What do artists, engineers and undersea explorers have in common?

naturalists are now beginning to look beyond this, and to see that there must be some other principle regulating the infinitely varied forms of animal life.Alfred Russel Wallace

Darwin was going to be a priest. After leaving his dream of theology (i can’t remember why, doesn’t matter right now) was invited, at 22 years old, to travel on the S.S. Beagle as a “naturalist” and an illustrator.

Artists make great discoveries accidently, on purpose. Artists perhaps share the most with explorers and scientists than any other discipline because they allow for anything to be possible.

In this past week, James Cameron finally touched down with the bottom of the ocean. When he got there, he tweeted, he took pictures, and he paid for the whole crazy shebang himself. Just know that all your good, hard earned cash has gone to such a worthy cause. Just from going to see The Lord of The Rings (also a worthy cause in a literary sense), you have contributed to undersea exploration never before possible. We don’t have any photos of the ocean floor previous to this. These will be the first. I will have to amend my poem Promiseswhen I perform it from now on.Speaking of environmental poems and activism, I have been invited to perform at an anti-pipeline event in Smithers in early June. I keep hoping that by then I will come up with some great solution for the issue. It is likely the people who became engineers instead of the artists they probably wanted to be, will eventually also be the ones to create the solutions.

When I was studying at the Banff Centre for the Arts last April, there was a “Pipeline Integrity Conference” happening at the same time. I was wearing this T-shirt (the front says No Pipelines, No Tankers, No Problem) at lunch. While getting my creme brulee, or some such delicious thing from the cafeteria,  I was approached by a senior engineer from Enbridge who wanted to ask me about my shirt. I said, “sure, what do you want to know”, and he said “well, I work for Enbridge”, and I said “well, I live in northern BC and am very concerned about Enbridge’s plans” and he said “concerned, is a good word.”

We ended up having a very long and involved conversation. In that conversation he agreed with me that shipping raw logs to china was the dumbest idea the government has ever had. I helped him make the connection to oil and said I imagine he would eat his words if this pipeline goes through the next time he’s buying some plastic thing at the Canadian tire Store that was MADE IN CHINA. he winced.

When I told him I took environmental studies and Anthropology partially funded by  Alberta Oil money, the engineer told me that when he went to school there was no “environmental studies”and that he would have loved to take it. I retorted with “well, I’m sure you can afford to go to university, why not now?”

I asked him as a brilliant thinker, to consider all the places we could be if all the brilliant thinkers on the planet had used all their creative energy they had been wasting on the industrial lie to create REAL solutions for us. I also pointed out how devastating that lie is and has become, especially in this instance.

Then I really asked him to just imagine it for one second. And in that one second, his eyes teared up and my eyes teared up and he said “well, the government will decide on this project now” and I said “well, you know you (and all these thousand (thousand!!) people in this room have the power to make this stop now.”

After this 20 minute conversation (much more to it.. wish I’d taped it) with creme brulee still in hand, I thanked him for talking to me. He thanked me for talking to him and said that it was likely that none of his other colleagues would be brave enough to have a conversation with someone who disagrees.

The only people who are willing to take the risk are the people that have nothing to lose, or the people who truly are artists at heart and seek exploration and discovery as the only means to feed a soul. The reason they are the only ones is because, unfortunately, a lot of the time, eco friendly engineering and being an artist hasn’t paid in the past… unless of course,  you are brilliant enough to win a nobel prize or a rolex award.

I just happened to grow up knowing an engineer in Calgary who has done just that in his life.  In the spirit of applauding artists, explorers and engineers working for GOOD, I share this awesome little piece of the universe with you. Many of the Rolex awards are more than worth checking out, here is Dave’s story: http://www.rolexawards.com/en/the-laureates/daveirvinehalliday-the-project.jsp

Cheers to James Cameron for taking the giant step (not to mention his previous stance on the Alberta Tar Sands). Just imagine if Darwin had never taken the risk and set out on an adventure… (well, maybe Wallace would have eventually found a way to share his discovery… but that is beside, or maybe the most important part of, the point of this whole story).


psst. People gather today at the Vancouver Art gallery to protest the Enbridge pipeline, tankers offshore and support the Tanker ban (that enbridge would like to say doesn’t exist!!??). grab a friend with money, grab a friend with power, grab a friend with exploratory tendencies and get down there if you can. x

4 responses to “What do artists, engineers and undersea explorers have in common?”

  1. I like what you say about artists at heart. NIce.
    At about noon today there were only about 500 people gathered at the VAG – but more were arriving. I heard about it on the radio.

  2. Hi 🙂 Just wondering where I can get one of these t-shirts! I absolutely must have one.

    • Hi Danielle, I got mine from the Skeena watershed Conservation coalition out of Hazelton, BC. I am not entirely sure who is making them, but they could pass you onto the best sources! skeenawatershed.com