Category Archives: Nature

The Tears of Cassandra

Cassandra 2

by Guy Dauncey

June 2019. The summer days bring exquisite shades of green. The bees are out, the ants rush around, and the wind rustles quietly in the tops of the trees. A fresh-baked rhubarb sponge cake sits on the kitchen counter. Life is sensuous, beautiful, and quite frankly, exquisite. Tiny mauve butterflies flit in and out of the flowers.

And then Cassandra arrives, she of the noble Greek ancestry, admired by the god Apollo, she with the golden locks and the long white flowing dress, reading from her list of warnings:

“One million species facing extinction, UN Report finds.”

“Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature.”

“By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s the oceans.”

“Do you need more?” she asks, then continues. Her eyes carry sorrow.

“Canada warming at twice the global rate, climate report finds.”

“We have twelve years to limit climate change catastrophe, UN warns.”

“I want you to panic, 16-year-old issues climate warning at Davos.”

A long time ago, in Belgium, there was a similarly beautiful afternoon. The sun warmed the land, the wheat rippled in the fields, and the farmers rested. All was well with the world. When Cassandra arrived they admired her beauty but paid no heed to her warnings. That was the last time they would see her, for the next day an army of German tanks crashed across the horizon, turning peaceful lives into years of catastrophic pain.

In Cassandra’s day there was no social media. She had only her one small voice to warn her fellow Greeks of what was to come. When they ignored her, there was nothing else she could do. Troy would fall. People would die.

Today, however, she turns to me with a glimpse of hope. “I’m on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Linked-in, Instagram and YouTube. Do you think it will help? I’ve got more hopeful headlines, too. Do you think something is shifting?”

“Unprecedented climate strikes by students around the world to save the planet.”

“Extinction Rebellion arrests pass 1,000 on eighth day of protests.”

“Ireland becomes the second country to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency.”

“Norway’s electric cars zip to new record: almost a third of all sales.”

“The Green Wave gathers momentum as Paul Manly sweeps to victory in Ladysmith-Nanaimo.”

“You’ve been around a long time,” she said. “What do you think? The Occupy Movement was big too, but it all came to nothing.”

“The Occupy Movement had no solutions,” I replied. “All they had was complaints. The student climate protests, the Extinction Rebellion and the climate emergency movement have armfuls of solutions. The people in government don’t know what to make of them. They are used to setting lazy goals far out in the future. ‘We’ll do this by 2050,’ they say. They’ll be long forgotten in retirement homes by the time 2050 rolls around.”

“So this time it will be different?” She looked up at me hopefully with her dark wounded eyes.

“It has to. We’ve all got that awful sinking feeling in the pits of our bellies. We read the reports. We know how dire things are going to be if we don’t make radical changes. We’re going to be so seriously screwed – and Nature, too.”

“Oh my,” she responded. “All my life, people have ignored my warnings. The Fall of Troy. The Mongol invasions. The Thirty Years War. Columbus coming to America. The Russian Revolution. I have seen such grief, such awful things. Please tell me this time, it’s going to be different.”

“I can’t,” I said. “What was it Churchill offered the British when the Nazis had occupied almost all of Europe? Blood, toil, tears and sweat. But he also offered cast-iron commitment, and practical engagement to the task at hand. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to articulate the critical actions that can have an impact on the climate and ecological emergencies, the debt and housing crises, and the First Nations crisis. We’ve got to persuade the doubters and deniers, the delayers and blamers that what we’re proposing makes sense. We’ve got to train people to be effective advocates for what’s needed. We’ve got to paint a picture of a new ecological civilization that is so enticing, people will yearn to be part of it.  We’ve got to elect mayors and councillors, MLAs and MPs who will craft the legislation and initiatives that will set us on the path to social justice, economic cooperation, ecological restoration and climate stability. It’s the task of a lifetime, for all of us.”

Cassandra looked at me, her eyes filled with tears, and then she threw her arms around my neck and sobbed her heart out. I held her, gently absorbing her grief.

Guy Dauncey worked in the climate solutions trenches for twenty years. He is now deep at work on his new book, The Economics of Kindness: The Birth of a New Cooperative Economy. His website is www.thepracticalutopian.ca

First published in The Green Gazette, June 2019

Reading, Riting, Rithmetic – and Regeneration

Reading

For 200 years, students have been urged to learn the 3 R’s of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. In recent years, thinkers of various political persuasions have proposed adding a fourth R including running, relationships, religion, race, rithms (for algorithms), respect, road safety, ritalin, rifle-shooting, revolvers and (appropriately) resuscitation.

