Thursday, September 22, 2016
On Tuesday morning I awoke to UBC Okanagan Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies professor Nancy Holmes speaking on CBC radio about the Regional District of the Central Okanagan's recent decision to terminate the contracts of the seven on-site resident caretakers who live and work in seven of the RDCO's parks. On Wednesday morning I awoke to one of those caretakers, Lori Mairs, talking on that same program about the work she does in addition to locking and unlocking the gate and making sure the trails are free of coffee cups and gum wrappers.
Lori spoke of sitting outside the caretaker's house at Woodhaven one afternoon talking to a student about a bear she had seen hanging around -- and how it might present a problem to visitors -- when a man and his young daughter started up the path with a picnic basket. No sooner did Lori tell the man to return whatever food he was carrying to his car because there is a bear in the area, when a bear reared up behind a bush, his nose twitching.
When the person interviewing Lori played a clip from an earlier interview with RDCO's Bruce Smith, where Smith told listeners how an off-site security presence would be augmented by park neighbours "keeping an eye out," my mind raced. In one direction I saw a bear chasing a terrified man and his daughter down a forest path; in another, a group of neighbours huddled together on a front lawn feeling guilty for not warning a young family of a hungry -- and desperate -- bear.
But what bothers me most about the RDCO's decision is the loss of embodied knowledge -- information held and distributed by those who have committed themselves to the reception and understanding of life forces common to conservancies like Woodhaven. And please, don't tell me this is a budgetary decision -- not when the Central Okanagan is among the fastest growing regions in the country and whose tax revenues have grown accordingly. No, decisions like this one have more to do with the elimination of alternative ways of life and learning by those motivated not by profits, as we often accuse private developers of, but by bonuses given to public sector workers for whom "saving" money is making money. A neoliberal instance of language making the land safe for those who rip it off.