Ann Richardson: Former professor carves out life in tune with the environment

March 31, 2016

I like this article for at least three important reasons.

One is because Ann Richardson, who is profiled in this article, spends a lot of time doing environmentalist work at the grassroots level.

The importance of this hits home to me especially, as I write this, because I am reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel called 2312. This Davis, California author writes about how life plays out three centuries into the future. It is a world in which people travel in elevators to other planets but have to wear special suits to protect themselves from literally ‘burned out’ places including Earth. These suits are equipped with many features including a pocket in which the person wearing the suit can urinate and defecate. To expose any part of the body to the environment is extremely dangerous to one’s health.

Radiation is a regular threat in this world in which people regularly live well past 100 years old. Quality of long life, though, leaves a fair bit to be desired. While Robinson writes fictional novels, they unfortunately ring true when it comes to how we humans have destroyed our natural environment and how this limits and even imprisons their lives.

The other reason why Richardson’s profile is significance is because it was part of series that I did on 20 women that SWOVA, an anti-violence against women organization, on Salt Spring Island, honoured on the turn into the 21st century. All are women who contribute meaningfully and usually from a feminist perspective to the island community.A

The third reason is that Richardson is a wonderful example of someone who answers the call to live her passion

This is the piece:

Gulf Island Driftwood

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Ann Richardson: Former professor carves out life in tune with the environment

by Tanya Lester

A couple of years shy of 50, Ann Richardson decided to leave her tenured university position in Detroit and do what she always wanted to do.

The plan was really very simple. She would live in the country, with animals around her, and grow things and build things.

She was terrified. Leaving a secure position as a social work professor to go and do things that she didn’t know how to do ….

But Richardson did all these things. She learned by reading books and talking to people.

“People on Salt Spring know everything,” she said.

Twenty-five years later , she is satisfied with her life.

For these achievements alone, Richardson deserves to be awarded.

The SWOVA recognition given to her, along with 19 other women in March, focussed on her work as a founding and continuing Salt Spring Conservancy member.

All of the founding members were women, she noted.

Among them were Maureen Milburn, Susan Evans, Fiona Flook, Nancy Braithwaite, Mallory Pred and Ailsa Pearse.

Mill Farm was their first major project. Richardson said they were motivated when they discovered it was earmarked to be logged and it contained the largest stand of old growth cedar in the Gulf Islands.

The conservancy raised $200,000 to purchase the property. “It was a wonderful experience that nearly killed us all,” Richardson said.

The campaign took an enormous amount of letter writing, she said, and individuals lobbied the environment ministry and the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy Fund.

The conservancy obtained the property in a court sale despite the fact that there was a higher bidder. The judge had apparently been convinced of its conservation value as even the people who were selling it did not want to see it logged.

Richardson said this purchase brought the Capital Regional  District (CRD) Parks onto the island and contributing funds for the first time. Ford Lake, now owned and conserved by Ducks Unlimited, is also near and dear to Richardson’s heart because she lived there.

She now lives off Beaver Point Road on King Road.

“I think it’s important to protect the environment everywhere on this earth,” said Richardson. “People and animals need forest. I think it’s restorative to live near to a forest.”

She adds that it is important to save plants that are indigenous to an area. She would like to see indigenous species in Ganges, for example.

Richardson had always loved the outdoors. As a child, she spent many memorable occasions on 40 acres of forest outside Detroit where her father, a civil engineer, built a log cabin.

The 1960s and early 1970s was the most stimulating time of her life.

She worked as a professor in first Philadelphia and then Detroit when those cities were afire with the race riots. She was, of course, supportive of black Americans, but found she yearned for peace and tranquility.

The turning when point was when she quit smoking. “The whole top blew  off everything,” she said. “If I can do that, I can do everything, I thought.”

First she moved to Alaska and started a small farm, but the climate did not agree with her.

On her way back to Michigan to sell her property, Richardson stopped at Salt Spring Island to visit a friend camping here. Her overnight stay extended to a month.

On her return from Michigan, it was Salt Spring where she settled.

Richardson created her farm with animals and a huge garden. For cash flow, she worked in a Duncan mental health clinic and later did counselling for the Community Centre.

Among her many pastimes, Richardson must still get a sound engineer to put together her tapes of bird songs so they can be made available to the public.

Somewhere between attending numerous conservancy meetings, working on her land and in her garden, as well as going for walks, meditating and practising yoga, and attending short Buddhist retreats, Richardson will no doubt find the time to do it.


Tanya Lester does intuitive readings– including tea leaf readings and tarot– as well as housesits. If you are interested in her services, contact her at or call 250-538-0086. She also has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google as well as on craigslist and kijjii. Her website is









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