I spent last year in bed, with a relapse of chronic fatigue, from which I had believed I had completely recovered.  If you ever get a chance to do that – and you probably will if you live long enough – rejoice, there is much pleasure to be found in extended rest.  As well as anxiety, some terror, and bad FOMO.  But since you (I) can get bored with misery, behind that was great politics, acres of books to read, films to watch, forums to observe, and thinking to do.  Being ill, I thought principally about my illness, which I have packed around with myself for 30 years or so through New York, London, Bermuda and coastal British Columbia, where I found, finally, my health.  I blame my mother. My matrilineal gifts are many, including among them long life, my mother and her aunt died at 96, their mother at 97, and a great aunt at 107. But illness or some kind of setting-aside-from-life was part of their lives too. They were Irish in origin, northern Irish, and a house still stands where 12 generations of them have lived and some still live. Somehow they hung on to home, no matter what.

I know the history of many lines in my family going back to 920 AD.  But I wondered about those women in Ireland from the 1st to 10th century.  Lots of long damp winters, where you stayed in by the fire and dozed all day, eating beans and, if you were lucky, bunnies. Probably not feeling completely well for months at a time.  But through those long rests in a stone house in a cold country where freezing rain is the dominant weather feature, was born over 80 or 90 generations the longevity gene which I now carry.

We are or were all preoccupied with our health.  When my grandmother went into the hospital at 97 for the last time, a small suitcase tipped and two dozen bottles of nutritional supplements rolled across the floor.  “Was she always ill?” asked the nurse.  My mother nodded.  “Those old ladies go on forever,” she quipped to my mother, who too, carried suitcases of supplements when she traveled.  As do I. I want to live to 105, reading and writing and shopping online to the very last day.

There is a genetic component to Chronic Fatigue/ME.  No one really knows how it factors in, but it is mitochondrial, or female-based.  Jennifer Brea, a sufferer like me, made a multi-award-winning film last year, called Unrest. It asks many questions, the answers to which may lead to a radical upswing in length of life.

I’ll be waiting.  Possibly ill, but fully alive.



Our region has been completely taken over by greens – federal, provincial, regional and local, who blame all dysfunction on global warming.  Vis, the latest statement from Victoria’s mayor, the charmingly named, the proudly gay, bike riding, free-spending Lisa Helps (shurly a made up name) who blamed the recent increase in bird poop in Downtown Victoria on Global Warming.  This while the rest of the continent is in a deep freeze, there is snow in the Sahara and in the American South.  One is endlessly entranced by the men and women who get into office claiming their ‘different’ sexuality, their refreshingly new racial identity and their commitment to drawing down consumption means they can solve all the problems of modern capitalism.  Poop, of course, is an ongoing Victorian concern, since we pump all the sewage of this modern city straight into the gulf where there is a measurable and distinct decline in the health of sea life.  One hundred years ago, a Canadian man with a high school education pushed the highest longest railroad tunnel in the world through a mountain in BC.  But today we cannot solve bird poop or sewage.




Viewpoint – Bad green regulation is harmful
By Elizabeth Nickson on March 13, 2013
Rather than answer Greg Spendjian’s extensive complaints last week about my earlier column on Land Use Bylaw 355, (which apparently one is not permitted to question), I would refer him and other complainants to my recently published book, Eco-Fascists; How Radical Conservationists Are Destroying Our Natural Heritage. Continue reading “”



This blog is a mash-up of journalism, local, regional and national, letters to the local paper by me, letters to the local paper complaining about me, bad press, good press, criticism, well founded and especially not, response to that criticism, expurgated sections of ECO-Fascists, and observations short and long, sacred and profane. I’ve always thought of myself as suspended midway between writer and journalist, an uncomfortable position at best, but nonetheless where I hang. The real world and acting within it – fascination is too weak a word, but unhooking myself and diving deeper for longer periods of time than that granted to any working journalist or even traditional non-fiction writers, gives me a deep satisfaction, amounting almost to gratitude. Put another way, to know something to its plumbed depths? That, for me, is everything.

Since the Greeks, and no doubt before, from time to time, country people have been forced to call the city to account. Digby Baltzell points out that, historically, the struggle has been between aristocrats, landed gentry and yeoman farmers and the patricians of the cities, who believe they are better suited to determine the future of the countryside and its people than those who live on and love the land. During the early 18th century, an ancestor of mine joined with Swift, Samuel Johnson and other thinkers of the time to oppose Disraeli’s Corn laws, forming the Country Party of disaffected Tories and Whigs. They fought what they called the Court party, made up of rent seekers, urban merchants and the usual suspects – interchangeable with those today who live on other people’s money. Country people, gentry or yeoman were libertarian, self-reliant, individual. They wanted a frugal and efficient government, low taxes, and personal liberty. The court was just that: courtiers, their allegiance available for the right price, the case remaining the same whether in the 1st, 14th, 16th, 18th or 21st century. Bolingbroke was exiled before the fight was over – the stakes were higher in 1715 – but those ideas shared by Burke, Locke and others informed in part, what was to become the American revolution.

