Dan Lewis, a grassroots protester who participated 20 years ago in one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history, has started Clayoquot Action to address the areas’ new threats. The area known as the “Last Great Rainforest” is threatened by a proposed open pit copper mine by Imperial Metals, salmon farms, and the risk of oil spills if pipelines are built from Alberta to BC.
Dan moved to Tofino in 1991 to operate ocean kayak tours in an area he calls the best kayaking locale in BC. However, he quickly realized he had to get involved in conservation efforts out of self-defense. He says, “The places I loved to visit, the wildlife living there, and my own livelihood was being put at risk by transnational corporations.” He adds that, “Through this work I met people like my current partner Bonny Glambeck who helped me understand the linkages between various forms of oppression—that racism and sexism are related to human’s destruction of the environment.”
Looking back at the Clayoquot Summer 1993, he says, “As a movement we learned that when many people come together and contribute their talents, time and money, great things can be accomplished. Using feminist consensus process, we were able to create joint actions in which all participants had a sense of ownership.” Fast forward 20 years and Clayoquot Action is taking a fresh approach working to protect biocultural diversity using research, education, and peaceful direct action. The conservation group stands for indigenous rights, democratic rights, and the rights of Mother Earth.
Dan says the conservation movement has changed. He says, “It's hard to believe that we were able to organize the mass protests (12,000 people participated) by faxing posters to health food stores.” He comments on the changes noting that social media has made it easier to communicate and organize; environmental threats are taken far more seriously with most people acknowledge that mining disasters and oil spills are bad, and that climate change is real. He feels there was a real awakening of ecological consciousness in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and it feels like such times are upon us again.
Clayoquot Sound is a household name because of past environmental battles, in particular environmentalists working in solidarity with First Nations. The Nuuchahnulth nations have never surrendered their sovereignty, and still have the knowledge and ability to manage their territories. Dan says that many people think Clayoquot was protected after the 1993 protests, but this is not true. He believes that Clayoquot Sound is a symbol of hope. Your support is needed to ban open pit mining to prevent a Mount-Polley-type disaster, and stop the pipelines to prevent the risk of an oil spill.
Even if you never go to Tofino and Clayoquot Sound, we all have a responsibility to protect the environment and fight the transnational corporations from destroying our land.
If you find yourself in Tofino in July or August, check out Clayoquot Sound of Freedom, every Tuesdays at 8pm. Free admission.
For more information and to lend your support: