One of the blessings of living in a small, coastal town is being able to observe change. It doesn't come often. We don't have a forest of construction cranes obscuring our horizon. There are some two-storey buildings, a few, but that's it. Anything higher than that is an apartment or condo.
So when the town pub, the 124-year old former railway hotel, the Rod & Gun, gets a makeover, it's news. It's so small town that while the pub is closed for renos, the owners have bought their regulars temporary memberships at the Legion right behind it.
Change, change, change. Humpback whales have returned after an absence of 40-years. Back then we hunted them to extinction. Now they seem to have figured out it's safe to come back. Not so safe for boaters, however, as a couple have recently discovered. These whales are big - up to 52-feet in length and 79,000 pounds and, for all their size, they like to launch themselves out of the water, often getting most of their mass airborne.
We're also more attuned to the reality of climate change. One form is in species migration. Salmon and other cold-water fish stocks are already moving out of warmer waters to the south and into our still cold Pacific waters. Pelicans have reached Victoria harbour. Anchovies are moving in to territory where herring once dominated. The Humboldt squid has migrated from the Sea of Cortez to show up in mass strandings on the beaches of Tofino. The giant sunfish, once a rarity, is being seen much more frequently basking on the surface.
In this morning's Victoria Times Colonist, the lead editorial addresses our warming climate.
At Fruit Trees and More Nursery in North Saanich, Bob Duncan gets
hundreds of lemons from his tree. Over on the Lower Mainland, Art Knapp
nurseries have seen a 20 per cent increase in sales of species like
olives and figs.
Global warming is often debated in the big picture, but the details of
gradual changes around us bring the debate down to earth. The
devastating march of the pine beetle is one effect of warmer
temperatures that is clearly visible across vast areas of B.C.’s
forests. New crops close to home are another sign of the change.
In the Cowichan Valley, Teafarm planted 200 tea plants of the same type
found in India and Sri Lanka; all but one survived. Owners Victor
Vesely and Margit Nellemann plan to add more camellia sinensis this
year, and hope to harvest their own tea in the next few years.
Across the water on Saturna Island, Michael Pierce’s Saturna Olive
Consortium is a nursery that doesn’t sell olives but grows 12 varieties
of olive trees for those who want to plant a bit of the Mediterranean in
their corner of B.C. On the consortium’s website, he advises: “Growing
olives in British Columbia should be seen as a grand and wacky
experiment. It is not for the risk averse.”
Like Bob Duncan, however, some Islanders are taking risks, not only
with lemons, but also oranges. Pineapple guavas are a smaller version of
a tropical fruit that shows promise for our climate. And six kinds of
figs will now grow here, where once only two types could survive, says
Wim Vander Zalm of Art Knapp Nurseries.
Tea, oranges, lemons, guava, olives and all manner of figs? Whales and monster squid and giant sunfish? On our island we're a Petri dish for change but, then again, we have the most benign climate to absorb the impacts and adapt to change. Most of the remainder of the world is not so lucky.