For those who understand, it’s crystal clear. Our educational traditions need to be transformed from infancy to old age, to give us the skills and understanding to tackle our huge civilizational challenges: the climate crisis; the biodiversity crisis; the crisis of injustice, inequality, dominating corporations and destructive economics; and the crisis of purpose, trust and deluded populism. They intertwine, creating a tangled knot that generates cynicism, anger and despair.
The authoritarian rote learning that causes so many to dislike school and cease learning once they graduate needs to be replaced with learning that nurtures creativity, curiosity and joy, as Ken Robinson explains in the world’s most popular TED Lecture, with 69 million views. I have organized my thoughts into ten headings, and I conclude by asking how we can make change happen.
“We are facing a disaster of unspoken suffering for enormous amounts of people, so please, treat the climate crisis like the acute crisis it is, and give us a future.”– Greta Thunberg
For years, Guy Dauncey has tirelessly warned of the urgency of tackling the climate crisis and provided practical ways to achieve reductions in our emissions. While the crisis has only worsened, the window of opportunity to shift direction has shortened. Here is a blueprint for concrete action. Read it and act! – David Suzuki
Have you ever been invited to write a blog, and felt intimidated? Well don’t. Here’s some advice to get you going. I wrote this for the Yellow Point Ecological Society, which is why it is full of nature references, but the advice applies to all good blogging.
Who are we? And where are we going on this tiny planet of ours, this bright sparkle of life in a Universe so ridiculously vast? It’s a question worth exploring, if you have five minutes in your busy COVID day.
Almost all scientists assume that the Universe is a solidly material realm, consisting of packages of atoms that have, by the happenstance of chance, turned themselves into polar bears and poets. We may have come from stardust, but we have no inherent direction or purpose. Where are we going? You might as well ask what a stone wants for breakfast.
300 years ago, the Enlightenment generated an inspiring vision of scientific, technological and economic progress. What was once global ‘progress’, however, has become a climate, ecological, economic and now pandemic disaster.
We need new inspiration.
When we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic we can’t afford
to go back to business-as-usual.
We need to build ourselves a new ecological civilization
in which we live, work and play in harmony with Nature,
We face not one but three simultaneous inter-connected crises: the COVID-19 Emergency, the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, and the Crisis of Capitalism. We urgently need connected constructive responses.
When you recall the movie When Harry Met Sally, your horny mind probably goes straight the scene in the delicatessen, and “I’ll have what she’s having”. Setting that aside, it took Harry and Sally a long time before they realized that they were natural partners. In my version of the story, Harry is the climate and biodiversity action movement and Sally is the COVID-19 community response movement. For each, the movement includes a wide mix of people, organizations, scientists, health workers, artists, businesses, banks and governments who have realized the urgency of their respective crises. Ideally I need a third character to represent the new economics movement, but since there was no suggestion of polyamory in the movie, I’ll settle for tradition. It would make for a great sequel, however.
The Mint Magazine despatches Guy Dauncey to Switzerland, a decade into the future, to report on the global summit.
It was pouring when we arrived in Davos. The local news channels were full of complaints about how useless the artificial snow-machines were in the rain. Everyone knew the continuing climate crisis was to blame. Their glum expressions said it all.
When the invitation arrived for The Mint to send a journalist I volunteered because I wanted to see how my Tesla Raven Model 5 would manage the 1,000 km, 12-hour journey on just one recharge, ride-sharing with three others. Success. We arrived with 154 km still in the battery.
How can I describe the mood among the delegates? The world had entered the final year of the 2020s, and the steady reduction in global emissions along with the full-on engagement by China and India made many people feel optimistic. But the ongoing litany of disasters, including the massive flooding in Holland and the forest fires in the Amazon, made most still feel fearful.
by Guy Dauncey, March 27th 2020 Updated March 30th.
Our food chain in BC is hugely dependent on imports, making it extremely vulnerable. On Vancouver Island, 95% of our food arrives on the ferry.
BC has tens of thousands of acres of farmland that are lying fallow, or growing hay for horses that serve no agricultural purpose. In the Cowichan Valley Regional District there are 17,700 hectares of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve, of which in 2010 only 10,840 hectares were in agricultural production, and only 2,120 hectares were set up for irrigation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is growing in its reach every day. Now is the time to be planning for worst-case scenarios, including:
How can we stay strong during this crisis? With love, careful planning, and care for others – and total lockdown.
The end of the tunnel may be a long way off, but if we treat it with the utmost seriousness, keep our social distance, wash our hands regularly, and look out for each other, we can stop the spread of the virus and reach the light at the end. When we emerge, huge numbers of people will hopefully want a more caring, cooperative approach to life, and a new kind of economy, based less on greed, selfishness and the destruction of Nature, and more on the economics of kindness.
The pandemic has seized our attention, and so it should – but the climate and ecological emergencies haven’t paused out of sympathy, thinking “Let’s give the humans a break.” That’s not the way Nature works.
We can’t afford to relax our climate and environmental concerns just because we’ve got other concerns. We have to do both. And being stuck at home gives us an opportunity to do some serious planning. Serious, as in “Let’s make our family 100% climate and ecologically friendly within five years.”
