflect our fire with starlight.

When we’ve sung to the trees, we return inside, where we take the fire from our lanterns and light the candles on the Christmas tree, symbolically bringing the light we originally took from the wood stove back in to light our home. And then of course we sit around singing together all evening. That’s how we spend our Midwinter, singing to the trees.

May winter’s cold to you be kind

May you blossom in the spring sunshine

May gentle rain in its season fall

May you be loved by one and all

~ From the Tree Wassail, by Starhawk

– Emily van Lidth de Jeude

 

CSA Christmas Craft Fair

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Originally Published December 2, 2016 from the CSA

This year, the Bowen Island Community School Association (CSA) is proud to be celebrating the 30th Annual CSA Christmas Craft Fair, a popular Island Tradition!
Thirty years ago, the Bowen Island Community School Association was looking for a way to bring people to the new Bowen Island Community School (BICS) and to celebrate all that is uniquely Bowen. Lo and behold ~ the annual CSA Christmas Craft Fair was born! More than just a Christmas Craft Fair, it is a celebration of our semi-rural local culture with a treasure trove of Island vendors creating a multitude of treats and delights to thrill the senses.
The Bowen Island Community School Association is the heart and soul of the Christmas Craft Fair. Imagine, that for 30 years, a hard-working team of volunteers have organized this event, year after year. The volunteer team has grown, the vendors have improved, Santas have come and gone, musicians evolve and the gems for sale are different and better each year…. The CSA Christmas Craft Fair is filled with music, fun, food, friends and goodies too numerous to mention to fill everyone’s stocking.
The Community School Association is one of Bowen Island’s longest standing registered not-for-profit organizations. The proceeds raised from the CSA Christmas Craft Fair are invested back into community organizations and the Bowen Island Community School for the benefit of all. Some of the current initiatives that the CSA supports are:
•    BI Community Playground Upgrade – 2017
•    Community use after hours at BICS
•    Community Art Project
•    Summer Camp Subsidy
•    Community Garden
•    Homework Club
•    And numerous smaller, but equally important projects that make Bowen unique
Please grab your Christmas shopping list, get your “Ho Ho Ho” on early and come to the BICS Gym on Sunday, December 6 from 10:00 – 3:00 pm for the 30th Annual CSA Christmas Craft Fair.

– Merry Christmas to all from the Bowen Island Community School Association Board and the 2015 CSA Christmas Craft Fair Committee!

Crippen Park and Development of Lot 3

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Originally published November 22, 2015 written by Denis Lynn

On 4th November 2015, Edna Thomson (Vol. 17, Num. 21) expressed concern that development of Lot 3 “would really mean the eventual loss of possibly the entire Crippen Park” as a consequence of  “weakening (the trees) via the loss of their root systems and complimentary structural support systems”. We are beginning to understand that the trees in our forests are indeed intimately connected, not by roots but by a complex network of fungal mycelia, which provide nutrients and water and transmit chemical signals between trees. Damage to these mycelia could indeed impact the health of the trees. Nevertheless, we should remember that much of the present forests on Bowen has regrown following significant logging in the early 20th Century. This regrowth is possible because ecological systems have evolved over millions of years to respond to changes, often catastrophic. An ecologically significant catastrophe in recent times in the Pacific Northwest was the eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18th May 1980. Its steamy blast blew down and scorched forest over more than 500 km2, leaving a seemingly lifeless landscape. And yet, these ecosystems are recovering. What is it about the behaviour of ecosystems that enables this recovery?

In 1973 Prof. C. S. Holling, University of British Columbia, proposed two kinds of ecosystem behaviour. One he called stability – “the ability of a system to return to an equilibrium state after a temporary disturbance”; ecosystems that rapidly return to the equilibrium state are more stable. The other he called resilience – “a measure of the persistence of systems and their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations”.  Prof. Holling discusses the spruce budworm community in eastern North America, which is a highly resilient, but unstable, community, characterized by periodic outbreaks and a sequence of recovery steps that leads to the next outbreak.  Another example he mentions is the response of Wisconsin forest communities to fires – over time since the fire they “reconstruct” themselves until the next fire starts the process all over. To these, we might add the response of forest communities in the Northwest to fire and volcanoes.

