Monday, December 29, 2008

The Road to Camas Hill

The Road to Camas Hill
September 2008
View from Camas Hill

I wrote this as part of a university pre-course assignment, meant to examine how we came to be interested in a course on environmental restoration.

I am an environmentalist, most specifically, a volunteer speaking and acting for the environment. I consider myself a generalist, working in the fields of education, preservation, restoration and politics to achieve these aims.
Events that seem so unconnected can have profound consequences that may not be realized for many years, somewhat like the famous “Butterfly Effect”. The question of when the initial conditions began that set my restoration and preservation mindset into play is difficult to determine. Was it when I was a child, observing my mother pulling off the road to move dead animals to the side, showing her respect for them? Or maybe watching her tend to the iris’ and geraniums she planted? Perhaps her unwavering sense of fairness was instilled in me without ever hearing the subject addressed.
My experiences with nature as a child were about being in nature. I was fortunate enough to live in a time and place that allowed me great freedom to explore the woods behind our home. I was endlessly fascinated by all the creatures that I found, I wanted to make them a part of my life, in ignorance I ripped them out of their own homes and brought them to mine. Nature offered opportunities for exploration, for detection, very occasionally I allowed it to afford a moment of peaceful solitude.
I know that I was entranced by wildlife in my youth, bringing home snakes and salamanders, baby birds and rabbits, once even rescuing a muskrat from my neighbours garage and keeping it sequestered in my room while it recuperated (I still have a small scar from that episode!). For a brief time I fantasized about becoming a vet or a wild animal collector. As I grew into an adult, I loved gardening and reveled in seeing the transition from seed to mature plant. For a few years I worked professionally in the horticulture trade.
My sister initiated me into the joys of birdwatching and the sight, at my feeder, of a flock of evening grosbeaks, those gregarious parrot wannabees, cemented what had been a slow progression of tiny steps into a mature and enthusiastic appreciation of wildlife.
Graduation Day!
In 1997 I had been the operator of a successful retail business for a decade, with no plans to change that trajectory. However, a serious illness spanning several years gave me the time to open my mind to other life choices. An invitation in a local paper lead me to a broom removal event at Tower Point, in Metchosin. There I heard talk of university students who were involved in an intriguing new discipline at the University of Victoria-the Restoration of Natural Systems Program-from which I finally graduated in 2004.
Somewhere within those years and evolving still, grew a desire to “do good” and to “give back”. To work in a field that encompassed a commitment to helping make the world whole; to providing links and bridges between disciplines so that landscapes and communities could function with renewed integrity. To that end I have found my niche in environmental volunteerism, although focused narrowly on my own community, particularly the preservation and restoration of ecosystems within those restricted confines.
For the last eight years I have written articles, sat on committees and removed invasive species from local parks, trying all the while to educate the residents of Metchosin on the values inherent in our local ecosystems, on the many interesting and amazing lives of our local flora and fauna, and in the critical importance of retaining the original biodiversity of our environment, in a manner which, hopefully, engages Metchosinites and encourages them to explore and delight in our natural world.
I find nature profoundly, personally restorative and edifying. Environmental restoration is a means, along with preservation, of keeping that continuum of experience and connectedness with the natural world alive for my children and grandchildren. I think it also appeals to a nurturing element that has been transposed from my grown children to the natural world. The intrinsic right of our native species to flourish has become of paramount importance to me. Restoration of on ecosystem to its original integrity and self sustainability has a lot of parallels to raising our children to be productive, caring and self-sustaining adults.
Devonian Broomers

Working in this field has introduced me to my community and my community to me. For many years I lived in Metchosin as a businesswoman, mother and wife but with no ties to my community and no investment in it other than my financial one of home ownership. I could count the number of people I knew on my fingers, without even having to use my toes. Moving into the restoration field has brought me into contact with hundreds of people who have made me feel connected and valued. Friends have been made as we have removed broom for the past eight years from Devonian Regional Park, home to rare and threatened species and ecosystems.
Allies have been identified and relationships formed during campaigns to promote community awareness of our imperiled environment. My appreciation of the interconnected nature between our environment and the clean air it provides, the drinking water it purifies, the pollution it remediates has been developed and augmented by the understanding of the importance of diversity, in the fabric of our cultural community but as importantly, in the composition and integrity of the ecosystems which support this planet.
I believe in the power of the volunteer to achieve remarkable goals and objectives. Volunteer commitment will make people feel good about themselves and will strengthen their relationship with their community. I make the case that volunteers can have a powerful voice in producing change as their motives are not driven by financial need and they can operate outside of conflict of (financial) interest scenarios. The last nine years that I have devoted to volunteering, mostly in the environmental field, have been rewarding beyond words.
My work in restoration has really opened my eyes to the micro and macro aspects of the world we inhabit, how our actions and interactions affect and have consequences that move seamlessly and often unseen between the natural world and our anthropocentric world, how the two must be viewed as one encompassing whole in order to maintain this planet and the species which call it home.
It is also a humbling experience to realize how little we know about the way in which an ecosystems functions, why one plant is successful and another not, why some plants or animals reintroduce easier than others, how a very few introduced species can slowly wreck havoc on ecosystems so that they might never fully recover.
There’s a lot of work ahead of us!

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