Obituary: Fr. Charles Brandt, first Catholic hermit priest in several hundred years

Obituary: Fr. Charles Brandt, first Catholic hermit priest in several hundred years

Fr. Charles in his studio at The Hermitage  |  George Le Masurier photo

Obituary: Fr. Charles Brandt, first Catholic hermit priest in several hundred years

By Guest Writer
Written by Bruce Witzel

Rev. Charles Brandt noted conservationist, hermit monk, and priest of the Diocese of Victoria, died in the early hours of Sunday, October 25. A spiritual guide and inspiration to many beyond the Catholic Church, Charles was in the North Island Hospital in Comox Valley at the time of his death from pneumonia. He was in his 97th year.

Father Brandt lived for nearly five decades at his forested hermitage next to Oyster River. In 2019, those 27 acres were put into a permanent land conservancy and Charles has bequeathed the property to the Comox Valley Regional District for use as a public park. An active contemplative person of prayer who has concern for the Sacred Commons will live in the hermitage to follow in Charles’ footsteps.

Brandt was the sole surviving member of a unique hermit community originally established in 1964 near the Tsolum River in Merville, B.C. Bishop Remi De Roo ordained Brandt in 1966 as the first hermit priest in several hundred years within the Roman Catholic Church. This
eremitical tradition had fallen into disuse in western churches after the Reformation and was reconstituted through later reforms of the Second Vatican Council 1962-65, in which a young Remi De Roo participated.

Brandt was in communication with world-famous Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton, about joining the community on Vancouver Island in 1968 at the time of Merton's death. Brandt had originally entered monastic life as a Trappist at New Melleray, Iowa.

Brandt earned his keep as an art and paper conservationist by setting up a special lab at his hermitage. He gained world renown for restoring many historical books like The Nuremberg Chronicles printed in 1493, many older bibles, and one of the original books of The Audubon Series.

He taught Christian meditation practice at the hermitage and led other retreats, inspiring many people over the decades. He occasionally filled in as a parish priest in The Comox Valley and Campbell River. 

Father Brandt rose at 3 AM to meditate, read psalms and practice daily liturgy. During early hours, he often meandered into nature to observe birds and wildlife and to take photographs. In his book Self and Environment, he describes this walking meditation as a time when “Every atom of my being is present to every atom in the universe, and they to it.”

In later years, Brandt was much celebrated in public ways which included media profiles and reports on his pioneer environmental work. He is credited with heading up the effort that saved the Tsolum River from industrial degradation.

His stature as a spiritual teacher as well as his whole legendary reputation as someone who integrated spirituality with ecology will live on after him in the lives and efforts of the many people he directly inspired.

Fr. Charles is survived by his sister-in-law, Wanda Brandt, and numerous nephews, nieces and their children and grandchildren in the Kansas City area and around the United States. He was predeceased by his parents, Anna (nee Bridges) and Alvin Brandt, brothers Frank and Chet, and sisters Frances, Mary and Ella.

Donations in remembrance of Charles can be made to St. Andrews Cathedral in Victoria, the Tsolum River Restoration Society, Comox Valley Nature Society, the Oyster River Enhancement Society or the Brandt Oyster River Hermitage Society.

FURTHER READING: A Long and Winding Journey

 

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LATEST UPDATE: Father Charles Brandt funeral service this Friday in Campbell River

LATEST UPDATE: Father Charles Brandt funeral service this Friday in Campbell River

Father Charles Brandt in January of 2019 at The Hermitage. Photo was taken just weeks before his 97th birthday.  |  George Le Masurier photo

LATEST UPDATE: Father Charles Brandt funeral service this Friday in Campbell River

By George Le Masurier

Father Charles Brandt, who lived as a hermit on a 27-acre property along the Oyster River, died early Sunday morning. He was 97.

The funeral mass for Fr. Charles will be at noon this Friday, Oct. 30 at St Patrick’s church in Campbell River.

The worship space accommodates 50 people only as they seat folks with the appropriate spacing. The service may be streamed to the large room downstairs, again with social distancing in place. Attendance will be by reservation only by callingl the church office 250-287-3498. They will need contact info with name, address, phone and email.

Fr. Charles has lived on the property since 1970. He had recently finalized a conservation covenant with the Comox Valley Land Trust and the Comox Valley Regional District that will forever protect the land from development.

You can read more about Fr. Charles in this Decafnation story published on Jan. 31, 2019.

Father Charles Brandt: a long and winding journey 

A long-time friend of Fr. Charles, Bruce Witzel of Victoria Lake near Port Alice, has posted two video links on his blog, including an interview with Fr. Charles about his life.