Plus ca change. While the fight is no longer carried on by aristocrats and gentry, those of us who live in and love the country find ourselves in one hell of a fight. Outmatched at every turn and facing more money than we can imagine, the ideas remain the same: liberty, limited government, low taxes. Policy makers have long thought that the actions of governments supersede the ancient ways of the land and the knowledge of those who live on that land. They could not be more wrong, and after many decades of interference, the land itself is suffering, no more or less than those who live on it. Culture is more fragile than nature and rural culture, the founding culture in every country but city-states is breaking apart. This could not be more wrong. That connection between people and their lands should be, must be unbreakable. The ground on which we stand, the food we eat, the water that brings life, the air we breathe trumps any marketplace, no matter how elevated.

Islands Trust must adapt if it is to survive

Times Colonist, Saturday, March 10, 2012

Forest-lot families on Galiano barred from building homes for 20 years.

The Islands Trust, Canada’s blue-chip experiment in conservation government has decided not to take a $250,000 Gas Fund grant to review its policy statement. Gulf Island residents heaved a sigh of relief.  Was the Trust actually considering the will of its subjects?  Could it be that the Trust was finally listening to people who were not fanatic supporters?  Could the Trust learn, grow and even survive? Continue reading “Islands Trust must adapt if it is to survive”

Nelson Mandela’s Farewell

Published The Globe and Mail, 13 October 2010

I spent the first three weeks of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison sitting in his back garden. “Smile, young lady!” he’d call and, eventually, he let me follow him around like a dazzled puppy as he loped through Soweto. “Are you in love with Zwelakhe?” he’d tease. Zwelakhe Sisulu was his press gatekeeper and I’d stare fixedly at him because I wanted an interview. Once in, though, things froze. I, the Life magazine reporter, was under strict orders to elicit his feelings. I’d recently not asked the Dalai Lama whether he missed sex, meaning that a reporter had to be sent all the way to Dharamsala, so I was on the spot.

“We …” he’d start. I’d frown. “Well, we …” he’d try. I’d look distressed. It was torture. In 1990, Mr. Mandela didn’t think of himself as an “I.” The most famous political prisoner in the world, the hero and hope of Africa, was a “we.”

Today, after working for 20 years with Bill Phillips, one of the most rigorous editors around, Mr. Mandela’s heart and mind are all the way open and, for the first time in Conversations with Myself (published this week), we see everything: heart, intellect, relationships, family, patriot, the whole of a man whose life is one of the most remarkable in history.

The seemingly inarticulate leader I met was, of course, anything but and, throughout his life, he jotted notes (“conditions to be borne in mind when starting a Rev(olution)”), kept a diary and wrote thousands of letters. Agile and funny, his comments range from the ingenuous “Gee whiz, the Pope is also an outstanding person!” to profound, almost Christian homilies to a deeply sophisticated political philosophy.

Mr. Mandela is 92, and the book is his farewell. It takes the reader from his childhood in the royal household of the Thembu tribe, through the classical schooling once given to the brightest in every former British colony, to city life, legal work, two marriages and increasing political involvement. He describes in some detail his choice to split with the African National Congress and become a leader of its armed wing, MK (translated as Spear of the Nation).

His prison letters are heart-wrenching. He was not permitted to bury his young son or his mother. When Winnie, his second wife, was jailed, their two young daughters were without parents. This pitched Mr. Mandela into despair: “I feel I have been soaked in gall, every part of me, my flesh, bloodstream, bone and soul, so bitter am I to be completely powerless to help you in the rough and fierce ordeals you are going through.”

Richard Stengel, Mr. Mandela’s collaborator on Long Walk to Freedom, and Ahmed Kathrada, one of Mr. Mandela’s fellow prisoners, tease out the horrors of that imprisonment. The South African struggle was heroic and vicious by turns (Ruth First, the mother of one of my friends and an anti-apartheid activist, a woman Mr. Mandela still mourns, was blown up by a letter bomb sent by South African police), and Conversations illuminates all its stark and terrible beauty.

But it’s in Mr. Mandela’s political thinking that his book truly soars. He insists over and over that “we” want a non-racial culture, where all are equal: “At a time when some people are feverishly encouraging the growth of fractional forces, raising the tribe into the final and highest form of social organization, setting one national group against the other, cosmopolitan dreams are not only desirable but a bounden duty; dreams that stress the special unity that hold the freedom forces together …”

Conversations demonstrates why Mr. Mandela’s hand on the tiller meant that his revolution didn’t result in a liberation bloodbath, or at least not much of one. He’s still a collectivist, although, he claims, no longer a communist. And he doesn’t outright condemn the violence in today’s South Africa, the habit of which MK, in part, formed. But he repeatedly preaches empathy for one’s enemies, and his collectivism is so moored to individual liberty that it’s collectivism even a conservative can love.

