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Earthly love

Mike Preston is a voice for the environment

Erin Fletcher
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 04/03) - Business and environment can live in harmony and Inuvik resident Mike Preston is determined to help others see his point.

The 24-year-old takes his love of the great outdoors seriously.

He recently graduated from McGill University in Montreal and is now employed as the Beaufort Delta World Wildlife Fund representative in Inuvik.

"Business and the things we do depend on the environment we live in," said Preston. "We need clean air, we need clean water, we need rich soil to grow the crops that feed us."

"These are services that are provided to us for free by a healthy environment."

Preston has lived in the North nearly all his life. The eldest of three brothers, he was born and raised in Whitehorse. For the past year he's lived in Yellowknife and moved to Inuvik in April.

A combination of personal experiences and influential people spurred on his drive to make a positive impact to the environment.

When he was nine or 10 years-old he remembers when a wooded area he and his brothers had built a fort in was bulldozed.

"It was pretty confusing for a nine or 10 year-old and I couldn't understand that this was the way it was.

"That is one of several experiences that have made me question the contradiction between business, economics and something so precious to us that all life on earth depends on it -- the environment."

Before returning to the North, he volunteered with Project Seahorse in Canada. The international organization is dedicated to preserving seahorses in the Philippines.

He's also travelled by canoe through Africa, the Amazon rain forest and lived and worked in Europe.

"All these cultures have subtle differences but were also similar," he said. "What travels have shown me is others are also trying to answer the question -- why is business always at the expense of the environment."

The wide open spaces of the North has always beckoned him home.

"I keep getting pulled back north," he laughed, but as a teenager he couldn't leave Whitehorse fast enough.

He admires the vast wilderness between communities and believes these corridors are important to living in harmony alongside nature.

"We seem a lot closer to balance," he said of the Yukon and Northwest Territories in comparison to the rest of North America.

He hopes with future development, exploration and industry comes a sense of duty to maintain the present environment.

"The actions we take now are going to have a huge repercussion on the way the landscape looks 30 years from now."