A video of Guy Dauncey presenting a brief summary of this paper is here.
“This is a practical, down to earth concrete step by step transition strategy for the Canadian government to get real about the climate emergency. A must read for all Canadians to make a difference and communicate to their elected officials new policies and programs that will make a difference now.” – Professor Ann Dale, Trudeau Fellow Alumna, Canada Research Chair, Royal Roads University
“This is vital reading. It maps out an evidence-based route ahead; to open real conversations around what we actually need to do in these testing times. It should be read by politicians and policymakers, local and regional councillors, business front-runners, university and health service delivery managers, indeed everyone who wants to explore how we can collectively build the new zero carbon world we so urgently need.” – Paul Allen, Project Coordinator, Zero Carbon Britain project at the Centre for Alternative Technology
“Visionary and thorough, Dauncey’s 26 week Transition Program deserves close scrutiny in Canada and beyond. His passion for a clean economy shines.” – Raffi Cavoukian, C.M., O.B.C., singer, founder of Raffi Foundation For Child Honouring
A new ecological civilization, it whispers ever so softly
By Guy Dauncey
There comes a time in the evolution of every civilization when the Universe sends us a new message. Slowly, it works its way through the multiple layers of a long-established culture. It is buffeted by resistance and repulsed by rulers, but in spite of this it finds its voice in the songs of poets, the impulses of teenagers, and the dreams of millions.
This is most of the final Chapter 34 of my novel Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible. The book is set in Vancouver in the year 2032, by when it has become the world’s greenest city, alongside Portland and Copenhagen. Patrick Wu, a 24-year-old Chinese Canadian, is visiting a future world brimming with innovation and hope, where the climate crisis is being tackled, the solar revolution is underway and a new cooperative economy is taking shape. But enormous danger still lurks. The final chapter consists of this Dinner Party. All of the philosophers and scientists mentioned in the text are real, except Satyanendra Mukherjee, who wrote the First and Second Laws of Syntropy.
This is a long read. It’s about syntropy, entropy, religion, the question of whether the Universe has purpose, the omnipresence of consciousness, its relationship to quantum theory, the relationship between the inner and the outer realms, the nature of free will, the shortcomings of the standard model of physics, deep history, and why this is relevant to the multiple crises we face today.
Guy Dauncey is an author, speaker and ecotopian futurist who works to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future, and to translate that vision into action. He lives on Vancouver Island.
Guy Dauncey is founder of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, co-founder of the Victoria Car Share Cooperative, and the author or co-author of ten books, including The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming and Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible. He is currently completing The Economics of Kindness: A Ten-Year Transition to a Green Cooperative Economy. He lives in Yellow Point, on Vancouver Island, Canada. His website is www.thepracticalutopian.ca.
I premise my analysis on five statements:
The climate emergency is real.
The ecological emergency is real.
The inequality, household debt and affordable housing crises are real.
A new global financial crisis is lurking, caused by excessive corporate and private debt and banking deregulation.
We need a ten-year mobilization to achieve a rapid transition to a green cooperative economy that is human-friendly, community-friendly, climate-friendly and nature-friendly, leaving self-interested capitalism behind us.
There are massive forest fires in Siberia. Greenland’s melting is accelerating. Record heatwaves are roasting Europe. The world’s insects are dying off. The scary news keeps accumulating.
We are living on the edge of an emergency that is just getting started, and climate is only the half of it. There’s also an ecological emergency. How are we to respond? It’s easy to slip into complacency, or to be overcome by fear, followed by a sense of impotence. You know the crises are real, but the children are coming to visit, there’s a holiday to plan, and don’t get me started on the problems we’re having at work.
The first step to end complacency and neutralize fear is to put the crisis on your weekly to-do list:
Weed the garden
Visit your friend in hospital
Sign the kids up for karate/soccer/piano/dancing lessons
Do something to tackle the climate and ecological crises
I have captured the possibility of an agro-ecological future and compared it to the current reality in these two diagrams. They are too big to display, so click on each phrase below to see the full diagrams:
How can we turn around the world’s financial institutions so that their creation of money serves to construct a new ecological civilization, rather than destroy our current civilization through the financing of ecological and climate catastrophe? It’s a massive problem that needs multiple solutions.
Before we turn our attention to some possible solutions, we need some context. Global GDP in 2018 was $87.5 trillion. Global debt, created by the world’s financial institutions, was $247 trillion, growing by $14 trillion a year. Between 2005 and 2016 the debt increased by 73%, split between governments ($63 trillion), non-financial corporations ($68 trillion) and private households ($44 trillion).
June 2019. The summer days bring exquisite shades of green. The bees are out, the ants rush around, and the wind rustles quietly in the tops of the trees. A fresh-baked rhubarb sponge cake sits on the kitchen counter. Life is sensuous, beautiful, and quite frankly, exquisite. Tiny mauve butterflies flit in and out of the flowers.
