What does a rainforest have to do with the Britannia Mine? The answer for me is quite a bit.
While recently on vacation in Costa Rica I engaged in something I usually do not do – I went on a guided tour – a tour that impacted me more than I imagined it could have.
The tour started as one might expect with a little background on the area and what we were going to be seeing before boarding the tram for our journey through and over the forest canopy. As we rose up the mountainside, our guide did a wonderful job at pointing out several aspects of the ecosystem which would have been difficult to appreciate the same or at all on our own. Perhaps the most rewarding part, however, was how genuinely excited our guide was in spotting animals. As is well known, the interest a guide has in the topic has a tremendous impact on how people are affected by it – simply put, if the guide does not care, neither will the people on the tour. This passion, however, was not fully revealed until the walking portion of the tour through the snake enclosures.
Before entering that part of the facility, our guide engaged in a short talk on snakes and the forest, which included a comparison of people to snakes. The question of which is more dangerous was introduced, with the answer being people. As he continued, he asked questions about how people live, leading to the point that people are the only animals that do not like to share their environment. It is a tale we have all heard before – a tale of how people are destructive – how we build our houses somewhere and want to drive all the other animals out of where we build. One of the comparisons was on how we don’t like termites yet they are an essential part of the forest ecosystem. These kinds of stories are nothing new to me, yet they always cause me to reflect on the way humans behave.
But then our guide said that one thing that has resonated with me since that tour. He asked the question of why people value a diamond in a ring more than a tree in the forest that could save their lives. The answer given was because people seek lifestyle, not life. He continued on how people mine for money, again, because lifestyle placed ahead of life.
I wondered later if the other people on that tour were as impacted by this short presentation that I am sure was intended to ease the potential fear of snakes within the group as I was. Would people leave that tour thinking about the deep impacts we all have on the environment?
Not lost in this for me was how much of an impact it was for me to be travelling through Costa Rica to spend more time in natural environments, especially that day.
Back in Canada, that short dialogue remains the most impactful moment of my journey, and that is what it has to do with the Britannia Mine.
It has to do with how we discuss mining and mined materials in a personal way - how we discuss mining as ‘life or lifestyle’.
In the time of COVID-19, when our lives have been turned upside down, it can help to reflect on what has gone before, in order to find hope for what may come.