Nearby Nature Project: 2023 June

We have cancelled many nearby nature adventures due to wildfire smoke. I’ve also put off thinning the apples and weeding. So my time spent on the nearby nature project has been much less that usual this month. Fortunately, there was one week when we had a break from the smoke and got out and about four days in a row.

Unfortunately, it looks like prime hiking/biking/kayaking season will see us weighing mental wellness benefits vs. physical health risks of spending time outside. Canada’s early and widespread wildfire season is likely to impair air quality all summer. So we’ve started talking about accepting some degree of long-term health consequences from spending time in nearby nature when the PM 2.5 count is “low” or even “medium” risk. Is wildfire smoke affecting your outdoor adventure plans this summer?

News Feed

Congratulations to the Nature Connectedness Research Group!

10 years ago, Miles Richardson set out to “understand people’s connection to the natural environment and design and evaluate local interventions in order to improve connectedness; bringing about the associated benefits in well-being and conservation behaviour.”

The team at Nature Connectedness Research Group has accomplished a LOT over the past decade. I’ve observed a shift in mainstream media reporting, from pretty much nothing in regards to nature connectedness, to a period when it was all about the mental and physical benefits to humans from spending time outside, to 2022 when the biodiversity stripes were front and centre at COP-15.

I’m excited to see the progress NCRG makes over the next 10 years. And I look forward to contributing via my nearby nature project to the work of transforming humanity’s relationship with nature.

Valuing Nature – CPA Canada

Speaking of transformation, the accounting profession has historically been grounded in dollars and cents (or whatever the local currency. But a couple of times over the past few months, I’ve seen articles about potential new accounting standards that will value natural capital going forward.

Likeminded Photographer

I do not remember where or when I first came across photographer John Paul Caponigro. He’s created several series of photographs featuring Antarctica – a long-time dream destination for me. So maybe on one of my regular armchair visits to that remote continent.

Some of the commentary he wrote to accompany his latest photo exhibit really resonated with me:

  • “I make these images to deepen my understanding of the different ways I experience land and myself in it.“
  • “We are not apart from nature but a part of Nature. We live within the land and the land lives within us.”
  • “With a mind full of nature I am mindful of nature.”

For more, click through to his virtual exhibit:

Cultivating My Nature Connection

I finally finished reading Andri Snær Magnason’s On Time and Water, translated by Lytton Smith. Originally published in 2019, it was translated to English in 2021. We visited Iceland in 2015, so I was interested in an Icelander’s take on glaciers and rapid glacier melt.

book cover for On Time and Water by Andri Snær Magnason, translated from Icelandic by Lytton Smith

Like any book on climate change, this one’s depressing. I could only read and process a couple of chapters in a sitting, which is why it took me three months to read.

Magnason laments that humanity is prioritizing the standard of living of a single generation over “the ocean, the atmosphere, and all the world’s grandchildren – for all time.” And to at least some degree, it’s because “when it comes to the infinitely large, the scared, to things that are fundamental to our lives…it’s as if the brain cannot register at such a scale.”

So through tracing a few generations of his family’s history, he attempts to frame climate change in a relatable scale…the observable retreat of glaciers. This is something I’ve personally experienced over 30 years of hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

He did a lot of research to prepare for interviewing the Dalai Lama, who visited Iceland in 2009. Noting connections between traditional religions in Iceland and Tibet, he likens glaciers, to “holy cows” producing milky water, the sustenance for life. What will happen when the “flow of life ceases?”

This prompted me to look into our local rivers. The Bow River is the main water supply for the Bow Valley. In Calgary, that supply is supplemented by the Elbow River. Both flow from the Canadian Rockies. Hydrologists estimate that in a typical year, about 3% of the river flows is glacier meltwater. That doesn’t sound like much, but in a late summer drought, when the annual snowpack is gone, glacier melt can be more than 20% of the rivers’ water volumes. So I can imagine water restrictions in the future. Side note- Canmore just experienced a week-long non-essential water use ban.

Magnason has no easy answers. He refers to UN guidance:

  • Reduce food waste and make dietary changes (less meat, local/seasonal produce, etc.)
  • Transition to solar and wind energy and electric-powered transport (I personally believe nuclear power has an important role in the energy transition)
  • Conserve remaining forests, re-forst and restore wetlands and rain forests
  • Empower women

His final stark conclusion? In this race, everyone wins or everyone loses.

I can’t just leave it there. Instead, I will keep reflecting on my choices and strive to keep making better ones. And I will keep writing about and sharing our out and about adventures, with the aim of showing that Nature has value, in and of itself. And that finding one’s place in Nature, attending to mental health and nourishing your spirit, is something you can do indefinitely – the ultimate antidote to the insatiability of consumerism.

Nearby Nature Project

Birding Update

We kayaked Vermilion Lakes 1 and 2 on World Migratory Bird Day and came away with a total of 28 bird species observations. Highlights included a couple of Osprey (successfully) fishing and a Sora.

About a month ago we saw a Bald Eagle pair in Canmore (along the Bow River). And we’ve enjoyed two eagle sightings at Vermilion Lakes over the past month.

One morning on Vermilion Lakes we watched three Great Blue Herons from our kayak. A highlight was observing one of them successfully fish, then swallow the fish in one big gulp, giving its whole body a shake to help the fish go down.

Just last week, we watched a Common Loon family from our kayak on Vermilion Lake 3.

protective pair of adult common loons swimming either side of loonlet

Grizzly Bear Sightings

We were got lucky and had TWO grizzly bear sightings while kayaking Lower Kananaskis Lake early in June. The first one was tagged in the left ear (indicates a male), while the second had no tag or collar.

male grizzly bear walking along lakeshore, yellow tag in left ear

Coming Up

It’s Pollinator Week from June 19-25. Air quality permitting, I’ll spend some time photographing, bees, butterflies and other pollinators, both in the yard and in the wild. This is from a recent walk in Canmore.

I also view June/July as key months to ensure gardening success. I need to thin the apples. It’s time for the next round of sequential sowing of salad greens, especially bok choy and Swiss chard. And the tens of thousands of elm tree seeds that fell to the ground in May will be sprouting in our flower beds, so that means “weeding” for several hours.

Air quality permitting, we intend to get our 2023 hiking season underway. I’m keen to observe whether wildflower season came early at high elevations, similar to what we’ve observed in the Bow Valley bottom.

If, like me, you put time and energy into deepening your connectedness to Nature, please leave a comment and let me know what you’ve got planned to deepen your attachment to Nature.

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  1. Pingback: Nearby Nature Project: 2023 July - Out & About with the GeoKs

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