Raffi recounts the story of how he came to the conclusion that we need a major social shift to considering the needs of children before all others at this year’s Haig-Brown Memorial Lecture on Friday. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Raffi and Gillis inspire at annual Haig-Brown lecture

Honouring the child and addressing the complex relationship between nature and the economy

A beloved children’s entertainer and a documentary filmmaker came together to give a pair of exceptional and poignant talks at the 8th Annual Haig-Brown Memorial Lecture last weekend.

Presented by the Campbell River Arts Council, the Museum at Campbell River and the Haig-Brown Institute, the lecture has a history of approaching conservation, ecology, environmentalism and social issues in new and unique ways while honouring the past – and this year’s event was no exception.

After executive director of the arts council and director of public programs at the museum Ken Blackburn welcomed the crowd, Damien Gillis took to the stage and introduced his film, Primeval: Enter the Incomappleux.

Primeval: Enter the Incomappleux – Teaser from Valhalla Wilderness Society on Vimeo.

The film follows a group of conservationists, biologists and wilderness explorers as they trek through an area of B.C.’s Selkirk Mountains and explores our society’s complex relationship between nature and the economy.

Both before and after the screening of the film, Gillis spoke passionately about his love of the natural world and his own struggle with this relationship. His own family comes from a background of resource extraction and he passes no judgement on the practice – he just thinks it can be done in a more responsible way much of the time.

And he wants it not only for us, but for his young son and for all our sons and daughters – who, after all, will inherit the world we leave them.

“Surely, there is room in our economy for smart, well-regulated development, but there must also be a line beyond which certain places and values are held as sacred. Like a community’s drinking water and wild salmon habitat. Like the Incomappleux – a natural cathedral to which I would rather take my son than to Notre-Dame or the Sistine Chapel. I want my son to wander amongst giants, to stare up at their canopy, to feel the cool breeze on his cheek, to lose track of time and to forget, even for a moment, about the facts, figures and concerns of our man-made world,” Gillis says.

The film and lecture also highlighted the fight the Valhalla Wilderness Society is involved in urging the government to recognize that area and its ecological wonder as a provincial park, and, as Gillis says, “to avoid having the whole place turn into a tree farm.”

After a short intermission, Raffi Cavoukian – who most know simply as Raffi – took the stage.

Raffi recounted how during his long and illustrious career in music, traveling all over the world, he has met many famous and influencial people, but the ones who really stuck with him were the ones who were trying to make a shift in the way we look at the world itself and our relationship alongside it.

People like Nelson Mandela, Al Gore and the Dali Llama and events at the United Nations and other global leadership conventions and conferences, Raffi says, all led him toward what he thinks is his purpose in life: changing the focus of society so we consider the needs of the children over our own.

“Child honouring is a vision,” he says, “an organizing principle and a way of life – a revolution in values that calls for a profour redesign of every sphere of society.”

And that redesign, he says, begins with acknowledging that the first years of a person’s life are more important in terms of who that person becomes than any other period of their lives.

Once we realize that by focusing on the needs of the children, the rest of it will come along and we will make a better world for everyone, he says, we can really start to make that change for the better that the world desperately needs right now.

“Child honouring is a corrective lens that, once we look through it, allows us to question everything from the way we measure economic progress to our stweardship of the planet,” Raffi says. “It offers a proactive and developmental approach to creating sustainable societies. As a creed that crosses all faiths and cultures, child honouring can become a potent remedy for the most challenging issues of our time.”

For more on Raffi’s child honouring philosophy, visit childhonouring.org and for more on Gillis’ film and the efforts of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, visit vws.org

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