Thursday, April 17, 2008

Deltaport, before Gateway

And I am hoping there are no "After Gateway" photos in our future.

Bracketing the main part of the Tsawwassen First Nations Reserve, two causeways stretch out several kilometres into the Strait of Georgia. They function, although that was not the intent of the builders, as breakwaters, creating a calm bay where assorted waterbirds rest and feed.

This was taken from the Deltaport causeway, looking south towards the ferry landing and the San Juan islands in the distance. Maybe a map will help.

Looking northwest; the water is a bit rougher. The Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is on that spit of flat land. Beyond, the North Shore mountains and the Sunshine Coast.

Looking inland, to the southeast; the Tsawwassen Reserve is directly ahead. It's midafternoon, on a bright day; most of the ducks are probably dabbling in the shade along the waterways at Reifel. But there are still a few out in the open, dotted here and there across the bay.

More ducks, of assorted varieties.

On the Deltaport causeway itself, the scene changes.

Three wide lanes of train tracks, with a highway for trucks alongside. Gravel, rust, metal, oil. Assorted chunks of rusted iron. A smell of diesel and dust.

There's a certain romance about trains, something that sings of distance and strength, that recalls lonely whistles in the night, that chants a clackety-clack-clack poem made of names of places: "Kicking Horse Pass and Cranbrook and Golden, Crowsnest, Kelowna, Lethbridge and Skagway, North to the Yukon, South to Vancouver, the Canyon and Whistler, Day-train to Squamish."

Canada's history is interlaced with tales of the railway; it's what opened up the west and tied the country together. Who has not seen the photos of the Last Spike, or heard of the blood, sweat and dynamite that carved the route through the Fraser Canyon?


Regrettably, we have been turning to trucks, which are more wasteful of energy and manpower, need more support along the way (gas stations, eateries, tire shops ...). The trains have been cutting routes, trimming schedules, as more and more trucks clog our highways, even in the face of rising gas prices and future shortages.

Evergreen. One wishes.

At the port itself, tall metal beasts wait for their prey; ships bearing goods for our markets, begging for BC's wood, fish and minerals.

I wonder: do we need, really need, all the goods these ships bring? Could we learn to use our local products, decrease our reliance on trucks, boats, trains? Is it wise to keep pumping our waste products into the air we have to breathe, the water our fish and birds live in and on, the fields where we grow our vegetables?

And more: do we really need to expand our highways, buy ever increasing quantities of "stuff"; cheap plastics for our dollar stores, clothes to replace last season's barely-worn but out of style outfits, exotic foods to tease our jaded taste buds, the latest item being hawked on TV, things brighter, shinier, saltier, sweeter, lighter, stronger, faster, softer, warmer, cooler than the ones that were good enough last year?

At the end of the day, waves lap on the rocks. A man throws sticks for a couple of dogs. The sunshine, lower in the sky now, dazzles us. In the distance, a bird surfaces, then dives again.

Isn't this enough?


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