Remembering Mike Carr (1942-2015)

Photo: Mike Carr with Susan’s grandson

A father of bio-regionalism

by Kriszta Hernadi

Mike Carr’s social and environmental activism spans four decades. As an organizer, founder or member, he worked with a number of grassroots groups: TCLSAC, People’s Food Commission, Vancouver Walk for Peace, Aurora Institute, Eco-City Network, Barefoot Cartographers, Tin Wis Coalition, Native Education Society, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance and Vancouver Coop Radio. In 2008, he ran as a federal Green candidate in East Vancouver.

Mike received his Doctorate at SCARP (UBC, 1999). His dissertation focused on the history and analysis of the bioregional movement and theories of civil society. UBC Press published it as “Bioregionalism and Civil Society: Democratic Challenges to Corporate Globalism in 2004.” Concurrently, Mike worked with Bill Rees and Mathis Wackernagel on the “Ecological Footprint” concept. Dr. Rees described Mike as “one of North America’s foremost bioregional thinkers and advocates for a socially just and sustainable society.”

Mike was a founder of the 1994 Vancouver Greening our Cities Conference, a founder of the Eco-City Network, an editor and writer for Eco-City Act Locally and the founder of the “Barefoot Cartographers,” a bioregional mapping group that mapped Salmonopolis, among others, for eight years. He wrote magazine articles and served as a board member for the Grandview Woodlands Area Council, a local citizen’s organization in East Vancouver. His activism included disability and GLBT rights issues.

For 20 years, Dr. Carr taught courses in First Nations studies, urban studies, geography, sociology, anthropology and bioregional mapping at SFU and UBC.

Mike lit a cigar and poured himself a shot of seven-year-old Mulata rum. He then put on some salsa music and walked Susana up on the stage where they started dancing. He was always on stage and “in the zone” when he was teaching, making love and dancing or when he was discussing politics and culture. He put on a brilliant performance every time – impeccable, passionate, non-conformist and beautiful.

I met Mike at a party in 1985 after the Vancouver Peace Walk in his co-op house. The rest (30 years) is history. Our relationship evolved from romantic love and cohabitation/marriage to friendship of the highest order.

Mike’s social activism led him to do more and his studies led him to more reading, knowing and teaching. Mike’s dream for the world was a bioregional society of peace, cooperation and love. He participated in continental and local bioregional gatherings. He was inspired and reenergized by the love of his friends and his various families. For Mike, family did not strictly mean bloodlines. He was adopted by an aboriginal family in the interior and will be buried by them in his beloved Mother Earth.

Mike made sure long before he passed away that his very valuable library went to groups that could make use of them the best possible way. He also donated his maps of Salmonopolis, the body of work by the Barefoot Cartographers he founded, to the Planning School at UBC, a benefit to present and future students.

In the last few years of his life, Mike lived part-time in Cuba with his Cuban wife Susana and her family. He wrote his last book (awaiting publication) there; it gives a brief and accessible historical analysis of the US banking system and present day capitalism. At the end of the book, new peoples’ movements of resistance and change in the US, China, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are presented as hopeful examples that, contrary to Margaret Thatcher’s claim “There is no alternative” – there are indeed many possible alternatives already rising up.

Mike did not identify with any particular religion, but he was deeply inspired by native spirituality and nature. His life is an example of how consciousness and heart are one and the same and that a meaningful, authentic life allows you to follow your hopes and dreams.

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