A39 aka "Blackney" from the A30 matriline of fish-eating "northern resident" killer whales. Photo: Hildering

Go WILD, really WILD this Christmas – but not in raging consumer gluttony; not in garbage-creating obscenity; not in a way that leaves you hollow; and not by extensively impacting both your and the earth’s resources.

I think few will disagree that ours is a society gone mad with consumerism. We are relentlessly and oh-so-cunningly pummeled with messaging that we will be happier, more loved, sexier and perceived to be more successful if we purchase this item, and this one, and . . . this one!

But, there are powerful rays of hope above the landfill. More and more of us recoil at the consumerism, realizing its true cost. There appears to be a powerful societal wave moving us back to simplicity, peace and quality of experience where it’s not about the having . . . it’s about the holding.

As part of this shift, if gifts are to be given, we strive for them to be meaningful; where value is not measured in dollars but in societal/ecological benefit.

Below, I share five WILD ideas for gifts that go deep, benefitting marine research and conservation in British Columbia.

Note that there are of course so many more good causes than those I list below. What has guided my selection is that I have a direct connection to (and resulting depth of knowledge about) the environmental non-governmental organizations listed below.

1.  OrcaLab
Click here to join the “OrcaLab 100” – one hundred people committing to a monthly donation (be it ever so small) so that the OrcaLab can count on a steady stream of support. You symbolically represent a “northern resident” A Clan whale and receive a personalized write-up of the whale with the whale’s photo; notification of when the whale is first sighted back in the area; and access to an exclusive FaceBook OL100 supporters’ page.
For more than 40 years, Dr. Paul Spong and Helena Symonds (recently joined by Leah Robinson) have served as the watch-keepers/guardians of the whales of the Blackfish Sound /Johnstone Strait area. From the remote Orca Lab, they acoustically monitor the area year-round, 24 hours a day. They record any whale calls, attempt to correlate whale vocals with behaviour and create public engagement and awareness by broadcasting these calls on-line. They also advocate so powerfully to end whaling and having killer whales in captivity. Their work has only become more intense over the last years since, in addition to recording killer whale calls, now humpbacks are vocalizing in the area! Click the image below for a sample of humpback song recorded by the OrcaLab on October 23, 2011.  Click here for a history of the OrcaLab. 

2.  The Wild Killer Whale Adoption Programme (KWAP)
Click here to symbolically adopt one of BC’s killer whales and support the wild killer whale research listed here. All 4 discrete populations of killer whales in British Columbia’s waters are in trouble and hence, there is an acute need for further research. Government funded research is, not surprisingly, very limited.
You can adopt a whale from the birth year of the recipient for an extra personal touch. The gift package includes:  A picture of the whale with its life story; a certificate that tells you’re wonderful; an annual research update; a CD with killer whale vocals and the commentary of leading acoustics researcher, Dr. John Ford and – a cloth bag that can be used over and over again, for further earth-friendly joy. 

3.  The SOS Marine Conservation Foundation (Save Our Salmon / SOS)
Click here to help protect B.C.’s wild salmon stocks and the marine environment from the negative impacts of open net-cage salmon farms and establish B.C. as a leader in creating a globally renowned, stable and viable aquaculture industry.  Include the name and address of the honoree and they will be sent a card letting them know about the donation you’ve made in their name.
SOS is partnered with the ‘Namgis First Nation to build Canada’s first land-based Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) Atlantic salmon farm. This is know as the “K’udas Project” and is 100% ‘Namgis owned.

4. The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS)
Click here to make a donation to MERS and you support the local humpback and minke whale research with which I am directly involved. Include the name and email address of the person you are honoring with the donation and they will be sent an email informing them of how you have helped MERS’ research and education efforts and how invalable this support is to us.

5. The Whale Interpretive Society (WIC)
Click here to adopt a transient killer whale bone so that T44’s skeleton can be put together  (articulated) for the purposes of education.