To protect, restore, and increase the contribution of our common natural resource to our common interests in creating a better future for our world

Canada’s Raincoast at Risk

On the coast of British Columbia everything begins with wind and rain, the open expense of the Pacific, and the steep escarpment of the mountains that makes possible the consant cycling of the water between the land and the sea. Autumn rains last until those of spring, and months pass without a sign of sun. Sometime the rain falls as mist, and moisture is raked from the air by the canopy of the forest. At other times, the storms are torrential and daily precipitation is measured in inches. The rains draw nutrients from the soil, carrying vital food into rivers and streams that fall away to the sea and support the greatest coastal marine diversity on Earth. In the estuaries and tidal flats, in the shallows that merge with the wetlands, are more than six hundred types of seaweed and forty species of sea stars. Farther offshore, vast underwater kelp forests shelter hundreds of forms of life, which in turn support a food chain that reaches into the sky to nourish dozens of species of seabirds.

The land provides for life in the sea, but the sea in turn nurtures the land. Birds deposit excrement in the moss, yielding tonnes of nitrogen and phosphorous which are washed into the soil. Salmon return by the millions to their natal streams, providing food for eagles and ravens, grizzly and black bears, killer whales, river otters, and more than twenty other mammals of sea and forest. Their journey complete, the sockeye and Coho, Chinooks, chums, and pinks drift downstream in death and are slowly absorbed back into the nutrient cycle of life. In the end there is no separation between the creatures of the land and those of the sea. Every living thing on the raincoast ultimately responds to the same ecological rhythm. All are interdependent.

Living from nature, and lacking the technology to dominate it, the first people on the coast, the First Nations, watched the earth for signs. The flight of eagles helped fishermen track the salmon. Sandhill cranes heralded the onset of herring runs. The flowering of certain plants brought families to the shore to gather clams, but if ravens or crows abandoned the beach, so did the people, for it was a sure indication that the shellfish were toxic. Between humans and animals there was a constant dialogue, expressed in physical action, in gesture and repartee, but also in myths and stories that resonated with magical and mystical ideas.

For all of these cultures the land was alive, – a dynamic force to be embraced and transformed by the human imagination. Mountains, rivers, and forests were not perceived as inanimate, as mere props on a stage upon which the human drama unfolded. There was a dialogue with the natural world as well as clear reciprocal expectations, for even as the Earth provided its bounty, so human beings were responsible for the well-being of the Earth.

Wade Davis
Canada’s Raincoast at Risk


We live in a world shaped by laws of science. From physics we know that we cannot escape laws governing the speed of light, gravity, and entropy. Similarly chemistry has diffusion constants, reaction rates, and atomic properties that determine the kinds of chemical reactions we can perform, the time required, and the kinds of molecules that can be synthesized. Biology shows us that mammals, we require clean air, clean water, clean soil and food, and energy from photosynthesis for our health and well-being. Amazingly, our fundamental biological needs are provided by the web of all species that we call biodiversity. Biology dictates that these needs must be protected and nurtured above any other human activity.

Human constructs, on the other hand, can be changed. Indeed they are the only things we can manage, change and adapt. We draw lines around property, cities, provinces, and nations, which we take so seriously that we kill and die to protect them. Yet nature pays no attention to human boundaries. Think of the salmon that are born in Canadian waters and travel through the Alaska panhandle and along the coast, some migrating as far as Russia and Japan. It makes no sense to manage them through the priorities of our political borders.

Other human creations, – capitalism, economics, corporations, markets, – emerge from the human mind, not as some force of nature. The rhetoric around markets, freeing them to let them do their thing, depending on them to work things out, suggests that we regard them as seriously as we once did dragons, demons, and monsters. Yet, like dragons and demons of the past, the market is a creation of the human mind. If it doesn’t adequately serve our needs and purposes, we can change it.

As we learn more about the relationships of species with our environment, we come to cherish the animals, plants, waters, and lands that make us so fortunate as Canadians. This natural heritage makes up the very soul of our country and is the wealth that provides emotional and physical sustenance. The true value of our irreplaceable healthy ecosystems is priceless, immeasurable in economic terms.

David Suzuki
Canada’s Raincoast at Risk

Home of the Orcas