Witzel grew up in the Comox Valley. His father was Mac Witzel who was one of the first Catholics to welcome and assist Charles when he moved to the Valley.

The shoes of the fisherman: Requiescat in pacem, Fr. Charles Brandt

This article has been updated many times to add more information as it became available, and also to correct the year when Fr. Charles moved onto the Oyster River property from 1965 to 1970. We have changed Alice Arm, to Port Alice to more accurately depict Bruce Witzel residence.

 

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CV watershed virtual forum to explore climate change, landscape restoration

CV watershed virtual forum to explore climate change, landscape restoration

View from Comox Lake out to the Strait of Georgia  |  Submitted photo

CV watershed virtual forum to explore climate change, landscape restoration

By Guest Writer

The Comox Valley Land Trust, Cumberland Community Forest Society and Connected by Water are presenting a free 3-part event highlighting exciting projects and initiatives that are reconnecting ecology and hydrology in the built and natural environments of the Comox Valley.

This virtual seminar will take place October 21-23 and offers attendees from across sectors a unique opportunity to learn about the power of collaboration to mobilize and respond effectively to the impacts of climate change on the local landscape.

Wednesday October 21st at 7 pm – FREE Online Public Event:  Stitching Together Altered Landscapes: Conservation, Community and Resilience.

Over the past 150 years, the Comox Valley landscape has been transformed by logging, coal mining, agriculture, road building, industry, and development. These altered landscapes are where the local impacts of climate change – flooding, erosion, and loss of biodiversity – first become evident. But these altered landscapes also hold the greatest potential for building resiliency. Kus-Kus-Sum, The Courtenay Estuary, Morrison Headwaters, Perseverance Watershed, Comox Lake – these places are at the heart of our local climate story.

Join archeologist Jesse Morin, Comox Valley Land Trust ED Tim Ennis, Cumberland Community Forest Society ED Meaghan Cursons, and Project Watershed staff biologist Jennifer Sutherst for a visual exploration of local land use history and current day conservation in action from mountain top to ocean floor. Together, in partnership with local government, indigenous leadership, industry, and community, we are stitching together altered landscapes of the Comox Valley.

Thursday October 22 9-10:20 am: Water, Place and Reconciliation

What is the starting place for our work in water sustainability, landscape restoration, and facing the impacts of a changing climate? It starts with an understanding of the culture, land, water, and stories of the places where we do our work. Join us for this welcome to the territory of the K’ómoks First Nation and an introduction to the exciting projects underway that demonstrate our shared commitments.

Thursday October 22, 10:30-12 noon: Regional Collaboration toward Natural Asset Management

The Comox Valley has never witnessed the scale of cross sector and cross jurisdictional work toward watershed sustainability than we have in the past 5 years. At the forefront of these collaborations are the Watershed Advisory Group, the Comox Lake Municipal Natural Assets Initiatives and recent land protection actions in the Comox Lake Watershed. This session will explore the complexities and opportunities of this regional collaboration at work.

Friday October 23rd, 9-10:20 am: Engaging Community in Climate Strategies – Projects and Tactics

Local government leadership is making it clear that meaningful community engagement and climate change awareness are critical to all levels of community planning. What tactics make a real impact? How do we deepen interest and engagement to achieve success? From official community plan processes to sea rise response strategies – community engagement in climate adaptation is at the top of the agenda.

Friday October 23rd, 10:30-12: Connected by Water- Building a Legacy of Watershed Protection

Connected by Water is a program of the Comox Valley Regional District to build capacity, connection, and community in support of watershed protection. This project connects schools, parks, sporting events, campgrounds and the public to stories and actions that help support the health of our watershed. Learn more about the approaches, messages, and successes of this project and how it can be applied to our collective efforts to support a climate-resilient watershed in the Comox Valley.

Registration is now open for the 3 sessions taking place Wednesday evening, October 21st, and Thursday and Friday mornings, October 2nd and 23rd. Attendees are invited to attend individual sessions or all 3 days. Visit www.cvlandtrust.ca/2020-symposium/ for panelist bios and registration links.

 

 

 

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ABOUT THE FORUM SPONSORS

About Comox Valley Conservation Partnership (CVCP)
The CVCP was formed in 2008, after concern was raised that there was no regional plan in the Comox Valley to prioritize and protect sensitive ecosystems on private land. The CVCP brings together local community-based groups and other stakeholders to support their projects and provide a voice for the value of conservation in our natural areas.

About Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS)
CCFS is a grassroots community based charitable not-for-profit dedicated to land protection, restoration and biodiversity in the Cumberland Forest that borders the Village of Cumberland on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. This forest is part of a significant habitat and recreation corridor that connects the mountains of the Beaufort Range to the Salish Sea.

 

 

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Father Charles Brandt honored by Canadian Museum of Nature

Father Charles Brandt honored by Canadian Museum of Nature

Father Charles Brandt on the front porch of his Oyster River hermitage  |  Grant Callegari photos

Father Charles Brandt honored by Canadian Museum of Nature

By Guest Writer

When the Canadian Museum of Nature announced the finalists for its
2020 Nature Inspiration Awards, there was only one name in the Lifetime Achievement category: Father Charles Brandt.

A well-known environmentalist in the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, Father Charles was nominated for the award by the Comox Valley Land Trust.

Father Charles has devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats and has inspired generations of volunteers to work together to protect and preserve forests and rivers.

As a spiritual leader and conservationist, Father Charles helped establish the Tsolum River Task Force, which ultimately became
the Tsolum River Restoration Society. At age 97, he continues to act as one of the society’s directors.

Father Charles Brandt

Father Charles was also instrumental in creating the Oyster River Enhancement Society, contributing to the return of salmon and trout stocks on that also once-decimated river. He served as an ORES director and remained active in the society until 2014 when he was appointed a director emeritus.

Beginning in the early 1990s, he was also part of the Oyster River Watershed Management Committee, a roundtable of
government, industry and citizen representatives advocating for improved forest management activities. Father Charles remained active with the ORMC until it disbanded in 2012.

Father Charles’ home is along the Oyster River. In 2019 he granted a conservation covenant on his 27-acre property to the Comox Valley Land Trust. This action will protect the mature forest and riparian areas in perpetuity. Father Charles intends to donate the land to the Comox Valley Regional District as parkland.

Reacting to news of the Canadian Nature Museum’s award, Father Charles wrote, “With [cultural historian] Thomas Berry I can only say that the human community and the natural world must go into the future as a single sacred community. This is a step in that direction. Thank you.”

“We are pleased to see Father Charles recognized on the national stage for his work here on Vancouver Island,” said Comox Valley Land Trust Executive Director Tim Ennis. “His decision to leave his property to the CVRD as parkland, with a conservation covenant held by the land trust that will protect it forever, sets a strong example for others.”

Father Charles will receive his award when the winners in the other six categories are announced on November 25. Winners in each category receive $5,000 they can designate to a nature-related program of their choice.

FURTHER READING: Father Charles: A Long and Winding Journey

 

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Are you satisfied with the performance of your Comox Valley elected officials? In 20 months and three weeks, voters will go to the polls again. So we’re curious how Decafnation readers feel about their councillors, mayors, directors and school trustees halfway through their current terms in office

Maps will detail impact of sea level rise on Valley coastline

Maps will detail impact of sea level rise on Valley coastline

Flooding of the Courtenay Flats during previous heavy rainfalls

Maps will detail impact of sea level rise on Valley coastline

By George Le Masurier

It could be argued that climate change hasn’t yet impacted the daily lives of people in the Comox Valley. Yes, it has been drier for longer periods and a year ago the smoke from forest fires dimmed our skies and filled our lungs. The Comox Glacier is disappearing before our eyes.

These are minor events, however, compared to the torrential rains, flooding, droughts and intense super-hurricanes inflicting damage to other parts of the world.

But the serious consequences of climate change will soon reach our idyllic part of the world in the form of sea level rise.

Sea levels have risen by almost eight inches since the 1890s, an annual rate of about 0.06 inches per year, an amount barely noticeable except to those paying close attention.

But the rate of sea level rise has accelerated to 0.14 inches per year since 2006, and scientists predict it will continue to speed up as global temperatures climb.

The latest dire warnings suggest sea level could rise by as much as 1.3 feet by 2050 and up to 8.2 feet (2.5 metres) by 2100, depending on the success of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

FOCUS ON COMOX VALLEY IMPACTS

To determine how rising sea levels will affect the Comox Valley coastline, the Comox Valley Regional District is undertaking detailed mapping of the regions 200 kilometres of coastline, from the Oyster River to Fanny Bay, including Denman and Hornby islands.

With a $500,000 grant from the National Disaster Mitigation Program, the CVRD hired Kerr Wood Leidal consulting engineers to assess the coastline from a geological perspective. They will produce maps and supporting technical data for five scenarios of sea level rise in the years 2030, 2050, 2100, 2150 and 2200.

The report will be a helpful planning guide for emergency management as well as for new development. And, the information will inform the CVRD how to make corresponding policy and regulatory changes, such as floodplain construction levels and setbacks.