And then Cassandra arrives, she of the noble Greek ancestry, admired by the god Apollo, she with the golden locks and the long white flowing dress, reading from her list of warnings:
For 200 years, students have been urged to learn the 3 R’s of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. In recent years, thinkers of various political persuasions have proposed adding a fourth R including running, relationships, religion, race, rithms (for algorithms), respect, road safety, ritalin, rifle-shooting, revolvers and (appropriately) resuscitation.
There is another 4th R that is even more essential if we are to survive the 21st century. It is the knowledge of ecology, of how our planet works, and how to regenerate healthy ecosystems from the atmosphere and the rainforests to the microbiomes in our own guts.
Will you join me? I need lots of people to join the November Offensive, so that together, we can make a difference.
This summer’s forest fires and smoke-filled skies have left many of us asking, “What will it take to end the climate dithering and start DOING something to tackle the growing emergency?”
The IPCC has just reminded us of the urgency of the crisis, and the need to reduce emissions globally by 45% by 2030 if we are to limit the warming to 1.5C.
The BC NDP government is getting ready to launch its climate plan at the end of November, somehow combining climate action sufficient to meet its stated goal of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 with its recent climate-disastrous decision to approve the big LNG Canada project.
The timing is critical to impress our New Democrat and Green MLAs of the need for urgent action to speed the transition to 100% renewable energy and protect the forests.
Saturday October 20th was Election Day, and we had such great results! Of the 55 candidates who I recommended for your support, 38 were elected and 17 were not. In Courtenay and Comox progressive candidates were also elected, pushing out old-school conservatives.
This was my pitch for these candidates: I want Vancouver Island to become a place where people are really committed to living in harmony with nature.
What does it mean to be so worried, because you really can’t afford the rent? To have to surrender your hope of ever owning a home? To face the end of a rental lease and know that there is NOTHING out there that you can afford? To stare homelessness in the face?
Many of us are comfortably housed, but many are not. The autumn rains have arrived, and the harvest crops are being gathered in. Everyone seems to be getting on with their lives. And yet for many people, the smiles and kindnesses that make life worth living mask a level of stress and worry that should have no place in our community.
How can there be such a housing crisis?
How can it be that in this Cowichan Valley that we love so much, there is such a housing crisis? How can democracy, the housing market, and local government have failed us so completely?
Like so many, I watched the Senate hearing on Brett Kavanaugh, transfixed. A lot of us do things in our teenage years that we later cringe at and regret. It’s how we handle our regrets later that matters, once the stupidities are done. What struck me first was how belligerent and defensive he was, and, how whiney.
What struck me next is how he could if he had wished have adopted a much easier approach, and won the hearts of all Americans, of whatever political stripe. Since he seems unwilling to do that, I am willing to do it for him: Continue reading Brett Kavanaugh’s Better Angels→
Democracy is a very recent social invention. Most people don’t like it when the societies they live in are blatantly unfair, with privileges and glory for the rich and hard labour and exploitation for the poor. In consequence, starting a thousand years ago, people in nations all over the world have gradually prised power out of the hands of their ruling elites and established democracies.
It has been incredible hard work. In 1794, Thomas Hardy, a London shoemaker, was charged with high treason for proposing one person, one vote. His sentence, had he been found guilty, would have been to be hanged by the neck, cut down while still conscious, disemboweled, beheaded, and his body to have been cut up into quarters. Fortunately, a Grand Jury of nine respectable citizens, after debating the matter for nine days, found him ‘Not Guilty’. The London crowd went crazy, dragging him through the streets in triumph.
Trudeau: ‘No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there’
Trump: “We’ve got underneath us more oil than anybody … and I want to use it.”
I have very little to add to this. Emotionally, culturally, empathetically, educationally and behaviourally, Trump and Trudeau are as different as different can be. Trump is a bully, a braggard and a boor. Trudeau is a refined classical decoration on the carpet of civilization. Trump is a dirty stain.
Yet when it comes to energy and oil, their brains and their political instincts think alike. Trump is a proud climate denier. His “Grab them by the oil-wells” thoughts are at least consistent with his larger outlook, which is nationalist and mercantilist, as if the eighteenth century had never ended.
It cools us in the summer, it warms our hearts all year,
It provides a home for owls and flowers, for herons, cedars, fir.
It shapes the landscape, painting peace, away from the urban rush,
It protects our water all year round, surrendering it clear and fresh.
In Japanese, the word shinrin means forest and yoku means bath, so shinrin-yoku means ‘forest bath’: being immersed in the forest with all our senses. Listening to its quietness, seeing the variety of trees, mosses, lichens and rocks, tasting the air as you breathe in deeply, touching the rough Douglas fir and the smooth red arbutus, going barefoot across the earth, dipping your feet in a forest stream, lying down to gaze up at its beauty. Such bathing brings healing to the body, heart, mind and soul. Continue reading Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions→
I wish I didn’t have to write this. I count myself a friend of the NDP/Green Alliance, and I had high hopes for the government’s new climate action plans. 
BC’s Ministry of Environment has published a series of Clean Growth Intentions Papers, with a deadline for public feedback of August 24th, in the heart of this fire and smoke-filled summer. In my head, I can see that they have been framed in a very positive way, emphasizing the multiple economic benefits of engaging in climate action, reframed as clean growth.
