Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, British Columbia is currently host to the Artists For Conservation Festival 2011 where we enjoyed an event filled opening day on Saturday; taking in the sights, sounds and beauty of this idyllic setting.
Our day began by taking the 8 minute gondola Skyride past the resident wolves; retired from the movie industry and still living the same cushy lifestyle they have grown accustomed to from their raised-in-captivity upbringing. (I think Corinne would have preferred visiting them at their ground level abode than be hanging from a cable in a box high above the ground, so I give her credit!) Once at the top we refreshed ourselves by walking past the blowing snow making machinery enroute to the grizzly bear refuge, where Grinder and Coola were patiently waiting for their camera shots from the arriving paparazzi. Being popular has its obligations!
The abundant wildlife wasn’t just from the visitors; Corinne also had a chat with Grouse Mountain’s newest Wildlife Ambassador Tyto, a male Barn Owl recently adopted from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. Welcome Tyto!
Our morning progressed with keynote lectures from world renowned Canadian wildlife artist, environmentalist and naturalist Robert Bateman, and as well from artist/diver/conservationist Guy Harvey from Florida.
Robert Bateman discussed the progression of art through history, arriving at his own life’s work and then ending with his views on nature tying in to a healthy body, environment, family, and ultimately a happy and healthy life. A simple solution: Spending time in nature can alleviate virtually any disfunction; a common refrain from many, including Dr. David Suzuki in his article Sustainable activism in the March 2011 issue of the magazine Common Ground. Mr. Bateman urged people to reconnect themselves and their children back to nature and one way to do that is through the creative connection between their senses, their brains and nature. It is certainly no secret then why the connection that 500 artists have to their natural surroundings has led to the creation of the non-profit conservation organization Artists For Conservation through founder Jeffrey Whiting.
Dr. Guy Harvey, a fierce advocate for marine sustainability, has dedicated his life to educating people of the importance to conserving our water ecosystems and fisheries. He noted that in some parts of the world eco-tourism fishing and scuba diving has gleaned more dollars for the economy than if those fish species had been put on someone’s dinner plate for a one time cost. Barbados, for example, took in 80 million dollars in one year in those industries which is exponentially higher than what the consumptive profits would have been. In other words, those fish were worth more alive than dead! Food for thought…
We also took in the premiere showing of How an Artist Saved the Mountain Gorilla; a film showing the journey of Stephen Quinn from the American Museum of Natural History retracing Carl Akeley’s expedition to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to study the endangered mountain gorillas. Akeley was an icon with the museum and catalyzed the creation of Africa’s first national park. Quinn and co-expedition member Jeffrey Whiting sought out the site using a painting created from Carl Akeley’s team member and used it as a map to seek out the location in the dangerous Hutu militia occupied area. Once found, he recreated the painting in the exact spot that William R. Leigh painted it 90 years ago. Akeley’s famous diorama of the mountain gorilla which was inspired from Leigh’s painting is still on display at the museum. Carl Akeley’s efforts to preserve the mountain gorilla and its habitat eventually had its toll and he died of dysentery and malaria in 1926. He was buried at the site of the famous painting.