As usual, he spoke his mind: “Mining and oil extraction have, so far, usually provided more problems than benefit to the local people not directly involved in the actual process,” he wrote to the minister responsible at the time. “Mines do not sustain stable local populations. They enrich distant societies.”
The family moved to Vancouver in 1963. Jennifer Maynard, a neighbour near the Southlands Riding Club, remembers their love of horses and the hard work they did to support the club and the local community.
“Cort was an inspiration to me and to many others for his energy, generosity, intelligence and ability to think and act beyond his own self-interest,” she wrote in a remembrance.
He and Jean were also the only people besides Ms. Maynard’s family who understood why she had taken in a stray baby wood duck, who lived with her in her home.
“That’s because they had a banty hen named Ernestina who lived in their house, roosted on the bookshelf and made free of their kitchen,” she wrote. Later the Mackenzies adopted a baby pigeon they named Brigitte, who also lived with them and accompanied them on rides at the Southlands club.
Ian remembers: “Aside from the dogs, cats, budgies and horses, there was Hansel the raccoon, who would emerge, cold and clammy, from midnight fishing, and crawl under their covers to seek warmth.”
Like he said, they were quite different from the other parents.
When Dr. Mackenzie gave up polo, he took up scuba diving and founded the Marine Environment Protection Society.
In an interview posted on YouTube last year with Roy Mulder, a videographer and marine conservationist, he lamented the state of the oceans, the decline of big fish and the near extermination of the cod because of overfishing.
“Technology is the big thing that has come along and helped us destroy the planet very quickly,” he said.
“It will be a long time before the last breeding pair of humans dies, but I think they’re gonna have a tough time … in this century.”
The interview sounds a sad note at the end of a productive and fruitful life, but Dr. Mackenzie was not one to become unduly depressed by the fact that raising awareness is often a long process.
Until the end, he maintained the philosophical view that kept him motivated to improve things even in the face of daunting challenges.
His attitude, according to Ian, was this: “One needs to soldier on anyway; otherwise, nothing is sure to happen.”
Cort Mackenzie, predeceased by his wife Jean, leaves sons David, Ian and Alec, and three grandchildren.