But the policies floated contain little that is new. They are really timid. And by downplaying the climate crisis almost to a state of mental non-existence, they have written the urgency out of the picture. In my heart, I feel as if they have been written by a holiday season policy-drone operating on auto-pilot. Hard words, but that’s what I feel.
Once upon a time, there was a revolution. I have never read about it in any history book, yet it was the ancestor of all revolutions, from the earliest slave revolts to the French and Russian revolutions, the gay rights movement and the #Metoo movement.
By not knowing about it, and not understanding its consequences, our interpretation of history is missing a critical dimension as we struggle to free ourselves from the tentacles of neoliberalism and build a new economy that is friendly to humans and nature, not just to bankers and greed. In the light of this revolution, our understanding of thinkers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Owen, Kropotkin, Nietzsche, Polanyi, Keynes, Hayek, Rand and Ostrom is changed.
We may never know when it happened, but a quarter million years ago is a good possibility. To understand its origins, however, we have to go back six million years, to when we shared a common ancestor with the chimpanzees and bonobos. Even today, we share 99% of our genes, and the same impulses to mother, to play, to help each other, to use social skills, to hunt together, to form tribes, to fight, to bully and to dominate.
Through it all, the non-alphas resented being dominated
$4.5 Billion Dollars to Subsidize Fossil Fuels? Here’s a Much Better Idea
$4.5 billion of Canada’s money, to buy a bitumen pipeline? Some suggest that it could rise as high as $12 billion, including future construction and legal costs.
So what if the money was invested in solutions to the climate crisis, instead making things worse by being invested in the primary cause, which is our use of fossil fuels? When Canada signed the Paris Climate Agreement most people presumed that it was being signed honestly, not as an act of laugh-behind-your-hand hypocrisy.
Thirty to Fifty Times More Jobs
That much money could leverage enough electricity to replace most of Alberta’s coal and gas-fired electricity, and generate between 30 and 50 times as many jobs. It could also power 18 million electric vehicles for 25 years. Continue reading Canada’s Choice→
Throughout the world, in every culture, farmers have lived and raised their children in small farm villages.
Here on Vancouver Island, 95% of our food is imported every day on the ferries. At the same time, good farmland sits empty or grows hay, while younger people who want to get onto the land to grow food are unable to do so because of the incredibly high price of land.
If we are to live in a fair, just, ecologically sustainable world, many things in our economy will need to change, from the way banks create money to the way environmental losses and gains are accounted for and measured.
Let’s start with the businesses that grow the food, manufacture the products and provide the services we all depend on and enjoy.
They say we are self-interested, we’re always out to win. Always individualistic, though it used to be a sin. They say we need free markets, the better to compete, and the economy will flourish if we only think of greed.
This is Economics 101, the way it’s taught today. Not a word about nature, community, caring, sharing, or cooperation.
During the mid 19th century, advances in science, democracy, education, literacy, public healthcare, labour unions, technological breakthroughs, banking, and the power of fossil fuels to generate rapid economic growth certainly made it seem that after ten thousand years of economic stagnation the competitive pursuit of profit was improving life for all. In the 1760s it took eighteen hours of human labour to transform a pound of cotton into cloth. By the 1860s it took one and a half hours. Today, it probably takes five seconds.
If you want to see what this EcoRenaissance looks like on the ground, click HERE.
Until a thing has a name, it doesn’t really exist
I can feel this future. I have written a novel about it. I love its colour and vibrancy, its harmony with Nature. But what is its name?
One of the realities of the spoken language is that until a thing has a name, it doesn’t really exist. When we want to create something, we name it.
The feeling that comes to mind is one of Renaissance – the birth of a new vision, the promise of a new future. The Renaissance that was seeded in the 13th century and blossomed into glory in the 15th and sixteenth centuries filled people’s hearts, souls and minds with art, imagination and ideas. It took inspiration from the rediscovered science, art and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. It made souls take flight, washing away the dull dogmatism and cruel muddy feudalism of a world where nothing much changed except by disease, disorder and death.
Back on the trail, I passed a sign that told me that Fourth Avenue was closed to cars every Sunday, and open only to cyclists, rollerbladers, runners and strollers. I rode north over the Cambie Street Bridge, crossing the waters of Vancouver’s False Creek. To see the banners of colored silk fluttering from the streetlights and the central median ablaze with rhododendrons and flowers set my soul ablaze. A banner at the end of the bridge proclaimed ‘The Land that Ugly Forgot’ and welcomed me to the downtown.
I cycled to Wei-Ping’s office on Water Street in Gastown and found a space to park Carl’s bike in a bike-rack designed like a red dragon. I had a while before my meeting, so I walked to the Waterfront station and turned up Seymour, enjoying the wide sidewalks, ample bike-lanes and colorful food carts. Several buildings were covered with ferns and flowering plants tumbled down their walls, as if a rainforest had taken up residence in the city.  At a crosswalk, instead of saying WALK it said DANCE, and there was music that made it impossible not to—not just me but others too, laughing and smiling at each other. 
