Earth Day 2021 — It’s time to wake up and smell the flowers | George Le Masurier photo
Our Earth Day announcement: forgoing journalism to spend more time with family, nature
Today is Earth Day. It’s a fitting time to explain the recent absence of new journalism projects on Decafnation and what to expect in the future.
For the past two months, I’ve been planting trees — 50 of them to be exact. Most are Cypress Leylandii that will provide a border of sorts for a small, natural forested area on our property that we’re trying to keep intact. But the list also includes apple and pear trees and other coniferous varieties, some bamboo and evergreen shrubs.
I’ve found this work pleasantly satisfying on many levels, and it has not left room for journalism. Doing the research for an in-depth series of articles is time-consuming and I never aspired for Decafnation to become a full-time endeavour. But the need for quality reporting here has been that dire.
Since 2016, Decafnation has tried to add some depth to the paper-thin reporting in the local Comox Valley newspaper and radio stations. We’ve focused our attention on stories like the seriously flawed 2014-15 plan to patch the sewer pipes serving mainly Courtenay and Comox and how local governments have and are still failing to address the negative effects of dumping toxic stormwater into our waterways.
We uncovered the botched planning of the new Comox Valley Hospital and the ongoing travesty of the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s myopic plan to reduce onsite health care services in the North Island.
We shone a bright light on the out-of-control Economic Development Society.
We went deep during the 2018 local government elections and endorsed progressive candidates that brought noticeable change to Courtenay, the regional district and Cumberland, but not to Comox.
We have championed a call for the Town of Comox to reconcile its moral and legal obligations to their trust agreement with Hamilton Mack Laing. We explored the need for improved sexual health education in District 71 schools. And we’ve written about interesting people such as Father Charles Brandt, Dr Jonathan Page and more.
But we won’t be doing those types of stories any more.
During this last year, we’ve abided by the provincial health orders to stay home and that has meant not seeing our children or grandchildren. This has created not just a longing for family, but also the realization that being well into the seventh decade of life, our time is short. How to use what’s left of it has become a priority.
We will still publish commentary on important issues and plan to play an active role in the 2022 local government elections. And we’ll try to accommodate people and organizations who want to submit articles for publication here, so you will still see an email newsletter from us every so often.
But for now, the woodpecker working on the fallen tree in our mini-forest is calling me back outside.
DO WE STILL NEED EARTH DAY?
Millions of people participated in a first-ever annual grassroots demonstration 51 years ago on April 22 to raise awareness about environmental concerns. They called it Earth Day.
At the time, in 1970, the message focused on saving the whales and cleaning the trash out of rivers. The public service announcements of the era featured an American Indian saddened to find garbage in a once-pristine river full of fish and a cute owl that said, “Give a hoot – don’t pollute.”
Then everyone went home and squirted chlorofluorocarbons inside their ovens and into their hair, which eventually ate holes in our atmosphere’s ozone layer. We turned on electrical lights powered by coal. We clear cut forests. We dumped the toxic rainwater washing over polluted streets and parking lots into our waterways that killed the fish and, we now know, is also killing the whales.
The sorry list goes on and on. There was so much we didn’t know then about how we were degrading the Earth.
The popular adage “Reuse-Recycle-Reduce” that every elementary student knows so well today was a foreign concept when Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, was considered a radical. Nelson’s genius was to capture the youthful anti-Vietnam War energy and shift it to environmental causes.
Today, our knowledge of how human activity has pushed irreversible climate change to the brink and threatens our own existence has increased a thousand-fold since 1970. So do we still need an Earth Day?
Unfortunately, yes, we do more than ever.
Even though we have made great strides toward reducing some of the ways humans harm Earth’s life-sustaining ecosystem, the really hard work lies ahead. Reducing the number of carbon emissions necessary to head off a catastrophic future of unbearable heat and diminished clean water will require a global effort and a common purpose.
But here we are, a half-century since Gaylord Nelson rang the environmental alarm bell, and considering the big picture, not much has changed. Humankind has not united and acted with urgency. Our economic system based on everlasting growth won’t allow it.
Some experts believe it is too late to reverse the effects of climate change and that humans must now learn to adapt in order to survive.
In his review of a new book, Earth 2020: An insider’s guide to a rapidly changing planet, Dr. Loys Maingon, a Comox Valley naturalist and biologist, writes:
“This is not a really optimistic book. Nor should it be. The realism laid out by climatologist Tapio Schneider in his essay “Climate 1970-2020” is exemplary. He pulls no punches and makes it clear to the reader that there will be none of the quick fixes that politicians promise, or have been promising for the past four decades.
