School Life

Vargas Island

Living in an off-grid system truly changes your perspective.

by Max Zhu ’23

Living in an off-grid system truly changes your perspective. In our day-to-day lives, we take so much for granted: heating, electricity, hot showers, and even wifi. With the accessibility that a main grid offers, we rarely stop to think about the effects of our actions. A few weekends ago, a mix of Life Sciences 11 and AP Environmental Science students took a trip to Vargas Island, just off the coast of Tofino and visited the Cedar Coast Field Station. The station was a fully off-grid system, collecting their water through the rain and harnessing energy from the sun. The limited amount of both resources forced us to cut our showers short and keep our data usage down, preserving it for the remainder of the trip.

As cheesy as it sounds, being so encapsulated in nature had unexpectedly made me uncommonly conscious of everything around me. In Vancouver, we’re lucky enough to have places like Pacific Spirit Forest and Jericho beach. Still, human disruption takes away a particular characteristic from nature that is irreplaceable. It may be the ambiance or sight of other people occasionally passing by, but I guess we’ll never know.

The time spent at the station was split between personal research and learning about the day-to-day operations that went on on the island. Our paired projects ranged from estimating the number of Giant Green Anemones (GG’s) on the island to defaming sea otters for their mass and unseemly reproduction methods. Personally, Justin and I researched off-grid living, and we dug a bit deeper into the technicalities of maintaining the system currently and for years to come.

Vargas Island’s aim for sustainability was made possible through a blend of modern-day technology and the desire to do it. Through our research, we were shocked to discover how much more water someone can save or how easily someone can lower their energy consumption without it affecting their day-to-day life. The team there was familiar with the island, and their work was focused mainly on the maintenance of the island’s overall health. They accomplished this by completing daily plankton tows and looking out for native species.

As we left the island, many of us felt like the weekend had felt longer because our time had been filled with such a diverse amount of activities, not because we had to do them, but because we wanted to. The experience as a whole was gratifying and unique because we don’t get to experience it every day. At Vargas Island, nature had seemed so interesting only because it was a break from our modern-day lives, which are often filled with a screen and rarely enough nature.

Note from the author: For those interested, here are some photos the Vancouver Sun took of our group. We also have a post on the Howl titled “Off Grid Living.”

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