Canada’s housing crisis is far more severe than most people realize. The fundamental problem is an excess of money pouring into the housing market from various sources, combined with an abdication of responsibility by all levels of government for the past 30 years.
There are many on-the-ground solutions, demonstrating positive ways to build affordable housing. And there are seven new housing-related taxes that could raise the funds needed for a massive expansion of affordable housing.
The fundamental cause of the problem is the excess of funds flowing into the market, and until this is solved house prices will continue to rise, and most other solutions will seem like never-ending sandbagging.
The money supply problem can be solved. The money can be obtained to restore safe, sustainable, socially designed affordable housing as a fundamental human right.
Until something has a name, it hardly exists. So what shall we call the new economy that we need so much? These are all proposed names that I have harvested from my reading. If you know of another, let me know, and I will add it. Updated to 81 names on February 5th 2020.
A globally agreed carbon cap? Carbon rationing? Holland’s proposed ban on the sale of non-electric cars by 2025? Oslo’s goal to reduce the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2030?
No, none of the above.
So what is it? In a nutshell, it’s the proposal that the world’s central banks create $300 billion a year, and use it to leverage investments of up to $2 trillion a year in the urgently needed transition to renewable energy, and other climate solutions.
This essay was submitted to The Next Systems Project Essay Contest, in which it won second place. “We received hundreds of submissions from 30 different states and 26 countries, proving that many around the world not only believe system change is necessary, but have thought long and hard about what a new system should look like and how we might get there.” http://thenextsystem.org/announcing-the-winners-in-our-essay-competition/
Our task is to fashion a political vision and a political narrative that is a compelling answer to neo-liberalism and the ideology of competition, free markets, and the primacy of capital. We need a political economy of cooperation, solidarity, of mutual benefit. – John Restakis, Civil Power and the Partner State, 2016
Our modern economy is in crisis. Can we build an alternative economy as our ancestors did in the transition from feudalism to capitalism? It’s a question that takes us deep into our values, culture, history, politics—and visions of the future.
Sometimes it seems as if those who care about Nature stand on guard around the edge of a huge circular Blob known as ‘The Economy’, which keeps growing and encroaching onto Nature. We organize to prevent its advance against creeks, rivers, forests and wetlands. We try to stop it from shooting out new pipelines, digging new coalmines, pouring more carbon into the atmosphere and introducing new chemicals into our food.
Sometimes we are successful and The Blob backs off, which happened with the proposed Raven coalmine near Courtenay. But just as often we are not, as the ecological wreckage of the private forest lands on the Island shows, and when The Blob assaults Nature in a distant country such as Indonesia, destroying native hardwood forests, home for millions of years to families of orangutans and other creatures, replacing them with palm oil trees for the global biofuel market.
When the future teenager walks down the future Main Street in future Smalltown BC, be it Williams Lake, Smithers, Houston, Creston or Kimberley, which of these thoughts might she or he be thinking?
“I can’t wait to get out of this place—it’s so, like, basic.”
“This place is so cool. I wish there was work, so that I could stay.”
“This place is so über-cool. My friends in the city are so jealous that I get to live, work and play here.”
British Columbia has many communities that built their economies around traditional resources that are now either collapsing or going into decline. Unless there’s a strong impulse for community economic renewal, there’s a risk that working people will leave and young people will follow, never to return.
How do we tackle the climate crisis with the speed and resolution that the climate scientists say is so urgently needed?
How do we make a rapid transition to a 100% renewable energy economy in a positive, nation-building manner, without causing economic mayhem, unemployment and chaos?
It’s complicated. There’s no doubt about it. Our economy is completely enmeshed in fossil fuels. We use fossil fuels to travel, to heat our homes and buildings, to generate electricity, to power our industry, to make plastics and to pave the roads. If fossil fuels were to magically stop working due to a zombie-ray from outer space or an unexpected change in the laws of physics, our economy would grind to an immediate halt. Continue reading Let’s Get Going – Climate Action Together→
New Scientist magazine reported in June that five meters of future sea-level rise is already locked in, due to the steady collapse of the West Antarctic Ice-Sheet. If we don’t act rapidly, their staff reported, it will be twenty metres.
The full extent of the flooding will not happen for several thousand years, but “locked-in” is the phrase they used. Venice, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Vancouver, London, Mumbai, Kolkata; large parts of Holland; a large part of Bangladesh and many cities in China—all will be under water.
A present first delivered by Kris Kringle, Xmas 2020
February 18, 2021
A contribution by Al Lubkowski , sailor, adventurer and retired Town Planner.
I was rudely awakened one night with a clap of thunder
A puffy cloud settled over my bed, illuminating my room with an eerie white glow. A strange chubby faced man in yellow wet skins appeared from behind this cloud accompanied by a tall fellow with a wing shaped apparatus attached to this back- an angel? Neither looked familiar. For a moment I thought this was some elaborate prank. But no, this was for real and I still shiver when I think about it. I cannot forget my conversation with these strangers. With a stentorian voice and shake of his wings for emphasis, this character bellowed:
“Greetings from Above! Allow me to present Mr. Bob Wright, former owner and CEO of the Oak Bay Marine Group. He has come to deliver a message, with permission from the Big Guy in the Sky.”
