I'm not the only one to notice or comment on this, but being afforded the luxury of column real estate over the confines of "Letters to the Editor," I've been saving it up. Many issues currently being discussed around town bring it to mind, but last week's news of a bear cub dying because of Ironman was a tipping point. Whistler, we have a problem: by increasingly inviting and expanding events in the Sea to Sky corridor that treat its spectacular environment and wild nature as a mere sideshow, we are slowly, perhaps inevitably, ceasing to fully appreciate it ourselves, and by consequence failing to provide the deserved and required duty of care.
First, a sedated bear cub suffocating under its sedated mother was a sad and perhaps unforeseeable accident. But the prevailing sentiment (as ascertained via Facebook, great arbiter of social commentary) is that no bear should need be tranquilized as the result of an event; i.e., the circumstances of such a necessity should never occur — especially given similar issues in the past. Bear dogs could be employed, but easier still would be re-routing the course through non-bear habitat. Though many Ironpeople undoubtedly appreciate that they get to compete in a place like Whistler, local punditry excoriates the disruptions imposed by the event and its perceived community disconnect, making it impossible to avoid the suspicion that someone, somewhere secretly sees occasional dead wildlife as the cost of whatever the latest euphemism is for growth or progress in a year-round resort, the sad subtext being that the cash flowing in from this event supersedes the life of a bear when, in fact, our default equation should be the opposite.
Another example is the Pemberton Music Festival. While you can't begrudge music festivals' roles as cultural showcase and crucible of youthful hedonism, the lack of respect, humility and reverence for the environment it takes place in is appalling. Though "spectacular setting" is relentlessly parroted by promoters and attendees alike (at least on Instagram), what that means ecologically, biologically, or geologically is not a consideration, making this event little more than a money-grab in a beautiful place that is otherwise seemingly so desperate it will put up with heinous traffic, the conversion of agricultural land to parking lots, a leave-behind garbage dump that stands as a monument to consumerism and disposability, and environmental degradation so widespread outside festival grounds that organizers and village officials have no idea where to even look for it. But don't worry, concerned citizens will spend the entire year clearing it from the woods and rivers and hillsides for them.
It goes on: discarded dog-poop bags along hiking trails, hidden under moss torn from rock where it flourished for 1,000 years so some lazy-ass could feel less guilty for shirking their responsibility to pack out a potential source of disease and watershed contamination; people who likewise leave dioxin-and-bleach-soaked toilet paper languishing in the woods; meatheads who litter the River of Golden Dreams with beer cans and Explorer 200 debris; illegal campers set up at trailheads, abandoned timber sorts, gravel pits and other valley nether-reaches because of lack of camping space and/or reasonable prices elsewhere, leaving behind — almost inconceivably — more garbage than anyone who wasn't raised by sociopaths ever should.
But being upset about a bear, trash, or dog shit isn't enough. Ultimately, none of this should be OK with any of us. And it's not entirely the fault of individuals, who, as victims of bad parenting and lax peer morality, are merely symptomatic of greater societal ills. We live in an age of Nature Deficit Disorder, rabid institutionalized consumerism, and a slow drift away from collective environmental consciousness. We need to rage against the dimming of this light by highlighting the natural values of the corridor, circled into a single, overarching doughnut of sensibility instead of the handful of dedicated Timbits currently attempting to uphold them. If sustainability means more than lip-service here, then valuing the environment it's conducted in should be paramount, informing both our daily lives and our community brand. That entails being more conscious, more fiercely protective, and more vocal about these values. To that end, I'm actively hoping to work with others to pull together a cohesive vision and operative template to celebrate and promote the interplay between a natural environment and the humans who live here and visit. Stay tuned.