Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Airports and awakeningsMay 17th, 2009

Bruce’s first blog back in Canada:

I arrived back on Deer Island safe and sound following a long day of travel over the Mother’s Day weekend.

I find it very difficult to travel on airlines these days. It is incredible to witness the amount of garbage generated on each flight. 

“What would you like to drink?” asks the U.S. Airlines stewardess. Smiling, I reply, “A can of orange juice please.” 

“Would you like a cup and ice?” 

“Will the cup be recycled?”

“No, sir, we don’t have enough space to recycle on this flight.”  

You brought the plastic and cans on the flight initially, didn’t you? I think. 

“I’ll take the can, no glass, no ice and I will recycle the can myself.” 

So begins the trip home to a developed country. Making my way carefully through the airport terminals in Charlotte, NC and NY, NY, I immediately notice two things: the fierce speed at which people are moving and that no one seems to be smiling or happy. Welcome to the United States of America.

PADDLERS ENJOY CALM CONDITIONS AND EXPLORING A HERRING WEIR OFF ST. HELENA ISLAND IN THE BAY OF FUNDY EARLIER THIS WEEK.

PADDLERS ENJOY CALM CONDITIONS NEAR A HERRING WEIR OFF ST. HELENA ISLAND IN THE BAY OF FUNDY THIS WEEK.

I eventually make my way back to North West Harbour through Bangor, Maine, and am greeted by waves gently lapping on the beach, the call of a loon and quiet, peaceful solitude. It almost seems as if I entered a black hole immediately after leaving the tranquility of  Playa Tambor in Costa Rica and didn’t emerge until I landed on Deer Island.

The ferry crossings, the peaceful rural setting… I am struck by how similar Seascape’s two bases of operation are. The rainy season (what Ticos call “winter”) has arrived in Costa Rica and spring has breathed new life on Deer Island. The peepers in the local pond are singing in the evening and I know the warmer temperatures will soon be here. 

We have already run several trips here in Canada. An annual trip with Sedbergh School from Ontario was held on a beautiful calm, sunny day. Sedbergh is an international school and the group included students from the Bahamas, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. It is still quiet on the water in terms of marine life. However, we did spot several Harbour Seals and a pair of Common Loons.

A second trip involved a fellow who was attending a conference in Saint John and a couple from New Hampshire who left their dogs Molly and Quigsly at the shop while on the water. Heavy winds were forecast, so we carefully wound our way through the island archipelago, taking full advantage of the protection the islands offered. In the end, we did have to pull out early to be safe and shuttle folks back to our base, where the two dogs happily greeted us.

WARMLY DRESSED HAPPY PADDLERS FOLLOWING THURSDAY'S WINDY SPRING PADDLE.

WARMLY DRESSED HAPPY CUSTOMERS AT THE TAKE OUT FOLLOWING THURSDAY'S WINDY SPRING PADDLE.

During the trip, I was asked whether it was hard to make the transition from Costa Rica to Canada. I looked at what I was wearing – fleece pants, paddling pants, wools socks, rubber boots, fleece sweater, paddling jacket, PFD and wool hat – and responded: from a temperature perspective most certainly. 

But the hardest part of the transition is traveling through very busy urban centers and coming to the realization that most people lack a connection to the earth and have not found balance or peace in their lives.

On flights, most people do not question where the plastic goes, they are only thinking about getting to their final destination. I think passengers need to carefully consider where the final destination is for our garbage and to force airlines to adopt recycling programs. This would dramatically reduce the amount of plastic that reaches our landfills, rivers and oceans.

I am very fortunate to live and work in two beautiful locations. Seascape leaves a very small environmental footprint, and while you are with us we will encourage you to do your part. Hopefully you will take time to reflect and make sound environmental choices on your next flight. This will perhaps make you smile and provide you with a sense of peace.

Bruce

Bruce’s first blog back in Canada above inspired me to offer an addendum to this topic:

After we endured the cavalier attitude of U.S. Airways toward the prospect of recycling, I watched in horror as a US security agent in the Charlotte airport yelled at Bruce as if he were a boot camp recruit, slamming his MacIntosh laptop computer down hard into a plastic tub. I have to admit I’m always embarrassed to bring my Canadian partner into the US! Why is it that we have become complacent in the face of security employees’ blatant disrespect for their customers? When did it become acceptable to scream angrily at people who are buying your product, just because your job entails some semblance (though many times removed) of national security?

I went to one of the airport’s Starbucks seeking solace in a skim milk latte, something I hadn’t had for months, knowing I would have to purchase a permanent container because I refuse to buy their senseless throw-away cups. It amazes me how many people buy them and throw them away like automatons without thinking, without questioning anything. Like lemmings or sheep following one another off a cliff.

“Are you a mother?” was the first question posed to me by the young lady who stood ready to take my order. The irony that she sounded like a rapper getting ready to follow the M word with the F word was lost on her, as was the connection between Mother’s Day and Mother Earth. What I bought was a chocolate chip scone and a $5 ceramic mug, requesting that it be filled with the coveted latte. And even though my answer to her question was no, she matter-of-factly gave me the Mother’s Day discount.

From here, I enter the adjacent magazine store with the intention of buying one little package of tic-tacs, but am stopped in my tracks by a cat’s anxious meow. I whirl around to see a heavily made-up woman in designer clothing shopping officiously for this and that, all the while slinging around on her hip a frightened cat in a luxury carrier. I am suddenly repulsed by the unmindful transport of this poor creature, who only wants to find peace. Identifying only with the cat, I feel on the verge of insanity because I am so unlike the people around me in the airport. So I put the tic-tacs back, flee the store and go to my gate to prepare myself for the next assault of culture shock.

Starbucks’ use of throw-away cups, U.S. Airways’ refusal to recycle, militant airport security attitudes – all of these non-environmentally friendly and non-user friendly systems deserve to be questioned and criticized and I’m working hard to still my mind from the irritants of an over-the-top consumer-out-of-control materialist society. I so want for people and companies (who we know are smart because they know how to make money) to start working together to get a point where we are self-sustained and not buying and doing unsustainable things all the time.

No one can do everything, but we can all make small choices that have a big impact on the original Mother from which life springs. The Buddha said, “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”

Frances

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION - BARNES ISLAND, BAY OF FUNDY

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL FOR THE FUTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION - BARNES ISLAND, BAY OF FUNDY




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