“Yes Sirs, please have seats!” I stammered, as I led them on tip-toe to my private workshop, so as notto disturb my wife, who amazingly was still asleep in the room next door.
Bob Wright: I was told you would be my emissary on Earth to finish a project on the Oak Bay waterfront that I started many years ago, but did not have time to finish. I was told not to use the words “cubits” – as the word conjures up bad feelings for my boss and is too detailed for the ideas I wish to present to you at this time. He told me that you were the famous Kris Kringle, the guy who thought he was Santa Claus and who worked for Macy’s in New York – juggling kids on his lap. The one that starred in the award winning film, “Miracle on 34th Street”.
Kris Kringle: Yup, that was one of my gigs. So how can I help? But make it brief, because I have lots of work to do today. Some of my helpers are sick and Rudolph who I rely on has a runny nose.
Bob: Doesn’t sound good. Heard about your pandemic, Kris. My sympathies. I suspect our gates will be busy…If you are wondering why I have dropped in at such a crazy time, it’s because I need a personable fellow like you to sell my vision for a marina to the people of Oak Bay! With your hearty laugh and your reputation as a nice guy, I am confident we can work together and maybe even produce the miracles I need. But beware, mine is a long range vision, that may appear too imaginative and bold for those who are uncomfortable with change of any sort.
The Marine Gateway to Victoria and the Islands
Kris:So what’s your vision, and what’s “bold” about it?
Bob: I propose to introduce new attractions and a new layout that would turn the Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head waters surrounding into a marine attraction even more popular than it used to be, not just for locals and tourists but especially for visiting boaters. My goal is to see Oak Bay recognized as TheMarineGateway to Victoria, the Gulf Islands, and North to Alaska by boaters from all over the Pacific Northwest. But most important, I want it to become a community focal point for Oak Bay, a place where we can meet, play, and associate with pride. And even create local employment and services while doing so!
The competition for the renewal of the 30 year marina lease has closed and a decision will be made soon by the District of Oak Bay as to its future. It will determine not only who the next managers of the Marina will be, but the future use of the Marina and Turkey Head land adjacent. I therefore thought it necessary to get my ideas out to the public and District before any decisions are made which might compromise my concept (or any other) for the best use of this unique section of our waterfront.
Kris: Why did you not message me sooner, Bob?
Bob:I only just found out. I was too busy organizing tournaments up here for all the “high flyers” who were never able to cash in their points for fishing trips on Earth before passing away. And besides, we have limited bandwidth up here – my reason for this trip.
Kris: It’s a tight schedule, Bob, but I will give it a try. But since the District has not asked for a longer term comprehensive plan from anyone, why do you think they will listen to you?
A plan for the next 50 years
Bob: I think they will listen to their hearts and their desire to leave an even better legacy than mine. What they really need is a plan for the next 50 years at least, one which allows for more important and imaginative things to happen for the many more people who will visit and enjoy this oceanfront. This means looking to expand on the waters adjacent, since Turkey Head alone is scarcely big enough to provide for future parking, much less for the bigger vision I have in mind, which includes utilizing the waters adjacent more efficiently and imaginatively, a breakwater included.
Kris:Why go “Big” if people in Oak Bay tend to be happy with “small, and little change”?
Bob: Let’s not forget that the Uplands, the world famous “garden suburb” close to our marina, and treasured to this day, was designed by John Charles Olmsted, whose famous father designed New York’s Central Park and a myriad of other parks across America. True to his roots, this futuristic subdivision was “big”, bold and imaginative for the early 1900s – a time when cattle roamed its rolling hills and street cars were the primary mode of transport to downtown. What’s more, this model for the newly growing suburbs of America led to the preservation of our 31 hectare Uplands Park, noted for its oak tree forest, scenic ocean walk and boat launch. Its design, which was revolutionary for its time, still reminds us that a development in tune with nature and grace will provide a lasting legacy for those who live in cities, as well as for those who wish to just launch a boats. I want to continue to make Oak Bay proud with another bold innovative project which will also be a legacy to those who follow.
Kris:I will do my best Bob. I have been known to create miracles in my day, but achieving any plan for Oak Bay, much less a long range plan for the waterfront, is a big challenge, even for me and my elves. Can you give me some details, so I know what I am selling?
Bob: I do not have much time to talk. I have laid it out for you in this gold binder. My writing describes it well enough, but the drawings aren’t much. My angel employees are not the best when it comes to detailed drawings, so I have just sketched out some rough concepts for now. The main points are to introduce new attractions for the Marina that will replace the whale watching show and the seals, which created all the attention when I was in charge, and to tie everything together with a “maritime” design theme.
