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Stephen Hume

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Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2016

Sept/Oct 2016.2

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Everything posted by Stephen Hume

  1. March 2020 The clinic attracts Canada’s best aspiring public-interest environmental lawyers to work on cases for community groups. SHOULD YOU WANT TO TRACK DOWN one of British Columbia’s most important shapers of public policy regarding environmental protection, better have your GPS handy. There’s no glitzy storefront to brand the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. No swanky offices with plush carpet, oak panelling, and some elegantly-tailored watchdog receptionist. In keeping with its humble origins as a student initiative launched almost 25 years ag
  2. Posted June 2, 2020 Stephen Hume observes that bears are in much more danger from humans than vice versa. Go to story
  3. AFTER HUMANS, who include in their arsenal everything from rifles that empty a 30-bullet magazine in 7 seconds to atomic bombs that obliterate entire cities faster than you can think, bears are North America’s most dangerous large predators. They can be huge—the biggest bear ever seen (in Alaska in 1960) weighed more than a tonne and exceeded 3.4 metres in height when it stood up, which made it bigger than a small car and about 1.5 metres taller than the tallest National Basketball Association player. Although an old Oblate missionary once showed me the skin of a
  4. Photo: Black bear, Ursus americanus We all seem to have a story to tell about bears. Go to Stephen Hume's stories

