*Afterthought #103—A Solid “C”

An orca breaches in view of Mount Baker (Koma Kulshan) near the San Juan Islands in the Salish Sea. The name of the sea recognizes the use of these waterways for thousands of years by First Nations people and was officially adopted in the United States in 2009 and a year later in Canada. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

In the early 1970s, people began to worry about the negative effect of oil tankers from Alaska passing through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to refineries in the U.S. and Canada. In that era, an average of 24.5 large oil spills occurred annually worldwide.  Some environmental scientists, like Bert Webber, believed using a single “brand” for all of Washington State’s inland marine waters would encourage state residents to identify more strongly with the need for its protection. 

Webber and others also expected a new name would bring attention to the ecosystem interrelationships of the inland marine waters of both British Columbia and Washington State. Additionally, tribes around the inland sea share a historical connection with the Coast Salish language. The name Salish Sea acknowledges the first peoples who live on the shores of this inland sea. Webber hoped, in 2009 when the name was adopted, it would bestow a sense of place that puts the area’s natural resource issues in better perspective.

Since 2000, tribal leaders from both British Columbia and Washington State have recognized the need to work together to protect and restore the health of this estuarine ecosystem, which has been damaged by the eight million people living around its perimeter.  However, according to a recent report by CBC News, scientists and First Nations believe that goal hasn’t been fully realized, and the waterway is suffering because of it.

According to the report, environmental policy in Canada and the U.S. are sometimes connected. However, Bert Webber says collaboration has been difficult during the pandemic border closures.

“Telephone conversations and emails back and forth are just not the same as being able to come together in creative groups of people that are talking about common problems, and working toward common solutions,” says Webber.

Joe Gaydos, science director at SeaDoc Society, says while there is much collaboration between scientists and First Nations in both countries, but that decreases the further up the political ladder you go.

“I would give us a solid C, on an A through B, C, D, E scale,” Joe said on the CBC radio show, All Points West“[Governments] want to be doing better, but the systems are just not really set up well to work together.”  

Gaydos’s work revolves around endangered specie,s and he says the impacts of a lack of policy on marine life are “potentially huge.” He hasn’t seen much urgency reflected in government policies.

“[The governments] don’t always think on both sides of the border. They don’t always consider the tribal and First Nations implications of things they’re doing,” says Gaydos. “We’re all linked together. If we don’t put that in the forefront, we’re all going to suffer.”

Suffer—there’s plenty of that going around these days.

Mt. Douglas beach in Saanich, B.C. 
(Mike McArthur/CBC News)

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets.


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