Every year, Environment Week in Canada takes place in early June. This year is the 40th anniversary of this event. In the early 1970s, environmental awareness reached a new level likely due, in large part, to the influence of Rachel Carson and her epochal book Silent Spring, which described the widespread harm done by pesticide use. In 1971, prime minister John Diefenbaker was moved to declare Environment Week in Canada.
Things have changed significantly over the past 40 years.
In 1971, the human population on the planet was a mere 3.7 billion and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was 330 parts per million (ppm) - only 50 ppm above the 280 ppm baseline that existed prior to the industrial revolution. Today, our population has grown to be almost twice the size (seven billion) and carbon dioxide levels have already climbed another 63 ppm to a troubling 393 ppm.
More than ever, we need to pay attention to the environment and take action to avoid further harmful human impacts on the environment. In this regard, we have been let down by almost every level of government. Too many elected officials have turned a blind eye to the reality that the prosperity of future generations depends on the present generation dealing effectively with global warming and other environmental problems.
However much we need to reduce our environmental impacts, it is also important that we continue to find joy and peace in nature.
Nature sustains us with the most important essentials of life: fresh air to breathe, clean water replenished by the hydrological cycle and fertile soils in which we grow our food.
Spiritually, nature fills many of us with a sense of awe and appreciation for the natural beauty of the world. Thus, it is also appropriate that Environment Week brings opportunities to explore and experience nature in the Tri-Cities.
If you want to roll up your sleeves and help remove invasive plants, the Friends of DeBoville Slough would appreciate your help this Saturday morning, June 4, any time from 9 a.m. to noon. In this case, however, you will actually want to keep your sleeves rolled down to avoid some nasty pricks from the invasive Himalayan blackberry. The goal will be to keep invasive knotweed under control at DeBoville Slough.
For several years, the Friends - with a little help from their friends - have dramatically reduced the number of knotweed plants growing along the dikes at the slough through hand-weeding rather than pesticide application. If you wish to help, meet at the intersection of Cedar and Victoria drives in northeast Coquitlam at the kiosk, which is a few meters down the dike on the north side of the slough. Bring drinking water and wear protective clothing, especially if the sun is shining. Garden gloves will be helpful but tools will be provided.
Also on Saturday, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., nature walks will be held to enjoy the beautiful lazuli buntings and other colourful birds of Colony Farm Regional Park in Coquitlam. Guided by knowledgeable members of the Colony Farm Park Association and Burke Mountain Naturalists, these two-hour walks will start from the parking lot at the end of Colony Farm Road off Lougheed Highway. All the migratory birds have now arrived and a wide variety of species will be using the meadows and shrubs at Colony Farm for nesting this summer. Because Colony Farm contains habitat not found elsewhere in the Tri-Cities, it offers opportunities to view a number of unusual birds.
And next Saturday, June 11, the Burke Mountain Naturalists will lead a public hike on the Woodland Walk trail in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. This easy to moderate hike - with a round-trip of 9 km and a 300 m elevation gain - is suitable for most moderately fit people. A creek crossing is required but the Naturalists will have ropes in place to safely facilitate the boulder crossing.
More information is available at www.bmn.bc.ca or by phoning 604-939-4039. The hike will depart at 8 a.m. from the trail-head at the end of Harper Road (off Coast Meridian in northeast Coquitlam). Wear hiking boots, appropriate clothing and bring a lunch. Registration is not required but all participants will be asked to sign a waiver.
Elaine Golds is a Port Moody environmentalist who is vice-president of Burke Mountain Naturalists, chair of the Colony Farm Park Association and past president of the PoMo Ecological Society.