The data will also help the CVRD predict how much flooding will occur and how long each flooding event will last.

“Sea level rise is coming whether we think it is or not and governments are being asked to act,” Alana Mullaly, the CVRD’s senior manager of the Regional Growth Strategy and sustainability, told Decafnation. “This will create a lot of hard conversations.”

With rising sea levels pouring over portions of our coastline, how close to the foreshore should building be allowed? Where should local governments put new infrastructure? How should local government manage its assets, such as parkland and archaeological sites? Who will pay for the restoration or relocation of assets?

Sea levels most certainly will have an effect on future land use planning.

“The CVRD may get a request to put a park here or a development there, but that property may be underwater in 20 years,” Mullaly said. “I’m thinking about the weighing of values that we, as a community, will need to do in dealing with climate change.”

 

RICHER DATA FOR ENGINEERS

To do this coastal flood mapping, the consultants will use LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) to survey land remotely and produce high resolution topographic contours. The province has already flown LIDAR equipment over our area to collect the raw survey data and the consultants will process the data for use in the development of hundreds of maps.

Right now, communities that do not have coastal flood mapping generally rely on the requirements set by the province, which are based on mapping from the 1970s and 1980s.

Those maps did not account for any sea level rise, and neither does the current CVRD floodplain bylaw.

But by professional code, once engineers know something they have to consider it, and they have been taking sea level rise into account based on limited information. This report will give engineers richer local data.

Coastal flood mapping will put the CVRD in compliance with the Coastal Food Hazard Guideline, which is the main resource for engineers designing construction projects.

 

WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE PUBLIC

After the report is delivered by March 31 next year, the CVRD will hold public engagement events to inform citizens of its findings, which will ultimately lead to
recommendations for bylaws and other relevant regulations and guidelines.

“Sometimes it has been difficult for citizens to pinpoint the source or motivation when government rules change,” Mullaly said. “This won’t be one of them. This is not an arbitrary change. Sea level rise is coming.”

 

HOW HIGH WILL SEAS RISE?

The provincial government’s official prediction for sea level rise is a half-metre by 2050, one metre (just over three feet) by 2100 and two metres (about 6.5 feet) by 2200.

But that’s too low by at least half, according to recent scientific studies and the consulting engineers who did a similar mapping project for the City of Campbell River.

Northwest Hydraulic Consultants told Campbell River that the province’s projection “might be conservative.” One of the firm’s engineers, Grant Lamont, said it depends on future greenhouse gas emissions and how quickly ocean warming expands.

The loss of polar ice will accelerate in the second half of the century, Lamont said, and force people to cope with larger changes in shorter periods of time.

He recommended planning for two metres of sea level rise by 2100, as the states of California and New York have done.

Campbell River’s report suggests flooding will threaten downtown streets and buildings, and that local governments purchase coastal properties and turn them into pre-flooded parkland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLIMATE REFUGEES RETREAT FROM COASTLINES

There will be 13 million climate refugees in the United States by 2100. This report tells the story of a Lousiana town being relocated before sea level rise makes it uninhabitable. It portends to be the first of many retreats for existing coastlines.

The tiny village of Newtok near Alaska’s western coast has been sliding into the Ninglick River for years. As temperatures increase — faster there than in the rest of the U.S. — the frozen permafrost underneath Newtok is thawing. Now, in an unprecedented test case, Newtok wants the federal government to declare these mounting impacts of climate change an official disaster. Villagers say it’s their last shot at unlocking the tens of millions of dollars needed to relocate the entire community.

 

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Ocean farming: more food, less land, reduced GHG emissions

Ocean farming: more food, less land, reduced GHG emissions

Image of ocean farming from the Greenwave.org website

Ocean farming: more food, less land, reduced GHG emissions

By Gavin MacRae

The climate crisis will force a shift in where and how we get our calories. Farms in the future will need to produce more food on less land, all while cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

For Bren Smith, director of the non-profit group Greenwave, this transition means expanding our definition of farming to include the ocean. Smith is the driving force behind the zero-input aquaculture system known as vertical or 3D ocean farming.

The 3D part may sound techy, but Smith says the concept is simple. A grid of ropes extend from anchors on the seafloor to buoys on the ocean surface. A horizontal rope scaffold is fixed off the vertical lines.

Supported by the horizontal ropes, seaweeds grow interspersed with cages for shellfish such as scallops and mussels. Oyster and clams grow in cages below on the seafloor. The resulting symbiosis produces high yields of diverse species on a small ocean footprint.

