Learning to Care

… logging in caribou habitat will reduce caribou numbers; and the more logging that occurs, the fewer will be the caribou that remain —Ralph Ritcey, [sc]BC[/sc] Ministry of Environment (1981)

Preamble The first thing to know about Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou is that they live in the mountains of southeastern British Columbia and nowhere else.

The second thing to know is that they’re currently headed for extinction – of 18 herds that existed in 2005, seven herds have since disappeared and only six are still viable.

The third thing to know is that the current plight of the Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou is deliberate – a long-foreseen, highly choreographed outcome of land use decisions by a succession of BC governments, recently abetted by Canada’s federal government.

First Approximation


eep-Snow Caribou are among the most studied ungulate in Canada – studied to death you might say. So much is known about their conservation needs – most of it already in place 60 years ago – that the link between habitat loss and caribou decline should come as a surprise to no one.

Unwittingly, these caribou find themselves standing in the way of our society’s cult of more – a cult grounded in the same boom-and-bust mentality that emptied the plains of bison and underwrote the genocide of North America’s indigenous peoples. It’s also the same cult – corporate profit-at-any-cost – that hollowed out small communities once the fur, gold, fish, coal or trees were gone, and continues to hollow them out now that the oldgrowth forests needed by Deep-Snow Caribou for survival are going, going, gone.

Caribou by Doris Laner
©Doris Laner

This brings me to the Caribou Prophecy and, thereby, to the surpassingly excellent reason why, in these Pandoracene times, we would now do well to nurture within us an ethic of caring. Please read on.

The Caribou Prophecy prophesies that what happens to Deep-Snow Caribou today will happen to our children tomorrow: that to the extent we fail the one, to that extent we fail the other – and not in some abstract boogeyman way, but quite literally.

With increasing technological power must come increasing responsibility to use that power wisely. Wise use of technological power does not push species to oblivion, nor does it blight the future of its young people. The gestures of caring now so urgently needed by Deep-Snow Caribou are precisely the gestures of caring now urgently needed by those who are to come after us. The link of course is the Climate Crisis. Caribou stand a little closer to the brink, is all.

Caribou, like other forms of life, are training ground for caring about the Living World That Sustains us. With our recent entry into the Pandoracene, it is now the responsibility of each succeeding human generation to reaffirm that caring. This is the gift of the Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou decline. By the very fact of their teetering existence, these animals challenge us to do better. When we take up that challenge, we work for a better future for all.

Next up: Pandoracene Pathfinders?