Creating community for Canadian immigrants amidst growing climate concerns

For 25 years, Green Club BC has aimed to educate its members on both B.C.’s environmental and sociohistorical landscapes. Since its founding, the club has sought to inspire environmental activism and a sense of belonging for Canadian immigrants.

With the recent passing of the club’s founder, Dr. Joseph Lin, Green Club volunteer Manal Ma says the club looks to continue building on the legacy Dr. Lin created as climate awareness becomes more important than ever.

“It’s not only just a place to learn new things…it’s to open [your] eyes, to look around, and be aware of the environment that we’re living in,” says Ma.

Exploring the past

The late Dr. Lin, a pediatrician, family doctor and staunch environmental activist from Taiwan, felt lucky to immigrate to Canada after observing people’s care and concern for the environment. In the early 1990s, while Dr. Lin was living in Vancouver, he became involved with studying the natural environment with fellow nature enthusiasts.

“That’s when he realized it was the perfect time to start a club,” says Ma.

This included daily walks, or “free walks,” as Dr. Lin termed them, through Metro Vancouver, as well as three- and four-day hikes throughout the rest of the province.

Green Club BC members enjoy walks throughout the Lower Mainland, as well as longer hikes, both offering beautiful sights and community gathering. | Photo by Su-Lin Chen

In addition to conducting eco-tours and hikes, Dr. Lin also led “heritage walks” throughout the city’s older neighborhoods to help the club’s Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants learn more about Vancouver’s history. Through these walks, Ma says club members develop a greater appreciation and knowledge of Metro Vancouver’s past, both cultural and ecological.

“He realized that once people like us come to a different country, we seldom have the chance to really understand or get to know the new place we live in,” says Ma. “It [can] be very difficult for immigrants to find a new community they belong to, so that is one of the reasons Green Club has been so successful.”

Today, Green Club has five board members and approximately 30 volunteers who take on different roles and tasks, including guiding, lecturing, and event coordination and promotion. And while the club primarily consists of Taiwanese and Chinese members, Ma says the club is very diverse, welcoming people of all cultural backgrounds and ecological knowledge.

“We have a flower arrangement teacher … and we also have a birding instructor… Our club members [and] volunteers come from different walks of life,” says Ma.

Climbing heat and new heights

Since becoming club president ten years ago, retired ecologist Su-Lin Chen has led the club’s day hikes and even led members on overnight hikes at other mountains across North America.

“I took people up to the mountains, and that was a first experience for many hikers,” says Chen. “That was kind of challenging […] so I’ve had to reconsider.”

Despite some of these challenges, he has felt grateful for the opportunity to connect with community members on a shared passion for the environment.

“I am very shy,” admits Chen. “But since joining the club…I have learned a lot about social activities.”

During this time, Chen has dedicated his spare time to studying the effects of climate change by tracing local temperature and geological trends. This includes discovering patterns between B.C.’s climate and historical ice ages.

“I learned that the warming speed is accelerating,” he says. “That’s why carbon emission[s] should be decreased as low as possible.”

Temperature change is just one of the club’s many concerns about climate change outcomes in B.C. For some of the club’s members, Ma says climate change’s impact on B.C. has become increasingly apparent compared to Taiwan’s.

For example, Green Club leads approximately 20 walks each year during cherry blossom season, one of the most popular times of year for the club. But this year, Green Glub members noticed how B.C. was affected by the results of an strange event which took place throughout the Pacific Northwest this year: cherry blossom buds blooming alarmingly early.

“A lot of our audiences would come repeatedly year after year, just to enjoy the walk and the spring season after a long break from winter,” says Ma. “Cherry blossoms should [have] come later, [but] came earlier. Climate change is affecting the plants and giving them different signals.”

Ma and Chen say, given climate change’s increasing presence, Green Club is focusing on encouraging members to work together to reverse human impacts.

“We can’t let this temperature change […] accelerate,” says Ma. “Or else we will experience severe climate situations like we’ve [never] seen before.”

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