Super, natural, takes on new meaning in the face of B.C.’s adversity

Super, Natural British Columbia has been our trademark for decades. B.C.’s natural beauty – our mountains, oceans, rivers- attract tourists from around the world. Our varied terrain spreads across a vast landscape from rainforests to prairies

image: 49 North Helicopters

How big is Beautiful British Columbia?  Big enough to hold one Japan and two New Zealands.

For over 35 years, Destination BC, a crown corporation, has branded B.C. as Super, Natural British Columbia® and inspired millions of people to visit B.C. On their website they say:

“Our brand essence is that we are wild at heart. And, our promise back to those that travel here is that BC’s powerful nature will transform and renew you, bringing out your better self. BC has a unique combination of refined civilization with raw wilderness, sophistication and exhilaration, and of urban areas immersed in natural environments.”

We’ve been marketed to world as place to be in awe of nature. Now our destructive wildfires, record heat waves, and torrential rains will require rebranding. Now we are the poster province of climate emergency.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still use the words super, natural, and awe for marketing but the meanings have to be expanded.

Super, from the root meaning in Latin, means “above, over, beyond.” Now nature is beyond benign. Mother Nature is angry at our abuse of the planet and she’s a force to be reckoned with.

Awe has been transformed into awful. From 1300 awful meant: “worthy of respect or fear, striking with awe; causing dread.” Now awful means “very bad or unpleasant.”

We have experienced the awe of heat waves, the terror of wildfires, the hardship of drought, and the despair of people evacuated from their homes.

However, marketing is about spinning the negative into something fascinating. Beyond the mayhem, there is a sense of exhilaration in the force of nature.

People are fascinated by the brute force of nature. During tropical storms, people are attracted to shorelines to marvel at the powerful waves.  Kite surfers harness the fury of the wind.

Even the seemingly placid side of nature can be ominous. Below the surface lurks an awesome power. Visitors can be drawn to a seething power that lurks below the surface.

I remember visiting Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia and being attracted to the rocks polished smooth by the waves. Despite signs warning of the danger, visitors stand on the slippery rocks, watching the seemingly calm waves, only to be swept to their death.

Destination B.C. should market the fury of the atmospheric river. This spectacular band of moisture-laden air brings heat and precipitation from the tropics to our coast. Atmospheric rivers can carry 25 times more water than the Mississippi River.

Then there is the world renowned heat dome. Watch the temperatures soar as they did in Lytton. That Fraser Canyon village hit almost50 degrees and then went up in flames. It was the world’s highest temperature ever recorded north of 45°N and is a record high for all of Canada.

Come to B.C. and experience climate change in all its fury. Beyond nature, beyond a sense of awe, a climate emergency in progress.


Natural doesn’t mean safe

Madeline Papineau, 17, wanted to lose a few pounds so she would look good in her graduation dress. She bought an “all-natural” green tea weight-loss supplement that promised to “increase your CALORIE BURNING capacity today.”


She took the capsules for six days according to the instructions. On the seventh day she woke up vomiting violently. She was very dehydrated and went to a Cornwall, Ontario, hospital where they gave her three litres of fluids intravenously.

Madeline continued with the weight-loss supplement and her condition worsened. Then her mother took her to the children’s hospital in Ottawa where they found that Madeline’s liver and kidneys were shutting down. They started dialysis immediately. After 10 days in intensive care and month at home, she began to recover.

The ingredients in the weight-loss supplement look innocuous: green, black and white tea extracts, vitamins, and bitter orange. They are not so innocent.  Medical reporter Andre Picard says: “But the reality is that drugs are drugs, whether they are ‘natural’ or not. And when it has a desired effect, it invariably also has an undesired side effect (Globe and Mail, May 31, 2016).”

“There are more than 60 case reports in medical literature of green tea extract being associated with liver failure, sometimes leading to transplant and death.” Bitter orange is listed as one of the “dirty dozen” by Consumer Reports, “linked to serious adverse events.”

How is it that dangerous drugs end up in remedies easily bought by teenagers who just want to lose a little weight? Astonishing, it’s because the regulator’s role is to make sure that the products contain the ingredients listed but not to verify that they do what they advertise such as “burn fat.” Adverse reactions such as Madeline’s don’t even have to be reported.

It’s puzzling why some drugs undergo rigorous testing for years in carefully controlled tests, costing billions of dollars, before they appear on the market. Others, deemed “natural,” are exempt.

I think this double standard exists because we see the natural world as good. Mother Nature protects and nurtures us. She would never harm us.

The natural world is neither good nor bad –it is just there. All creatures live in the natural world, including us. Everything we do is natural, including the manufacture of bombs and medicines. How could it be otherwise? It’s arrogant to think we are apart from nature.

If anything is unnatural, it is the lack of scrutiny of drugs for consumption. Buyers beware. “The result of this double standard is a need for consumers to embrace the admonition, caveat emptor,” says Picard. And we need to stop giving credence to the false notion that natural equals safe.