The farms are thriving ecosystems, Smith says, which create habitat for other marine life, offer coastal protection from storm surges, locally buffer against ocean acidification, and filter nitrogen from fertilizer runoff.

“Fresh water, fertilizer, feed, land, all those things, those inputs, the cost is going to go up in the climate era…. Zero-input food’s going to be the most affordable food on the planet. It’s going to move us to the centre of the plate.”

The cost of entry for 3D ocean farming is low relative to land-based agriculture (US$20-50,000 can bankroll a typical farm). Smith envisions 3D ocean farming as a vibrant new industry displacing extractive industrial fishing and creating jobs on small-scale ocean farms around the world.

 

THE BIRTH OF GREENWAVE

In an earlier life, Smith’s livelihood as a commercial fisher ended with the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland in the 1990s. After a stint at a Northern Canadian fish farm, Smith transitioned to oyster farming off the coast of New York.

Some years later, hurricanes Irene and Sandy left his oyster crop in ruin. At the same time, rising ocean acidification was killing oyster seeds, while warming waters drove lobsters further north. Determined to find a model of aquaculture more resilient to climate change, Smith teamed up with Charles Yarish, a seaweed expert from the University of Connecticut, to develop the 3D ocean farming system.

The result was so successful, Smith co-founded Greenwave to spread the word.

Greenwave’s training program has been inundated, Smith says. “Right now the demand’s too high. We have requests to start farms in 20 countries around the world. It’s just insane, we have a waiting list of 10,000 farmers.”

Despite Greenwave’s success, ocean farming hasn’t yet telegraphed to Vancouver Island – at least under the 3D banner.

But what Vancouver Island does have is a burgeoning interest in kelp farming.

 

IDEAL FOR KELP FARMING

“We’re in a region that has the richest kelp biodiversity in the world.” says Allison Byrne, a kelp researcher at North Island College’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation in Campbell River. “We have lots of coastline and lots of capacity in small coastal communities in terms of marine and boating experience that could be applied to the industry. And beyond that there’s a lot of interest, specifically in kelp farming.”

At a seaweed commercialization workshop in Courtenay in June, Byrne says the room was “absolutely packed” with entrepreneurs as well as established fish and shellfish operations looking to diversify.

“There are a lot of companies and individuals that want to push this ahead and are working to do so,” says Byrne. “I think it will look a lot different five years from now, there’ll be a lot more startup farms.”

Another promising ocean farming concept called Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) was pioneered on Vancouver Island by Byrne’s former academic supervisor, eminent aquaculture researcher Stephen Cross.

In this arrangement, the waste from a fed species such as a fish or shrimp becomes inputs for other species such as shellfish or seaweeds. Though not yet pursued commercially on Vancouver Island, IMTA and 3D ocean farming share the goal of remediating ocean ecosystems and creating high yields on small footprints.

For ocean farming, and kelp farming in particular, to grow on Vancouver Island, seed and processing facilities are needed, says Byrne.

“We need to reach that critical mass of having enough biomass from multiple different growers to create a demand for processing facilities.”

“I would love to see young entrepreneurs and First Nation-owned businesses take on the industry,” says Byrne, “and I would love to see small and medium sized farms working together, at least at this point, to create a demand for processing.”

 

A MARKET BEYOND KELP

And while forward-thinking chefs have created a boutique culinary demand for seaweeds, there is plenty more market potential for kelp at the grocery store.

Kelp salad greens, chips, sauerkraut, pickles, smoothie cubes, tea, beer, gin, and more could be on the menu.

The largest food market, Smith says, is as a healthy additive to replace the soy ubiquitous in many foods.

Other opportunities for seaweed are for use as animal feed, fertilizers, and for high value compounds extracted for use in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Byrne says the industry needs to continue educating the public on the environmental benefits and economic opportunities of seaweed agriculture. “I think it’s an unfamiliar sector, but once people learn about it, they love it,” she says.

“They’ve done such a good job marketing the concept in New England and on the east coast. But I think we can catch up in the grand scheme of things.”

Gavin MacRae is the assistant editor of The Watershed Sentinel, a publishing partner of Decafnation. Readers can reach him at gavin@watershedsentinel.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS GREENWAVE AND 3D OCEAN FARMING?

Bren Smith, GreenWave executive director and owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm, pioneered the development of restorative 3D Ocean Farming. A lifelong commercial fisherman, he was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “25 People Shaping the Future” and featured in TIME magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2017”. He is the winner of the Buckminster Fuller Prize and been profiled by CNN, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and elsewhere. He is an Ashoka and Echoing Green Climate Fellow and author of Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer. 

From the Greenwave.org website

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