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of Saskatchewan Since 1995
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Volume 9 Issue 4
Nov/Dec 2003

Rebounding: A Defence Against Cancer

Why Choose ORGANIC Poultry?

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
A Medicinal Fungus

Death, Dying, and Spirituality

Natural Reflections
The Planet is a Single Integrated Life Support System


Natural Reflections
The Planet is a Single Integrated Life Support System
Natural Reflectionsby Stephen Bradley

Curled up on the couch with my wife, Jen, we saw our TV screen fill with snarling flames. Kelowna, BC’s third-largest city was on fire, one of the over 800 forest fires burning in our province. The week before we had seen every home in Louis Creek destroyed along with their only employer, the sawmill.

Ironically, the Secwepemc First Nation families who lost everything, had kept the land safe from devastating fires when they controlled the landscape for thousands of years before colonisation. Their complex system of husbandry used controlled fires at chosen locations each year, creating rich new forage for game animals, keeping edible starchy roots from being choked out, and preventing the colossal blazes which are now standard occurrences.

They had developed a system of stewardship where each extended family had a spiritual connection to a certain valley, which was harvested under their careful oversight. Each such family had their own great house in the winter village where archaeologists find stone tools in each house made from quarries in their particular valley. The evidence tells us of peace so profound that not one house changed hands in over 3000 years.

So now we realize that the
shaggy giants of the BC coastal Old
Growth forests are breathing out
the rain seeds which will help
keep Saskatchewan green.

Now the TV showed a Saskatchewan farmer bent over, scratching at cracked earth. One hundred years of family living and dying claimed this place they called their own. They made it through the dirty thirties but this drought tore them away from their home place. They and their land were now separate commodities in the real estate and labour markets.

Here in Victoria, BC, children’s voices and rumbling thunder called us over to the window. Four children about 8 years old had been lured away from the flames on TV by the thunder. Hands waving at the sky they danced around and cried out for “rain, really hard rain.” After two months without any real rain their prayers were answered with a downpour. We packed up for a much needed spiritual retreat.

At Port Renfrew, facing the open Pacific at the mouth of the Juan de Fuca strait, we found no rain had fallen. “Absolutely no open fires allowed.” We pitched our tent on the Pacheedaht First Nation campsite underneath towering Sitka Spruce and facing the rolling surf on the two and one half mile long arc of San Juan beach. After a day of trying to cook on a propane hibachi we had a night of blessed rain. The next morning we made our coffee on a crackling wood fire.

We sat with our backs to a huge log and let the cares and tensions drain away, our ears bathed in the unhurried, powerful roar of the surf. Osprey and Humpback Whales frolicked close up, fishboats came and went from the river mouth, and brave folks swam out with their surf boards. The Pacheedaht hauled their net up on the beach, silver fish gleaming in the sunlight. A poor catch this year. And now we know that the returning salmon bring a load of PCBs from Asia which continue to concentrate in the mid-ocean food chain. Not yet harmful to eat, they say, unless, of course, salmon is the staple of your diet as it has been for the BC First Nations since the salmon first started to come. We are all in each other’s backyard.

Each morning we watched clouds of mist form out of clear air in the Old Growth forest across the river. Our sense of beauty and magic was heightened by our recently acquired awareness that the trees literally breathe out the mist. Water vapour in the air will remain vapour forever, at temperatures above the dew point, unless there is a seed around which a droplet can form. Trees on land and green plankton in the sea breathe out DiMethylSulphide (DMS), the molecules of which are the ideal seed for rain drops. Particles of dust or salt can also work but without the DMS breathed out by living green plants much water vapour will pass overhead uselessly and drought will be widespread.

So now we realise that the shaggy giants of the BC coastal Old Growth forests are breathing out the rain seeds which will help to keep Saskatchewan green. Accelerating massive clear-cuts of Old Growth in BC are causing drought in the prairies and forest fires across Canada. Yes, we are all in each other’s backyards because the planet is a single integrated life support system. We are destroying working parts en masse without even knowing what they all are or how they work. We do know that our present course is suicidal. By delaying real change we are inflicting needless suffering and death on ourselves and our children.

Our political and economic systems have failed us. But we must also confess to a personal spiritual bondage that keeps us feeling helpless. In fact we are free, as soon as we realise we are free, to make the necessary changes. The people rule, as they have shown, even in dictatorships. It will be sad if we are too “polite” or befuddled to demand what is necessary for our children.

Stephen Bradley is a merchant mariner and free-lance journalist living on Vancouver Island, BC. Contact information: Box 362, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1R3, or email: valjean@shaw.ca.

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