“Schneider makes the case that we have shut doors and burnt bridges. We have reached a turning point from which there is now no going back. We will need to adapt. As Schneider point out, “Mitigation was the focus of 1992.” 28 years on, the mitigation bridge is burnt down.
“We need to confront severe changes, because “limiting global warming to 2C above industrial levels will be extremely challenging, if not impossible.”
So, yes, we still need a day to celebrate the progress we have made and to create awareness of the unimaginable challenges that lie ahead. And, by the way, the whales are still in danger.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
The Week: Give us full transparency when paid ‘volunteers’ work with CV students
Faith-based volunteers can contribute positively to the educational experience in our public schools but everyone must be perfectly clear about who they are, what they can and cannot do and school administrators must monitor their activity closely and consistently
What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?
A Comox Valley developer is suing the Town of Comox because his permits to cut down trees and build more single-family homes haven’t been issued as fast as he’s wanted and because the town wants a wider walking trail through the property
The Week: Ken Grant fined by Elections BC and Parksville confronted by development, water issues
Another Comox Councillor was fined by Elections BC for violating BC elections laws, plus Parksville’s water supply is unable to meet provincial requirements for summer water flow in the Englishman River let alone provide water for a proposed 800-unit development
THE WEEK: As Puntledge River goes lower, Colorado drinking recycled wastewater
A serious fall drought has reduced flows in the Puntledge River, shutting down hydroelectric power generation for the first time in 55 years. Meanwhile, many states eye sending treated wastewater to kitchen taps
THE WEEK: Let the people have a larger voice at Comox Valley council meetings
Making it easier for citizens to speak directly to municipal councils might increase public interest in local government, which in turn might encourage more registered voters to actually cast a ballot
The Week: Comox, Cumberland appointments pass, but no word on Courtenay … yet
Cumberland and Comox municipal councils approve their mayor’s annual appointments, but Courtenay was a no show at its inaugural meeting. Is there conflict behind the scenes?
The Week: Valley councils begin new terms, but will Comox ignore voters?
Dr. Jonathan Kerr topped the polls with voters, but will that resonate at the Comox Town Council as it is poised to approve new Mayor Nicole Minions’ appointments and assignments?
THE WEEK: Water supplies are good, fireworks are bad and where Daniel Arbour lives
Despite the long drought this summer, Comox Valley water system supplies have not been threatened; the BC Wildfire Service has banned fireworks this year and clarifying Daniel Arbour’s place of residence
Let’s put one of the craziest Comox Valley elections into the history book, and then close it
It was weird. But when the sun rose on Oct. 16, Comox Valley voters had made it clear they liked the direction charted by our local governments. In the municipalities, they elected all but two incumbents. In most races, the vote was a definite pat on the back for a job well done.
A few random items as the 2022 election comes to a close
Long-time public official Bronco Moncrief dies, Manno Theos hangs out in Greece, and Daniel Arbour reacts to lies about his campaign finances
George, I am not sure about that you will really be downing the tools. Your work is essential to this community. We have no real local news reporting. In the last 5 years you have been an engine of positive change by bringing to light a lot of the Comox Valley’s hidden ills. Scipio Africanus famously tried something like this after the Punic Wars. As I understand it, he found out that the call of social obligations to future generations always outweigh the lure of pastoral retreat. Enjoy the retreat but remember the call.
George, thanks for your work. I will keep this short, but I am a great believer in thanks – and your work has made a difference. Maybe you will write about that woodpecker? Best.
Congratulations, George, on all you have accomplished! I have appreciated your insightful journalism. I’m glad that you’re finding ways to relax and connect with nature, also very important. You will be missed, but, I was also happy to see that we can still expect occasional commentary from you.
Enjoy the trees and birdsong!
George – Thank you for sharing your passion for journalism and in-depth sleuthing. Clearly, we’ve all benefited, even in our debates, and you can certainly take credit for instigating some much-needed change in the Comox Valley. Bravo! As a final request, could you please identify a few “budding” journalists (young or old) and pass along to them your investigative techniques? There’s an art to “digging deep” and getting people to share critical information. I hope you’ll gift someone with those secret ingredients. All the best – Sherril Guthrie
Thank you George! I’ve read your articles since the Green Sheet days, when I was going to school with your kids and reading your stories about them. Your work is insightful, honest, well researched, and always educated us about what was happening in the Valley. I truly appreciate that you helped us highlight the need for better and more sexual health education in SD71, and that you went above and beyond to shine a light on behalf of parents and students. I’ll be looking forward to whatever you write, whenever you write it, and I’ll see you around.