A Kelp Lagoon and an underwater glass tunnel
I want to give it more of an environmental ocean-friendly focus this time. My main attraction would be a new take on my Undersea Gardens, which I operated in the Inner Harbour for many years. This time it will feature an underwater glass tunnel on the ocean floor below the “Kelp Lagoon” through which people will pass from Turkey Head to enter the rest of my ocean world and maritime exposition proposal. Sharing a fibre optic video link with the Neptune Project to extend our surveillance and knowledge of the sea adds to the possibilities on this man-made island I am proposing. Exciting, eh?
Visitors will be able to see not only fish swimming through the kelp forest, but also our resident seals, river otters, and if I can swing it, families of sea otters as well. But best of all, animals and fish will be free to enter or leave this man-made lagoon whenever they wish. And of course, I’d love an octopus too, if one can be persuaded to take up residence within the rocks where it can hide. Did you know that some of the largest octopus in the world, some exceeding seven metres in diameter, have been found in nearby Saanich Inlet?
Kris: No, that surprises me! But heck you always were full of information and surprises. But what would persuade all these critters to stay in the vicinity of the Lagoon? And wouldn’t such an exhibition not conflict with the fishing pier you always wanted?
Bob: Food would be provided by divers at key underwater locations, enticing the denizens to swim by the viewing public. As for the fishing pier, it no longer suits my fishing dreams. Besides, some of the animals might get hooked or be distracted from visiting the Lagoon if such were built.
Kris: What inspired you to focus on marine viewing and interpretation this time around?
My Friend the Octopus
Bob: I shouldnever have trapped the orcas, and put them in pens. I feel very bad for the deaths, and the harm I caused. Between you and me, this plan is my penance. But would you believe me if I say that my idea for preserving marine wildlife got kick-started while watching “My Friend the Octopus” on Netflix? That was a great movie that had us all enthralled up here. I recommend it to your Earth friends. But have lots of popcorn, drinks, and a hanky on hand.
Kris:I did not know you guys had TV up there, much less watched it. How did you swing it?
Bob: Not only TV but Surround Sound, Kris! Admittedly, we have a pretty good union representing us Upstairs. The only problem is that our reception is not always the best.
Kris:Is the Seaquarium the extent of your maritime theme?
Bob: Just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The Maritime History exposition might prove just as popular. I see this as a building that would showcase some of the famous boats and the lives of sailors, such as Captain Voss who sailed around the world, starting from Oak Bay – as you might know. There would also be exhibits featuring other famous sailors who departed bravely from our waters, in search of adventure and ocean records. Sailors like Jean Socrates, the oldest woman to circumnavigate, Bert ter Hart, who recently circumnavigated without any GPS, and the late Glenn Wakefield, who did admirably also. And many others, whose exploits will ensure that we do not forget them.
I am told by my angels that the Maritime Museum, which is in the process of moving to its new spacious high-rise location in Langford, would be happy to share many of its artifacts and exhibits if a suitable home could be found within our project. Just picture it – the loan of the Tillicum, the Nuu Chah Nulth canoe that Captain Voss converted into an ocean touring vessel to explore the world, or John Guzzwell’s 22 foot Treka, one of the smallest boats to circumnavigate! They are priceless examples of what might be displayed!
Or how about a dock dedicated to “classic” or “funky” boats that could be enticed to drop in any time of the year, not just when a marine festival comes to town? SALTS, for example, would be interested in displaying its tall ships, as would others in the business of cadet training, or in just showing off their boats. The longer docks I have proposed would open further opportunities for larger boats as well as tour vessels to visit.
This 49 foot craft is a Nuu Chah Nulth vessel, a replica typical of those used in West Coast waters as freighters by the original inhabitants until the late 1800’s. With little effort and expense such a historic vessel would make a great addition for the First Nations’ display described – and even be used for touring the islands, as was once done with this unique craft by the author. Were such a traditional vessel to be fashioned of more durable materials she could serve as the focus of a nautical playground for children, allowing them to set sails, pretend they are paddling or just have lunch with their parents and dream of escape, as I once did and still do…
The total marine ambience
I would not underestimate the popularity of the proposed Amphitheatre and boardwalk. These together with an eclectic mix of floating shops, display areas and activities would enable people to not only hire a boat or be a passenger but to meet, mingle, eat and be entertained in a unique setting by the sea. Add good architectural design, separation from vehicles, and the opportunity to experience marine life and history to this mix, and visitors will have a day’s outing they will cherish.
Kris:Have you thought about the financial and engineering challenges for what you are proposing – especially for building that breakwater, or the buildings on reclaimed land?
Bob: Yes. I have some good angelic advisors up here. These ideas pose much less of a challenge than they did sixty years ago, when I began construction on the Oak Bay Marina, a project just as ambitious and controversial at the time. The science of wave mitigation, for example, is so much better understood, and better technologies are available now. I have also been reassured that the “island” on which the Seaquarium is proposed could be built on a floating structure similar to the pods proposed for the mooring of boats in the bay. And if we were to build the breakwater from rock this could provide a side benefit – habitat for marine life in the bay.
Takaya, lone wolf of the Discovery Chatham Islands
Kris:I notice that the major viewpoint next to your Sea World is named for Takaya, the lone wolf of the Discovery Chatham Islands.
