Forests are not merely carbon sinks, nor are they side characters in a climatic drama, quietly soaking up carbon while us cocky apes steer the destiny of the planet. They are dynamic, unruly, and just a little bit weird, and Canadian forests in particular have a long and complicated relationship with our atmosphere, absorbing carbon but also producing it, defying easy interpretations and demanding, above all, our respect and attention.
Few things are as unimpeachably positive as tree planting, a relic of old school environmentalism often hailed as a panacea, a clean slate, an uncomplicated feat of social engineering just waiting to scrub our sins from the atmosphere. So often has it been touted as a solution to the climate crisis that our federal government has committed to plant 2 billion of them from now until 2030 for the express purpose of absorbing and sequestering carbon, with the first few thousand going in the ground this spring.
The international wildlife trade is directly responsible for the emergence and spread of pandemic disease, and according to a new report from World Animal Protection, many Canadians have participated in one way or another.
There were five of them growing in close company, dominating a gentle slope of explosive greens and soft moss, tall and wide and straight as arrows, each tipped slightly apart as though to avoid direct competition for sunlight. One look at their tableau of co-existence would be enough, even for the layman, to tell that this ongoing compromise had played out over several centuries.
It wasn’t her size that impressed me so much as her silence. Female moose can weigh just shy of 800 pounds, but to watch that mass of mammalian muscle tear through the waist high brush and stunted spruce of the Cape Breton Highlands without the slightest impression on the ambiance of early morning was…startling. She paused in a frame of golden hour light, her ears swiveling like antenna, and I became very aware of the empty space between us, the primal mechanisms for self-preservation turning in my mind. And then she was gone, passing effortlessly through walls of vegetation which would mangle the human skin. I resumed breathing.
Our canoe was laden with all the necessities of outdoor life, and sloshing with water carried in by our socks, soaked every time we were obliged to leap overboard and carry our craft over rocks and beaver dams and the simple shallows of August. The intense sun of afternoon scattered the clouds and laid claim to Sporting Lake ahead and around us, the easiest paddling of the day, its depths presenting few if any hazardous boulders through red tinted water. In this lake I saw an island, drawing my eyes with supernatural sureness and speaking to a deeply spiritual segment of my rigidly rational mind.
I’m something of a campsite aficionado, or, if you like, a snob. Upon arrival my judgy eyes scan the facilities, the placement of playgrounds, the space between sites, the design of the cast iron campfire and the proportions of garbage mingling with the grass. Nothing offends me like a coin operated shower, and nothing disappoints me like a tent unshielded from its neighbour by even a couple trees.
In 2019 the City of Halifax made two radically different proclamations, so diametrically opposed to one another that, in the eyes of many, each disqualified the other. First, the city declared a climate emergency, joining the vanguard of Canadian municipalities recognizing the dire state of atmospheric chemistry and the urgent need to correct it, and second, they committed to buying upwards of 150 diesel buses from then until 2023, ensuring that all additions to their transit fleet for years to come would be patrons of fossil fuels.
A storm has broken over Delhi, one of toxic particulate matter previously shrouding the world’s most polluted city. In fact the late Indian March saw the clearest urban landscapes some of her residents have ever known, and farther north, those in the city of Jalandhar beheld the nearby Himalayas for the first time in decades.
Salamander Night is a time of cheap thrills for the naturalists of Nova Scotia, requiring only a flashlight on the first rainy evening in April over 9°C. Under these conditions several of the province’s amphibians depart their wintering grounds for the ponds in which they’ll soon breed, and no species is more noteworthy in this short, seasonal migration than the Spotted salamander, who, about a decade ago, was caught breaking the rules of biology.