I’ve been away from this page for a few months. On the same day that mainstream media revealed to shocked world that ISIS was busy smashing heritage, Town of Comox Council did the bidding of wealthy campaign donors and voted to demolish not one but both of MAck Laing’s heritage houses. The vote was taken largely under false pretenses, and details can be found on the Mack Laing Heritage Society webpage where there is a petition to sign about this that I have been circulating on Facebook ( type in Maingon Loys to find my facebook page): http://macklaingsociety.ca/petition/.
This is terribly tragic since there is a lot of new information- two books and several article coming out on Mack Laing this year. -s I should talk about Laing to set the picture. The really impotant point is that MLHS was set up to protect the environmental heritage of the valley. While the town may destroy the buildings, it can never completely erase this great man’s memory.
Among the many achievemnts of this great man, there are two things that every Canadian should know about Mack Laing. In 1928 he writes an article about oil pollution on the Salish Sea. Ironically, that is provoked by an incident in Royston, across the Comox estuary, Bob Filberg protects his logging railway pilings by pouring creosote and oil on the pilings and creates a slick that extends from Nanaimo to Campbell River. Mack Laing, through his membership in the Brotherhood of Venery, is a friend of, and correspondent with some of the greatest conservationists in North America: Aldo Leopold, G. Bird Grinell, Gifford Pinchot amongs others, through Pinchot he is familiar with the work of the Anti-pollution league which works from 1923 onwards to bring in legislation to curb oil pollution on the eastern seabord. It seems that Laing is the first Canadian, and perhaps the first western writer to document and write about the impacts of oil on the west coast, and the Salish Sea. This marks him as an enviromentalist, and never endears him to the conservative business establishment of Comox around Filberg.
Thus, as an environmentalist he is a fore-runner of the environmental wave that would come out of the period after 1945. Having worked with Frank Farley, in the 1920’s, he is also associated with Frank Farley’s nephew, Farley Mowat. But his real connection that signals him out as a forerunner is that the Brotherhood of Venery, puts him in charge of the education of a promising young biologist, Ian McTaggart-Cowan, who woulf go on to be the professor of Zoology at UBC and the leading scientist conservationist in BC from 1950-1970. Ian McTaggart-Cowan himself would pass on his knnoweldge and conservation values to his student David Suzuki. So when we listen to The Nature of Things, we should remember that we are listening to David Suzuki talking on the shoulder of giants, and one of those two giants is that humble recluse, Hamilton Mack Laing.