The long-term study of the forest and other ecosystems after the Mount St. Helens volcano has lead to some important and unexpected findings. The timing of the eruption was significant – an early spring morning meant that nocturnal animals, like mice, were in their burrows while spots covered by spring snow and ice were protected from extreme heat, permitting seeds to survive and colonize the more impacted habitats. The number of ponds and lakes increased as lava flows and mudslides blocked rivers and streams, creating new aquatic habitats. Surprisingly, amphibians and other organisms rapidly colonized these, so that lakes and streams are again showing communities typical of this forested region. Terrestrial habitats have been slower to recover, although there is greenery covering most of the blast area. This vegetation has provided habitat, even in the significantly disturbed areas, to support the colonization by almost all small mammal species of undisturbed forests. On the other hand, the return of bird species has lagged correlated with the slower recovery in structural complexity of forest habitat.

As Bowenians, we can appreciate this slow recovery as the forests that we value today have taken years to recover from earlier deforestations. Mount St. Helens has provided another lesson here, for the quantity of living and dead trees remaining in areas has significantly influenced the rate of recovery of the forested areas. These “biological legacies” now provide a management tool for some foresters who, rather than clear-cutting for logging, will leave a certain portion of standing trees – a biological legacy – to enhance the recovery. The biological legacies left by Mount St. Helens and by typical forest logging practices are probably much less than 20% of the original forest. This impact of biological legacies has been modeled and shown to increase the resilience of forest ecosystems to the impact of fire, even when about 20% of the forest is left in remnant patches.

Lot 3 runs along the east side of Miller Road and behind the RCMP Detachment, north and east from the Trunk Road, for about 300 m. If all trees were logged from this lot, it would represent, I believe, about 20% of the area of Crippen Park between Miller Road and Cardena Road, leaving 80% of the forested area untouched. While this would be a significant “empty space”, it hardly approaches the 20% or less of the forest left standing by logging operations or volcanic eruptions. I would guess that Edna Thomson is correct that the trees and shrubs bordering Lot 3 would be impacted. However, as a biologist, I am confident that the 80% of forest remaining would be very resilient to this disturbance, and that the future of Crippen Park is not in danger.

Further Reading: Dale, Crisafulli, Swanson. 2005. Science 308:961; Holling. 1973. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4:1; Seidl, Rammer, Spies. 2014. Ecol. Appl. 24:2063.

– Denis Lynn

To Mayor and Councilors,

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Originally published November 4, 2015 written by Edna Thomson