If the world can create such a man in such a furnace, freedom for everyone is, indeed, possible.

Elizabeth Nickson is a writer living in Victoria.

How Big Brother Came to the Gulf Islands

How Big Brother came to the Gulf Islands
The Islands Trust has turned the region into a museum exhibit for wrong-headed conservation
Last Sunday, suitably enough July 4th, the 13 communities of the Gulf Islands threw Salt Spring Coffee into Ganges Harbour and kicked off a rebellion.
With the Islands Trust’s refusal of the coffee company’s development application, the iron-fisted conservation government now finds itself in more trouble with its citizens than ever contemplated in those dewy days 35 years ago when the trust was struck to preserve and protect the Gulf Islands.
Former Vancouver mayor Senator Larry Campbell spoke, and 40 tractors, backhoes, septic and dump trucks drove to the protest site, some of the big-machine operators were nude.
To many on the Gulf Islands, the trust has become Big Brother, impenetrable, managed by a small closed elite, and destructive not only to once vivid, diverse and open communities, but arguably to the land itself.
The Gulf Islands have long been known as an argument surrounded by water. The end of the hippie trail, the repository of the anarchic, ridiculous and strange, to the casual observer people move here, shed their adult selves and decide to express their inner artist. All of which might lead that observer to divine that the islands are essentially ungovernable.
In point of fact, there is no government. Dozens of volunteer committees struggle with parks, water, library, recycling, recreation, fire, and every other issue that might come up before a municipal government. Area CRD directors parcel out money and try to keep up. And while the trust describes itself as a “unique form of local government,” its mandate is solely to manage land use. Mismanage might be a more precise word.
Property prices are among the highest in the country, despite 90 per cent of the land lying fallow and neglected. Tinder builds up in those abandoned forests, and invasive species predate once fertile fields. Hundreds of Gulf Islanders live in forest shacks, boats, trailers and tents, while the trust endlessly studies plans for affordable housing.
Applications for business expansion can take a decade to process through the trust and requirements are so stringent that applicants shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars only to be turned down, as the coffee company was, based on a “feeling.”
As business owners wait, jobs melt away, and young people, shorn of opportunity, leave. On many of the islands, there are so few students that schools are starting to close. And the islands are aging rapidly; on Hornby, the median age is 60.
The trust is the great-grandaddy of a new kind of government, which has over-laid strict environmental management on a new kind of jurisdiction — the conservation community. Struck in 1974, the trust has been imitated all over the world: The California Coastal Commission and the Cape Cod Commission, for example, are modelled, in part, upon the trust.
Essentially undemocratic, each island, whether 10,000 or 450 strong, has only two trustees, with any tie vote broken by an off-island trustee who comes in for the monthly meetings. Trust council can, with a single vote, obviate any decision approved by local trustees.
On Galiano, 100 forest-lot owners have been waiting since 1991 for permission to build just one house on plots that range from eight hectares to 43 hectares. Nowhere else in Canada must a property owner pay residential taxes on a property he cannot live on, and nowhere else in B.C. is a forest-lot owner not permitted a residence. On Denman, trustees turned down a 405-hectare park, bigger than Stanley Park, offered in return for a total of 100 houses on the 486 remaining hectares. Denman’s density is one resident for every 10 hectares, hardly “overdeveloped.” Dozens of similar decisions have worn away trust credibility and respect.
All over the world conservation communities are failing. An imposed web of ecosystem management regulation practically ensures a poor and aging population.
New York State’s 2.4-million-hectare Adirondack National Park, for example: 59 per cent of the park is private but subject to the earliest form of environmental regulation. The 30-year results were just tabulated: the population is aging, a school closes every 18 months, private business has fled, there is no Internet or cellphone coverage, young people have left, property tax revenues crashed, welfare and social service requirements have spiked and only massive government subsidy keeps the park going. Much of it is now closed off with little money left for maintenance.
Not one resident of the Gulf Islands wants over-development. We cherish our small intimate rural communities and treasure the little corner of the natural world we have been given to tend. Many of us build green houses, covenant our lands, and build salmon enhancement.
But without sensible reform, another 10 years of trust mis-management will turn the islands into museum exhibits for authoritarian and wrong-headed conservation.
Elizabeth Nickson is a writer who lives on Saltspring Island. Her next book is Soft Place to Fall.

