February. 2, 1989
Speech to the inaugural meeting of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society
By Jim Cooperman
We have been told that this is now the Age of Information….with modern technology creating a world of instant communication, super computerization and video wizardry surrounded by a constant media assault to our senses. Yet despite the glamour of all this technological glitz, we live in a society filled with environmental and social problems that are inexplicably intertwined. Most countries, rich and poor, have dwindling resources, are burdened with debt, choked with pollution, saddled with overcrowded cities and are threatened with environmental collapse. Can we depend on our Government leaders or our religious leaders or any of our existing organizations to solve these problems? Ultimately, the solutions lie within each of us.
The slogan, Think Globally, Act Locally can only work if those global thoughts can reach the majority of the people. Now is the time to combine the age of Information with the age of the Environment, to raise the public’s awareness of both the problems and the potential solutions.
In many ways I feel rather presumptuous addressing you on these issues. I do not consider myself an expert in any environmental field. Many of you have already made invaluable contributions through other organizations such as SNAG, STRATTA, THE RECYCLING SOCIETY, THE GREEN PARTY and outdoor organizations. The proposals I am bringing before you are not new. In many ways, these ideas are similar to work being done by hundreds of alternative organizations throughout North America; from Pollution Probe to Earth Watch to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. It is from reading about these other groups, that I got the idea that a similar organization is needed here at the Shuswap, one that could combine every possible ecological concern; to study, to inform and to take action.
Already I have contacted other environmental groups in BC. The BC Environmental Network is organized by the same group than runs the Valhalla Society in New Denver. The Network co-ordinates the efforts of ecological groups across the province and they sponsor a yearly conference. Last night Colleen McCrory phoned to let us know that they are very enthusiastic about our plans and that she would be delighted to come and speak to our group.
S.A.T.I.N., Safe alternatives to Toxic Incineration was formed last year to fight the Lytton waste incinerator that has now been scrapped. They are now involved in trying to force the BC government to place a moratorium on burning in all the waste dumps across the province. Some of you may have attended the dance that this group held in Kamloops last Nov. Mendel Rubinson has offered his band to come and play here in Salmon Arm for a benefit for our group.
For the last three or four years I’ve been researching into and writing about our local history. Last year, I helped write, edit and publish the Shuswap Chroncles. Our North Shuswap Historical Society is now working on the next edition of the journal. Early this winter I decided I would also like to work on a publication devoted to the environment. Looking at the newsstand, one can find a magazine devoted to nearly every possible sport, hobby or activity. BUT THERE ARE NO PERIODICALS SOLELY CONCERNED WITH THE ENVIRONMENT. Except for CBC and a few alternative publications that are difficult to find, media is tied to the marketplace and as a result is part of the problem. We are surrounded by radio, TV, newspapers and magazines that are telling us to buy, buy, throw it away and then buy some more.
We cannot really expect this same media to present an alternative way of life, one that is geared to nurturing the earth. What I envision is a newspaper that could be called Shuswap Eco-watch that would be sent to every household. It would have short, informative articles, photos and cartoons relating to all the environmental issues from waste disposal to wilderness preservation. Eco-watch could help link up communities throughout the Shuswap region, and provide a format for people to share their ideas, observations and concerns.
We are all sick of hearing how we live in a throw-away society, how our forests are being clear-cut at double the rate they are growing back, how our lakes and rivers are dying from pollution, how our food is full of chemicals that cause cancer and how our governments respond only when the problems reach epidemic proportions. We want to find out how these global problems relate to us here. We hear on the news how poorly the BC forests are being managed…but what we need to find out is what Forestry problems exist here at the Shuswap. We need answers, we need to spread the word, we need to take action and We have to fight from the grass roots level up.
It is time we did something – as individuals and as a group. Tonight we can begin that effort. We have an agenda for this meeting, but the first step is deciding whether or not we want to form a new Environmental Action Society.