Open the door to the Boreal!

Posted 3.28.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Talk to most people about current affairs, public personalities, important places and events, and chances are most of their news will be from south of the border. Maybe you'll hear some comment about events and places in Canada, but they'll almost exclusively be from the few big cities on our side of that border. We live in the second or third largest and richest country on the planet, yet our attention is focused somewhere else... Why does our distant focus even seem natural?

We Canadians on our continental-sized land mass are determined to look elsewhere; we stare somewhere else, as if our own environment, people, history, and events are, somehow, marginal or always "small." Big news can only come only from New York or L.A. We stand at our front doors, facing south. We can tell you Washington's gossip or Miami's gear-up for an invasion of Cuba and Venezuela. We talk about San Francisco parking chaos and shootings in New Orleans, about Oklahoma City's latest assault. Yet if we turn and look northward, look out our back yard, we face one of this planet's most impressive and massive ecosystems, the Northern Boreal Forest.

Living in the Pontiac -- straddling multiple dual worlds -- we benefit from our transition zone between temperate hardwood forest and the Boreal permafrost jungle. (Besides also benefitting from French-English, Quebec-Ontario, transitions). Sure, but when we talk about the best of our two worlds, we talk about Seattle.

Ask anyone about the world's greatest forests -- the planet's lungs and water purification systems -- they'll name the Amazon River basin, maybe the jungles of Africa and south Asia. Our Boreal Forest rivals the Amazon -- and if the new Brazilian government there has its way, their Amazon will shrink drastically. Our Boreal forest covers over half Canada's land-mass, second largest in the world.

The Boreal Forest, starting almost in Pontiac's back yard, houses 3.7 million people, well above Toronto. It is home to 150 species of birds; it sustains multiple and unique animal, fish and insect species. It generates $40 billion in exports every year (likely not sustainably); it holds iron, copper, nickel, gold, silver, and diamonds. It is the giant spring nourishing a continent. It is where 70 percent of our nation's Aboriginal peoples live.

All this as if Pontiac was a prize property at the edge of one of the world's great parks -- and yet we insist on talking about what's going on in Chicago. Is this Canadian self-effacement or are we so ill-informed?

We live in the dark about our massively complex and unexplored back yard, but seem to think the South's hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, and so on, are all that's happening. While we fret about denuded beach homes in Carolina or California's villas sliding to the sea, we ignore the daily good news of millions of tonnes of oxygen generated, billions of litres of water filtered and refreshed, tonnes of carbon sequestered from the atmosphere -- this is Earth's own good news! And it's coming from our own back yard.

Maybe the folks who live along the skirts of the great Amazon rain forest or the jungles of Borneo do the same, stare off to the celebrity-destinations created by modern advertising, as do we. Or maybe they breathe a little deeper with the oxygenated air blowing from the forest, they drink from a stream, maybe a tap, and eat fish from their waters, as we can do sometimes. As we should remember to do. As we should remember to feel grea for -- and pride of -- and not always mouth the alarmist gossip filling the communication signals we take for fresh air. We're the lucky ones, right here in the Pontiac and Ottawa Valley.

Why do we complain, look afield, re-post nasty messages... and torture ourselves? We live on the southern boundary of one planet Earth's richest natural resources, one of its major ecosystems, the Great Northern Boreal Forest. That continent-sized forest is touching our back doors in the Pontiac; it blows cubic miles of clean oxygenated fresh air against those back doors. Just open the door, your door.


Copyright © 2019 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/3.28.19