Beautiful British Columbia

For the past 10 or so years, I’ve come annually to British Columbia to visit members of my family. I’m writing from Victoria, which for those who don’t know is on Vancouver Island.

My current home is in Bolton, Ontario which, for those who have not visited,  is a great place to live. Ontario has been a wonderful home to me and my family most of my life after starting off in Saskatchewan. In fact, if you have lived in any part of Canada, you know that you’ve been blessed.

But British Columbia, for many reasons, is where my heart is. This is where my parents are, as well as my sisters and their families, and it is difficult to express with the limited words of the English language the intense love I feel for them all.  B.C. is also where my entire family, including my brothers (one from China and the other also from Ontario) gather when we have family get-togethers. One of my brothers is also here right now. And I have some very dear friends here as well.

But there’s much more to British Columbia than family, as the many hundreds of thousands if not millions of annual visitors will attest. British Columbia is rich in resources; forests, mountains, clear glacial waters, fisheries, minerals, and the most spectacular scenary you will find anywhere on earth with it’s blend of rich green forests, majestic grey snowpeaked mountains and jagged coast lines reaching into the green-blue oceans all filled with life. The Okanogan region is a fertile ground for growing fruits of many varieties and the climate is temperate and ideally suited for vegetation and farming. It’s incredibly rich with green growth everywhere along the coastlines and in the valleys. They have old growth forests that boast some of the tallest trees in the world and rainforests in the northern regions of Vancouver Island that are rich in wildlife and biodiversity.  

More than just a pretty place, British Columbia also celebrates the many cultures that share this amazing province in the arts, crafts, music and lifestyles including the adoption of some of the wisdom and contributions of its indigenous peoples and the abundance of festivals of every kind. Everywhere I have traveled in British Columbia, and I preface this by acknowledging my sister Celia for introducing me to her incredibly wide circle of friends, the people of British Columbia seem somehow in harmony with their home, respectful of the place in which they live, many striving for a sustainable living while acknowledging and enjoying the bounties of the land with which they have been gifted. With no salt on winter roads, their cars remain intact for a considerable length of time and many take full advantage of this bounty by driving much older cars, a common sight in B.C. There seems to be, at least based on my limited observations, less of a sense of trying to keep up with the neighbors and more a sense of enjoying what is. Most of the new friends I’ve met are satisfied to drive a 10 or 15 year old car as long as it still works. And it isn’t just about cars. Many of the British Columbians I’ve spoken to are keenly aware of the damage that rampant consumerism can cause and strive to live a lifestyle which is more focused on values, developing friendships, enjoying the arts and nature, and providing services rather than focusing quite so much on material pursuits. The pace of life, at least on the island is just a little slower than other places in Canada. My other sister, Joy, described the complex recycling regime which she goes through in order to maximize the amount of recycled goods and minimize the waste going to the landfill and yet she tells me that there are many British Columbians who are happy to share in this recycling ritual just for the sake of preserving what they have.

To simply share the good of British Columbia would, of course, be a little inaccurate. British Columbia, like every place on earth has it’s challenges. One is that it happens to sit on a fault line that is shared with the entire west coast and it anticipates one of the biggest earthquakes the world has seen. Many studies are being done on earthquake detection, earthquake resistant structures, and sunami warning systems to minimize the impact, but when it hits, they will definitely be in for a shake that will stress the hearts and spirit s and test the ability of British Columbians to pull together and befriend each other through extreme hardship. We don’t know when it will happen, perhaps not in this lifetime.

British Columbia is also suffering along with the remainder of an ailing planet from environmental damage. Invasive species such as giant hog weed which competes well in open areas, pine beetles that ravage vast areas of the forest and which now survive the milder winters, raging forest fires caused by a extreme dought, landslides from extreme rain events, toxicity in farmed fish, coastal areas which have suffered from oil spills and pollution, and fisheries which are suddenly coming up short of various species, are just a few of the challenges they face. In it’s cities, it suffers from traffic conjestion and pollution (especially from those old cars which lack polution controls and burn oil), even though they are fortunate to have the ocean breezes which periodically cleanse the air.

Britsh Columbia has so much to offer but it has even more to protect. It’s vast resources are here to be used and even shared, but managing those resources to ensure sustainability is essential. Thoughtful and reflective planning which adopts the attitude shared by our indigenous friends and neighbors, that the earth is one country, that we are part of the environment, not separate from it, will help us to develop an attitude of service and reverence for our home (i.e. this planet) that will prevent us from claiming it to be our own and believing that we can exploit or abuse it’s resources without limits.

If you’ve never been to British Columbia, visit, you will not be disappointed.

Garth Schmalenberg

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