May 22, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Green Rift 

Has the Environmental Movement Been Torn Apart?

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And what of the environmental movement? Can the split be healed?

"That depends on your perception of how badly it's been split," he says. "I'm a great believer that the reason there is an environmental movement here is we have this western democratic society which says that just because you have a contrary idea that you voice, you're not insulting anyone.

"I debate and argue as strong as the rest of them, but I sure as hell don't say that people don't' have the right to say what they think."

The Sea to Sky split

Closer to home, the environmental rift is as evident as anywhere. Events such as the controversy around the Ashlu Creek project have brought the IPP issue to the fore in the Sea to Sky corridor. They have also highlighted a split between two very different kinds of environmentalist.

Pemberton-based scientist Nigel Protter considers environmentalism to be the cornerstone issue that has dominated his life - though not, perhaps, in the mainstream sense.

Protter first moved to Whistler in 1978 - he and a friend built a cabin in the woods off Westside Road. They lived "off the grid" and developed their own power, according to him. Until 1981 he operated the "Espresso Express," a cappuccino bus that was the first business in Whistler Village.

Three years after that he was working as a ski patroller on Whistler Mountain with current Mayor Ken Melamed. Protter recalls them having a discussion about how each would change the world.

"We both felt at the time that we were going to do something about making the world a better place," he says. "(Ken's) whole position was one of activism and kind of shaking it up from the outside. I said, you know Ken, my position is I'm going to shake it up from the inside. I'm going to educate myself and improve the system from within."

Protter got his first exposure to "Green power" when he paid a visit to Oscar Berube, a Sea to Sky pioneer who homesteaded a piece of land between Squamish and Whistler. He had his own hand-built powerhouse at his house at Culliton Creek.

There was an intake and electrical system that harnessed the power of a river to generate electricity for his home. He had a sheet of clear glass in the floor that allowed people to see what was lighting his house.

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