When I teach my art classes to children in Port McNeill, I derive a sense of satisfaction from the idea that I am teaching these children the most important survival skill of all: creativity.
Creative people come up with solutions where none were apparent before. They can replace failure with alternatives. Creative people can make something out of nothing…which often leads to economic development. Creative people gave us smart phones. They also gave us computers, cars, airplanes, lunar landers and online shopping.
It seems this world gets divided into two main camps, those who are creative and those who are not. Any good art teacher knows, however, that everyone can be creative. In fact, anyone who goes around saying “I’m not creative,” is simply lying or afraid. To be human is to be creative. If we didn’t all have the potential to be creative, we would be mindless automatons blindly following the orders of some supreme power.
I am flabbergasted by the way Port Alice has gone into the doldrums after the mill closure. As far I’m concerned, the stagnation was self-imposed. Too many people over the years became accustomed to a lifestyle that was cut and dried and couldn’t see anything but more of the same. Thoughts followed one solution, at the expense of others. Is it that hard to imagine Port Alice as a busy thriving community without a pulp mill or factory? Does the past have to rule the future?
The Chinese owned Quatsino Chalet has been on the market for a long time at an unrealistic price—it seems the owners are happy carrying an unproductive tax burden that hijacks Port Alice’s economic independence. If it was priced appropriately—according to market forces—the building might now be a functional hotel, a nursing home or a corporate retreat, and Port Alice’s burgeoning tourist economy would be well on its way.
Now, the logging strike serves to deepen Port Alice’s economic woes. There is a deadlock that shows no signs of letting up. The source of the deadlock is, quite simply, “thoughts,” Thoughts can be changed in a heartbeat.
The good news is that all these bad situations are simply the result of “limiting human paradigms,” or, to put it more bluntly, “dumb ideas.” To put it another way, we are the authors of our own misery.
The only thing limiting us is us! It’s not like we don’t have much to go on: plenty of resources, beautiful scenery, unlimited kayaking, peace and quiet, potential for agriculture, an influx of new mostly retired residents in need of services, access to the internet. The way we humans are managing our situation is what is creating the economic strife. This could all change simply by changing our thoughts, by a willingness to think creatively.
As far as I’m concerned, creativity is an underused valuable resource in our human psyches. And creative thinking is not just the providence of eccentric people who paint pictures. In today’s global digital economy, creativity is king!
I visited Tofino in the 1980s. It looked repressed then just like Port Alice does today. My new neighbor and former Tofino resident, Karen Troy, says that tourism is so big in Tofino these days that, in the summer, it is “like a city” and it is difficult to find a place to park!
This “artsy” town didn’t wait around for someone with deep pockets to come rescue them. They were able to think “outside the box” and find solutions for their economy on their own.
It goes to show you: if Port Alice is in the doldrums, it’s because we made it that way.
– Debra Lynn is a freelance writer for the North Island Gazette, artist and educator who lives in Port Alice