Conveniences cause sacrificial effects – Banff, Alberta, Canada

We decided to make a few side trips into `town` and I came to a sad realization. Before I left Canada, the small cute mountain town of Banff was well on its way to becoming a tourist trap. Altho they have capped (strict laws to control any new contruction including residential) new permits, it appears to have come too late.

Max and I were thinking of moving our camping site into the Banff area but as we drove through the sea of 500+ sites, we made our decision quickly. It was way to crowded and commercial for us. We couldn´t wait to jump back in the car and return to our secluded serene retreat where our tent pegs wouldn´t be overlapping our neighbours. Sure they had shower and bathrooms but I guess living that close to each other, you had better!

I was also discouraged at the outrageous 14 dollar fee you must pay for a day permit at the gates of the national park. In fact, everything in Canada seems to be much more expensive than before I left. I don’t know if its my imagination or just the fact that I have been in much cheaper countries for the last while, but it really feels like prices are at least 20 or 30 percent higher. When I left, a litre of gas cost 42 cents and now its 80! A 600 ml bottle of Pepsi was $1.00 and now is $1.50. The prices are the same as in Argentina where I have spent the last 6 months except that it costs 2 pesos per Canadian dollar which makes everything in Argentina HALF PRICE. If this level of inflation keeps up, I wont be able to afford to live in my own country!

Anyway, we spent the day at the Banff Hot Springs where we lounged around in the 100 percent natural spring waters. It got too hot for me at times (47 degrees C) so I would lay on the deck to cool off before crawling back in to steep myself like a tea bag. When our fingers and toes were sufficiently pruned, we parked (quite the feat even on a weekday afternoon) near the main street to take a stroll through the town. We bought two small pieces of chocolate for 7 dollars (they don’t tell you the price until you get to the cash register at which point there is a line of 10 people behind you) then quickly learned that almost every shop sells the same things.

We bypassed the stuffed moose, bottles of pure maple syrup, and totem pole key chains. You can buy your sweater emblazoned with a huge red Canada maple leaf here but be sure that you’ll be ´fleeced´ in more than one way. Besides, when I looked at most of the labels, they said Made in Japan, China or Taiwan. Something I never really did before was look at where things were made. What country am I really supporting? I chuckled to myself as I watched all the Asian tourists crowding the streets carrying bags of ‘canadian’ souvenirs, only to export them back to their birthplace. After a short time we both had enough so we made our escape to the smaller, less developed (so far) Canmore which is just outside the park boundaries.

I had spent some time here over the years and am glad to see that it still has its small town charm. We chatted with the very personable and friendly shop people munching on our ice creams. I remembered when you would see the occasional deer walking through the parking lot or feasting on someones flower garden. In the winter before I left cougar warnings posted by the park rangers were plastered all over…now they are replaced with planning and development advertisements.

I noticed an article in the local newspaper of a town council member who was opposing a large development proposal. It pointed out clearly that the ‘compromise’ of the golf course instead of the previously proposed vacation structures would still force the animals to relocate. Out of curiosity I glanced at the house prices which were posted in the real estate offices windows…and I wondered how bambi could come up with the $300,000 to keep her home.

‘The victims here have no way to defend themselves. When an animal attacks a human, we hunt them down and kill them. Don’t these people realize that they are destroying the ‘nature’ that attracts them to these areas in the first place? I guess it comes down to dollars and cents, like usual. And until McDonalds and Blockbuster care more about our environment than their penny, nothing will change. But then is there such a thing as ‘corporate conscience’? Is there a corporate code of conduct which outlines what is not for sale? I remember when bottled water first came out into the market…and how silly I thought people were to ‘pay’ for water. (EVIAN, one of the more popular brands spelled backwards is NAIVE) But as I have travelled, I see that more and more it is becoming necessary to ‘buy’ clean water.

Where it used to be a choice of taste, now it is becoming a choice of health. Then again, there were many places I refused to buy water thinking that my stomach was pretty tough and I didn’t get sick even though they promised me I would. Well, now I see that you can go to oxygen cafes complete with nose hoses and your choice of aromas. Will there come a day when buying air becomes a matter of health, not taste? Included in the weather forecast are ‘clean air indicators’ and they actually have advisories when people ‘should not go outside’. Sure, you great big CEOs have more important things to worry about about than the environment as you drive your gas guzzling SUV to your office to close that billion dollar mountain resort deal. But don’t ask why when your son dies from an asthma attack running to first base at his little league game or your daughter gets mauled by a bear during her girl scout camping trip.

Just what have we sacrificed in the name of convenience? We are all guilty…but I guess when I said that travelling made me more aware, it has made me more sensitive to my own output and I get alot more emotional about this stuff…hence the rant. You know when you see someone everyday, you don’t notice them growing? But see them after a few years and you see changes more easily. I guess I now see how quickly things are happening. Sorry if this sounds preachy but all this just kinda scares me.

We don’t own this earth (altho apparently everything is for sale…now we are even selling the stars!?) and we are not the only ones who pay for our exploitations. And well, how can you sacrifice and furthermore, profit on what is not yours? Isn’t that called stealing? Who will protect the animals? Who will protect the trees? Who will protect the water? Who will protect the air? Who will protect us? Sure you can say that these things don’t really affect you and that it will be a long time before things get really bad. But have you ever had to pay for something essential to human life, such as water? If you have ever bought a bottle of water, then it is affecting you. Ask your grandparent or parent if they ever bought water growing up. How long ago was that? Think about it.

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