Editor’s Message: FEET FIRST
Let’s not kid ourselves, pretty much every issue of Mountain Life is “The Backyard Issue,” that’s kind of the point of it all—we love the Coast Mountains and the people who live, work, play, and adventure here.
It’s not always easy to create a sustainable life in this part of the country, but the chaos of the past year has definitely driven home just how lucky we are to be able to escape into these mountains, drift away on the waterways, get lost in these incredible forests, and soak in that fresh air and pure mountain freedom.
But let’s get one thing straight—freedom isn’t free. It comes with a responsibility to the places we love. Because the Coast Mountains are not my backyard nor are they your backyard—if anything, they’re a communal place that have been here long before us and will be here long after. Take Skwxwu7mesh (you know that word from the highway signs in Squamish), but Skwxwu7mesh is the name of a people, not a place. More than that, it’s a name given to a people BY a place—specifically by the river that provides the people with the water they depend on. As human beings, we belong to these lands, not the other way around.
Let’s also remember, we not only share this ridiculously amazing part of the planet with each other, but with the future as well. Which means it’s on all of us to take the best possible care of it, and as more people begin realizing the value of getting outside, it’s our job to ensure everyone understands how that value extends far beyond themselves.
British Columbia is home to one-quarter of all the temperate rainforest IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, and most of that is along the Pacific Coast. Think of it this way: if the planet had lungs, our backyard would be half of one of them. Ever seen someone puncture a lung? That’s the earth without temperate rainforests.
As well, coastal BC is home to 78 per cent of the variety of mammals in the province (and 66 per cent live only on the coast), plus 64 per cent of all bird species that breed in BC. This region is also home to 67 per cent of the province’s fish species, and 69 per cent of the reptiles (nice). Don’t even get me started on lichens, mosses, fungi, and old-growth forest (or the current provincial government’s keen desire to destroy them). Pound for pound, the forests in our backyard are among the most (if not the most) ecologically diverse places on the planet.
And yet, for all the hive knowledge/community building of the internet and the proliferation of eco-conscious everything, our backyard is seeing more abandoned campfires, more tire tracks in riparian zones, more beer cans in the local lakes, and more garbage piled at the trailhead than any other time in the history of life itself. Are we collectively “funning” our favourite place to death under a faux “unplug-to-reconnect” ideology that’s really just an ego-driven Instagram photo op?
It certainly seems that way. So this summer, as we delve even deeper into “our” backyard, let’s pledge to leave it in better shape than we found it (which may require picking up after others, some volunteer work, or donations to organizations fighting the good fight), and vow not to sit idly by while someone else disrespects the land. If we leave any trace this summer, let’s make it the shared understanding that these Coast Mountains, our backyard, are an incredible paradise of beauty and adventure, but also a complex and interconnected matrix of life. I guess the take-home message here is one as old as civilization itself: don’t shit where you eat (or breathe, or play, or raise your children) and if the winds of progress blow someone else’s trash over the fence and into the backyard, it’s up to all of us to clean it up. —Feet Banks
Footnote: I need to give a big shout-out to friend (and ML contributor) Kieran Brownie for his input and excellent discussion on the link between people and place. As well, to Heather Paul at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler and Chepximiya Siyam (Chief Janice George) of the Squamish Nation. These conversations are essential to creating a magazine that holds true to this area. Thank you!
The Summer 2021 issue of ML Coast Mountains also features local Search and Rescue discussing the increase in outdoor enthusiasm, some of the local heroes keeping Sea to Sky lakes clean, First Nations trail-building, old-school adventure by horseback, an island oasis, Jon Turk on Leaving No Trace, Brett Tippie’s second ML column, and all the stunning BC imagery you love. The mag hits the streets today—come and get it!