Don’t Grow Up, It’s a Trap
Being a kid without a care in the world was great. Adulting kinda sucks sometimes, but it doesn’t have to. With age and wisdom comes influence and power. We can now help design the world we want our grandchildren to live in.
Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News
I grew up in the 1980s in beautiful British Columbia, not far from Vancouver. I never thought much about it at the time, but looking back, I think my neighbourhood might have been the best place on the planet to grow up. It was awesome; I remember long summer days riding bikes with my friends, building forts in the hundreds of hectares of forest at the end of our road, and attempting to sail a raft on the small pond hidden away in the forest. A pack of about a dozen kids from about four grades dropped in and out of the group, depending on if their families went away over the summer. Summers seemed endless and untainted, full of long warm days, freshly picked berries from the forest and fruit and vegetables from my mom’s garden, still warm from the sun. We had no care in the world; leave the house in the morning, and come home at dark. If a parent wondered where we were, they’d call a neighbour or walk outside and call for us. Sometimes a parental message would be relayed by groups of kids on bikes; so and so’s mom wants them home for dinner. The message would eventually reach us.
Then we grew up. We got cars to replace the bikes we’d always leave lying around, and we began wearing watches to ensure we were home on time. Urgency began to pervade our academic performance at school. We had an academic performance at all. We got jobs, met people important enough to us that we actually wanted to be accountable, and some of us even had kids of our own. Somehow, the wonder of childhood was replaced by something responsible. Something pragmatic.
I began to be aware of the cost of human progress when I was still in my mid-teens. I became aware of nature’s inevitable and necessary destruction to benefit humans and the futility of resistance, the futility of even talking about it.
Then it Hit Me
The first time it hit me was when I was about 12. It seems odd to be nostalgic about a quiet old country road we used to walk beside on the way to school, but it was the best part of my school day when I was small. I would often catch native stickleback fish from the ditch beside it to populate a pond in our garden at home. In the autumn, we would sometimes see coho salmon in the deeper sections, 10-pound fish instinctively returning to spawn in a river that no longer really existed.
The rural gravel road we used to play beside got paved and widened. Trucks and commuters began to use it as a shortcut, and soon it was too busy to walk beside safely. Our parents organized driving groups for us instead.
The bulldozers came to my neighbourhood not long after the road was paved. They pushed through the wild forests near my childhood home, cutting and limbing the large trees and driving remnants of smaller ones into great piles, only to be burned in fires that lasted for days. Then came the subdivision for executive-style homes. All around my little paradise, rivers were being straightened and canalled, wetlands were drained for shopping malls.
But There’s Always Hope
It’s quite overwhelming to observe and is rarely articulated for fear of sounding like some sort of immature, naive, wannabe anarchist. Well-organized, well-funded pro-development groups have used PR and any other means possible to portray those of us who would protect the environment in a bad light. But now, other people are starting to become aware that despite being portrayed as fringe outsiders, there are actually a lot of us. There are many of us who vote, pay taxes and make purchases with our hard-earned money.
Thankfully, due to parents that taught me and my sister the value of nature and the importance of respecting it, I managed only to go a few decades pretending it was OK to be a mega-consumer. I managed to get off that assembly line of consumption; the one where we work, consume, retire, and die, all for the benefit of a few rich old men and endless economic growth.
Thankfully, others are realizing that we are all responsible for how our future generations will live on the planet. We are flexing our political muscle and the politicians are starting to learn.
New laws are being passed to limit carbon emissions and protect biodiversity. The governments that sign these international agreements are being held accountable. They, in turn, put pressure on civic and other levels of government to make the changes that are necessary.
Reasons for Hope
A few recent news articles I read show that, finally, in the area where I grew up, things are getting less bad.
BC is a resource-rich economy, and many of its citizens are employed in the forestry industry. It is vital to their well-being that the industry be protected. The government of British Columbia recently mapped the remaining old-growth forests in the province and created new, stricter laws governing their protection. The critical point being that the intent of the law is followed, not the letter of the law, and it incentivizes logging companies to do things the right way. The industry will need to change from its traditional role as a high-volume, low-value raw log supplier to a lower-volume, high-value producer shipping finished wood products. In this way, the industry could continue indefinitely and bring sustainable jobs to the region.
Even near major cities like Vancouver, many areas are threatened by development. With some of the highest demand for land and some of the most valuable property in North America, most of the region has been parcelled off. The little that is still unaltered is shrinking daily. Fortunately, people who care live here too, and through the support of one billionaire philanthropist, they have managed to save a couple of essential areas from development. The environmental organization Age of Union has purchased and donated land strategically to protect them from development. The organization was founded by a Canadian businessman and has protected land worldwide and also right here in BC. I am glad to say that their efforts have protected the Upper Pitt Valley and French Creek Estuary two unique and important areas for local biodiversity.
I now live in a different city from where I grew up. A couple of times a year, I drive down the road where we used to walk and play so many years ago. In the years since the road has gotten even wider; it now has four divided lanes. Every time I drive by, I think of the fish in the ditch and wonder how many still reside there. I think of those long summer days of my childhood and how lucky we all were to have lived when the earth was still healthy, the summer sun not too hot.
Every time I do, it makes me even more sure that what we do is right. It makes me even more determined to ensure that my descendants enjoy it too.