Environment

 
 

TIS THE SEASON – OF CONTROVERSY

We came across the tree of remembrance on a snowy trail deep in Mundy park- a small fir tree festooned with photos -some of humans, but mostly of dogs (Mundy is an off -leash dog park) a small hand lettered sign inviting walkers to hang a photo in remembrance of someone dear, but now departed, that had walked the park with them in days gone by. The memorial was a new creation, since we walk the park frequently and had never encountered it before-doubtless it was done in the sprit of the season, since Christmas was almost upon us.

It seemed a simple, and heartwarming gesture, and judging from the comments of others as they passed, one which was appreciated by the community of dog walkers who inhabit the park. Imagine then, my surprise when our local community Facebook page came alive with a diatribe against Christmas decorations in parks!

Decorating trees along local forest trails with Christmas ornaments has been gaining popularity over the past several year. I’m not sure when I first noticed a decorated tree in one of our local parks,- likely at least five years ago, but they have become common place, with families and groups, like my wife’s walking group, adopting a tree for the season and decorating it.

But alas, the grinchly Facebook post had ignited a fire storm, and incendiary posts poured in – the Ornamentalists pleading for reason- the pastime was innocent, and gave joy to many-a delightful and unexpected enhancement of a stroll through a wintry wood- while the Puritans insisted it was a desecration of nature- an un-needed and unwanted intrusion- surely unadorned nature should be enough!

Many of the Facebook Flame-throwers insisted that Christmas ornaments were simply bad for the environment. I could have saved them the energy of a Facebook post- I know for a fact that argument doesn’t work- I tried to use it a few years ago to get out of hanging the outdoor Christmas lights, and ended up on the top of a stepladder with a flea in my ear and a string of lights around my neck quicker than you can say Merry Christmas.

The social media ‘War in the Woods’ continued to escalate, as one of the most strident puritans, emboldened by the luke-warm support she had received, posted that all Christmas decorations were henceforth deemed “litter” and she was personally forming a work party to clean up the park . The Ornamentalists were put on notice – if they valued their baubles, they had best remove them within 48 hours before a volunteer posse of environmentalists assembled to sweep the park clean of man-made clutter – Christmas be damned!

The litter argument was a curious one, I thought, since the ornaments have been appearing in the park for years around Christmas time, and promptly disappearing, a few days after New Years, leaving no trace in the forest. Whether the work of unseen forest elves, or of conscientious Baublistas, the woodland park has remained pristine, without the intervention of zealots.

Social media being what it is, the challenge did not go unanswered, as the Baublistas replied with fury-how dare others be offended- and who gave the puritans the right to preach, or interfere with the god-given and probably constitutional right to hang ornaments in parks?

Feeling the need to nurture the seasonal myth of goodwill to all mankind, and yearning for the simple pleasure of a tranquil walk in the woods, free of controversy, we elected to avoid encountering the threatened work party and the likely clash of ideology along the trail, by taking an alternate, and unadorned path.

There, to our delight we discovered the work product of that endangered species of the deep forest –

THE MODERATE!

Someone, of obvious diplomatic mien. had taken the time to adorn the path with a seasonal icon- a snowman- BUT- using only natural materials – compacted snow, fir boughs, twigs, and pinecones. Something human crafted- to amuse the passersby, – but no man-made materials to offend.

On a snowy path, deep in the forest, a master class in the art of compromise, taught by an anonymous Moderate.

We tried to follow their tracks, since its so rare to see a Moderate in the wild, but the tracks eventually disappeared into the deep snow, leaving us to muse that, in the Canada of our youth, Moderates were everywhere- their range extending Canada wide- from the great boreal forest, tp the the Canadian Shield and beyond- even occasionally being spotted in Ottawa. What had caused their decline, we wondered ?

So we continued our walk, wistful that we had missed a rare sighting, but gladdened by the knowledge that untamed, free-range Moderates continue to exist in the wilderness at our back door. My wife, always with a soft spot for wildlife, suggested that we should leave some food out for them, but I’m against it-let them live as nature intended, I say.

Then again, to settle the debate, perhaps I should try to solicit some feedback from our friendly neighbourhood Facebook group?

Categories: Environment, Etiquette & manners, Nature, Parks, Reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Life in the slow lane

Reminiscing about the halcyon days of summers past is one of the better ways to ward off the seasonal blahs of mid-winter, especially since back surgery has robbed me of the ski season. Keeping me warm beside the fire recently have been fond memories of  our  years as ‘narrowboaters’ on the canals of  Great Britain.

For the uninitiated, narrowboats are essentially long skinny houseboats. (never  more than 7 feet wide, and up  to 70 feet long- ours was a 56 footer)dscf3319-xl They are descended from the working canal boats that plied the rivers and canals of the UK at the dawn of the industrial revolution. The canals, once the transportation backbone of the nation, re-emerged as a recreational marine network, as the commercial importance of the canals faded with the advent of rail and road transport, and people began converting the old work boats into pleasure craft. Modern narrowboats are purpose built for recreational living.

As a form of summer recreation narrowboating is sublime. With all the comforts of home packed between the gunwales, you perch on the small rear deck of the boat,dscf3449-xl and putter through the English countryside at a sedate 3 miles per hour; about the pace of a brisk walk. We seldom covered more than a couple of hundred miles on a two week cruise, and typically chose a ‘ring’ -a route along several intersecting canals that would eventually lead us back to our starting point without re-tracing our steps.

Although equipped with TV and radio, we preferred to keep them off, shutting out the modern world and slowing ourselves down to the pace of the 19th century, where the original narrowboats were horse drawn. The tow path, once reserved for draft horses, remains in the public domain enjoyed by runners, ramblers and dog walkers, and by boaters  who are entitled to moor for free on the tow path. We would find a likely spot, typically a shady rural spot with pastoral views, pull into the bank, bang a steel peg into the ground fore and aft , and wind our mooring  lines around them.

The canals meander through some of the most picturesque rural countryside that England has to offer. It glides slowly by all day, an ever-changing panorama of country life, from half timbered farm house to grand estates, quaint villages, and ancient canal side pubs.

It is hard to find a more deeply relaxing vacation than a fortnight on a slow moving narrowboat, unplugged from the internet, your body and your mind slowed to the tempo of life on the canal. dscf3139-xl

Categories: Environment, Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

All aboard the climate change bandwagon!

Whistler has just sent a demand letter to a major Alberta oil company seeking compensation for the extra costs incurred by the municipality because of climate change. Now that is a bandwagon I can climb aboard!-here’s a draft of my own demand letter to Big Oil: Continue reading

Categories: Environment, humour, Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is it too much to ask?

My heart sank this morning when I heard that a fuel barge with millions of litres of fuel on board was in danger of grounding itself  on the shores of the Goose Group, a tiny, uninhabited group of islands that lie offshore of the remote stretch of the  BC coast known as the Hakai. Continue reading

Categories: Environment, kayaking, Nature, Travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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