    © Public Domain

  5. BENEATH THE WIND-SCULPTED CORNICES crowning the massif beyond the tree line, long, purpling shadows had begun to pool. Rock faces slid from battleship grey towards steel blue. Even gleaming snow fields had begun to take on a softer, burnished hue, offset by flushes of pastel where they fell away from the slant of light. It dawned abruptly in my distracted 12-year-old brain that this signalled a problem. First, it was late enough in the day that it would soon be getting dark farther down the trail where it wound beneath the already gloomy old growth. Second, that the shouts and laught
  6. May 20, 2020 Photo: Situations we felt comfortable with two months ago now seem dangerous We live in medicine’s golden age and yet this tiny virus disrupts everything we took for granted. Go to story
  7. ON MY UPPER LEFT ARM, faint now after more than 70 years, is the white scar of a smallpox vaccination required before my entry into Canada. I am a visitor from the time before the last big North American smallpox outbreak. It began in New York City, now lashed by the coronavirus, not long after I was born, still in the first half of the last century. That event marked a signature response to the threat of pandemic. Authorities swiftly launched the largest mass vaccination in history—more than 6.3 million people in three weeks. The looming epidemic was snuffed out after just two death
  8. Posted May 2019 Photo: Aerial view of the former lumber loading terminal in the Cowichan estuary for which there is an application for rezoning to permit metals manufacturing and fabrication. How is a metals manufacturing plant in the midst of a fish-bearing estuary even possible? Go to story
  9. January 2020 Photo: Low-lying Willows beach and the upland area would be impacted by sea-level rise. Scientists are now saying global climate change will usher in even higher seas and more flooding than previously predicted. Go to story
  10. SINCE WE’RE NOW ESSENTIALLY A TEXT-BASED CULTURE, there’s a strong tendency for social memory to focus on that history most easily accessed through documents. The Vietnam War seems more real than World War II which seems more real than World War I because the documentary record is richer. And there’s an equally strong tendency to assume text-based records have greater credibility and importance than that history which comes to us through other means—stories, memories, artifacts, and so on. The great coastal smallpox pandemic of 1862 looms extraordinarily large in the imagined h
  11. PANDEMICS, LIKE BIRTH AND DEATH, have always been with human populations. History is composed of pandemic layered upon pandemic as far back as written records extend. The plague of Antonine, almost certainly the smallpox virus from the description of its symptoms by the Greek doctor Galen, rode home with troops returning from a Middle Eastern war, swept through the Roman Empire, and killed an estimated one in 10 of its 75 million citizens. Victims included the Roman emperor Lucius Verus, co-ruler with Marcus Aurelius, who is perhaps better known for the Stoic philosophy that must hav
  12. GEORGE VANCOUVER’S LOGS from his 1792 circumnavigation of Vancouver Island note that any one of the large deserted villages around the Gulf of Georgia appeared big enough for the entire indigenous population he had encountered. He rightly guessed this was the scattered remnant of a much larger population. How large? As many as 200,000 people likely lived on the Northwest Coast when the first Europeans visited. Warriors and traders, they travelled in swift sea-going canoes whose hull design inspired the clipper ship. The biggest were capable of crossing the Pacific Ocean, which o
  13. January 2020 Scientists are now saying global climate change will usher in even higher seas and more flooding than previously predicted. FIFTY YEARS AGO, I was an indifferent student drifting through random courses. In my post-teen ennui, I mostly hung around the student newspaper office drinking terrible coffee in the hope of chatting up a girl. The furthest thing from my mind was that my life was actually an après nous le déluge moment; that in my lifetime I’d be contemplating floods of biblical proportions that, over the next 50 years, will likely force close to a mill
  14. November 2019 As they are logged, whole ecosystems disappear forever, along with their superior ability to sequester carbon. GLOOM AND SILENCE lodged in my memory first. An occasional shaft of golden light lanced between immense trees. They towered like the columns of some ancient Greek temple. If there was a breeze in the foliage, its rustle was muffled by the dense canopy hundreds of feet above. It was 1956. I was nine. My father had taken me on my first real hike into the back country. A stand of old-growth Douglas fir on Vancouver Island (Photo by Da
  15. September 2019 The logic of a watershed, including development and forestry’s role in its demise, is playing out sadly in the Cowichan Valley. A NEAR-SILENT CURRENT SLIPS THROUGH WILLOW RUN. The jade-green swirl of eddies and back-eddies causes darker reflections of trees to ripple in the August glare. Here and there, the slick surface boils over a hidden boulder, or abruptly sucks down with a wet slurp into some bottom declivity. I’ve been coming to the Cowichan River for more than 60 years. It never fails to offer instruction in the mysterious, miraculous, astonishingly
  16. July 2019 Climate change is exacerbating forest fires, including—perhaps especially—where the wild meets suburbia. FOR TERRIFYING SPECTACLE, few events match the full-throated fury of a crowning forest fire. Such a fire moves fast. Sheets of flame flash through the canopy under a seething orange wall as high as a 30-storey skyscraper, with pillars of smoke that can tower 50 times that height. I live in Greater Victoria’s forested fringe—the “wildland-urban interface” in Fire Boss lingo. Like many, I’m watching trees around me die from climate warming. I confess, there is
  17. May 2019 How is a metals manufacturing plant in the midst of a fish-bearing estuary even possible? WINTRY LIGHT SPLINTERED THE HORIZON above the Saanich Peninsula. A flooding tide announced itself. First a faint slurping over mud flats. Then an almost imperceptible jostling of driftwood, a stirring of the sedges and the occasional surge and splash of something off in the early morning twilight—maybe a dog otter hunting the tide line. Maybe that rarity now, a big fish. I shrugged deeper into my sweater, watching the lights come on at Cowichan Bay through ghostly breath, wa
  18. March 2019 The commercial herring roe fishery in the Salish Sea may be the final nail in the coffin of chinook, resident orca and seabirds. IN JUNE OF 1893, a small steam tug thumped past Nanaimo. Abruptly, the sea began to seethe. It was a herring school so vast it took three hours to traverse. The school was 70 kilometres across. A century earlier, Captain George Vancouver’s log for June 1792 recorded another astonishing sight—whale spouts at every point of the compass. They were humpback whales. Herring provide up to half a humpback’s daily ener
  19. November 2018 The perils faced by killer whales forewarn of an über-threat—the unravelling of the ecosystems upon which humans also depend. EDGED BY POWERFUL RIPTIDES and the foam-laced menace of Boiling Reef, muscular currents that once bedevilled Spanish sailing masters still churn past cliffs fringed with peeling arbutus. Gulls wheel and squabble over bait fish pushed up by predators below. Vigilant eagles perch in ancient Douglas firs that were saplings when the Magna Carta was yet unsigned. This is the southernmost tip of Saturna Island, easternmost of British Columb
  20. March 31 This virus is another evolutionary opportunist, not so different from we humans. THE MORNING the United States became the world’s epicentre in the coronavirus pandemic, I woke to more ancient news. A spring rain drumming on my skylights and a raucous perturbation among nesting waterfowl. The rain dwindled to a drizzle, then a sniffle, then wraiths of mist. The birds subsided into grumbling. I took a hike. I seldom meet anyone on the back trails, less frequently now that we’re social distancing. Above, the sky was steel grey but for a band of intense blue at
  21. March 5, 2020 The clinic attracts Canada’s best aspiring public-interest environmental lawyers to work on cases for community groups. SHOULD YOU WANT TO TRACK DOWN one of British Columbia’s most important shapers of public policy regarding environmental protection, better have your GPS handy. There’s no glitzy storefront to brand the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. No swanky offices with plush carpet, oak panelling, and some elegantly-tailored watchdog receptionist. In keeping with its humble origins as a student initiative launched almost 25 years
  22. Posted April 26, 2020 Image: Artist John David Kelly's depiction of Captain Vancouver surveying English Bay - 1792 Evidence, including Captain Vancouver’s log of his west coast explorations, shows brutal impact of earlier epidemics on coastal First Nations. Go to story
  23. AFTER ARCHAEOLOGISTS WORKING NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE PITT RIVER in the Fraser Valley uncovered hundreds of fire-charred body ornaments that weren’t supposed to be there, another team excavating a construction site at Port Angeles about 15 years ago made a horrifying discovery. The remains of children, dozens of them, all of them 12 years or under, were buried in mass graves amid burned house planks. Valuable tools were scattered where they had been dropped and there was evidence of unusual rituals not before seen in the material culture of the region. Radiocarbon samples—it’s an archae
  24. AFTER ARCHAEOLOGISTS WORKING NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE PITT RIVER in the Fraser Valley uncovered hundreds of fire-charred body ornaments that weren’t supposed to be there, another team excavating a construction site at Port Angeles about 15 years ago made a horrifying discovery. The remains of children, dozens of them, all of them 12 years or under, were buried in mass graves amid burned house planks. Valuable tools were scattered where they had been dropped and there was evidence of unusual rituals not before seen in the material culture of the region. Radiocarbon samples—it’s an archae
  25. VALERIE PATENAUDE was a newly-minted 26-year-old archaeologist in 1978 and in charge of an important excavation at Duke Point in Nanaimo where the provincial government was planning a new ferry terminal. But she was sent to supervise a high priority rescue dig in Port Coquitlam where the Province planned a new highway bypass at Mary Hill near the mouth of the Pitt River. What Patenaude uncovered was what stalks the dreams of every archaeologist, evidence of a lost civilization. A pandemic on the coast around 1750 is suggested by examination and carbon-dating of mat
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