Nature Heals

By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

If three years ago you told me that I would be getting letters from strangers thanking me for my work, I might have laughed. I doubt I would have thought it possible to have reached so many people directly. The truth is, three years ago I was a typical clean tech businessman, traveling by air to faraway places several times per year. I would blow through a typical person’s annual carbon budget in the first few months, all under the assumption that the results of my work would offset the carbon created by traveling. Rationalization at its finest.

My first interview on BBC World News at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Image courtesy Grant B.

Three years later, I now get these letters on a weekly basis. Sometimes they are just a quick note to say hi, other times they ask about my thoughts on a story that was posted, and then there are the ones that really move me. These are the ones where I am reminded that this project, the Happy Eco News, is probably the biggest gift I have ever been given. These are the people so overwhelmed by the situation in the world right now that they have all but given up. The ones who struggle to find meaning while grey old men actively look for ways to continue to get rich, their actions destroying the planet we all share. The fears are not unfounded; if you look around, the situation can seem awfully dire. The eco-anxiety is real. These are letters from people who tell me that they struggle and find fear everywhere they look, some even unable to look at the beauty of nature because it reminds them of what we may lose. The fear and anxiety are ever-present, except when they get the Happy Eco News. Some have said it is only when reading the Top 5 Newsletter that they get a reprieve.

I think probably everyone reading these words feels varying amounts of this fear, and my hope is that maybe together we can find comfort. Maybe for a few minutes a week, I can help lift some of that weight and I am honoured to do it.

So, I have to say thank you for the letters and messages, please keep them coming. They are the fuel that keeps me going. The people I meet are the best part of this project.

I am typing this from a small farm near Hollyhock Retreat on Cortes Island. Cortes is located at the entrance to Desolation Sound on the BC coast, but the area is anything but desolate. When I come here, I see a rich and diverse landscape of mature trees, verdant rainforests filled with native ferns, sandy beaches, and of course the ocean. Cortes is off the beaten path; it takes three ferries and some determination to get here from my home (especially while driving an EV). It is the perfect place to unwind and heal, soothe, relax, and dissipate my own eco-anxiety. The people who live here are fiercely protective of their way of life and I am lucky to have family among them. Cortes is a paradise, and it is a place I hope to continue to visit for many years in the future.

Cortes Island, BC. Smelt Bay Park and Marina Island behind. Image courtesy Grant B.

But it really wasn’t that long ago when there were dark times for the environment even here in this paradise. Not just here of course, but in the entire area. In the early part of the last century, the loggers found this island, and others like it. In the mindset prevalent at the time, the island was just one of many that had standing timber. This timber resource was harvested, and the island almost completely denuded of all standing trees. Photos of the area at that time show an island naked except for a few shacks, some small, low-value trees and the stumps of others many feet in diameter; trees that were several hundred years old when they were fallen. Their stumps are still visible in the second-growth forests even today. Whales are seen regularly here, but in the 1800s these magnificent creatures were hunted almost to extinction. A local harbour is called Whaletown in reference to this history.

Only a few trees are left in Whlaetown, Cortes Island, BC circa 1940. Image courtesy Museum at Campbell River.

But nature heals. 80 years later the trees are back and the forests are again healthy. While the trees are not a big as they once were, the island is again rich with diverse wildlife, including deer, bears, wolves, cougars, and dozens of species of birds. The oceans today are teeming with sea mammals; seals, sea lions, humpback whales, grey whales, orcas, porpoises, and dolphins are commonly seen in these waters, often curiously interacting with the boats that work and play in the area.

The lush forest on Cortes Island today, 80 years after the trees fell. Image courtesy Grant B.

If nature can heal itself, then so too can we humans heal ourselves

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