Biologist and writer Jamie Bastedo interviewed 11 prominent Canadian activists from several generations and tells us what makes them tick in his new book Protectors of the Planet: Environmental Trailblazers from 7 to 97. Photo: Submitted

Nelson author launches book on Canadian environmental heroes

Jamie Bastedo’s Protectors of the Planet looks at common traits of successful activists

When the renowned B.C. naturalist and wolf biologist John Theberge was eight years old, he started a field journal in which he drew detailed drawings of butterflies. He kept it up for the rest of his life, which he has spent as a scientist and writer advocating for wilderness.

When Sophia Mathur organized the first Canadian school climate strike in 2018 in Sudbury, Ont., she was 12, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s strikes in Sweden that eventually caught on around the world. She had already been a climate activist for several years before that, and she says she’s just getting started.

Theberge and Mathur are two of 11 Canadian “environmental trailblazers” that author and biologist Jamie Bastedo of Nelson has profiled in his new book Protectors of the Planet: Environmental Trailblazers from 7 to 97.

Bastedo says that in the face of climate change, deforestation, species extinction, and ocean pollution, he was looking for fresh hope.

“I reached out to people who embody a sense of acting in very positive ways, in inspiring ways, in practical ways,” he says.

Other profiles include Sheila Watt-Cloutier, champion of Inuit culture; Anne Innis Dagg, giraffe researcher; Elizabeth May, activist and politician; and Ian McAllister, the writer, photographer, and activist who was a driving force behind the creation of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Bastedo interviewed them all, wondering what qualities or personal traits they share. He discovered some common threads in their childhoods.

“They all had an early sense of dreaming a better world and a willingness to work hard,” he says. “They have a belief in the power of one to make a difference. There’s a real faith element to this sense of activism – finding one’s own voice, trusting in their own kind of wisdom, doing what they love.”

Bastedo said they all rigorously studied their chosen subject and have done their homework, from an early age.

“They explore their subject from many angles, gather information. Information is power – actually several of them said that. But at the same time it’s not a head game, it’s very much capture the heart and the hand will follow.”

He said they all had adult mentors, often a teacher or parent.

Also profiled are Ethan Elliott, champion for bees; Kathleen Martin, sea turtle activist; Rupert and Franny Yakelashek, youth environmental rights activists; Karsten Heuer, wildlife biologist and explorer; and Cornelia Oberlander, green city landscape architect.

Bastedo says he wanted to explore a variety of environmental issues, profiling people from all generations and different parts of the country, hoping to find topics and themes in which readers might recognize themselves.

He admits there were some things he did not want to write about. He didn’t want to write a book focusing solely on climate change. He didn’t want to write another book of bad news facts, but rather about how some successful activists have dealt with those facts.

At the same time, he didn’t want to hide in an easy form of naive hope. He quotes Ian McAllister:

“I feel sometimes that we’re witnessing the tail end of Earth’s magnificence and it’s just heartbreaking to think that my kids might not get to experience its true beauty, that they’re entering a very fragile, uncertain time. …”

“We’ve had so many wake-up calls in the past few years,” McAllister continues, “It’s hard to believe we need more … We already know more than enough. Now it’s just a matter of waking up and taking action.”

And Bastedo quotes Elizabeth May: “Being hopeful is not the same as being unrealistic. This is not the dreamy, dewy-eyed hope of the deluded … hope is hard work. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”

Protectors of the Planet is about people who have their sleeves rolled up. They were so enamoured of the world from an early age that acting for the planet seemed to spring naturally out of wonderment and love.

The book is available now in bookstores, online, and at Touchstones in Nelson where there will be a book launch on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Protectors of the Planet by Jamie Bastedo, pictured here in West Kootenay wildfire smoke, will launch at Touchstones Museum on Nov. 22. Photo: Jon Steinman

Just Posted

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

NAV CANDA is considering closing its station at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada considering closing station at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization is conducting a service review at Castlegar’s airport

Internet service in the West Kootenay is improving thanks to provincial government grants. File photo
COVID-19 support program brings faster internet to rural communities

The province has provided grants to local internet providers

First responders at a crash scene near Rossland on Thursday, Oct. 22. Photo: Trail RCMP
First snow in West Kootenay causes vehicle collisions

The Trail and Greater District RCMP’s weekly brief contains details on collisions

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers, staff by parents must stop: Chilliwack soccer club

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Most Read