BC's most prominent environmental activist, Colleen McCrory's death came so shockingly, -even as I was still assimilating yesterday's bizarre news that she had been given just three days to live, today, suddenly she is gone. Being generally reconciled to the inevitability of human mortality, I hadn't anticipated being so overwhelmed and brought to tears by the death of another friend and mentor, an experience which thankfully, I'm not overly familiar with as yet. But I found myself wracked with sobbing this morning, and now, 12 hours later at midnight, I'm still overwhelmed and don't know quite how I may properly mourn for this most beloved, irreplaceable and inspiring person who passed across my life. Her death is just as sudden and shocking as the death of another hard-core activist friend, dear David White, whose recent passing also came just right out of the blue. The pain of this irreplaceable loss is similar to what one feels witnessing the felling of giant, veteran primaeval trees.
Colleen was not passionate (as rooted in "passive") in the erroneous and frivolous sense in which such imperative energy as hers is often described, -on the contrary, she was a consummate activist leader, -inclusive, patient, respectful, kind and gentle on one hand, ferocious, tenacious, tireless, selfless and uncompromising on the other. Although Colleen was the deputy leader and conscience of the BC Green Party and exerted her powerful influence over all its affairs, she knew that the farcical and corrupt BC political arena was, in reality, a futile forum for forwarding timely and crucial environmental progress. Such palaver forums offer no opportunity for the action which Colleen craved and thrived upon. In spite of its futility and tedium, the political process offered networking opportunities, which Colleen took full advantage of. She was far more radical than the general direction of the BC Greens could allow, and therefore never became a visible face of the party. Instead she accepted an internal leadership role, and worked at dousing the many spotfires which flared up into conflagrations as the passive party executive went about dumbing-down the radical environmentalist message to cater to a more mediocre middle class vote.
Colleen never allowed herself to get sucked into the exclusive power-clique of Robert's Rules experts, professional fund-raisers and policy wonks which tightly controlled the BC Green Party, and always remained amiable and approachable to everyone involved, no matter their rank or state of ostracization. Although she chaired Provincial Council meetings during the two years that I sat as Director-at-Large and always sided with the strident environmentalist contingent, the motions from that quarter were generally out-manoeuvred by the process experts. Although she gave her heart and soul to the effort and worked herself to exhaustion, I know that she despaired about the direction the party was heading. My lesson from Colleen was that the process itself, in spite of its obvious corruption and futility, was nevertheless a useful exploitable effort for networking and forwarding the environmental cause. The Green Party should not necessarily simply strive for victory within the dysfunctional system, but should exploit whatever opportunity that process offered to forward the environmental agenda. What effect could a sprinkling of Green seats in a sea of Gordon Campbell's ever have on the global ecological catastrophe? We don't have the 20 years that it could take to establish an ethical Green powerbase within such a flawed and corrupt system. But elections mobilize people to an extent and there was sufficient mileage in the venture to warrant committing such a huge amount of her precious time.
The last time I talked to Colleen, she was working to breathe some fire back into the moribund British Columbia Environmental Network (BCEN), an organization that she was instrumental in building into a powerful association of BC environmentalists. She was appalled by the BCEN's subsequent devolution into an irrelevant news-forwarding agency with an outdated website drifting rudderless in the doldrums in a veritable Sargasso Sea of stagnation. She was equally appalled by the pathetic collaborationist-compromise over the so-called "Great Bear Rainforest" (GBR), which has been disastrously schismatic, dividing the movement between wealthy corporate envirocrats on one hand, and impoverished grass-roots activists on the other. Amongst her final efforts of which I am aware, she gathered numerous signatories for a Declaration which demanded the total protection of all remaining ancient forest habitat for BC's logging-bothered endangered Mountain caribou. It must be noted that two of the architects of the scandalous GBR deal, Greenpeace and Forest Ethics, which also purport to have Mountain caribou campaigns, have refused to endorse her Declaration. The Declaration, presumably, is offensive to their government and logging partners…
I remember once, after swimming in the opalesque blue-green waters of Slocan Lake, I remarked to an old gentleman sitting on the beach about how gorgeous the water was. His reply was that this was because there weren't many houseboats or muscleboats on the lake, which has been the cause of the despoilment of so many lakes across southern BC. As I thought about what he said, it occurred to me that he was right; I had noticed how comparatively few of such boats were out on the lake and I asked him how that came to be. He said, "Oh, we can thank Colleen McCrory for that." "How so?" I asked. "Well, 20 years back, she worked to get a ban on those types of boats on the lake, but she failed to make her case. So after losing that one," he continued, "she went at it from a different angle and managed to get a ban on any gas docks, a ban which holds to this day." I couldn't quite see his point. "Well, those boats suck a huge lot of gas, and she figured that people would be too lazy to lug the multiple jerry cans down to fuel their boats. And she was right, so they go elsewhere," he concluded.
