The first morning of October was cold and drizzly and the tall withered grass was wet and just as cold. Dog and I went on our daily hike, heading up the steep trail as fast as we could to keep warm. By the time we reached the plateau the wind had picked up. It spoke of winter, pretending that fall was not part of the schedule anymore.
Category: Environment Page 2 of 16
It is hard to try to change people’s minds even when the cause is more than worthy. Not when it comes to the material part though. There are marketing wizards out there designing strategies and using subtle tricks that make us act like puppets as we agree to buying things just because. Never mind what it takes to produce or manufacture a product, or the ultimate price for our lifestyle – pollution and destruction, sometimes not just of nature but human lives too. Our stores are filled to the brim and more is coming. That is not creating long-lasting happiness either; on the contrary.
Fall has a special place in my heart. When I was a kid, until I left my parents’ home to go to university, as soon as the grapes would start to ripen, I’d go around the yard and get myself a bunch of sweetest ones, usually by holding up the bottom of my T-shirt for an impromptu fruit-picking bucket. Then I’d sit in one of my special places under the quince trees and eat them. One by one, green, black and red spheres, all juicy and sweet, their flavour divinely irresistible.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops on August 27, 2018.
The Falls View Trail in Peterson Creek has a new and shiny sign post at the trail start letting cyclists know the route is not suitable for bikes due to sharp turns hence reduced visibility, narrow pathways, etc. I’d add risk of erosion to that list, which is something I mentioned in a prior column. I’ve seen bikes on that trail before but thought this new sign will be a better argument for why they should use other trails.
Last week, during a drive from Vancouver, we took a short break in Hope. It was almost 10 o’clock at night and the fire near Agassiz was raging, mountain aglow and the plume above it a threatening dark grey. As we got out of the car, the air was thick with heavy, grey smoke. Though far enough from the fire, the smell was overwhelming. I could not imagine what it would be like to be right there, gear on, tools and everything, fighting this hot monster up close. Or the rest of the almost 600 fires across the province.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 8, 2018.
As of two days ago, we are back to slush. A walk to the library yesterday had me jump over soupy snow marshes, making me pay extra attention to the sidewalk. When you do, one thing that stands out is the garbage. A straw here, a wrapper there, a disposable cup here, another one there, lids included, half-revealed by the melting snow. A couple of blocks worth of garbage.
Then come the daily walks through Peterson Creek Park. If you go far enough on the trails, there’s little or no garbage. The main trail though and the portions of trails immediately adjacent to it suffer from the same garbage litter issue. Plus, dog poop, right on the trails. ‘Tis almost the season again when it all comes out, some bagged, some not, all equally disgusting, more so if you happen to step in it. If the past years are a good reference, the worst is yet to come, I know that much.
Moving down the list, there’s the visual references from people who went up to the grasslands recently. Driving along Lac Du Bois Road takes you to a place of wondrous beauty every time, no matter the season. We are ever so lucky to be so close to the grasslands, as they truly are a wonder. They cover less than 1 percent of British Columbia and are home to more threatened and endangered species than any other habitat, according to the Grasslands Conservation Council of BC. Nothing short of magical beauty, and right in our common backyard.
The ‘common backyard’ part is where the heartache starts. It’s where I go back to the recent photos and videos I came across on social media. Loads of garbage. From pizza boxes, to diaper boxes filled with garbage, to Christmas wrappings and more, it was all dumped by the side of the road in the grasslands (could be another wild space too, such as Greenstone Mountain.) This happens every year.
Sure, there will be a cleanup organized by well-intended folks who will fill many garbage bags and remove (again!) more debris than one can possibly imagine. There will be many in fact – one in Peterson Creek, one in the grasslands, one at Riverside Park and in many other places. Thoughtful people are out there, and we need more like them. The question remains though: Will it hold?
Not really. Garbage keeps coming back. One could argue that it is worse to dump a couple of weeks worth of garbage somewhere along a dirt road outside town than it is to drop a candy wrapper in the city.
Well, size matters indeed, but mentality is the common denominator that we ought to pay attention to. It’s the care we manifest for our spaces, big or small, close to home or further away.
Single-use plastic is most commonly found out there, in town and in the back country, but it’s almost impossible to describe the worst of it all. Is it someone’s domestic garbage lying by the side of a road that cuts through beautiful landscape, or the growing heaps of nails from burnt pallets with some crushed beer cans for good measure. There’s unfortunately another shocker lying around the next bend, so you can never tell.