There is another 4th R that is even more essential if we are to survive the 21st century. It is the knowledge of ecology, of how our planet works, and how to regenerate healthy ecosystems from the atmosphere and the rainforests to the microbiomes in our own guts.

Profound ecological ignorance

Continue reading Reading, Riting, Rithmetic – and Regeneration

Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions

 

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It cools us in the summer, it warms our hearts all year,

It provides a home for owls and flowers, for herons, cedars, fir.

It shapes the landscape, painting peace, away from the urban rush,

It protects our water all year round, surrendering it clear and fresh.

In Japanese, the word shinrin means forest and yoku means bath, so shinrin-yoku means ‘forest bath’: being immersed in the forest with all our senses. Listening to its quietness, seeing the variety of trees, mosses, lichens and rocks, tasting the air as you breathe in deeply, touching the rough Douglas fir and the smooth red arbutus, going barefoot across the earth, dipping your feet in a forest stream, lying down to gaze up at its beauty. Such bathing brings healing to the body, heart, mind and soul. Continue reading Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions

Let Us Create An EcoRenaissance

by Guy Dauncey, February 2nd, 2018

If you want to see what this EcoRenaissance looks like on the ground, click HERE.

Until a thing has a name, it doesn’t really exist

I can feel this future. I have written a novel about it. I love its colour and vibrancy, its harmony with Nature. But what is its name?

One of the realities of the spoken language is that until a thing has a name, it doesn’t really exist. When we want to create something, we name it.

The feeling that comes to mind is one of Renaissance – the birth of a new vision, the promise of a new future. The Renaissance that was seeded in the 13th century and blossomed into glory in the 15th and sixteenth centuries filled people’s hearts, souls and minds with art, imagination and ideas. It took inspiration from the rediscovered science, art and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. It made souls take flight, washing away the dull dogmatism and cruel muddy feudalism of a world where nothing much changed except by disease, disorder and death.

Continue reading Let Us Create An EcoRenaissance

To Dam, or Not to Dam? An Ode to the Peace River

Peace

To dam, or not to dam: that is the question,

whether tis nobler to suffer

the loss of farmland and First Nations rights by powerful flooding,

or, by solar, wind and conservation, geothermal too,

to craft another path to the energy we’ll need

and save the land for growing food and flowing water,

under the peaceful sky.

 – Guy Dauncey, January 2018

The Blob: Can We Change its Heart, Before it Destroys Us All?

Sometimes it seems as if those who care about Nature stand on guard around the edge of a huge circular Blob known as ‘The Economy’, which keeps growing and encroaching onto Nature. We organize to prevent its advance against creeks, rivers, forests and wetlands. We try to stop it from shooting out new pipelines, digging new coalmines, pouring more carbon into the atmosphere and introducing new chemicals into our food.

Sometimes we are successful and The Blob backs off, which happened with the proposed Raven coalmine near Courtenay. But just as often we are not, as the ecological wreckage of the private forest lands on the Island shows, and when The Blob assaults Nature in a distant country such as Indonesia, destroying native hardwood forests, home for millions of years to families of orangutans and other creatures, replacing them with palm oil trees for the global biofuel market.

Continue reading The Blob: Can We Change its Heart, Before it Destroys Us All?

Healing in the Natural World

by Guy Dauncey

Growing up in southern England and Wales, we always lived close to the woods, streams, and hills of the nearby countryside. The towns were built to be dense and tight, so it was relatively easy to walk out of the buildings and away from traffic into a land of kingfishers, beech trees, and marsh marigolds. It was “smart growth” before anyone had invented the term.

Shinrin

Today, I live in a clearing with a small, organic nursery in a recovering, second-growth forest, just north of Victoria. On a typical winter day, we see ravens, tree frogs, a Cooper’s hawk, hummingbirds, blue jays, and woodpeckers, as well as worms, spiders, and a host of smaller birds. And, of course, the forest.

Wood-Air Breathing

In the August 6 2005 issue of New Scientist, Joan Maloof, a biology professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, describes how the Japanese have a word to describe the particular air of a forest. They call it “wood-air bathing.” Maloof writes: “Japanese researchers have discovered that when diabetic patients walk through the forest, their blood sugar drops to healthier levels. Entire symposiums have been held on the benefits of wood-air bathing and walking.”

I’m able to enjoy shinrin-yoku all the time, but for those who live in concrete canyons, amidst a soundscape of car alarms and sirens, instead of the croak of frogs and the wind, it has become a distant experience. Continue reading Healing in the Natural World