Our shorelines are stunning and are easily enjoyed without careless antics. (Photo: Andrew Bailey)

Behest of the West: False perceptions please and plague in Tofino and Ucluelet

We’re getting ornery and it’s way too early in the season for the angst to be this thick.

Perception is powerful, whether it’s accurate or not.

When B.C. Green Party candidate Jerry Kroll recently unveiled a new electric car “inspired by Tofino,” the actual West Coast shared an amused guffaw. A blanket was pulled off the newest member of Vancouver’s Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corporation’s fleet and we all noticed one glaring omission from its design. Apparently, no one told Kroll that nobody goes roofless in Tofino and, somehow, our Coast had inspired the mainlander to create a convertible. It’s an adorably harmless gaff worth poking fun at, but not grinding our gears over.

It’s how the world sees us and we create the images they see. We sell the perception that a convertible would make perfect sense on our streets because tourists like sunshine and we like tourists; well, we like their wallets at least.

We sell them on storms too, but only during the shoulder seasons and the postcard I’m assuming Kroll was inspired by likely depicted a summertime scene that was shot during a break in rainfall and didn’t depict the wind. While an actual Tofitian is unlikely to ever drive EMV’s ‘Tofino,’ it’s a flattering gesture on Kroll’s part and one that makes complete sense.

Cool and environmentally-minded is our brand.

It’s what we tell people we do here and a hot ride that helps spread that image will rein in more of those wallets we love so much. Kudos to Kroll for perceiving us that way.

An alarmingly less amusing Facebook share that recently roared through our feeds showed us a visitor hitting golf balls into the ocean. That’s neither adorable nor harmless and it definitely grinded our gears. It sends the wrong message and spreads the wrong perception.

There’s no reason, other than a lack of likelihood, to believe the balls our guest was rocketing at our marine life weren’t biodegradable. Wood-based eco balls do exist and are designed specifically for this kind of thing. The perception created by that video though, is worthy of our collective frustration.

Golf balls are a legitimate problem for ocean lovers in other places. Last October, two free-divers off Pebble Beach found a few and the few they found reportedly turned into roughly 5,000 when they started looking more carefully. That puts some perspective on how potentially catastrophic one visitor showing others how superficially cool it looks to hit golf balls into our own ocean could be. We get a million visitors a year and bad behaviours can spread rapidly.

Being cool might be part of our charm, but we’ve got enough ocean debris to deal with to be copacetic about tourists chipping more in.

Either our visitors are becoming less aware of how important our environment is to us, or we’re becoming more aware of what some of them are doing to our backyards, because our hospitality is waning.

We’re getting ornery and it’s way too early in the season for the angst to be this thick. We’re not yet opening our doors, shotguns in-hand, and demanding to know their intentions with our paradise, but we’re definitely looking more grim than we used to and our pie-in-the-sky naivety that they’ll respect our surroundings is extinct.

They’ve posted too much evidence of themselves abusing our surroundings to be trusted. We are every bit as cool as EMV’s new car suggests, but we need to get our game faces on to prevent our guests from getting our laid back local culture twisted. As Dee Snyder would suggest, visitors who abuse Mother Nature don’t know us and don’t belong; we’re not going to take it anymore.

Before tourists and locals start shouting across the aisles like two political parties funded by competing interests though, let’s try to adjust the perception of this place and kill the belief that we’re too laid back around here to care about nature-abusing antics.

If they’re not West Coasting correctly, tell them. Spread a soupcon of online vitriol under posts that show our habitats being mistreated. Help them hear enough noise to know we’re not too cool to school them on their environmental impacts.

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