“Total Load of Crap” was the very first comment on this week’s follow-up story about the six emaciated grizzly bears recently discovered in the Broughton Archipelago by Rolf Hicker. And those four crude and unimaginative words confirmed much of what Mr. Hicker had said about some of the local responses to a story that had drawn international attention.
I’d met with Hicker to hear what he had experienced and learned, after his images had received worldwide attention. I’m not sure what I had expected, but assumed I would hear about people’s concern for the plight of these bears. Unfortunately, while he explained many felt that way, another story of intolerance, denial and hostility emerged.
The closed minded, monosyllabic trolls were having nothing to do with dialogue, education or constructive debate. Why engage one’s mind or even bother to listen when you can demonstrate your keen lack of knowledge and comprehension by random spurting of ‘load of crap’ style lines?
Hicker is trying to do something to make a bad situation better and whether one agrees or disagrees, he has the courage of his convictions and the willingness to try.
I have never met an online troll with anything close to the kind of character demonstrated by Rolf. Trolls by their very nature would never do anything that would constructively benefit anyone other than themselves. They hide their insignificance behind the bluster of four-letter name-calling, taunts and online bullying.
Hicker on the other hand, often spoke of how his pictures presented an opportunity for positive action. He saw in them a chance to educate, adding that we North Islanders have a treasure up here and while everything is not rosy or always well managed, we can always do something to help.
He spoke of how he had hoped to use the images for good and was articulate and passionate as he spoke of the potential for involving others in rectifying problems of our own creation.
Like all of us, Hicker is not perfect, but unlike the load of crap trolls online, he turns his knowledge into constructive action; all the while admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers.
We talked about pictures as storytellers and he explained how people should look at both the pros and cons of the story these images tell. Educate yourself was his ongoing theme and in this particular case he wanted people to see what he saw, learn more and after that he said, “You have to make up your own mind.”
Hicker has his own opinions and is well educated and experienced in the outdoor world.
As our conversation came to an end he wondered aloud if this is his déjà vu moment, explaining: “I’m really sad. I photographed polar bears 30 years ago and now I worry and wonder if my boys who are now eight and nine, will ever see polar bears.”
A different bear and a different time, yet the similarities for a shared outcome are a frightening possibility.
Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur.
Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org