Benns’ Belief: This land is our land — and we must protect it

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By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

Miles Canyon, Yukon. Photo: Roderick Benns.

“We no longer see the world as a single entity. We’ve moved to cities and we think the economy is what gives us our life …without regard to what it does to the rest of the world.” – David Suzuki

It’s a privilege to be able to drive across Canada, not the least of which is because it helps one understand the essence of the country better than dropping in on big cities by plane. However, the cost of lodging, gasoline, and time away from jobs makes it next to impossible for too many Canadians.

So, it was indeed a privilege for us to be able to travel over 12,500 kilometres to the Yukon and back a few years ago for over a month, seeing this great country in a way that few of us do.

Advocate Publisher Roderick Benns.

Writers have spent their entire lives trying to get Canadians to understand the depth and breadth of the nation they live in, especially the extent of our wilderness. Nowhere is that more clear than in the Yukon. Its breathtaking landscapes sear into the memory. Bald eagles hunt urgently along moving waters; bears lumber through long, grassy spears; bison walk along subdued highways, unencumbered by human expectations.

These are all scenes I saw for myself and yet I also saw more along our journey as we spent time in northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C. before ever reaching Yukon. I saw formidable natural gas development, massive mining operations, and great resource exploration. In short, I saw economics, inch by inch, mile by mile, triumphing over nature. And I saw myself as a part of that system.

A new report from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says the federal government must commit to protect and restore 30 per cent of all the country’s land and inland waters by 2030, or about 330 million hectares. The report notes that biodiversity is declining faster than at any other time in human history, with more than one million species worldwide facing extinction.

Canada has a particularly key role to play. Across six time zones, we have an incredible 20 percent of the world’s fresh water – in fact 250 of those lakes are in our own City area. We have the longest coastline of any nation on earth. Our Boreal forest is one of the world’s largest ecosystems, making up 10 per cent of the globe’s forest cover.

In Kawartha Lakes it’s great that we’re talking about a Healthy Environment Plan for our own future and development. As much as our complex socio-economic system requires so many things to function, in the long run it is the land that makes everything possible in the first place.

How we use that land – how we see ourselves as part of the biosphere instead of apart from it — should be the defining question of our lives.

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