This column first appeared in the September edition of the All Month Friday AM in Salmon Arm
I’m going to go out on a limb here (pun intended) and suggest that in Salmon Arm, we live in an urban forest.
What distinguishes us from many other communities is the tree canopy that surrounds and protects us. It’s as though the town was conveniently placed at the base of a natural forested amphitheatre from Bastion Mountain to the north, to Fly Hills to the east, Mount Ida to the south and Larch Hills to the east.
Trees are marvels of engineering. From roots, to trunk, bark, limbs and leaves, they reach towering heights in search of light and water to grow. They provide oxygen, act as nature’s air filters, air conditioners and shade from the sun. They dampen noise, nurture the soil and prevent erosion.
Our forest sustains us in many ways. And, as life would have it, sometimes we only appreciate what we have after it’s gone. I refer of course to the the catastrophic loss of reportedly 1,500 trees in Vancouver alone this past weekend during a violent storm on the coast.
In addition to their contribution in their lifetime, they also sustain us when harvested as building materials and, in turn, ensure major employment. Salmon Arm’s largest private employer is Canoe Forest Products. They harvest trees and manage forests. In BC, two trees are planted for every tree cut.
When a tree falls in the forest (maybe you’ve heard), they go on to provide habitat and valuable nutrients for the next generation of trees. When trees fail in urban environment, they need our help. Sometimes we have to move them away, trim them up, treat them for disease or replace them altogether. And given all they contribute, I suggest it makes good business sense.
Speaking of good sense, an emerging field of study called biomimcry addresses the ingenious attributes of nature. Engineers, scientists and businesses tasked with solving complex problems are more often turning to nature for sustainable solutions. From fish scales (that prevent bacterial build up) to coral (which captures carbon and uses it to build shell) to flowers petals (which repel dust and dirt), we have many lessons to learn from the nature that surrounds us. But that’s just a secondary job, the first priority is to contribute to a healthy environment where nothing is wasted (we could learn that lesson too).
Some communities in Canada boast about the economic advantage of their tree canopy. Oakville, aptly named, is a champion in this regard. Oakville is a community approximately 50 kilometres from Toronto on beautiful Lake Ontario. During the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference I attended with Mayor Cooper in Edmonton in June, I went to a workshop hosted by Trees Canada. The Mayor of Oakville outlined the direct correlation between their city’s urban forest policy, the health of the population, their relatively higher family household income and their ability to attract high-paying employers. It was a compelling argument; one that was not lost on me as I drove home from urban Edmonton to my rural neighbourhood of mature trees in Canoe.
Trees work hard to sustain their forest and in turn, sustain us. Might I suggest that a simple take away when faced with a problem within our own environment is to consider the question “what would nature do?”.
“When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I find the image haunting
yet somewhere in my head
I’m desperate to believe
that little boy’s not dead
I wish that he was sleeping
gently carried to his bed
his mom would tuck him in
and kiss his sweet forehead
He would awake in safety
with dreams within his head
of play and books and friends and fun
instead of strife and dread
What will those young remember
of those of us who can
provide the sanctuary
the humanity of man
We are all gifts of hazard
our home assigned by fate
we do not get to choose
which side of the gate
My Canada includes
those so desperate to flee
they’d risk their lives and family
to escape by cruellest sea
Once not so long ago
my boys were 3 and 5
I looked at them today
and tears did fill my eyes
I still have what they lost
so many miles away
and all we had to do
was welcome them to stay
This column first appeared in the All Month Edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm
It’s graduation season and the internet is chalk full of commencement speeches by the famous and infamous; some marvellous, some just meh.
The irony of how we cap off our academic achievements is not lost on me. We finish the way we start. By standing in front of a class of sitting students to tell them how life really is. And we would know, right, because we are the grown-ups after all.
Or do we? Our reality is not their reality. We forget that. And when we forget that, we miss important lessons such as student debt, higher youth unemployment, housing affordability, twitter, instagram and snapchat to name but a few. We take our lives for granted. Our graduates can’t yet afford that luxury.
I think high school commencement speeches should be delivered by those who graduated last year, or those who just graduated from post secondary or those who just got their big job or signed their first mortgage. Those are the lessons from which our grads could really benefit; solid first-hand peer experience.
There are things I didn’t know that I’d need to know when I left high school. But within a year of the cap and gown ceremony, I appreciated the opportunity to learn them. There were also delightful benefits, the sum of which nobody had ever told me about. That was a gift too.
I’ve thought of a few lessons my twenty something self would have given my eighteen year old self. Simple stuff really but there is beauty and power in simplicity That’s the trouble with being a grown up it’s unnecessarily complicated.
Here, for your consideration is a list of 15 simple things for the Class of 2015.
1) You’re going to meet some very interesting people. They will think that you are interesting too. That’s how they roll.
2) Have a bit of cash on hand, just in case. A cab ride can save you from a mess of trouble.
3) Follow your gut. it won’t lie to you. If you think it’s creepy, it is. Go with that.
4) Don’t drive like a show off. It’s the single most dangerous way to impress nobody at all.
5) Show up early. That’s when all the fun stuff happens.
6) Keep all the important papers in the same place. There’s lots of paperwork to deal with.
7) Hanging out with friends, listening to music, laughing and getting some exercise won’t cost you money or your good judgement. Other choices might. You always have a choice.
8) Staying up all night and eating crap food isn’t nearly as much fun as you might think.
9) That boring stuff that parents do – laundry, grocery, paying bills – it’s kinda awesome when it’s yours to do on your own.
10) Your parents will miss you. You might miss them too. Keep in touch. They were your age once upon a time. They get it.
11) If you ask people for help, they almost always say yes. So go ahead and ask.
12) Fear, loneliness, heartbreak and anxiety are universal emotions. See above.
13) Try new things – travel, food, movies, sports, arts, hobbies – it’s a big world and it’s pretty amazing.
14) Curiosity is a good friend. Spend time with it.
15) The place you left to find your way will always have a place for you. There really is no place like home.
Go. Be. Happy. And congratulations on your graduation. It’s only the beginning. The world belongs to you now and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do, how far you will go and how proud you will make us.