The Okanagan’s Dirty Secret

Is it the Dirty Laundry Winery?

No. That’s actually a little bit of colonial Canadian culture using the Okanagan to market Canada to itself by romanticizing prostitution. That’s easy. No, no, I mean the freaking air. Or, rather, its replacement with smoke and car exhaust.

Maybe building a city 150 miles long was a bad idea.

But, hey, party on.

But maybe you could walk?

A Proposal for Nature Tourism for the Okanagan

This wetland beauty is what a real tourism is made of.

I witnessed busloads of Asian tourists scattered across pastures in Iceland, to take pictures of exquisite light.

The timing, the location, the season, all have to be right.

These are ancient, honourable traditions.  They are alive here.

So often, though, I have seen Asian tourists in Vernon trying to find some nature to photograph off the front of their main stop, the honey farm, and the meadery, which closes its tasting counter for their arrival, by the busload.

So often have I seen them crossing traffic to shop at the Dollar Store.

Well, if they came for beauty, we have cattails. What are the tour bus companies thinking?

We also have feral squiggly willows.

They are worth $3000 of Nikon equipment, too.

And a plane ticket.

But why just Asians. Why don’t Canadians come for Beauty, too?

It’s not particularly hard to find, even in the ruins in which we are forced to live.

It’s easy. You go by foot. Then you stop.

Then your mind stops.

It’s all ephemeral, but here’s the thing: ephemerality is continuous. We have the ability to flow, but also to pool.

Let’s pool.

Let’s follow the turtles for awhile and give our guests the respect they deserve and open our social forms to the living world for them.

Look at how the water turns to turtle shell with the lightest breeze!

And by doing so, open them for us.


Global Warming, Indigenous Culture and Industrial Nature

Please, forget carbon dioxide for just a minute, if you can. It’s a symptom, not a cause. There is worse.

Nature in Canada

This mule deer doe is trapped by fences on this hill. The collection of weeds (all introduced by cattle farming, except for the sagebrush, which has choked out the hillside, is also a result of cattle farming. This is an industrial ruin.

Nature in the Swiss Alps.

These alms in Unterwasser, in Alt Sankt Johann, feature a flock a sheep around the ruins of an old croft, a pasture water dam (centre of image) on an old creek (dry), and machine-hayed, state-subsidized farms on the beds of old forests. This is an industrial museum, used as a pharmaceutical to enable people who live in urban areas to survive as biological entities in artificial environments causing physical and emotional stress.

Nature in Zurich

This is an indigenous city. Here the celts became romans, adapted, and became better romans than the romans. After 2000 years of that, they raise their children in cages. This is a school playground.

In this context of adaptation, biological nature is an artform. You can find it at the graveyard across the street.

The Art of Death and Life

It’s an ancient celtic thing, that lives on. It’s called landscaping, because that’s the fashionable way to talk about it, learned from the roman britons of the 18th and 19th centuries: another group of indigenous people who romanticized nature to survive the brutality of states built as cages, and built new cultures out of it.

The wealth created by spreading these new aestheticized cultures around the planet, and living off of the conversion of other indigenous spaces into romanticized nature, or wilderness, has powered the global economy for a long time. We all live in the industrial ruins (corpses) these compromises have left behind.

Industrial Ruin on Vancouver Island

The ancient salmon forests and rain forests of the North East Pacific Coast are largely gone now. A few trees remain, but that’s it. Some of the oldest trees, however, ancient Nuxalk, Kwakwala, Haida, Nu-chah-nulth and Tlingit trees, for example, that grew huge in a shared ecosystem of humans, human shell middens, salmon and bears, litter the shores of British Columbia now, where they are called driftwood. They are not. They are ancient forests, chopped into logs, and torn by storm out of log booms. They were intended as houses, for immigrants in the United States and Canada, as well as structural timbers for Allied Aircraft, and so on. The indigenous people of this land were sacrificed, in other words, to create homes for people displaced elsewhere.

