Opinion

GUEST COMMENT: Blue world exists in our backyard

By Laurie Gourlay

As Canadian Environment Week begins, Nanaimo is joining hands with the federal government and the international community, to  proclaim World Oceans Day, and Rivers to Oceans Week, June 8-14.

And all of us are rolling up our collective sleeves in anticipation of June’s 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit – excited and a little nervous as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development seeks a worldly balance for ecological, economic, social and cultural goals.

So what does this mean for us?

In one go, Nanaimo has wrapped up local, national and global goals. Not bad for the up and coming Harbour City, poised on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, especially as we ponder strategic plans and priorities for short and long-term prosperity.

How might we, a coastal city, nurture such good fortune and the national and international friends who could help us with our hopes and dreams for the good life?

Sure, we have the five-year plans drafted or underway, but what of our common future and our great-great grandchildren?

With Nanaimo’s proclamation, we’re recognizing the benefits from our rich and diverse coast – from living by the largest estuary on Vancouver Island, on the rim of the Salish Sea.

As the Nanaimo River endlessly spills nutrients into the  eelgrass beds, and the salmon return, so too are many of our basic needs met, our fisheries and local food security strengthened, our waters replenished.

A walk along the downtown waterfront, catching the ferry to a Gulf Island, strolling the beach when the tide’s out, breathing in salty-fresh air, awaiting the fishing season, and not kayaking in the stormy winds and high seas; the coast is in our blood – a natural part of every day’s work, commerce and family outing.

The coast is our silent benefactor, providing for us day after day. We’re coastal proud, and partners, without even thinking about it

Lucky us, living in a paradise of rivers and ocean.

And so why not recognize World Oceans Day – a day that Canada first proposed to the Earth Summit in 1992 as a way to better understand biodiversity, as well as the benefits of healthy fisheries and productive marine habitat as resources come under increasing pressure world-wide.

And so, too, Rivers to Ocean Week, with Environment Canada’s support, helps us look at water cycles and conservation, to the protection and restoration of our coastal waters, estuaries and rivers.

You may not be surprised to learn then that a local campaign wants to see global goals for sustainable development secured locally, by way of extending the proposed B.C./Canada National Marine Conservation Area for the Southern Strait of Georgia – around Gabriola and into the Nanaimo estuary.

With our federal Environment Minister Peter Kent willing to consider boundary change proposals until this fall, Nanaimo and region still have an opportunity to gain the benefits and financial partnership of senior levels of government that an NMCA affords.

So fellow coastal residents of some of the most beautiful, diverse and bountiful lands and waters in the whole wide world, that’s a lot to think about.

With the world and our mid-Island coast in mind, you might just want to sneak a little time away this June. Breathe the fresh air, take off your shoes and stroll along your favourite stretch of ocean shore, or just sit and watch the river go by.

Canadian Environment Week and World Oceans Day have come a-calling, and the City of Nanaimo has declared us friends, and good neighbours.

Free events planned include a pot luck dinner in Cedar, at St Philips’ church on Friday (June 8) and a morning estuary walk on Sunday (June 10), meeting at Raines Road.

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Laurie Gourlay is president of the Mid Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative. For more information, please got to www.missimidisland.com or call 250-722-3444.

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