Recently members of a nonprofit, online music community I belong to have been putting together a calendar of themselves in various poses of semi-nudity with their instruments placed in strategic spots. It is meant as a fundraiser and as a sort of celebration of people with bodies in all shapes and sizes, not dictated by the anorexic/bulimic leanings of Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Just a bunch of folkies having fun for a good cause. I've since found out this is not as unusual as I thought. There have been other causes, but the one I found the most interesting was the Salt Spring Island Women's `Preserve and Protect' Nude Charity Calendar for 2001, 2007 and beyond in British Columbia, Canada.
Thirty-five women, ranging from 18 to 74 years old, bared all in tasteful and beautiful photographs for the fundraiser. Their purpose is to save the natural resources of the island from logging by the Texada Land Corporation. Texada bought one-tenth of Salt Spring Island, about 5,000 acres in the southwest part of the island, which according to the Save Salt Spring website, at www.savesaltspring.com, is "the largest undeveloped part of the Southern Gulf Islands." Ninety percent of Texada's land on Salt Spring contains sensitive, rare, or endangered ecosystems. At the rate of Texada's logging , more than 1,000 acres of this precious land will be gone within a year. All that will be left is an ugly landscape of destructive clear-cutting across the equivalent of 500 soccer fields. Rocky bluffs, red cedar wetlands, salmon streams and miles of undeveloped shoreline gone, along with all of the wildlife which depended on its resources. Rare and endangered species are at risk, including river otters and mink, phantom orchids and the rare dusky-wing butterfly, as well as orca and porpoise which swim in Burgoyne Bay.
Texada claims to be using the land to earn profit from timber sales and to create homesites. In its eagerness to clear the land, Texada was fined $13,000 for violation of the B.C. Private Land Practices Regulation, which requires private landowners to ensure that logging does not damage such things as stream banks. Texada is the only company in the region which has been fined for such destruction.
According Briony Penn, a field naturalist with a PhD in geography, Salt Spring Island has "already lost two mountainsides with endangered ecosystems and community forest opportunities." Penn took some unusual action, recently, in a bid to attract media attention to the plight of Salt Spring. Wearing only underwear and an ankle-length blonde wig, she rode a horse through the streets of downtown Vancouver, in January, protesting the logging of Texada. Five other women, also bare-breasted, marched with her along with about 30 other protesters. Citing the ride of Lady Godiva one thousand years ago which challenged the greed and taxation that was ruining her community, Penn thought it an appropriate way to "remind ourselves again in the new millennium that greed is once again destroying communities."
Over $800,000 in money and pledges has been raised through calendar sales and other fund-raising efforts to purchase Texada's land for conservation. According to Bob Peart, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and board member of the Land Conservancy of B.C., Texada has "rebuffed overtures by asking for many times more than the assessed value of its lands."
Activists and islanders, alike, are calling on the provincial and federal governments to create a new national park on Salt Spring using funds from a $30 million marine heritage fund and a $110 million biodiversity package. Though the local government is required by law to "preserve and protect" the Gulf Islands, it has no jurisdiction over lands like Texada's, which are designated Forest Land Reserve. This lack of authority means it has no power to carry out its mandate and stop Texada's environmental destruction.
Salt Spring Island has a diverse and wonderful history filled with unusual settlers, from slaves who'd purchased their freedom and come there to homestead, to early Hawaiians, who called themselves "Kanakas" which is Polynesian for "human being," to other early pioneers. It is an island known for its famous artists, magnificent scenery, mild weather, and rural settings. Here's hoping their women descendants and neighbours, who chose to go au naturel, will be successful in their bid to save this idyllic island from massive destruction.
© February 21, 2001 OoBraughLoo Press All rights reserved