"Our home, within the Fraser Valley, is one of the last remaining developed places on earth where natural systems are still relatively intact. We have wildlife, clean air, land, water and food."
-- "What is the WaterWealth Project", January, 2013
We who call the Fraser Valley home have a lot to be grateful for. Natural abundance supports an enviable quality of life. A common thread flowing through it all is water. For number crunchers, there are statistics such as the Fraser River Trade Area's $3-billion contribution to BC GDP (2012). Statistics don't begin to tell the story though. You can't number-crunch the feeling of being on the water with friends and family, the joy of seeing the salmon return, sunrise views over snow-capped peaks, streamside hikes to lakes below those peaks, and sunset views on the Vedder or the Fraser. To capture how our home waters really make life good here takes stories, not statistics.
I grew up in North Vancouver. If you asked me about my childhood home waters memories they would be stories of skipping school to spend sunny days watching the bugs, birds, squirrels and trout along streams on Fromme and Grouse Mountain. Or of exploring Capilano Canyon, seeing the salmon at the hatchery and climbing the fence on the 'other side' of the suspension bridge to experience the thrill of crossing the bridge without paying the entry fee we kids didn't have. (Kids reading now, please don't take this as condoning skipping either school or admission fees. These are known as 'mistakes' and you should learn from the mistakes of your elders. I think they've fixed it so you can't cross from the other side without paying anymore anyway. )
The story of peoples' love for their home waters was clear to see in MEC's Home Waters campaign. One piece of that campaign was that for each picture uploaded to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #myhomewaters, MEC would donate $5 to the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, up to a maximum of $20,000. Thousands of pictures were posted, easily passing the 4,000 needed to reach the campaign's goal and helping the Freshwater Alliance strengthen efforts by local groups right across the country to care for their home waters. Wandering among the many pictures posted gives a beautiful sense of the collective story of how our lives are rich from our shared water wealth.
Here in Chilliwack a home waters story is unfolding right now that's as 'home' as it gets. From a post on the Facebook group "Late last year a friend and I sat down with our kids to talk about the deterioration of the Hope Slough and what we could do about it. The kids have started a campaign called Save Our Slough #SOS in an effort to be a voice for the plants and animals that can't speak for themselves." The same day the Facebook group was launched one of those kids did a presentation to city council and council actually postponed their city budget decision to further consider public input.
That Facebook group (group cover photo seen here) now has 381 members. Community members post old and new pictures of the slough, called Sk'wah-lah in the local Halq'eméylem language, and share stories of how they used to enjoy swimming and canoe races in times past. They wonder why it changed and share visions of what the slough could be again, then they work to turn those visions into plans.
What's happening with the Save Our Slough group--springing up entirely independently--is like a vindication of why WaterWealth started. From our About page:
"We believe that water is precious, and that ordinary people can protect it. We believe that our wealth is in our water. Many local people – especially in the agriculture, fishing and tourism sectors - depend on water for their livelihoods. But our waters give us more than financial revenue. Water wealth is also about the physical, spiritual, cultural and ecological prosperity that water makes possible. All living things depend on healthy water. Our land, food and life-support systems are all powered by fresh clean flowing water."
Water is precious. And it's encouraging to see so many people sharing their pictures, stories, ideas, and efforts to protect the home waters they love. Together let's create stories that don't have the words "used to".