Our recent past council focused their attention on Lot 2 of the community lands.  They succeeded, just immediately before a new election in November 2014, in gaining bylaw approval for Land Use rezoning to change from  “village/residential/institutional” to “village/commercial/institutional” for the area.
Their purpose for doing this was to accommodate sale of Lot 2 for subsequent development for an extremely extensive and density-ambitious proposal.
Lot 2 provides many important ecological functions:  it is a wooded area that the wildlife, the birds, and the children benefit from.   Lot 2 is land that lies next to the school campus, and as well, it has a very steep slope at its eastern border.  The many trees provide a root system that acts to absorb water, and hold the bank, while their branches provide the carbon sink that keeps the air fresh. That steep slope is also directly behind about 12 properties that benefit from the sound buffer provided by the trees.  Similar, and some, ecological benefits apply to Lot 3.
Recently, November 2014, islanders elected a new council with the expectation of full and transparent planning and inclusion of public input in accordance with democratic principles of government for and by the people.
Our current council took immediate steps in addressing many previously expressed concerns of the good citizens of Bowen; and good things began to happen.  As for example, Council declaring, “The right of local residents to a healthy environment.”  Part of that decision states, “…the rights of every resident to participate in decision making that affects the environment.”
That sense of security, resulting from those commendable steps taken, seemingly announcing  ‘participatory democracy’ in action on Bowen, has been disappointingly damaged though, by the summer ‘charge ahead’ approach.  Unexpectedly, this was evident in the proposal for, first, a new fire hall complex, AND then, ALSO a parking lot; all on Lot 3.  Disturbing evidence of that approach has been the immediate “site suitability testing” for the Fire Hall complex, (mid July).
Equally astonishing, and while discussion was still taking place regarding a parking proposal on Cardena Dr., work was seemingly started at the proposed entrance site for the proposed parking lot in Lot 3.  Entrance and exit in-roads that are in the design, (as posted recently by council) to go on either side of the mailboxes off Miller Rd. would require moving the mailboxes.  This actually WAS DONE on September 17th. . No signage was provided at Lot 3, as was done at Cardena.  Why?
A “BIM Plan Park Update,” recently introduced, when eventually effective, would of course, be too late to have Lot 3 of Crippen Park given the consideration it deserves, if it isn’t left standing!
Here is my belief: First, it is that the principles of democratic governance must take precedence over any development proposals, and thus council needs to provide adequately for fair and complete opportunities for public input.   Second, it is for acknowledgement of the concerns already expressed in two letters put to council regarding development on Lot 3. And, 3rd, it is for signs that show the plan!
In those letters, the concerns expressed are regarding the two proposals under consideration. Should either or both be adopted, it would really mean the eventual loss of possibly the entire Crippen Park park.  The number of trees that would have to go down for construction, promises that, by extension, others would follow simply through a weakening via the loss of their root systems and complimentary structural support systems, and through probable damage to the root systems of trees left standing during the construction period. And, there would be subsequent predictable loss through the advent of windstorms, and heavy snow falls on those left-standing, weakened trees.  All of those forces, and simply ‘over use’ of a damaging potential, would complete the rest of the destructive process that will have been set in motion.
I request the application of fundamental equality in the observance of citizen’s rights. And, it is for serious, open discussions as to how the benefits versus impediments to Bowen’s future would be affected by the developments proposed for Lot 3.
I ask that Council please open up to the community of Bowen, adequate discussion opportunities as to the the worth of Lot 3, as a carbon sink and an important service-providing intact natural environment of enormous eco-value, a wildlife sanctuary, and a thing of beauty and enjoyment at the entrance to what many describe as a living, breathing island paradise.
What we need now is less pandering to outdated concepts of how to ‘develop’ in the Cove. Now it is important to get educated and more able and ready to meet the new challenges of a changing climate. Equally important is embracing input from the larger community into ALL development planning that would so dramatically affect the island entrance area.  In the interests of a healthy environment that supports the rights of citizens to that environment I’m asking that, now, more than ever, the concept of the Islands Trust mandate to protect and preserve be our banner.

– Edna Thomson

Earth Day Every Day III

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Originally published Oct 21, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Here we are, waking up to a new red dawn. Apparently our prime minister designate is a rockstar. Now let me tell you about crawling through the mud in the woods. Priorities.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the kids I work with climbed up onto a leaning tree. It was a soft green moss- and licorice fern-covered maple, reaching out between great black crystal-like crags of old burnt cedars. He climbed up and back down three times, and when he satisfied his skill-building needs, he just sat up there for a while. That seat in itself was pretty amazing, but from where he sat, there was something far better. “Hey guys! I see a swamp!” He shouted. Some of the other kids looked up from their boat racing and bridge building, and one declared “no more swamps”. She was the one wearing running shoes. But I followed his gaze, and within a minute or so, he was down from the tree, and everyone had joined the quest for the swamp.

Just around a cedar shell we found what looked like the beginnings of a house – raw posts sunk deep into a grassy clearing just beside the creek, a shovel, some roofing, and a creeping carpet of moss. Our leader ducked under some salmonberry bushes, crossed the creek, and crawled through the mud to a group of trees and logs, beyond. “Holy!” He shouted! “It’s a cave! I found a cave with a river in it, and a waterfall, too!” I struggled through under the salmonberries while some of the older teens picked their way around to the other side, where we found the small creek streaming into a loamy under-tree cavern, and winding its way between small sand bars, about two meters below our feet.

I checked the time, and felt pressured to hurry them back to the school for lunch. But I squatted down and checked out the soft sand under the tree, instead. As time marched on, I became worried about their parents’ reactions if we arrived late, and encouraged them to leave. But they were busy. Some kids climbed into the cave; some harvested licorice fern, and one sang a song before accidentally slipping between some roots and nearly into the deepest part of the ‘cavern’. As his friends helped him out of the tight space, I worried about the kids injuring themselves. But I waited quietly. These kids helped me to discover new delights in an area I’ve visited far more often than they have, and I was grateful for their perspective.

It’s so easy to become wrapped up in our adult lives, and to feel the urgent present moment more important than the building of our future. It’s so easy to find ourselves more important than the discoveries of children crawling through the mud. Obviously we understand so much more than they do. But then again, somehow we don’t.

Here we are, waking up to a new red dawn, and on Monday I watched a few of my teenaged friends posting “voting in the only way I can” updates to social media, and witnessed the infectious joy as the mock school polls managed to overthrow the conservatives. The IPS outcome was apparently (in this order) Liberal, Green, Marijuana, Conservative, NDP, and Marxist-Leninist. What would happen if we placed more value in the thoughts and intentions of our youth? What would happen if we listened to their hopes and fears with the same sincerity they afford to ours, as they’re listening to our grave adult conversations from neighbouring rooms, and wondering if their world will fall apart?

The stream that flows so perfectly into the waterfall of an amazing under-tree cavern does not care which party won the election. The great community of plants and fungi and animals that depend upon the stream do not know that over at the community school we put X’s on bits of converted tree pulp to determine their future. But our children know. They know that we are their voices and that our every move will determine their future. The freedom to explore and to build a deep connection with and understanding of our environment is part of the way we keep our future viable. Our children know this.

Our children are not just our future, but the future of humanity, and when we value their contributions we give them the agency to form brave opinions. We give them the wherewithal to act on those opinions, instead of being swallowed up in the present moment fears that occupy us in our busy adult lives. Here we are, waking up to a new red dawn, and our work has just begun. Let’s climb through the mud and swamps to find hidden treasures. I challenge all of us to reach into the unknown and to hold our new government to task for the things that matter to our children.

– Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Electoral Reform

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Originally published October 7, 2015 written by Peter Williamson

The Greens, the NDP and the Liberals, are all promising to review our electoral system if any form a government in the upcoming election. I hope that it happens. However, what “it” will be is not decided, and electoral reform can be complicated. It all depends on which system is chosen. A among industrialized nations, only Canada, the USA, and Britain still retain “first past the post”.

Let’s start with the problems we would like to fix. Many of us are torn between voting for the candidate we most like and the candidate most likely to beat the candidate we least like (but are afraid might get in). We call this voting “with our hearts” versus “strategic voting”, and voters should not be faced with such a choice.

The second problem is that in the last Canadian federal election the Greens got 3.9% of the vote and one seat, while the Conservatives got 39% of the vote and 166 seats. So, the Conservatives got about 16 times as many seats per vote as the Greens. This seems unfair, but without a different system this disproportional representation will continue. I’ll deal with this problem first.

The simple solution, and some countries do this, is to tally all the votes across the country, and then allocate seats in the parliament in proportion to each party’s level of support. So, 20% of the votes get you 20% of the seats.

The problem with this is that it requires each party to rank their preferred candidates; if they are allocated 20 seats, say, then those go to the first 20 names on the list. So, the places near the top of the list go to party hacks and the electorate has no direct say in which particular people represent them. It also means that we’d have to do away with ridings, which means not having our own local member. There are a lot of benefits to having a local member. Some members are quite popular in their own right, rather than as representatives of a particular party. And we have a long tradition of being able to address concerns to our local member. I’d hate to lose that.

There are numerous ways that various countries have tried to get around these problems. Some have super-ridings with up to five members elected from each. Others elect local members, but then allocate additional seats to parties that are under-represented. This creates two classes of members – those elected locally and those added from party lists. I don’t particularly like that, but I think it’s the lesser of two evils.

Now back to the first problem. The head versus heart dilemma is a new one for me. I moved here from Australia where voters in each riding rank candidates in order of preference. If your first choice does not prevail on first count, then your vote is allocated to your second preference. If that candidate has little support, it is passed on to your third, and so on. So your vote is passed down the line until it ends up with one of the two most supported candidates.

In effect, this system allows a voter to support the candidate they like most, while at the same time ensuring that they don’t inadvertently help elect the one they like least.  It’s not particularly complicated, and I never heard any Australian say that they didn’t understand it. It is known as the single transferable vote, or preferential voting, and was the choice in 2009 among members of the BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, but rejected in a province-wide referendum.

We could elect local members using a preferential system and then supplement each party’s total numbers of members from a party list. That way we could vote with our hearts, knowing that we will never have that awful feeling that we have wasted our votes on a candidate who was never going to win anyway. And what’s more, we’ll end up with a parliament that reflects the true level of support for each party across the country.

