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For more than two decades, Simon Jackson's life has centred on 400 bears. When he was 7, he saw his first wild bear, a Kodiak, while on a camping trip with his parents. The camping trip ignited Mr. Jackson's interest in bears and at the age of 13 he began his 16-year campaign to save the spirit bear, also known as the Kermode bear, named after Frank Kermode, former director of the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria.
He has rallied more than six million people, including heads of state, rock stars and environmentalists, to save these bears from extinction by protecting their habitat. The greatest concentration of spirit bears is found in an area known as the Great Bear Rainforest, on the central coast north of Vancouver Island. Hunting is restricted in only about 2 per cent of that range.
A youth-led, Canadian-based, internationally connected, non-profit organization whose mission it is to save 400 bears by preserving the B.C. coastal region. The Kermode, or spirit bear (the loose translation of the native word for the bear, Moksgm'ol), is a black bear that has white fur because of a rare genetic trait. The bear is not albino, as it typically has a brown nose and eyes.
At 13, Mr. Jackson started his campaign armed with a slide projector and a bus pass and began to visit high schools in British Columbia to raise awareness among his peers about his campaign and to give them a chance to get involved.
"Bears need a voice and the only way to do this is to protect their habitat. It is simple, it is doable and it is the right thing to do. We all have a responsibility to right wrongs and this is mine."
To ensure that the bears can live their full life (spirit bears can live up to 25 years in the wild). Mr. Jackson declares that the best way to keep these bears alive is: "No fish farms. No trophy hunting. No oil tankers. My goal is absolutely achievable."
WHO IS YOUR HERO?
"Dr. Jane Goodall. I first met her when I was 15 at an event in Vancouver. I was armed with a book on the spirit bear, seeking her support. She not only lent her voice to this issue, but took me under her wing and really became a mentor and friend.
"The best advice Dr. Jane gave me was after 9/11. I had to give a speech about the spirit bear and I felt guilty about doing so with the many other more pressing issues facing the world. I asked Dr. Jane how she was handling environmental concerns in a post-9/11 world and she said: 'After every war has been fought and every terrorist has been caught, what kind of world are we going to return to? It's not that one issue is more important than another, but it is that for every issue there is a champion. If each champion doesn't continue to do their part to create a better world, we'll never achieve the global change we require ... as every act adds up to solve the bigger, more complex issues.' "
WHAT HAVE YOU LOST PURSUING YOUR PASSION?
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
"When I was 13, I went to the wilderness and the guide said something that I carry around every day: Keep these bears alive so my kid, who was a newborn at the time, can see them. His words keep me moving forward despite the challenges we face."
Farah Mohamed is president of the Belinda Stronach Foundation.
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