Flash Back Fridays

Roderrick Haig-Brown – 1970 A story by David Boulding

Roderick Haig-Brown

Roderick Haig-Brown

Jim was an avid fly fisher. His great relief was to go to the mouth of the Elk River (across from the Lodge) or to the drowned mouth of the Wolf River (a few miles from the Lodge) with his friend and mentor, Roderick Haig-Brown. Jim named a building after Rod, to keep his memory alive; Rod’s quiet way in the world contrasted with Jim’s ebullient enthusiasm.

Rod was the finest fly fisherman in the twentieth century. He wrote books about fish and was a tireless advocate for the natural world. A Provincial Court Judge, sitting in Campbell River, he wrote the first and most powerful judgments in Canada, if not the world, against logging companies who often put sand and gravel into fish steams thus making spawning for the fish difficult. His books are still read worldwide today because Rod could see the world through the eyes of a steelhead or sockeye salmon. He was much admired by the Bouldings and influenced what was and still is taught at the Lodge in many ways.
For example he opposed gathering food in wild places unless it was a necessity. He took part in some of the Lodge’s earliest conferences. In later years Rod would occasionally visit and speak to school kids. What a treat for young minds to have Rod talk with them about trees, fish, lakes, and rivers!
Rod’s finest contribution was to a battle he lost.  Like Jim and other early conservationists in the 1950s through to the 1990s (later labeled ‘environmentalists’) they had to have thick skins and a lot of resilience because winning a battle was almost impossible. Rod’s article in the Vancouver Sun dated March 5, 1966 did nothing to change the minds of the bought and paid civil servants in Victoria, but he did, however, start a groundswell about education that eventually led to the movement made famous by later greats such as Dr. David Suzuki, Greg McDade, and Vicki Husband.
Rod’s article, even after pruning by a cautious editor, had these paragraph titles: ‘HISTORY OF ABUSE’, ‘BATTLE LOST’, ‘HARD TO BELIEVE’, ‘MINERS COME IN’, and ‘DUMP WASTES’. The last one said it all: ‘WEAK POLITICIAN’.
Each paragraph in the carefully understated prose of an ex-judge, set out the story with calm facts. The accompanying cartoon, by the genius Roy Peterson, with swirling mill smoke, power lines, and signs a la Las Vegas style, amplified the words of Canada’s first advocate for the natural world. The article was called, ‘BUTTLE LAKE: THE RAPE OF A PUBLIC PARK’. The first paragraph was a telegram to readers: First they flooded it* now miners move in* Minister lacks courage *Wanted: moral fiber. Although written in the turbulent sixties, the article remains a template for environmental writing and reads as well today as it did 45 years ago!