At this juncture in Canada, a change away from the first past the post system would disadvantage the Conservatives. But, that is only now. In ten years’ time, it might be the Conservatives who benefit from the changes. The Greens, who find it hard to win a riding, but have solid support right across Canada, have the most to gain right now.

In general, these changes would make for a Parliament that requires more cooperation between the parties, and that seldom gives any party an absolute majority. Coalitions would become the norm. That is not a problem; many countries always have coalition governments. Most importantly, it will bring new legitimacy to government, and an end to governments being elected with barely one third of the vote. That is bound to be a good thing.

The time has come for a system that reflects the values of a wider range of Canadians. I hope that you will think about electoral reform as part of your voting decision.

– Peter Williamson

Peace Needs to be Felt

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Originally published September 23, 2016 written by Bawn Campbell

“At the end of the day, we have very simple needs, and on top of the list has always been to feel contentment. Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is a fundamental human need that needs to be felt from within.”

After last year’s September 21 “Peace Day at the Art Gallery at Artisan Square” I felt inspired by the 25 people who showed up to watch the Video “Peacemakers with Jeremy Gilley (Founder of Peace One Day, Ted Talks, filmmaker) and Prem Rawat (Ambassador of Peace for Italy, Brazil, European Parliament and Peru). I volunteered to write this article, god help me. First off I am not an expert I just I know that when I feel at peace everything around me feels good.

Words are just symbols to which some personal meaning is attached. Your meaning and mine are not always the same. How often have you expressed something that is misinterpreted and resulted in conflict?  My hope is that you reflect upon peace within your life.

There is little doubt in most people’s mind that our lives are moving too fast. Choices are being made without enough forethought about the implications of those choices. We seem to be living in a world gone mad for acquiring money, power, possessions and experiences. How can we break this spell?

The constant bombardment by ads convincing us that newest aftershave, perfume, car, TV, IPhone will bring us happiness. If we just own those things our lives will be better; the opiate of possession. It is hard to stop it. It’s hard when all around us are promoting it.

This happiness that we assume comes from “owning” something, where is it located? The feeling of happiness resides within, inside ourselves. Happiness is a feeling, love is a feeling, Joy is a feeling. Contentment is a feeling. Somehow we need to break the “opiate of possessions” hold on us, we need to find a way to feel happy within ourselves. The world cannot sustain this process of acquiring.

There are over seven billion of us on this planet that is hurtling through space around the sun at 107,200 kph and spinning at 1,600 kph (remember that when you are stuck in traffic); Too often I forget what is important in my life. I forget that I am alive. That, right now, this moment will never happen again.

Most of us have heard the quote attributed to Albert Einstein that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. We go to war again and again and again. War has never resulted in real peace only in profit for a few. How can we stop this insanity?

At some point we are going to realize, as an individual, that our time on this planet will end. We do not live here forever.

The UN study of average life expectancy puts the world at 70.7 years or 25,806 days. In Canada the average is 82 years or 29,930 days. We don’t have that many days to waste. Each day is so precious. Too precious to waste in anger, frustration and guilt.

My family sometimes is concerned with my focus on how many days I may have left to live but I do it to remind myself that this day, this moment, is more important to me than tomorrow or yesterday. It is in this moment that I want to experience happiness.

I don’t know about you but I do know that I like feeling good. I like clarity, appreciation, love, contentment and the feeling of being at peace. I don’t like confusion, disregard, hate, anger, guilt and the feelings of restlessness and inadequacy.

Somewhere, somehow I came to the realization people matter to me. That we have value and that we are not just some data point in a database.

So how does Peace enter into this essay? When I feel clarity, appreciation, love, contentment the feeling of being at peace is not far behind.

The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed“.

In order to build those defenses of peace some shift needs to take place in how our lives are lived, we need to see that Peace is as fundamental to us as is water and air, love and joy.

Ultimately it is our own personal experience of peace that we want, not an idea of peace but the experience of peace in our individual hearts. When we have that experience it is easy to see the value of those around you and to know how valuable life is. To see the value of life in your friend and in your foe. Life is the most valuable thing we have. It is the miracle we have waited for.

“Knowing is better than Believing”, know peace.

Practice Peace, change your world.

– Bawn Campbell

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