I moved to British Columbia back in the summer of 2010. I had spent three years in Toronto after earning my four-year degree, working for an eco-conscious retailer by day and sumo wrestling at a local dojo by night, when a sort of claustrophobia set in. I guess I'd just grown tired of the hustle and bustle of city life.
Eventually I decided to go back to school and, while researching my options, I stumbled across a listing for an Applied Coastal Ecology program offered at Northwest Community College in Prince Rupert. And so, my father and I loaded all my worldly possessions into the back of his little red truck and drove roughly five thousand kilometers cross-country; following the Trans Canada Highway and the Yellowhead Trail all the way to the North Coast of BC and the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest.
I don't think anything could have prepared me for how profoundly this experience would change my life.
Physically, I've always been a big person. Growing up in the 9-0-5 and living in the city, I often felt two or three sizes too big for the world around me; squeezed onto packed subway cars and into tiny studio apartments. But there on the North Coast, I found a land of giants. A land of mountains shrouded in mist, of mighty spruce trees towering into the sky; of sea lions, spirit bears, and killer whales, dominated by the great blue vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Most importantly of all, I found a home.
Wading in streams with my classmates, I learned why wild salmon are sacred to all life on our coast; how their incredible lifecycle and nutrient-rich bodies provide nourishment, not just for the First peoples and settlers who call this very special part of the world home, but also the bears, the eagles, the wolves, and the forest itself.
Walking on the beaches of Fin Island, the traditional clam harvesting beds of the Gitga'at people of Hartley Bay, so thick with clam and cockle shells that you can hardly take a step without crunching one underfoot, I saw how our oceans can provide food enough for all of us; if only we can avoid spoiling it through acts of greed and wastefulness.
Taking a stand against the Northern Gateway Pipeline and launching Transition Prince Rupert with my new friends, I found a community full of warmth and a cause worth fighting for.
The Great Bear Rainforest and the North Coast of BC are national treasures; breathtaking landscapes that are home to flora, fauna, and peoples which are utterly unique on this Earth. It is a place that stands as a testament to the raw power and beauty of the natural world and of this amazing country that we are fortunate enough to call our home.
We all share a duty to protect and preserve it for ourselves and for generations to come.
Photo credit: www.spiritbear.com