To the Wilds Wasting

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To the Wilds Wasting
by C. L. Cook
Perhaps it's all a little wasted on one such as me; I live here, amidst the crowning splendor of the great Northwest of Continental North America. The first, the native, indigenous peoples (some of them at least) called what they understood of this verdant and varied wonderland, 'Turtle Island,' understanding, I like to think, the closed nature of their environment.
They understood, from what we can glean from their cosmologies and the survivors of the greatest genocide ever witnessed in human history, the sacred connection of all things animal, vegetable, mineral, the living and the dead, and too knew their place as a part of this greater whole.
But I still don't quite get it.

Yes, I appreciate the beauty of my treed prospect: I look upon it from my window, watching the birds and marveling at their stoic existence; surviving naked in a world that seems intent on destroying you. I look at the snow-capped, purple majesty of the mighty Olympic Mountain Range, its magnificence a shaming reproof of the puny Greek namesakes. What can the Gods of humans be before such divine architecture? But I fear, my soul is lost. Mired within the wires of endless ambition and industry, there seems an industrial callous grown around that part of my animal nature that once recognized itself in the flora and fauna, mountains, forests, and wild places. Beautiful still, yes, but extant.

I tell you this that you may picture me: 21st Century posterman of technological society's ultimate design; entirely dependent for my survival on a system that needs feed voraciously on the wild, scooping it wholesale into a maw whose production line never ends.
Now, witness me ride my Japanese motorcycle, strictly designed to run on the millions of miles of asphalt ribbon criss-crossing the turtle's back, leave the smooth to approach a Vancouver Island backwoods wilderness confab with the folks behind Wild Earth Rendezvous '07.
Magnificently unprepared, with a vague map of area logging roads leading to Hadikin Lake (an "Indian" name no doubt, it's meaning a mystery to me yet), and a jerry-can bungied to the seat to see me home on a journey too far for a single tank of gas.

Ignoring my worst fears of mechanical breakdown, or encountering an oncoming logging truck, trucks that tear down these narrow roads too heavy to stop and their drivers too smart to swerve, I bump and grind along, rarely leaving second gear, my helmet sacrificed to the heat, banging against the side of the bike, filling with the dust we're kicking up.
Though I've lived on this island long enough to call it home, I've never been back in these expanses, the generator of the wealth that settled Victoria and built the fortunes of the timber barons of yore. Mile upon mile, over and around small mountains, through valleys where some of the creeks still thrive, but most have long since been choked by the detritus of this industry most foul.

And the barons are here yet, making their fortunes for faraway share-holders; people like me, who have never seen these wild lands scarred. Rounding a bend, the jerry-can has bounced off the bike again. I stop, and walk back the trail, giving the motor a minute to rest and listen.
The silence of the machine leaves a vacuum instantly populated by bird song, wind-creaking trees, and vaguely a distant water course. Then the thrumming of blades, as a mammoth helicopter searches the deep woods beyond the roads for the giants still remaining; looking to take out the last of the first growth.

I meet up with some of the crew at the Wild Earth. They're learning how to climb trees, build protest platforms, deal with media and police, and share stories of fights past here and around the world, efforts to stay the destruction long enough to preserve at least some of what the natural world has provided over these millions of years; not for us necessarily, or even for those to follow, but because they believe as a part of everything they must. Then they will ready for the campaigns to come in a war that will never end.

In Victoria, where the rate of "development" is eclipsed nowhere, save the manic building booms of China, what is left of our urban, and suburban wild spaces is disappearing fast. The next step, logically is up-island. Langford council and its mayor have bent to the notion of unrestricted expansion in the name of increased tax revenues. They're encouraged by the Provincial Capital Commission, a quasi-governmental body filled with Chamber of Commerce denizens, determined that making your pile is the preeminent order of existence, regardless if you must do so by scrambling over the bodies of the remainder of the wilds. They are currently behind the expansion plans of the Bear Mountain development that will, if unchecked, swallow whole the lands abutting the Highlands, severing the long-touted "sea-to-sea greenbelt" ambitions of the TLC (The Land Conservancy society).
This expansion naturally requires millions of tax-payer dollars to build the second clover leaf highway exchange to facilitate the driving needs of the anticipated thousands of wealthy retirees who will pay the millions for monster homes next to the acres of golf courses cut into the mountains and valleys of the priceless wild lands. But there is a small glitch, a fly in the proverbial butter of Bear Mountain's idyll.

Perched on a small platform in the tree canopy of a small patch of strategically chosen forest land in the path of the proposed highway interchange sits a dedicated defender. Working together in shifts, the tree-sit has been occupied these last two months (at time of writing), and those there vow to maintain the position in the path of the bulldozers and chainsaws.
Their hope is to create enough time for sober second thought by the people of Victoria and outlying areas like Langford; time for the people already living here to think: Why do they like being here, and most importantly, why they should sacrifice it for the dreams of off-shore development companies and the train of carpetbaggers in their wake?

For me, travelling into those wildlands for the first time, it brings home the great disconnect between the natural animal of the wilds I once was, and the dependent vassal of hyper-civilization I've become. If we collectively are ever to save this heritage, one we so casually discard today, we will need these wild refugia survive to remind us of that part of our soul we cannot afford to allow atrophy.

Chris Cook
is Managing Editor to and host of Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from CFUV radio at the University of Victoria, Canada.

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