The words “thank you” seem so inadequate to express the appreciation that I and readers of Decafination have for the tremendous contribution that George Le Masurier has made to our political life in the Comox Valley! The slogan of the Washington Post, “Democracy dies in Darkness” is so true! Without George’s relentless pursuit and exposure of the truth, we would remain in darkness about many of the issues of concern to our community. We have been so fortunate to have had a champion truth-teller like George casting a bright light on local issues.
Although I will miss George’s insightful articles, I am happy to wish him all the best with the time that remains to him on this earth, to experience the deep satisfaction of connecting with the natural world and with his extended family. God bless you, George!
Congratulations George, you have more than earned your time for a few years of peace, relaxation and enjoyment in the garden, forest or wherever you go.
As one who first knew you from your arrival as “Ace Reporter” at the Green Sheet and on a personal level on many happy social occasions over the years, I can attest to your unique exceptional ability within investigative journalism as well as your joie de vie! Thanks for returning to the Comox Valley, our chosen home.
Wise decisions! I just hope that your wonderful work has inspired not only younger journalists but also community members to be more aware, educated and involved in what is happening around us. Thank you for your work.
George, thank you for the work you’ve done, and for the opportunities Decafnation provided for community journalists. I hope someone from a younger generation will step into the space your leaving has created.
Thanks George – Decafnation has certainly been a boon to the Valley and shown what can be done, hopefully inspiring others to follow suit. Credible journalism can make a difference, and you have. I hope you enjoy this time and thanks again.
Thank you George and congratulations on a wise decision. Your journalism will be sorely missed. I have always been in awe of your ability to do such thorough in-depth research and produce a well written article in a timely manner. Time with forest and family is always time well spent.
George, Thanks for all of your work, including reprinting this tribute to Wayne from Roger. I completely understand and support your decision to refocus your energy on family and looking after your own backyard. Life is a limited-time-offer for sure.
A sad but completely understandable announcement. Life indeed is short, and you’ve already contributed a lot with your journalism here. It’s always been a bright point to see Decafnation show up in my inbox.
Thanks for everything so far. Enjoy the forest and your family!
George, you set such a fine example of what journalism can do for a community and we will be poorer for our loss. This won’t be easy for you as the impulse to cover newsworthy events will be hard to resist. Journalism is a calling, almost a way of life, as you well know. I look forward to your future contributions and wish you and your family all the best.
George….I have truly enjoyed reading every article since I returned to the Valley and am sad to hear that there will be a change but am pleased that you are going to sit back, and enjoy your time with your family. Good for you for stepping back and taking time for you. Enjoy watching the trees grow, digging in the soil or whatever the mood tells you to do. Thanks again.
George- Thank you for your insightful commentary, humour, and for shedding light on important issues. You are such a great writer and I always look forward to finding out what’s really going on.
I can picture you out in the back planting trees and listening to the birds….good for the soul and for the earth too….and by the way I always thought Earth day was in honour of my birthday…Thank you for all your hard work.
George, while I regret your decision, the reportage in the Valley being what it is, as a resident of similar age, I certainly understand it. I have enjoyed Decafnation for some time and will certainly miss its presence among us. All the best to you in your future endeavors.
Ah, George…Listen. I’ve got about a cord of wood that needs splitting. It would fit right in with your plan. Thanks for your in depth reporting of the Comox Valley. We could use some of that on Hornby.
George, you will be missed. Thank you for your contribution. In a time when the general state of discourse deteriorated, you lifted it up.
George, sad news for us news hounds but great news for you. I’ve recently retired for the third, and hopefully last time, so I totally get where you’re coming from.
I’ve enjoyed reading all your articles particularly those about CVEDS and its odd existence. Enjoy your mini forest ( I’m envious) and keep an eye on those leylandii cypress, ohh but they’re vigorous!
George….I have long admired your efforts and thoughtful commentary on our community.
And now I admire your decision to step back a step or two and take some time for yourself.
Stay safe, but when the mood strikes you, don’t hesitate to get back on the keyboard and
rattle a few different kinds of branches.