Winners (alphabetical) >
Briony Penn Environmental broadcaster and educator
Environmental broadcaster and educator
Environmental Learning, 2003
"The survival of wild surroundings is fundamental to me. Eliminate the landscape, and you erase all memory."
Briony Penn is passionate about protecting British Columbia's wild
places, and she's willing to be a bit wild herself to help pass
that passion along to others. Whether it's grabbing corporate loggers' attention
with a Lady Godiva-like ride through downtown Vancouver or in-the-wild
reporting for a weekly Victoria television spot, Penn combines solid
research with creative flair and humour to win converts to conservationism.
Penn, who holds a doctorate in geography and has been writing about
the natural world since her undergraduate days at the University
of British Columbia, began her activist career with a 1991 campaign
to save the indigenous Garry oak ecosystem on the West Coast. When
news that the trees atop Christmas Hill, in Saanich — Penn's childhood
stomping grounds — were threatened by urban development, she co-founded
the Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society and declared her defiance
by nailing up a sign that read "Zoned for Oak Trees."
Now living on Saltspring Island with her husband Donald Gunn and
their two sons, Penn is director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation,
one of several groups in which she is actively involved. "Collectively," she
says, "we can move mountains." Successful collective action, Penn
explains, resembles the functioning of an ecosystem: "Biological
communities function in this way; every member has a vital role
that helps sustain the entire web of life."
A television and print journalist who has written and illustrated
a best-selling book, A Year on the Wild Side, Penn also develops
museum displays and educational materials about the natural world.
Her half-hour weekly show, "ENVIROmental," is a niche into which
she seems to fit effortlessly, drawing on the irrepressible high
spirits that stood her in good stead among three rambunctious brothers.
Through the show and her other work, Penn lives out her belief that
environmental protectionism does not have to be adversarial. But
don't let the activist's upbeat energy deceive you into thinking
she's afraid of a fight. "Hell is a mall," says Penn. "The survival
of wild surroundings is fundamental to me. Eliminate the landscape,
and you erase all memory."