In an industrial culture, such views of industrial ruin are romantic and beautiful. In this case, they are called nature.This large stone on the shore of Discovery Passage, for example, is called, in the language of nature, a glacial erratic, and in romantic, colonial language, a grizzly bear that froze just as it touched the shore of Vancouver Island, and mythological evidence of why there are no grizzly bears on Vancouver Island. The tale was made up by a 19th Century missionary, along the lines of the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling. It is a part of a far older series of ancestral myths. Its attraction for artists of the industrial age is a testament to its ongoing power of attraction. For humans, this is a kind of industrial mirror.

Nature itself, a European concept, is a series of ancient indigenous forests (celtic), sublimated as principles of regrowth and renewal. It is what grows within industrial settings, returning them to the state of the Garden of Eden. In that regard, this colonized and industrialized foreshore is a Christian landscape, which is why it is so attractive to European cultures:

Ancient Kwakwala Clam Garden, Willow Point

This is also a Christian Landscape, this time above the Rhine at Sankt Goarshausen, in the celtic and roman heart of Europe. This is a catholic landscape, from a time in which the Catholic church was a political and industrial institution, when it was, in fact, an adaptation of an indigenous culture (rome) to an invasion and takeover by its own slaves. The resulting new rome was catholic. It produced images of itself, just as contemporary Canada produces images of its colonial processes along its own shores.

Wilderness in Sankt Goarshausen

These vineyards, and tens of thousands of steep hectares just like them, were farmed by hand two centuries ago, and even one, to create wine, which was marketted to dirty, industrial cities as a healthful, peasant alternative to industrial illnesses, containing simultaneously the power of the land, the power of simple people who rose from the land, and the hierarchal and imposed power of the church and God, who brought the power of the sun, and diefied power, into the grapes through the action of human hands subjugated to industry and piety. In its time, it was a beautiful compromise, creating a beautiful culture. It is all gone. Modern industrialization of wine land has created a price structure that cannot support hand labour.  This spiritual industrialization is now a ruin and, unsurprisingly, the churches are empty.

Wilderness in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley

Another name for this form of industrial ruin, or nature, is White Privilege. This is a landscape that became racialized in 1858 and which continues along the process of racialization. In the centre of the image above is Siya?, one of the four food chiefs of syilx culture. Everything else is a series of feral European weeds. In other words, Siya?, and the valley’s earth-based culture, live marginally within the unintentional consequences of racial abuse, dehumanization, and the separation of culture and landscape. But perhaps I am being unfair. Here, have another look:

Wild Rose in a White Landscape

In a Canadian context, she is called a weed, while the real weeds are called “grassland” and “nature.” That’s how far we’ve come.

What is the Canadian vision today in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley?


White Privilege: The View Over Indigenous Space

This is the outdoor, garden space of a home for Canadians retired from the petroleum industry to the East. It looks out over The Commonage, an indigenous pasture land that has been under land claim since 1895. This “house”, or viewing platform over a regime of power, will cost about a million bucks once the dust has settled.

You are looking at echoes of European architecture, filtered through the indigenous slavery cultures of the colonial American Southwest, and built out of machine-chipped wood, which is called “added value.” Bricks and European or Arizona-style adobe and plaster will be laid over these faux pillars and arches, to give the illusion of old world comfort and aristocracy. It is, however, only illusion. Not only will it not last, but it comes at a price that only people of White, industrial privilege can afford. Well, not quite.

You can, if you like, buy a town home and live on the edge of the privilege of your oil-wealthy neighbours up above, with a view over an industrial orchard. This too is called nature. This home is built on 5 metres of infilled gravel, into which 50 cm-thick (approximate) concrete footings were poured at -20C in the middle of the winter. Notice how the spring rains are wearing away the foundation. Expect the walls to settle.

Meanwhile, in Europe, nature becomes a gesture.

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Palm trees in the old Catholic wine-making town at the entrance to the Rhine Gorge.

The tourists are growing old now. They walked five years ago. Now they are hauled around in diesel “trains”, which clear all pedestrians out of the streets. This is wine culture today: not wine culture at all. These people are not buying wine. They are buying a tour of a museum town. What is on show is indigenous culture, through the filter of the compromises it has had to make over time to survive. This way people have of surviving in cages can be quite beautiful to people who live in cages.

Here’s the Okanagan Valley equivalent.

Indigenous Food and Medicine Crop in the Ruins

aka Arrow-Leafed Balsam Root in the cheat grass.

Most often, though, it just looks like this:

Or this: In White language, this landscape is called a desert, a term which increases its attractiveness and value (hence those American Southern indigenous-slave-culture architectural forms promising aristocratic ease), but it isn’t. The wheat grasses below (also an introduced weed but intended to replace the original grassland for grazing purposes), show just how much the land isn’t a desert. This grass is growing immediately beside the dead cheatgrass above.

Not a Desert!

“Desert” is a White term here.

So, please, forget carbon dioxide as a cause of global warming for just a moment and hang out with your mule deer sister. Look how afraid she is, racing through the weeds and a few indigenous plants that, like her, are surviving in this cage, and on which she grazes.

Carbon Dioxide is not a cause. It is a symptom. The cause is “Nature”. “Nature” is a racial term. The abuse it causes is the cause of Global Warming. It is a ruin. It has many forms. Similarly, the salsify (French) below along the old (Earl) Gray Canal Trail (British) in the old Syilx Illahie, is not a cause of ecosystem degradation but a symptom, and the source of new beauty.

This post-apocalyptic view, too. The regrowth here takes on special poignancy against the background of failed industrialization and rust.

This failed industrialization and adoration of death, shows up in the backyard image below: plastic chairs model after handcrafts from the American East, in the ruins of a Japanese orchard converted to gardening space int he 1970s, converted now to a lamp of bones over a new-age bowl of magical crystals, with partially-emptied jugs of home-made wine, with ground cloth and gravel to keep the old syilx land from growing through and creating the need for hand labour.

Death has been internalized. It is all powerful and we attempt to survive biologically within its grip. Global Warming is a logical consequence. Industrialization is not the cause. De-indigenization is.

The Old Tourism Industry Hits the Water Again Rag

Look at how the wind and water are building the land at the mouth of Vernon Creek.p1420765

Look at how little Canada deserves this lake.



Yup, it’s the time of shame again. That’s the invasive waterweed chopper, set out with water care funds not to care for the water but for the business of selling summer in Palm Beach, which this isn’t, but it’s all that people could think of. With my water care taxes, yet.p1420749

What a dishonouring of spirit.




Sustaining the Okanagan 20: Tourism Lessons from Iceland

Winter or summer, Icelanders send the 7 tourists for every Icelander out to see “nature.” Icelanders have noticed that people from other countries get a kick out of this kind of thing, no matter what the weather. Icelanders are too busy for that stuff. The 326,000 of them have a country to run, plus they need to go shopping. Here’s where they might send you. Note: it’s probably exactly where you’d like to go.

This water flowed through pastures once, until lava covered them. Now it flows twenty kilometres under the lava, before erupting in 300 springs. No sheep farming anymore, but there are compensations.

How beautiful!

Delicate, too.


It’s not that the Icelanders don’t go on holiday. They go up the hill from here, to this.


Birch Forest

These tiny trees once covered the lowlands of the country, but the ancestors of the Icelanders, and their sheep, cut them all down, burned them and munched them 1000 years ago. Those that have regenerated under protection or have been replanted are an abiding symbol of endurance and resurrection. For an Icelander, a holiday among the trees is about as good as it gets. So there are some lessons for the Okanagan here. They are:

  1. A tourism industry doesn’t need “industry partners” or “tourist activities”. It needs something beautiful, someone to show you the way, and someone to grill a lamb for you in a remote location.
  2. People will pay a lot of money to spend fifteen minutes with the earth and its water, and it will change their lives.
  3. Local people want different opportunities than visitors.
  4. When people are too busy to welcome you, don’t worry, their family members will:

p1390520One of the peculiarities of Icelandic travel is the need to be watchful for cars stopped right in the middle of the road and even abandoned there while the occupants get out for a moment with sheep or horses.

Thing is, people don’t need a lot in order to have a profound experience. They need guides, pizza (the Icelandic national dish), wool sweaters, maybe a hamburger (the other Icelandic national dish), an IKEA bed, sheets and a pillow, fried chicken with fries (the third Icelandic national dish) and the occasional place to stop driving, get out, and lean over a fence. In the Okanagan, we send people off to wineries to buy drugs and tell them they are tasting the land, although if we were honest we’d say they are tasting a colonial dream, and then we’d rip out the vineyards to plant Syilx choke cherries, mariposa lily and nodding onion rather than pinots from Southern France, Traminers from Egypt and Rieslings from the Rhine, and say “Welcome to the land. Enjoy that a bit. We’re driving to IKEA in Vancouver for the weekend. If we did, maybe we’d start seeing tour busses parked at the side (well almost) of the road, spilling with travellers running out because Turtle Mountain is reflecting in a puddle, because tour busses do that in Iceland. In Vernon, in the Okanagan, busses bring similarJapanese tourists in by the thousands to buy propolis and royal jelly at the aviary, or a small bag of apples at the faux farm village and gift shop, while the nature they really want to see is just on top of the rocky glaciated upthrust seabed/volcanic outcrop/spirit rock/ancient lakeshore at the top of the orchard, an easy ten minute stroll away. People don’t travel to see colonial culture. They come from it. They want affirmation that the earth is still alive and beautiful.



Surely, we can learn to help them with that.


How Much Should a Trail Cost?

This is an Icelandic hiking trail.
It is public infrastructure for travellers and locals alike. You can see it on the scree slope below.
It is much loved. It leads to the heart of things (and a great view.)


A lower trail is in the image below, should you want to stay in the valley rather than head for the peak.


Here’s an Okanagan hiking trail.


The Okanagan Rail Trail covers 50 kilometres of level land. The costs include gravel, to make it safe to walk on, and rock scaling, also for safety, although the rock scaling risks destroying irreplaceable indigenous spirit rocks. I’m in favour of this fantastic trail and of spirit rocks, so I’m wondering, hey, does it need to be so complicated or so expensive? Let’s take a look at Icelandic rock scaling for safety purpose, one more time.







The Cost of Nature

This is tourism.V0021629 The image below shows the price of tourism. Hey, the water had to come from somewhere, eh. V0000115

The myth of Canada is that we can have it all, that we can squeeze water from a stone, but that is just money talking. This is not money (but it is water):


This is money (water on the hoof):



And this:



You can see what the birds think of that stuff. Ah, I’m being a trickster again, aren’t I. Look, here’s the deal. This is water:


Great Basin Giant Rye Calling the Birds of Winter Out of the Sky

(It takes awhile.)

It is woven into the land and into the threads of life. The image below shows tourism. It is water separated from life and turned into an element, which can be recombined with desire and petroleum (a synonym for money) to create a nightmare for fish and birds.


It is a dissection. And what do you have left after a dissection? This.


A subdivision. Death. Let’s be polite to our political, social and economic masters from the Petro-state, let’s even invite them to our feast, but let’s stop covering for their bad behaviour. If they want to terrorize our fish and then build a house to look out over it all as if they were in Kenya some 2,000,000 years ago, they need to plant water in our soil.


Apostemon Bee in Mariposa Lily

First things first.

I Found Your Fishing Line

No, not here.


Not here!

trackNot here. That would be silly.


Here. In between.



Or maybe you were trying to settle in like this?



All images from Kalamalka Lake, except the American Robin in her nest, which is from my apricot tree.