Bob: Yes indeed. I cried when I heard he was shot. Just like Chief Robert Sam of the Songhees, I would like to think that this wolf and I were kindred spirits. It’s the least I could do to honour him, and he would be tickled that my proposed island is to be named after him.
Kris:What about the Songhees, and their historic connection with these waters? Don’t we owe them one?
Bob: Their involvement and that of the Esquimalt Nation will be essential to the success of our project. That’s why I have set aside a key location next to the Kelp Lagoon to display their history and their culture. Hopefully their majestic ocean-going canoes could be part of this display. It could also be a convenient place from where the Songhees could operate tours to their islands.
But we can’t do these and other ideas our Dream Team has presented if we cannot accommodate future visitors who will be attracted by the new facilities and attractions, especially those who come in boats, and need a place to moor or anchor in Oak Bay, both of which are in short supply.
Anchoring is even less of an option as private mooring buoys and rafts in Oak Bay monopolize these waters. It is a problem which is getting worse, not only here but all over. If we expect to continue to find any room in the few safe havens which exist along our coast, and to continue to enjoy the cruising life, it behooves us to find solutions in our own backyard first, and hope others will do the same. If not, the future of cruising our beautiful West Coast is at stake and we will have to trailer our boats everywhere we wish to go.
Kris: I gather you have another plan, to help solve this problem?
Bob: Yes. It is my Shared Moorage Concept. I propose that a portion of these waters be set aside for visitor use. This would enable boaters to visit during the summer as well as suiting those requiring longer term mooring during the off-season. In the short term, mooring balls should suffice. As more space is needed, I have developed a more efficient form of anchoring involving floating rafts or “pods”. This would enable 6 boats or more to be moored “Med style” to each anchored pod (Figs 3 & 4). A unique anchoring system developed by SeaFloatech would minimize harm to the ocean floor.
Note also my proposal for providing a dinghy dock for these visitors, and last but not least, a Pump Out and recycling facilities for all boaters. These facilities are long overdue. In any event, there has to be some regulation and a code of conduct to ensure that people anchoring in the bay do not spoil it for others. And the sooner we do this, the better, as every season we have derelicts to contend with, and damage caused both to other boats and to the fragile environment!
Kris:What about those who have moorings in the bay now, and the future of liveaboards?
Bob: It will take time to figure out how best to proceed, how much of the bay might be shared, and how. We cannot ride roughshod over those who have spent money to anchor here, when the rules were never made apparent, and self governing attempts have all failed. A program of acquisition and relocation will need to be worked out sensitively with the mooring community, with coordination by the District.
As for the liveaboards, I feel they should continue to be a part of our marine community. Their presence in strategic areas of the marina and the bay can help with safety and security. With training, some could even be deputized to collect fees, provide information, and be a friendly face and a helping hand to visiting boaters.
Kris: Why has no initiative or plan to develop the potential for the Oak Bay Marina been undertaken earlier?
Bob:You figure. The technology and the legal tools are there, but the imagination and the will for some reason are lacking. I think the Oak Bay Marine Group or whoever takes over would be open to managing this proposed moorage for the short term. But if all goes as I think will be necessary, we might need some kind of harbour authority and coordinating plan prepared for this entire bay.
Gotta go! Boss just paged me. Give my love to my family, and to the good folks of Oak Bay. Never had the chance to properly say goodbye. And tight lines to all!
Kris:When will I see you again?
Bob: Not sure. My Cloud Miles have run out.
In a blinding flash, Bob and his heavenly entourage were gone. And I was left with some ruffled feathers, this golden binder of his, and a big job to do!
Apologies to those that did not receive this last Xmas Eve when it was first presented ! Apparently we were running late that night and this binder was inadvertently left undiscovered in the sled. Sincerely, Kris …
The Dream Team Needs You!
If you want to improve upon our version of a Maritime Heritage destination for Oak Bay and make this dream happen, please contact us. There is no better chance to get involved with the Dream Team than now!
Kris Kringle A.K.A. Al Lubkowski (Coordinator of The Dream Team)
Coordinator of the Dream Team. Please contact me, if you like this vision.
Bob Wright established a chain of fishing lodges, resorts and marinas across the West Coast and in far flung places such as the Caribbean. His trapping of Orcas, selling them and putting them on display caused much controversy. At one time his Oak Bay Marine Group was recognized as the largest fishing and marine operation in the World. Bob left $11 million to the Centre for Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, at the University of Victoria when he died in 2013.
Al Lubkowski has worked at many levels of government and in consulting roles across Canada and the Territories, including projects for First nations. Al was the former Townsite Planner for Parks Canada. In recent years he has operated eco-tours with his company Caribbean Expeditions in Belize, C.A. and with Blackfish Wilderness out of Victoria Harbour and Oak Bay. Al is familiar with Bob Wright, having discussed the relocation of his UnderSea Gardens to another site in a similar project he was trying to achieve located adjacent to downtown Victoria (Rock Bay) and involving other partners.
This Saturday, November 28th, I will be voting for Ben Maartman to be our new Regional Director in Area H of the CVRD. I have known him for five years, and I thought I’d share the reasons why I’m voting for him.