© Roy Langstaff/agefotostoc
I grew up on Vancouver Island, which I see as a small microcosm of BC itself. You can find the classic BC industries here doing work, mining, logging, fishing, and some small fruit farms litter the island. If you grew up in a small town, it would be economically dominated by one industry; for us in Ladysmith, it was the sawmill; before it was the sawmill, it was the coal mine. BC, as a province, was built on the ideology of being a trade colony; we were the jewel of trade for our rich resources. Extraction began as soon as colonization began. The land was taken, lines were drawn without consultation, and industry won over indigenous sovereignty.
This photo is inside the Legislative rotunda in Victoria; it depicts the core industries that economically developed BC as a province. The painting depicts mining, fishing, fruit picking, and logging. These paintings loom over us and are central to our governance, as they are central physically in the legislature. Even present in the photo is our coat of arms motto.
"Splendor Sine Occasu"
Which ironically translates to splendour without diminishment.
I cannot contain my confusion at this. Are we really that delusional at this level to believe that our industries aren't diminishing our natural splendour here?
All industries iconized in these paintings have apparent negative impacts on our "splendour"; we have known this since the beginning of these industries. Even some of these industries conflict with each other. For example, the overfishing of salmon has led to a disastrous ecology crisis that directly impacts forest health. Less salmon returning to spawn directly affects the nutrient balances in our forests—specifically, nitrogen levels. Our dogmatic industries rely on cannibalizing each other slowly. This slowness, I think, adds to the cognitive dissonance between splendour and diminishment.
I think the "splendour" described here is also a poor description of the word abundance. Indigenous peoples on the island lived in abundance because they were dutiful land managers. Before colonialism, Indigenous peoples had complex civilizations and societies with rich cultures based on the natural and managed abundance of local ecology. It was this intimate connection with the land that created their culture. It was this sensitive understanding of the ecology that created this abundance for them. Our significant industries ruined this connection and profited off of it, possibly permanently ruining the connection between land and indigenous peoples.
I want to imagine a world where this natural abundance can be returned and our industries nationalized to the point of disengaging profit motives. After this, we must push for a post-colonial industry model that returns the autonomy of indigenous peoples and rightful resources. We need to consider industrial reparations seriously in this country and decolonize our view of our industries. Major industries like fishing and forestry have shown that sustainability is not a concern. I would argue that extreme measures to integrate indigenous knowledge into management efforts would increase the value of our industry and save us in a sustainability sense.
We will never enjoy absolute splendour without diminishment until we decolonize the industries that reap the abundant splendour and diminish it with no consequences.