It is on my early morning walks – Uplands Park, Cattle Point, Willows Promenade – that I feel the greatest connection with this wonderful landscape that I am privileged to call home. But, with only 5% of Vancouver Island’s Garry Oak Ecosystem remaining, I wonder if future generations will enjoy the same privilege. I am reminded of a quote by Russel Means “In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet”.
Russell Charles Means (1939 – 2012) was an Oglala Lakota activist for the rights of American Indian people, libertarian political activist, actor, writer, and musician. Means spoke out on issues related to the destruction of the planet for monetary gain, and on the need for people to communicate through spoken word.
On Development, Means stated, “Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here, the way victory and freedom are used to justify butchery in the dehumanization process….. Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no sense of loss in all this. After all, their philosophers have despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining material.”
On dialogue, Means says “My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.”
Harsh words perhaps, but protection of the planet and demands for open government prevail today.
Fast forward to the present, and I listen to the remarkable wisdom of Oak Bay resident Marion Cumming. Addressing Council in September, 2014, Ms. Cumming said “that it would be lovely to see affordable housing but not growth for the sake of growth.” Most recently Ms. Cumming advised Oak Bay Council on dangers of removing vegetation and blasting on steep slopes. An advocate for protection of heritage and the environment, Ms. Cumming is a member of Oak Bay’s Heritage Committee. Her words are echoed by many Oak Bay residents who have come forward to voice concerns about long term impacts of development, and the need for improved communication between residents and Council.
Oak Bay is blessed with a rare, but endangered ecosystem. Residents who speak passionately about protecting Oak Bay’s natural and built heritage may help us avoid ‘virtuous destruction’. They want the legacy to survive for future generations.