deloresThis month, I spoke with Delores Broten, editor of the Watershed Sentinel from Comox BC, (formerly Cortes Island, BC.) This bi-monthly magazine covers a wide range of important environmental issues.  And has always printed on responsible paper.  They first started their print run 23 years ago, photocopied on 100% recycled paper. Through many evolutions over the years since then, changes in presses, changes in technology and paper, both the cover and the inside pages are printed on 100% post consumer recycled, process chlorine free paper.

Suzanna Baum (SB):   Can you give us the elevator speech about the Watershed Sentinel?

Delores Broten (DB): The Watershed Sentinel presents environmental news from BC and the world, showing how we are all connected and all live in watersheds

SB: What are your roots in the conservation movement?  You’ve been with the Watershed Sentinel since the beginning. Would you say that you were pioneers in the recycled and chlorine-free paper?

DB: Yes, I started in the forestry struggles in the late 1980s in BC and eventually founded Reach for Unbleached, which worked to eliminate organochlorines in pulp effluent. As part of that, of course, we had to create markets and so the magazine put together a few organisations (the Green Party and Wilderness Committee) to help our printer import recycled chlorine free paper by the truckload, so that the price was very close to “regular” paper. As a magazine we are so small we didn’t and don’t use enough paper to do that by ourselves.  Nowadays of course, Canopy has picked up a lot of that workload.

SB:  What’s next for reducing pollution from bleaching at pulp and paper mills in North America?  Is there more progress we can achieve?

DB: There is a long way to go, unfortunately. Effluent from most mills is still endocrine disrupting to aquatic life, just to start with. Also mills bleaching with chlorine dioxide put out a lot of the lower level dioxins and furans, not to mention some mighty mutagens, and I don’t think we have focused enough on the environmental fate of those compounds.  Personally I think the next thing is to start putting in tertiary treatment, and sludge composting so the methane is harvested.

SB: Our network spans the US and Canada.  As a Canadian member, are there ways you see that consumers and corporations treat environmental issues differently in the two countries?

DB: I don’t think so. Most of the corporations are internationals anyway, although at the moment our government is more pro-corporate than the EPA, if that is possible. 🙁

I think the big difference is in the legislative structures. The US has a much wider access to using the law to force issues to the table, whereas we are pretty well powerless in that arena, much more like a third world country I think. Also you have access to the use of referenda to try to get reforms through democratic methods, and we don’t, but in the end the corporations act the same way — throwing tons of money around to squash the initiatives, don’t they?

SB: I’ve heard that Cortes Island is a bit of heaven on earth, and was blown away when I traveled by ferry in the Georgia Strait last year.  What’s the best part about living there for you?

DB: It was the community. Unfortunately we had to move several years ago because of health problems in our family, but we only went as far as the Comox Valley, which is also stunningly beautiful, although not as wild.

SB: The EPN is all about people working together.  When you are part of a team, is there a role you tend to play?  What’s one skill or perspective that you bring to collaborative efforts?

DB: Well, these days, I tend to be able to contribute a bit of historical memory of what has worked in the past, or not! Also I like to think I am good at pulling people together by recognizing each one’s different skills and needs, but I don’t really know. Sometimes I just describe my work as being a switchboard, putting people in touch with each other.

SB:  You spoke passionately at the 20th anniversary event about the work of the Watershed Sentinel to connect local and global issues and connect environmental and social issues.  I’ve included the YouTube video that was recently posted online of that inspiring day.


DB: Thank you!

Thank you, Delores. And thanks to you, the readers, for getting to know yet another one of our amazing members. Keep an eye out in November for an interview with the European Environmental Paper Network.