What can be done, one wonders? Install more garbage bins? Those who mean well already use the existing ones, but a higher density helps. Put up more signs warning of steep fines? That could work, but would be there to reinforce it? Perhaps we need to see more conservation officers and park rangers.
Yet the truth is that the most sustainable solution rests not with the reinforcers of laws and by-laws, but with each of us. Our planet is slowly but surely drowning in garbage. The more stuff we buy, the more we throw out. The less we care, the more the beauty that surrounds us shrinks and suffers. It may be that we are the ones causing the trouble, but the chilling reality is that we are also at the receiving end. If not this generation, then the next.
The writer and environmentalist George Monbiot once wrote ‘Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life.’ The emphasis is on ‘life’; not animal life or plant life, not wild life of any kind, but life. That means us too. It’s high time we see it that way, think it and live it, and raise ourselves and our children breathing it in as if it were oxygen. Because it is.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 1, 2018.
As I am writing this, approximately 8,000 homes in the Fraser Valley, possibly more, are still without power due to extreme winter weather. Kamloops is under a thick blanket of snow too, and it’s not over yet. It’s started snowing again this morning.
No complaints from where I am standing. I love winter and its beauty renewed by a fresh layer of snow every couple of days. I am also aware that if you have power and a decent amount of food in the house, it’s but too easy to call it charming and snuggle with a book and a cup of tea until you feel like poking your nose out. Which you might soon enough because shoveling notwithstanding, the white fresh powder is fascinating and there’s nothing like a walk in the deep snow with red cheeks and eyes swimming in the surrounding white wonderland.
Again, if you have all you need. We do, and that is to be grateful for. But what if power goes out, or you’re stuck on the road somewhere? Not fun. If there’s one thing that became more evident than ever in the year that we leave behind is how comfortable we have become with having our necessities taken care of. Clean (enough) air, running water, hot or cold, power, food available in stores. Shortages due mostly to extreme weather conditions bring out the question though: what if we did not have this, even for a short while?
In one of his essays, George Monbiot, a British writer, and political and environmental activist, mentions a sobering quote he heard during a talk: ‘Every society is four meals away from anarchy’. Food for thought indeed, no pun intended. It goes for more than just food I’d say, and the concept is surely worth a closer look by all of us.
What better time than now?
At the end of the year it’s good to pause and consider whether our levels of gratefulness match the life we live, more so when the daily news provides an insight into the realities of life without the comforts we’re often taking for granted. All of us who are not struggling with poverty, or other harsh realities that hack at one’s peace of mind and overall well-being, are we truly thankful for what we have?
Imagine, for example, if there would be no running water and we had to go back to melting ice or snow, so we can have drinking and cooking water. Forget laundry machines, dishwashers, daily showers or baths, or hot tubs. It sounds preposterous and yet…
Much like the Fraser Valley residents have experienced and some still do, imagine having no electricity in your home at all, even for a couple of days. Is that enough to bring up our gratefulness to the point where we ponder carefully over how we use resources to prevent waste in the year to come?
Same goes for food. We had plenty of headlines and investigative pieces on food waste in Canada and we have had the report on poverty come out with dire numbers. Can we learn from the two and bring the numbers to zero in both cases? It can be done, it should be done.
Looking back at what 2017 brought, there is much to consider in terms of blessings. From the easily forgotten blessings of everyday life, to the dramatically increased needs in situations of crisis (floods, wildfires, power outages), we have it good. Not perfect, as many can attest after dealing with extreme situations, but good.
We have heartful people around us, willing to open their homes, wallets, and arms to embrace those in need, we have creative minds that can help a community evolve, and we have, above anything else, freedom to express our opinions. We have a health system that allows for people to be given care without having to sell their homes to pay their medical bills, and we have access to information and knowledge, as well as services of various kinds. Room to improve on all of these you say? For sure, and just as well we have the choice to help influence some of those changes by choosing to change the world around us for the better, from our immediate one (yourself) to your immediate community and the community at large.
The list of blessings is a long one, and our gratefulness should match it. We are better for it when we are thankful. To recognize that is to be humbled, and in doing so, is to be lifted above simply taking everything for granted, and instead responding to the obligation to give back in any way we can. Even by being kinder towards those around us, family, friends, or strangers, and by creating a positive ripple with each of our actions.
Happy New Year to all!