The signs were everywhere along the waterfront: “Whale Watching Tours Here! Guaranteed Sightings!" That same waterfront was packed with cruise ship passengers who had disembarked from one of the two huge cruise ships moored in the harbour as Vancouver became their port of call.
I pondered the signage as we took a cab back to our hotel while fighting the bumper-to-bumper traffic at 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. The more I thought about the whale watching signage, the more irritated I became. The phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do” was on repeat in my brain.
“Protect the whales! Stop the tanker traffic! Cancel the pipeline projects! Protect our harbour!" is the signage we commonly see as watch the nightly news from the comfort of our couch in northern British Columbia.
I hadn’t been to Vancouver, with the exception of the airport for a flight layover, for a few years and my imagination had conjured up this environmentalist Shangri-La. I imagined Vancouver as a place where everyone rode their bike, or took the sky train because of the carbon emissions. I imagined Vancouver as a place where everyone took a bagged lunch, their sandwich wrapped in reusable beeswax and carried in a cloth bag. I imagined Vancouver as a place where people contributed to an ‘Adopt a Whale’ program instead of buying Christmas presents.
I was wrong. I am sure that there are many folks in Vancouver who do walk the talk, but let me tell you, there are many who do not.
We hear regularly about how whales have amazing hearing and that excess traffic in the Vancouver Harbour is harmful and disruptive. The same argument is used when discussing additional tanker traffic and the adverse affect it would have on the orcas.
But I see multiple signs for whale watching tours and I imagine that those boats do not operate on Unicorn tears as their source of energy. The fact that they state "guaranteed sightings" also means that they know where the whales are currently residing and that they are specifically traveling to their location.
Once they get there, they need to be close enough so that the paying looky-loo can get a good picture of the whale. Everything that they have told us indicates that the above is not acceptable and is horribly disruptive to the same whales that they seem to want to protect.
Saving the whales applies to us, but not them?
And speaking of us versus them, there is no such thing — we are all in this together. We have to realize that we are all environmental hypocrites in one way or another. No one is 100% zero waste or environmentally pure.
Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes, and lives in Dawson Creek.