An unlikely journey into environmentalism

 Photo: TJ Turenne.

Photo: TJ Turenne.

Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound was a transformative experience. I grew up in traditional Squamish territory, now known as Gibsons, B.C., and have always been blessed to live in one of the most beautiful regions in the world — but camp helped me see my place in the community in a new light.

I come from a cultural background of insensitivity to environmentalism. My community is often divided over issues of economic development. For a long time, I looked at people who were passionate about the planet and anti-development as out of touch with our needs as humans living in an economy-driven society.

My unlikely environmentalism journey began on a ferry ride when I picked up a copy of the David Suzuki Reader in the gift shop. I was only a few chapters in when and I began to understand a different way of thinking.

I got an email about the camp and applied soon after. I felt unqualified. As a 19-year-old business student, my environmentalism resumé consisted of complaining about curbside recycling regulations and the occasional day hike.

After a full week of waking up to views of the North Shore mountains, spending days learning and connecting with a group diverse of compassionate people then falling asleep under the stars, I soon realized I was the one who was out of touch with reality.

I loved learning about the rich cultural history of my home region with the Squamish Nation and experiencing Howe Sound’s natural beauty first-hand with hikes, canoe trips and paddle-boarding adventures.

Camp was a place where I could be myself without fear of judgement. It was genuinely an open and accepting place where I was able to put aside my emotional baggage from back home and take down that front of toughness that was instilled in me.

After camp, I returned to university in Victoria, inspired to change my relationship with the planet. I have become a lot more active in the environmental community. I’ve helped organize rallies and joined my university’s divestment campaign on top of trading in my truck for a bike and switching to a meatless diet.

Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound was an unforgettable experience. I feel inspired and ready to create change in my community. 


TJ is a Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2015-16 participant from Gibsons, B.C.. He is currently studying Commerce at the University of Victoria.