Keep Canada wild.
What is that saying about failing to learn from history? I fear that we are about to repeat the mistakes of the past because of our failure to learn the lessons of our own history.
Many of us Canadians are descendents of European ancestors who left that continent for the New World in search of resources that the Old World could no longer offer in sufficient quantities – resources such as farmland, pastures and hunting grounds.
Wars that began with the French Revolution and rapid progress in science and technology were altering society and the landscape of Europe.
Medical advances were prolonging lives.
The industrial revolution was spurring the growth of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, bold new ideas about liberal democracy and communist insurrection springing up along with the shops and the offices and the factories.
The wilderness of Europe slowly disappearing along with the growth of cities and urban populations, along with the increasing need for grain and beef and pork, lumber and iron and coal.
Along with the battlefield devastation.
Wild Europe is all but dead.
A group known as Rewilding Scotland is trying to reverse that trend by preserving one of the last truly wild spaces in Europe – the Scottish Highlands.
At a time when British Columbians are contemplating hunting wolves for sport in a futile attempt to save its caribou herds from devastation at the hands of the forestry, mining and oil and gas industries, Rewilding Scotland is promoting the return of wolves to northern Scotland to reduce the large population of Scottish red deer that are severely inhibiting the growth of native flora through their grazing habits.
The Highlands are also home to the almost extinct Scottish wildcat. Although this predator used to range across Great Britain, the species is now just a few hundred animals struggling to survive in a tiny corner of the United Kingdom – a tiny corner of the world.
Sounds similar to the plight of British Columbian caribou.
That is why I think we should learn from our cultural history as descendents of European settlers who left the disappearing wilderness of their homeland for the promise – the bounty – of wild North America.
That is why we should borrow a page from Rewilding Scotland before the situation becomes as dire and desperate as the European example.
The boreal forest is Wild Canada. It is also one of the few great wild spaces on the planet.
If you look at the Scottish Highlands and its ecological value as a percentage of Great Britain or a percentage of Europe overall, the region likely pales in comparison to the size and ecological value of the Canadian boreal forest.
So, it must follow that if it is important to save that tract of wild Scotland, it must be critical to save the boreal forest.
But it doesn’t seem as though a sufficient number of us respect that idea.
And the caribou issue is probably a good example of that tendency.
I bet there are many of us who wonder, “What does it matter if we lose the caribou of northern British Columbia? Or northern Alberta? Or all of Canada? Canada has lots of wildlife. What does one animal matter?”
But do we truly know and understand the ecological role – the ecological value – of these caribou?
Or any species that inhabits the boreal forest?
If not, we should probably try to determine those linkages before it is too late.
And hope it never is too late.
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