A Better Port Future

I chose the name of this blog intentionally some years ago. Understanding that the health and the safety of the community was being managed with abandon by local and regional agencies, at the behest of industry, I wanted to believe that something better was possible. Inspired by the success of Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia, I set up a place where this vision of a healthy, thriving port could be given air.

During that time, I was engaged very actively in vocalizing my opposition to the actions of these agencies. I spoke at city council meetings, public forums, and I wrote. On this blog, to legislators, to press representatives, trying to get the wheel to change. Meanwhile, industry continued, status quo, and time and inaction took my heart and will to almost their last breaths.

I live very near the port, and can see, smell and hear the activities of industry, unchecked and unabated every day. Since the pandemic, even more so. Every morning when I rise and look out to connect the wind, the water, the air, the birds and the land, I see the impact of industry. Some days I step out to take a breath of fresh air, and get chemical, metallic air instead. At one point in the fight over the last few years, some folks thought it would be a good argument to tell me and my neighbors that we chose to live close to the port. And that somehow, that decision to live in this place that would otherwise would be a lovely home, we were responsible for the onslaught of chemical, auditory, and light pollution that we endure 24/7/365.

It’s true. We chose to live here. But we thought we were being looked after by agency. We thought that these industries were good neighbors – well, mostly. We thought that there were protections in place that would keep us safe from toxic air and hazardous explosions. Turned out, that wasn’t true. And more frustrating, neither industry nor agency were tuning their ears to our pleas. In fact, they were trying to silence us. We had one city representative come to a community meeting and state plainly that the city would not do anything to “silence the sounds of commerce” in response to residents who were pleading for silence during the night, so that they could get good sleep.

Tides are shifting. The landscape is changing. It is clear that some changes are coming. I feel a loosening in my heart and lung muscles, allowing me to breathe a little easier, although that’s completely metaphorical for the time being.

So, what would our port look like if industry were made to behave as if they cared about the health and safety of the rest of the world? I’ll give you some of my visions, but keep in mind I’m a nature person, so my visions are going to be rooted in having a recovered and healthy environment.

Recently, it was reported that an orca had made it’s way up the Hylebos channel. What if more of our more-than-human relatives were able to find their way into these waterways without us worrying that their health would be compromised? What if there was so much sea grass and mollusks that the water was clean, clear green and inviting again? I long to see myself hanging out on the beach, when tide is out, and finding that it’s teeming with life. I even to long to smell the fecund odor of a beach that is marine, briny, and with that odor that suggests the circle of life is in full effect.

What if the air were so clean that families could picnic at parks without fear of being exposed to toxic chemicals? The songs of birds instead of the sounds of industry, with the occasional joyful sighting of a leaping salmon or a spouting killer whale on the horizon? Eagles, ospreys, and seagulls enchanting us with their graceful movements. Communities coming together to test the waters as citizen scientists, exhibiting the acknowledgment that we all have a responsibility to keep the waters clean, and that means developing a relationship with those waters.

What if the buildings at the port also supported local restarateurs, bakers, artists, that fed the workforce and the greater community? Have you ever seen those cute little water taxis at Granville Island? I see a fleet of those charming crafts, running on a sustainable energy source, ferrying folks from all walks of life from Owens Beach, to Point Defiance, to a Tribally owned restaurant on the shores of the Hylebos.

I envision a healthy, thriving waterway that supports Indigenous scholarship in the STEAM fields, building on the traditional knowledges and relationships that consider the next seven generations.

Lastly, I envision me being able to walk out on my deck, take a breath of fresh air, with the sounds of seals and eagles in the background, knowing that the stacks’ emissions across the bay are only emitting a tiny fraction of the toxins they currently spew out.

That’s part of what I see. What can you see?

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