Author Tags: Geography

As a Roberts Creek-based author, McGillivray wrote Geography of British Columbia (UBC Press 2000). See review below. It was updated and reissued as Geography of British Columbia, Second Edition (UBC Press 2005) when he was teaching geography at Capilano College. A third edition appeared in 2011, when he was professor emeritus. It is subtitled People and Landscapes in Transition. McGillivray taught geography in B.C. for more than thirty-six years.

[BCBW 2011]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Geography of British Columbia: People and Landscapes in Transition
Geography of British Columbia: People and Landscapes in Transition 3rd Edition

Geography of British Columbia (UBC $85)

I began reading Geography of British Columbia (UBC $85) while waiting for a meal in a cafe. On the wall of the cafe was one of those scenic photographs of mountains, lakes and forests that identifies this part of the world. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but even a quick dip into this 224-page book by Capilano College geography professor Brett McGillivray produces a kaleidoscope of pictures—linking past and present, natural and human landscapes, and the ecological and economic forces that have shaped this province.

Ever wonder how much of the province actually consists of mountain slopes and water? (About two-thirds.) Which natural hazard causes most deaths? (Avalanches.)

It’s hard to stop pulling out interesting little facts from the tables, maps, and graphs that form the backbone of sixteen diverse chapters. Ever wonder what proportion of Canada’s total earnings from forestry exports comes from B.C.? (45% in 1994.) When the population of the lower mainland began to exceed that of Vancouver Island and the central coast? (After 1901.)

While data provide the skeleton of the book, stories make the flesh. Upon the statistics of population are built the sagas of immigrants and the older chronicles of the First Nations. We see how B.C. topography forever challenges the muscles of politicians, who strive to connect different parts of the rugged territory by water, road, rail and air. Minerals, forests, and fish are another given of nature, to be used or abused as times and technology allow.

On time scales far older than the history of even the first human inhabitants are the patterns of climate, the flooding of rivers, the erosion of mountains, and the slow, inexorable slide of one tectonic plate against another. These natural processes manifest themselves to us today in such diverse matters as where and how we can build and farm, and how much we may pay for house insurance.

Above all, this book makes it clear that geography is a study of many interconnections. The land affects the people who live on it, and to ignore the influences of our landscape is to live impoverished lives. What brought people here in the past, and what keeps us here today? McGillivray’s informative and clearly-designed book gives multi-faceted answers to these questions. It is equally useful both as a reference book and as a potluck of nourishing stories in which you can browse at random as you have the time.

[Eric Grace / BCBW 2000]