The loss of Colleen McCrory is an inconceivably heartbreaking tragedy, not only for her family and friends, but for all of this Earth's rapidly dwindling wild places. Few are prepared to sacrifice all and work themselves to the bone for their issues as did Colleen. Few can persevere against the hounding, impoverishment and ridicule such uncompromising effort brings. She worked to exploit every possible opportunity to forward environmental progress and charged down any lead which might have opened an opportunity. She knew everybody involved in the movement and worked unceasingly to get them focussed and working together. In spite of her heroic efforts and considerable achievements, I suspect that she must have passed away profoundly disappointed with the current state of the movement. The accomplishments for which she is rightly renowned all came during the heady days when our forest protection movement was once active, strong and productive, well before the inexorable squandering of its great power by today's large sell-out compromise-collaborationist professional fund-raising organizations.
I must close this sorry obituary by expressing my outrage about the final insult that Colleen has suffered even in death. Gordon Campbell has unethically appropriated and exploited Colleen's death in a vain attempt to greenwash his hideous green-as-an-oil-slick, Johnny-come-lately, turn-over-a-new-leaf image (PR-scam reproduced below). Gordo had nothing but sneering contempt for Colleen's efforts to protect wilderness while she lived. Phoney, insincere post-mortem accolades from Gordo, -that paramount grovelling logging-lackey scourge, who oversees the most voracious destruction of forest ever seen on planet Earth, would have been utter anathema to dear Colleen. Colleen had it wrong when she referred to BC as the "Brazil of the North," when Brazil, for all its crude and wanton destruction of forests is still a stellar example of moderation and ethics compared with the ecological holocaust going on here under Gordo's gruesome guidance.
So let's start paying respect to Colleen McCrory by getting that drunken piece of Neocon hypocrisy pried away from the wheel of our province. There appears to be an opportunity now in the current BC Green Party leadership race to reactivate the party. Let's start finding new ways to do and end-run around the system, networking together against those despicable forces which are destroying our Earth instead of collaborating secretly with them. We should emulate Colleen's stellar activist example so that her magnificent legacy may not come to naught and that she may rest in peace.
July 3, 2007
Province Mourns the Loss of Colleen McCrory
Victoria – Premier Gordon Campbell issued the following statement upon learning of the sudden passing of Colleen McCrory.
"British Columbians mourn the loss of one of B.C.'s most distinguished environmentalists, Colleen McCrory. Over her lifetime, Colleen demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to the well-being of B.C.'s wilderness and the future of this province.
"A founding member of the Valhalla Wilderness Society and Canada's Future Forest Alliance, and a winner of the 1992 Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the world's top environmental prizes, the Governor General of Canada's Conservation Award and Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Protection of the Environment, she was a tireless champion for the preservation of our province's natural habitat.
"Colleen shared her knowledge with the world, and reminded us of the true value of our forests, our mountains and the wildlife that inhabits them. She built a network of environmental, native, industry, labour and community leaders and helped us work together for the betterment of British Columbia's wildlife and its people.
"Colleen McCrory's loss is deeply felt by British Columbians. To her family and her community, we offer our sincerest condolences."