Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on July 1, 2019.

McConnell Lake, June 2019

The air smells sweet and sticky; it smells of soapberries, though they are mere green blobs right now, so all I smell is a promise; I like it, it has a tinge of humbleness to it. On my right, as I walk the trail, the lake surface is coated in sunshine and parts of it look like liquid gold. White puffs of clouds are pinned to a perfect baby blue sky and their reflections are so clear you could almost scoop them out of the water. This is a gift; all of it.

The path is lined with the small bright suns of arnica flowers; there are red columbines, tenderly shaking their star-shaped heads as if to disperse the relentless cloud of mosquitoes; slender light purple lupins and prickly rose bushes loaded with pink fragrant flowers. There is buzzing and barely audible water noises, until fish break through the liquid ceiling of their home and find themselves sun-kissed for a second.

It’s hard not to stop to take it all in properly but I can barely afford this luxury as mosquitoes are landing on me as soon as I slow down, hungry and merciless, doing what they ought to do to keep on existing.

A family of Canada geese glides over the water, a floating train of feathers and beaks with mom and pop like bookends on a shelf with precious treasures to protect. Ever so obedient, the goslings float along in a straight line.

Half an hour later I finish my hike and glide on the same waters aboard the family canoe. My husband paddles slowly, allowing silence to fill longer and longer stretches of time. Gazes is all we exchange.

A family of loons, mom, pop and fluffy baby, look at us with curiosity and a streak of worry… we let our canoe float without any paddling for a while and peace is restored. The breeze takes us away from the loons and their haunting calls. I never get tired of hearing them.

The water is so clear we see everything that rests on the lake bottom or grows from it. There is a deer skull that our youngest wants to see again, a couple of old boats and logs, and plenty of water life that could not care less about us. Come to think of it, they do better just on their own so why would they.

This is a sliver of Canada. Serenity lives here on any given day; it does today as it did many centuries ago as it will, hopefully, for many yet to come…

But what if…all trees would be gone because of climate change-enhanced threats such as bugs and drought, or massive clearcuts because logging is not carried on properly? That is what is happening in many parts of Canada and it also unfortunately affects many communities that depend on logging to put food on the table.

What if all the wildlife that is so perfectly tucked out of sight now would disappear and make all of this beautiful lively place eerily and unnaturally quiet? That is already happening in Canada as we speak: some of the woodland caribou herds have but a few animals left, so many others are on the brink of extinction when just a century ago they were roaming in the millions; 55 out of 58 seabird species that use Canadian waters are of special conservation concern or at risk of extinction, according to a recent report on birds. These are not isolated cases but stories that are becoming the norm. Too fast, too predictable. Salmon too, are returning in smaller numbers, if at all. It feels wrong even typing that.

What if the bugs I see plunge in the water and dart every which way around me would all vanish like many already are around the world? There are already fewer of them.   

What if the waters I dipped my toes in for a touch of that liquid gold were filled with garbage and plastic like so many of the Canadian beaches are already full of? It’s a global problem, yes, but as stewards of the world’s longest coastline, we ought to step up and do our part in earnest. The oceans are in a state of crisis like never before and it is a moral duty to do what it takes to reverse that.

If we mean what we say today, and I believe we do, we must do better when it comes to preserving the natural beauty that this big beautiful land was blessed with. So much of what we enjoy and depend on today comes from it. So much of that could vanish if we don’t.

We must ensure that we do all that we can to be able to look our children in the eye and say, ‘I did all that I could.’ If we mean it, that is. And I know we do.

Happy Canada Day!