by Ashley Mcwhirter
West Kootenay EcoSociety Outreach Intern

I was a fortunate kid growing up in the prairie town of Saskatoon. I was lucky to have a family that deeply valued being active outdoors which helped me develop an early reverence for nature. I remember being a true wild child, long hair un-kept, twigs in my matted locks, bare-footed forest gallivanting, and relaxing in moss beds. I remember catching frogs, and crayfish, and lots of big fish!! Stopping to smell ALL of the flowers, and spending time outside just living life, from dusk until dawn.

One summer after travelling out of town for a soccer tournament, I made the mistake of enjoying a cheap hotel hot tub with my fellow teammates, I soon after developed a rash all over my stomach that lingered for weeks! I was inevitably given the nickname of Rashly (my name is Ashley…no one dare use that nickname again). It wasn’t until going up to my family’s cabin in northern Saskatchewan, and swimming in the lake all day… for a couple of days, that my rash cleared up. I still swear to this day, that it was the magic of the pristine lake and nature that cured me of the nasty ailment.

I have always held a strong affinity with nature, and besides my loved ones, I value having access to a healthy, beautiful, and natural environment above all else. It’s my peace, my entertainment, and where I feel most alive… it’s my happy place!

Lately, I continue to grow increasingly concerned with the overall global inaction on our climate crisis and environmental degradation. After spending a number of years doing A LOT of personal research on this issue, including listening to dissenting opinions, it became undeniable to me that climate change was real, and needed to be addressed with urgency. I became perplexed and frustrated by the lack of seriousness and action on this issue, I thought “why doesn’t anybody do anything, or even care about this problem that seems so paramount and all encompassing?” I then had a familiar epiphany, I realized I was somebody capable of action and influencing change. So, for the past two years, along with the help of instructors, experts and local organizations, I have become engaged and active in positive and solutions-oriented strategies in order to lessen the future impacts we all face.

I have always been a big picture gal, a philosophical and curious person that ponders on the bigger questions. I guess maybe that is why I care so much about the issue of climate disruption, or global warming, or whatever you want to call it. Despite your opinion on the matter, I can attest with very high confidence that it is very real, and kind of a big deal. It affects you and everyone we know, all life on this planet, and everything we love. Think for a minute of some awesome things that make life so wonderful here in the Kootenays: skiing, fishing, local food, clean lakes, nice trails, breathable air… all are threatened by a rapidly warming climate caused by reckless consumerism and industry putting profits before people and where we live. We take for granted a very convenient society dependent on a fluid made from metamorphosed previous life on earth! It’s pretty insane when you think about it, It’s really a tragically poetic, existential issue.

Our situation seems dire, but please don’t be frightened and run with your fingers in both ears screaming LALALALA shush up and let me be blissfully ignorant! Or play the smug and cynical, jaded human that believes our fate is deserved, due to the plight of the world… just don’t be that guy, that’s just a justification for not doing anything. Our world is still an incredibly beautiful place filled with some really amazing humans that are ingenious, compassionate, capable and resilient. The possibilities are very attractive. New technologies are evolving every day in more efficient and sustainable ways, thank God for smart people, am I right?! Imagine abundant, pollution-free energy, a diversified economy with green jobs, sustainable local food systems, and all sorts of ingenious and simplistic practices and solutions to help us mitigate and adapt to the challenges we face. At the risk of sounding cliché… you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

After moving to the West Kootenay’s, it didn’t take long for me to become acquainted and inspired by the West Kootenay EcoSociety and their passionate members and volunteers. What an incredible organization! I can tell you all first hand, after getting involved, participating in discussions, volunteering, and organizing in solidarity I gained a personal feeling of empowerment and hope when facing these issues. I feel very privileged to be granted the opportunity to work with the EcoSociety as the Outreach Intern this summer, and feel excited to contribute to the many admirable and positive climate, food and conservation projects and campaigns that the EcoSociety works so tirelessly to provide and support. All in all, I’m just looking forward to more good times in this little slice of mountain heaven.