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Chinese-language forest tours to educate more B.C. residents on conservation

Vancouver Sun - Linda Givetash, October 24, 2016

Chinese-language forest tours to educate more B.C. residents on conservation
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Photo by: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Ken Wu, centre, of the Ancient Forest Alliance, speaks to a group of educational tour guides during training for Chinese-language ancient forest tours, at Stanley Park in Vancouver on Saturday, October 22, 2016.

Here is today's Vancouver Sun article about the Chinese-Language Ancient Forest Tours program that we're developing.  Volunteer educators who we are training about old-growth ecology and conservation issues will be giving the tours starting in Stanley Park at dates to be announced.  Note that the tours are also open to those who are interested in learning Mandarin or Cantonese.

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When environmentalist Ken Wu was a child, his father gave him a book that blew him away: an illustrated natural history of Canada.

One photograph, of four couples dancing on top of an enormous stump, captured his imagination. “I begged my parents to take me to B.C. to see old-growth forests,” said Wu, whose family lived in Toronto.

Wu, who went on to study environmental sciences at UBC and now lives in Victoria, has been a passionate advocate of sustainable forestry practices ever since. Now he wants Canadians of all cultural backgrounds to have access to, and be educated about, the rare wonders of old-growth forests.

On Saturday, Wu led the first session to train Mandarin-speaking environmental tour guides in Stanley Park.

The educational program is co-sponsored by the Ancient Forest Alliance (www.AncientForestAlliance.org), the Hua Foundation (www.HuaFoundation.org) and the Stanley Park Ecology Society (www.StanleyParkEcology.ca). The aim is to make ecology, conservation and enjoyment of B.C.’s old-growth forests accessible to the half-million Lower Mainland residents who have one of the Chinese languages as their mother tongue.

Wu, who heads the Ancient Forest Alliance, said he noticed relatively few Chinese-speaking Vancouverites were participating in old-growth tours and broader environmental actions. For many, language was a significant barrier.

“If the goal is to diversify and broaden the movement to protect and sustain old-growth forest, and expand the movement so it has the strength to influence and change government policy, it makes sense that one of the biggest demographics in the Lower Mainland be involved,” said Wu.

After English, the next largest group of people in the Lower Mainland list Mandarin, Cantonese or Taiwanese as their first language.

“The tours are non-political,” said Wu, “but over time we’d like to engage as many people as possible to take part in democracy in relation to our forest policy.”

Wu was born in Canada, but his mother and father had immigrated from Taiwan. The experience of his parents made him aware of how isolating a language barrier can be. Although his father, a university professor, was fluent in Chinese and English, his mother was less comfortable in English. Wu saw firsthand how the language barrier affected her ability to engage in different activities.

“It’s hard being an immigrant. Language is a barrier for some, and there would be much higher level of participation in Canadian politics and Canadian social life if the language barrier was diminished.”

Wu said the training sessions are also open to anyone who is studying or learning Mandarin and wants to become more proficient.

Close to a dozen enthusiastic volunteers showed up for the first training session, which took place yesterday in Stanley Park. Wu does not speak Mandarin or Cantonese, so the training sessions are conducted in English, with an interpreter on hand to help translate the specialized terminology.

Wu and the Hua Foundation’s Kevin Huang chose Stanley Park for the educational tours because it is one of the few areas in the Lower Mainland where 800-year-old red cedars still stand. Participants will learn to be guides, to identify and explain the plants, wildlife and ecology of old growth forests, why they are important for a healthy eco-system, for biodiversity and tourism.

Wu believes that with knowledge and access, a new generation of Canadians will come to love and revere what is left of B.C.’s old growth forests. Diversity is, after all, one of the cornerstones of sustainability.

For more information or to join the program, contact (www.AncientForestAlliance.org), the Hua Foundation (www.HuaFoundation.org) and the Stanley Park Ecology Society (www.StanleyParkEcology.ca)

Read more: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/chinese-language-forest-tours-to-educate-more-b-c-residents-on-conservation


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