Losing a friend

Elizabeth May

Yesterday, I learned that a friend of mine, Ram Myers, had died the day before. It could hardly be said to be a shock, but I barely got through the day. (It is a bad sign as head of a political party if you seem to be on the verge of tears all day. Could spark media speculation about the fate of the party ….) I am crying on and off today. You would too if you’d known him.

Ram was one of the world’s leading fisheries scientists. In the 1980s, he was one of the lone voices at Department of Fisheries and Oceans who tried to convince the senior echelons that they were engaged in a campaign of extermination against the Northern Cod. His research was squelched. They tried to muzzle him. He quit.

(Yes, it was federal government policy that destroyed the cod stocks -- not seals, not the “greed” of fishermen. In-shore fishermen went to court to fight the DFO quotas which were dangerously high. Draggers and entrenched stupidity drove the cod to commercial extinction. Ram was a hero.)

Once liberated from the bureaucracy, Ram landed at Dalhousie University as the first Killam chair of Ocean Studies at Dalhousie. In 2003, Ram and his research colleague Barry Worm published a devastating and ground-breaking study on the emptying of our oceans. They concluded that species of big fish (like tuna, swordfish and marlin) had been reduced to a mere remnant of 1950 levels. Only 10% of these big fish survived in 2003 from 1950 population levels. The study appeared on the front page of Nature magazine, on the front page of the New York Times, (above the fold) and Ram was interviewed on CBS, ABC, CNN, CBC, BBC, essentially everywhere! and made waves around the world. I wrote about Ram’s media savvy in my most recent book, How to save the world in your spare time.

“Having studied how the news media worked, Ransom Myers decided, “I want to do it like NASA does it -- graphics, animation, visuals.”

Once the research paper was accepted for publication by Nature, several people had worked for months pitching the story to major news outlets. Dr.Myers hired a submersible and a filmmaker to shoot new images of ocean life, ideal for television news. The B-roll footage, prepared on Beta, was sent to major news organizations with prepared interviews of Dr. Myers… Cool animation was available on his web site and could be downloaded for broadcast. Very sophisticated stuff. Dr. Myers is a rare commodity. A scientist who knows how to communicate”

Ram was also a wonderful friend. He and his wife Rita and the three kids (plus sometimes his two older girls from an earlier marriage) would come visit me in Cape Breton in summer, pitch a tent outside the house and turn my summer working time (I write books in the summer --- or I guess I used to) into a non-stop party. There was a happy chaos to Ram and Rita’s visits. We ate and drank and were very merry.

Last time I saw him was in a Halifax hospital.. A stroke in November had left him paralyzed on one side, only able to say “yes” and “no” and also with a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour.

In his sharp and bright eyes he conveyed volumes in his “yes” and “no.” I prattled on about my new life as leader of the Green Party -- a gorgeous picture of the five kids framed and visible at all times at the end of his bed.

Life can be so unfair. Useless, selfish and greedy people go plundering on and the oceans have lost Ram. People find each other and leave each other carelessly and then a good husband and great father dies too young.

So, to honour Ram’s memory and celebrate his life and find something glorious in our pain, some suggestions:

There is a trust fund set up for the children: TDCanadaTrust in the name of his wife, Rita Kindl Myers.

There is work to do to save the planet. What Ram always said he wanted was to be sure the great sharks would survive so his son would see them. Much work remains to be done. It will just be that much harder without Ransom Myers.