Tofino profile: Warren Rudd
by Christine Lowther, Tofino
It's darkening now, but for most of his life Warren had flaming red hair. For many years it was also Big (long and thick)--so big that it gave him headaches, which is why he eventually cut it off.
Warren was born the last of three boys in Toronto in 1964. His parents separated when he was four, and he was brought up by his mother, a nurse. As a child during the oil crisis of the seventies, he learned early in life to conserve energy. But it was summer camp and visits to his grandfather's farm that spawned Warren's love for nature.
In 1985 Warren enrolled in the New Media Program at the Ontario College of Art. The Toronto art scene felt pretentious. Everybody dressed in black; Warren, always the nonconformist, wore grey. Although he created evocative holograms and enjoyed video art, he knew it wasn't his scene, and that he would rather live rurally. After graduation he moved to Salt Spring Island with his partner of the time. They outfitted an off-the-grid house to solar and wind power, and Warren started shooting video for news & documentaries. He was a freelance news cameraman during bc's 'War in the Woods' all around Vancouver Island and beyond, selling blockade footage to cbc, ctv, cbs and others, and contributing to numerous documentaries like Bones of the Forest and Fury for the Sound. He once was location manager for a World Wildlife Fund/Peter Gabriel music shot here ("Across the River").
It was when he was busy shooting the Walbran Valley blockades in the summer of '91 that I met him. Slightly nerdy in grey sweats and a yellow, long-sleeved shirt, he kept his skin covered while everyone else flaunted their tattoos and got sunburnt. He seemed mature, focussed on his work. We moved to Tofino together in '92. Warren shot the '92 blockades, the history-making '93 ones, and many other local stories in following years.
"I remember 300 arrests in one day," he says, looking tired just thinking about it, "and when Midnight Oil played the peace camp."
His worldly travels include Japan, Europe and cross-Canada journeys by train. There are photographs of him with his video camera, hair flying, next to gargoyles on the outside heights of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. He enjoyed Ireland and Scotland, especially the Callanish standing stones on the Isle of Lewis. What particularly met with his ethics was the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, with its water-driven funicular railway, a low-energy house, a site-wide electricity grid powered by renewable energy, displays of organic gardening methods, strawbale and rammed earth buildings, and a row of composting public washrooms for visitors.
But Warren doesn't travel very far afield these days. He is acutely aware that airplanes are terrible greenhouse gas contributors. Congruent with his keen planetary sensitivity, he exchanged his big truck for a small pickup years ago--which he then converted to electric. It remains one of the two electric vehicles in Tofino.
Over time the budding ecopreneur increased his green business involvements: selling renewable energy products (like solar panels) for Energy Alternatives, and helping to turn Organic Matters, Tofino's organic food store of the time, into Salals Co-op, which ended up in his house for a while. The store in turn became today's 4th St. Natural Market. He has also been supportive of other green businesses like Fibre Options/EcoEverything, and local certified organic farming. Warren likes to look deeply into what is best for the planet. If a product is certified organic, great, but local is just as important.
He often forgets which day is Garbage Day because he sends so little to the landfill.
Warren's also into green building. He dreamed up a floating greenhouse and solar hot tub for a floathome. And Cedar Corner, at the junction of Fourth and Campbell streets, was built with 98% reused or salvaged wood and installed with rainwater-flush toilets and irrigation. It was then finished with healthy paint and marmolium flooring.
So what's next? Well, he's going to continue running the concession for Monday night movies at the theatre, and assisting to bring in documentaries for once-a-month screenings.
And, "figuring out how to sensitively develop 13.5 acres bordering Tonquin Park for green residential while protecting as much of it as possible and including attainable housing," he says.
"After that, I'd like to help create an affordable, off-the-grid model Eco Village in this region. There's plenty of urgent work to be done, now that climate change is upon us."
A sad thing about "Wren" is how seldom he gets to enjoy the Sound, a beautiful place he has directly helped to protect. Perhaps he should be forced into a kayak and pushed away from shore once in a while.
For more info see: www.cedarcorner.com
is co-editing a nonfiction anthology, In Love With Place, about living on the west coast. It will be published in 2008.
Tofino profile of Warren Rudd, environmental activist, documentary film maker, nonconformist and purveyor of organic foods in Tofino.