Where Are All The Corpses

On a more positive note, while I have been in the trenches, the inestimable Dr. Timothy Hulsey has been auditing the U.N.’s Biodiversity Sky is Falling 33% of the World’s Species Are Going Extinct Report, Summer 2010.   To date he has found that only 29% of the citations used are peer-reviewed.  Less than one-third.  And we know just how reliable those are.  Conservation biologists who quarrel with the sky-is-falling, the earth- beneath-our-feet-is-collapsing agenda do not get grants.  Nor are they published.  They are not granted tenure.  They are shut out of the profession.

The rest of the citations are put together by the various and many organizations with an interest in promoting universal fear of collapsing ecosystems.

Like everyone I need to know:  Where are all the corpses?

The State of the World’s Ecosystems

This blogger asserts that just as global warming has created a whole warehouse of scandals, and politicized science to the point where reason has lost its moorings, conservation biology is equally as corrupt.  Over the past thirty years, our natural resources have been locked away from us by environmental NGO’s who have sold us a bill of goods about species and biodiversity loss, equally as bogus as the warming scam.  As a result, prices for all natural resources – particularly food and energy – are unnecessarily high, and penalize the least advantaged among us, preventing the very poor from climbing out of their poverty.

Because of this pseudo-science, country people numbering in the tens of millions have been driven off their loved lands in every nation on earth.  Most poignant is the state of those indigenous peoples in the developing world who have had their land stolen from them and resources locked away, by the heirs to the greatest American fortunes, who run the foundations based on those fortunes.  Well connected, with unlimited funds, Ivy league educations, and an adherence to a false ideology, they’ve created a mapping system covering more than 1/3 of the planet, that is nothing more than a pack of lies.  Nonetheless these mapping systems, once created are donated to local governments and thereby form the basis of all land use planning.  The assertion of massive species loss is the so-called rationale behind the takings of hundreds of millions of acres in hundreds of countries, developed and not.

Working country people in every locale say these maps cannot be ground-truthed, that more often than not, what the mapping says is there, is not there.  The mapping all too often is a politicized tissue of lies, created by pet scientists who are creating jobs for themselves first by establishing ecosystem collapse, then in finding ways to stop ecosystem collapse.

In April of 2010, the U.N. Panel on Biodiversity announced that 1/3 of the species on the planet are going extinct.  With this document, which had no citations attached to it, these so called experts assert, among other absurdities, that 90% of the grasslands of North America are going extinct.  Even a schoolchild on a bus on the Canadian prairies or in the great intermountain States of the U.S. would find this laughable. One hundred and twenty-four countries contributed to this report.  The reports will certainly be found to be a clever mix of fact, fiction, utopian fantasy and blatant fabrication.

Over the next year, this blog will attempt to gather data that ground-truths (fact checks) the assertions of the UN Biodiversity Panel, the Heinz Foundation’s 2008 The State of the Nations Ecosystems, an equally politicized report on species loss, and the grand-daddy of them all, The Nature Conservancy’s NatureServe.  I will publish the findings of conservation biologists on the ground all over the world, as I find them.  Conservation biologists who disagree with the prevailing zeitgeist, much like climate scientists who do not agree with the UN IPCC, are silent.  Many are afraid for their careers, since granting, especially from U.S. foundations, the U.N. and its satellites and most universities,  depends upon following party line.

My Gym

It’s spring and some days I have to chain myself to my desk.  The broom is calling you see, and not a witches’ broom either – though witches’ brooms must have been made with the stuff I routinely slaughter.  It’s stiff and green and tough as steel wire and this month, the bright ghastly yellow flowers surround the house – 150 meters away, but nonetheless, it will go to seed in a month, and then all the earth – scraped bare by the construction crew –  will be colonized.

So I got out with my loppers, rubber boots, and long sleeves and start work.  It is the best exercise ever.  Better than downhill skiing – ok not quite. Galloping a horse across a field – that’s more fun I admit, but I no longer risk death.  But most things – the gym, hiking, swimming – cutting broom trump broom.  Within fifteen minutes I’m breathing hard and sweating and here’s the thing – I don’t want to stop.  It’s too satisfying, it’s fun, it’s time travel back to when our ancestors cleared farmland – I used to think how miserable that must have been.  Now I know they were all high as kites the whole damn time.

I’ve been clearing broom for 12 years now on and off.  It is the most aggressive invasive species out here and it flourishes wherever land has been disturbed and then allowed to go fallow – the best argument ever against our metastatic conservation urge.  All local shrubs and flowers are crowded out – the nootka rose, the camas lily, the chocolate orchid – gone.

Here’s the thing: I arrived in the country, hollowed out from 20 years in big big cities, frail, exhausted, often bedridden with flu or a persistent cold. Broom gave me back my health.  Working outside cured me.  I can hike straight up a mountain now, or run five miles (with breaks) and I never get sick for more than a day.  Destroying that shrub on my 28, then after the (green) subdivision, 16.5 acres has given me another 40 years of brutal health.  Now, I must go because if I do four hours of phone interviews,  I can have two in my broom patch.