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The Salish Sea: Reflecting on our small, interconnected world — Corbett Scholar Natalie Martin

The Salish Sea. Photo credit: Natalie Martin

March 30, 2022

We often think that the world is much bigger than it is. With its vast size and enormous population, we are in many ways tricked into believing in this myth of a large world. In adopting this mindset, we can separate ourselves from certain things that happen, stating “well that’s happening so far away, so it doesn’t really affect me.” We create borders, separate political systems, and different ways of functioning all to concentrate our focus, to be able to say, “that doesn’t concern me”. In reality, though, the world is one small, interconnected place, and things that happen in one part most certainly have an impact on the functioning of another.

So far, my Corbett Virtual Exchange experience has been engaging and eye-opening. Up until this point, I’ve attended two different workshops and engaged in a few social hours with my fellow exchangees, and it’s been wonderful. I’ll admit, creating connections and learning through Zoom is still something I’m getting used to, and while I was skeptical of it all at first, I’ve been amazed by what I have gained through my involvement with this program. While I’m sure I will gain a lot more throughout the program, the most valuable thing that this exchange has provided me with so far is a new sense of perspective. One of the latest workshops we attended as a cohort was about the Salish Sea. Being from Manitoba, this was not a topic I knew much about, and so I was interested to learn more about this amazing place.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Salish Sea is a marine ecosystem spanning the Canada-U.S border from Olympia, Washington, to Campbell River, British Columbia. The name itself was adopted in 2010 as an attempt to draw people’s attention to the fact that it’s shared waters and a shared ecosystem. By identifying this region this way, it provides people with a sense of place, allowing them to feel more connected to the region, and take the necessary steps to restore and protect it. This idea of shared waters and a shared ecosystem is what got me thinking about how small, and interconnected our world really is. This region, known as the Salish Sea, is home to a large population of both human beings and wildlife. We all benefit from the beauty and ecological diversity present in this region, and we would all be affected by this ecosystem’s downfall. Due to the hard border that exists between Canada and the U.S though, this region is looked after quite differently depending on which side of the border the water and its creatures flow. Two different countries mean two different governing bodies, which means two different types of environmental legislation. Having all of this information explained to me in this way is what provided me with that new sense of perspective I have been talking about. I never realized what an impact hard borders could have on one region, especially this beautiful one I currently live in. This comes back to the idea that anything happening in a different country, state/province, or region doesn’t concern you. Well, the reality is that it does. The Salish Sea is the perfect example of that. How this ecosystem is cared for on one side of the border influences the state of the system on the other side. The water and animals that call this region home know no borders. They don’t know of the different legislation that governs either side, they just see it as one, interconnected place.

The world we know today is increasingly divided, not only by physical borders but by political ones as well. So much is happening all around us: the invasion of Ukraine, the laws in Texas that are marginalizing trans-youth, the Freedom convoy that made its way to the Ottawa parliament, I could go on. And though some of these events might not be occurring in your backyard, they DO concern you. Ukraine, Texas, and Ottawa might be fairly far away from the Pacific-Northwest in distance, but what’s happening in these places right now DOES concern you. People you love may be sent over to Europe to help fight should Putin be successful and advance further, grocery prices will likely increase because Russia and Ukraine are big exporters of major grains and vegetable oils, the legislation passed down in Texas could encourage similar legislation in other states and even countries, and the persistence of the Freedom convoy and some of the hateful messages associated with it could lead to higher levels of discriminatory violence in both Canada and the U.S. The world is not as big as you think. Everything that we see happening in the news is going to have some type of impact on your life whether you like it or not. That’s why it’s so important to ask questions, stay informed, and do what you can to help. In this small world filled with injustice and tragedy, we have got to look out for one another, even if that other person is a million miles away.

The Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange Program Fund provides an opportunity for undergraduate students at the University of Washington to spend two semesters at the University of British Columbia or University of Victoria; and for students from the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria to spend three quarters at the University of Washington.