The air was sucked out of the room again.
Wildlife Photographer, environmental advocate and author Ian McAllister had a packed house at the Tidemark Theatre, and he’d just changed slides again to reveal yet another of his stunning photographs while he continued to speak about his life watching and documenting the region that has come to be known as the Great Bear Rainforest.
The powerful presentation was part of the Great Bear Wild tour, in support of McAllister’s new book of the same name. It was the fifth stop of seven on the planned tour, the proceeds of which are going to support Pacific Wild’s endeavours to continue studying and advocating for the north/central B.C. coast.
Andrew Nikiforuk, one of the most recognizable names in Canadian environmental journalism, introduced McAllister by way of a short presentation of his own – based on a recent editorial he’d written for the New York Times – about oil pipelines, the Alberta tarsands and their effect on the environment, and the B.C. government’s plans for the Liquefied Natural Gas industry. It was, he said, the duo’s “Dr. Gloom (sometimes known as Dr. Apocalypse) and Sally Sunshine” routine, where Nikiforuk opens by talking about “what pipelines and LNG might mean to this coast,” and McAllister follows with his presentation about “what truly energizes this place. What makes this place so remarkable.”
Nikiforuk spoke powerfully about resource extraction’s impact on the environment, using concrete examples and statistics, and painted a bleak picture in the minds of the audience in preparation of McAllister’s talk, both in terms of environmental and economic recourse for society’s previous actions and future decisions.
Then McAllister came up and started showing his work.
He is truly a master of the craft, and every change of slide brought either a gasp or “awww” from the audience, depending on the subject matter. McAllister, through it all, spoke of his life on the coast studying and documenting, regaling the audience with funny anecdotes of run-ins with wildlife and just generally inspiring awe within those in attendance.
From the story about his diving partner being overtaken by a pack of Stellar Sea Lions when they thought he’d “claimed their rock,” to his own diving gear being ripped off by an inquisitive octopus, to sailing through the breath of a pod of sleeping whales – which is apparently less romantic than it sounds – McAllisters tales were a delight to all who heard them.
Those who missed the event can see McAllister’s work at pacificwild.org, where they can also support his work by donating to the cause or by finding other ways to get involved.
His book is available at Coho Books downtown on Shopper’s Row. The proceeds from sales of the book, like those from the tour, go to the organization’s research and advocacy efforts.