Archive for May 1st, 2009

The island as bio-region

By Tom Read

The bio-region of Texada Island is characterized by lots of fresh water. Here’s a springtime view of Case Lake, a favourite of ducks, geese and swans, and even the neighbouring humans. Like the birds, some people come and go, but others have settled in for the long haul.

The bio-region of Texada Island is characterized by lots of fresh water. Here’s a springtime view of Case Lake, a favourite of ducks, geese and swans, and even the neighbouring humans. Like the birds, some people come and go, but others have settled in for the long haul.


Texada Island is politically a colony of Powell River, British Columbia and Canada, but the only reality that really counts in the long haul – which is Mother Nature’s reality – firmly tells us that we’re our own 100-square-mile bio-region. What’s a bio-region? Answer: a biologically consistent geographical area, like a watershed, or a mountain range or… an island. Physical boundaries are essential to identifying a bio-region, and islands know all about boundaries.

But there are more subtle boundaries that matter, too. Soil types and water flows make a difference within the limits set by our island’s shoreline. Texada’s geology particularly stands out because there is nothing on the entire BC coast that can match the rich mineralization of this place. That’s why we’ve got three active quarries, hundreds of mineral claims and many old underground mines. That is also why seemingly every inch of ground on the island has a hundred-year history of geological research behind it.

When it comes to water, Texada’s story is equally dramatic. Whereas many other islands are comparatively dry, our island’s half-a-dozen or so year-round streams flow from springs in the hills and mountains of Texada, then run down to the sea, passing through dozens of lakes, ponds, bogs, creek valleys, lush second-growth forests and remnants of old farm fields along the way. Given its special geology and hydrology, it’s not surprising that Texada has evolved a large population of rare and even unique plants and animals.  From Mother Nature’s perspective, therefore, this island is the very model of a bio-region.

The picture changes when we take a human-only perspective. Our daily consumption of imported products and services reminds us constantly that we’re dependent on the mainland if we choose to live a “normal” lifestyle.  By “normal” I mean using more energy, water and food and just plain consumption of stuff than the populace of anywhere else on the planet, notably including the Europeans and Japanese. North Americans have long taken for granted our over-consumption, and it seems to me that many Texadans, myself included, habitually, if not sometimes blindly, practice the typical North American lifestyle even though we live on a quite unusual island.

But underneath the din of daily consumption I feel a haunting awareness that life here really is fundamentally different from mainland places, and even other relatively nearby islands. The remote aspects of life in this place would certainly become more obvious to people if Texada went back to a five-car ferry, which served the island from 1955 to 1969, rather than the 49-car, 10 runs per day (every day) cruise line that we know as our ferry service today. Count me as one who wouldn’t mind a severe curtailment of BC Ferries services, because remoteness appeals to me. But I’m probably an odd duck that way, because others of my age seem to have different ideas.

Lately I’ve detected, among certain long-time residents, a restlessness about island life. When they first moved here many years ago, the ferry was a lot smaller, the population a lot larger (and younger), and if you lived here you tended to remain on the island for unbroken stretches of many weeks or even months. So why have some of those who have grown into middle age here seemingly become fixated on mainland life? Perhaps the mainland attraction takes the form of a locally unavailable urban pleasure, or maybe it’s grandchildren who live in some suburb, or maybe it’s just a free-floating urge to head out in one’s motorhome and be able to go someplace without having to wait in a ferry line-up. Thus, to some, our island’s remoteness has become confining.

As for me, I’ve seen enough of the urban/suburban world in my 56 years on the planet. Living on this natural jewel of an island holds endless fascination for me, and I consider it a privilege to have found a home here. The scale of this place is perfect for learning and living over the long haul, and I am hopeful that there’s still a possibility we might evolve a local human economy and political awareness to match the splendor that Mother Nature has created here.

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