What Does Cowichan Mean To You?

By Parker Jefferson

A friend told me about a photo he had seen recently that showed Cowichan Lake frozen over and people having a wonderful time skating on it.  It must have been fifty or sixty years ago, it certainly wasn’t a recent photo.  I grew up in Victoria and I can remember skating almost every winter on the local ponds.  According to the Parks Department in Victoria, Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park had good skating conditions in half of the winters from 1900 to 1969 but it has not frozen over enough to support anything bigger than a duck since 1989.  The best year for skating in Victoria was apparently in 1862 when the entire Inner Harbour froze and you could skate all the way to Laurel Point.  The odds of good outdoor skating in this part of the world are getting longer every year.  The effects of a warming planet are there for us to see in only one generation.


The draft US Climate Assessment released on Jan 11 was produced by dozens of the country’s leading climate experts and contains some sobering observations.  They also ran several projections based on various carbon dioxide emissions levels and the one that assumes our current levels with a modest increase has the average surface air temperature increasing a devastating 5 to 8 degrees C this century.  To put that into context we have experienced an increase of less than 1 degree C since about 1980. 


The report concludes that most of the projected Global warming is due to human activities.  Their observations show that the most recent decade was the warmest on record and the frost-free period and the growing season has been increasing since the 1980’s.  Precipitation has generally increased but some regions are drier while others are much wetter.  Heavy downpours and other extreme weather events including heat waves, droughts and floods are increasing in frequency and intensity.  There has been an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes caused by warming ocean temperatures.  Sea level has increased about 8 inches since 1880 and is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet before 2100.  The volume of ice on the planet is decreasing on sea, land and lakes.  The ocean is absorbing about one quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions and is becoming more acidic as a result, leading to concern about marine ecosystems.


This all sounds pretty grim, but it is the reality we now face and it is time for us to start taking climate change seriously.   The first thing we can do is simply become aware and start to think about how this will effect our community.  We need to convince elected officials to start taking steps to mitigate and prepare for the changes that will be coming in the near future.  You can be sure that the Cowichan stewardship community is aware of these issues and will become increasing proactive to help to preserve and protect our environment in the face of these challenges.


I am a director of the One Cowichan citizens group.  We started this fall to create awareness of and find a solution to the low river flow crisis and we are confident that a solution to that problem will be forthcoming.  We were very encouraged by the degree of public involvement we saw around this crisis and now we would like to know what else you think we should work on together.   Please take a moment to visit our website www.onecowichan.ca and tell us what you like most about living in the Cowichan valley and what things you think we could improve.  We want to make the Cowichan valley a great place to live, work and play.  We will continue to hold decision makers accountable to the strong social and environmental values we share. 


We all have a passion and most of us have ideas about what could make this valley a better place to live now and into the future.   I am an admitted steelhead junkie, most days in the winter you will find me up to my knees in the river trying to catch (and release) a steelhead.  I don’t succeed very often but while I am trying I get to listen to the amazing song of the dippers that share their river with me while I try to get the observing eagles to approve of my casting style.   I am grateful for every moment I get to spend on the river not catching fish.  We all have reasons why we choose to live here.  You now know mine but we need to know yours as well so please take our brief survey and tell us what matters to you.