Addressing True Nature Conservation in Caledon

Sunlit forest
Written by Patti Foley

JSC Publisher’s Note:

Bill Wilson is a familiar face around Caledon, particularly around Bolton, and especially in environmental circles. Bill feels strongly that children’s familiarity with nature is most important in the future for achieving true nature conservation. His article submitted below for Just Sayin’ Caledon speaks to this along with other observations, and it is very timely as we recognize Earth Week


I became an environmental planner in 1972 when most people had never heard of that title description.                        

Since then I have made many nature conservation notes of my own Caledon volunteer experiences as well as the reports of others.

I am inspired by many of these experiences. They contribute positive, original and extraordinary stories supporting the sustainability of human communities within nature. While exploring the broad scope of these narratives, I realized that they had widened my own idea of what nature conservation must involve.

I began to see positive evidence that human/nature relationships might somehow become more sustainable in our world – that we might be on the right path to True Nature Conservation.

In 2002 I was Chair of the Caledon Environmental Action Committee (CEAC). An interesting and very informative climate change report was prepared in June 2002 by CEAC in response to a request from Caledon Council. The report was unique in at least two aspects. Rather than the general discussions we have so often seen about global warming, this report used local official and anecdotal information as much as possible to specify what the effects are in Caledon. The CEAC authors were an excellent collaboration of Caledon talents. They were at that time: Nicola Ross, Director, Caledon Countryside Alliance; Bryan Smith, Senior Climatologist, Ontario Climate Centre, Environment Canada; and Barbara Campbell, Professional Engineer and Principal, White Pine Consulting Service, Inc.

On January 27th, 2003 Caledon Council received CEAC’s recommendations regarding a first draft of the proposed bylaw regulating pesticides. Soon after, in what I call “One of Life’s Little Victories” I witnessed Caledon Council passing the second Municipal pesticides bylaw in Ontario.

For several years I was Caledon’s resident member on the Humber Watershed Alliance and the Humber Report Card Committee. In 2004 the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) collaborated with the Federal Government in publishing their report “Terrestrial Natural Heritage Strategy”. It was an outstanding example of interdisciplinary research. It demonstrated that nature conservation is more than simply preserving some “Islands of Green”. It is recognizing that these patches of nature are interrelated parts of living whole watersheds. These watersheds need wide regulation to protect terrestrial and aquatic interrelationships to sustain clean water for future generations. It advanced environmental planning by recommending that, for the sake of human health, 30% of any given watershed be protected in order to sustain the key natural systems of land-flora-fauna, the water cycle and carbon sequestration.

I note how several North American researchers stress the importance of relationships in the beliefs of the original people of the Great Lakes, the Anishnabeg or Ojibway, the Dakota and the West Coast Indigenous peoples, all of which are grounded in the interdependencies between humans and nature. I note the contrast and the differences between these aboriginal beliefs and dominant western cultural beliefs. The importance of these differences is especially illuminated by the ongoing Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s efforts headed by Ojibway Judge Murray Sinclair.

I discovered more than ever how important it is to appreciate differences in how our beliefs and customs are understood.

I have watched with some apprehension the opportunities for children to engage with nature becoming fewer and much more controlled because of increasing urbanization. Richard Louv described this “Nature Deficit” in his book “Last Child In The Woods”. Is it not much more natural for children who have familiarity with nature at an early age to later grow up to help sustain nature, to work for nature and vote for nature?

I see how many more recent calls for stable human-nature relationships are global in nature and much more urgent. I have also seen that human conflicts are increasing and accompanied by human suffering and environmental degradation. These conflicts stem from needs and cultural expectations of growing populations for shrinking lands and resources. There clearly is a need for highly experienced leadership which can volunteer to empathize with human suffering in balance with personal or local economic welfare.

I believe government agencies and private industry cannot, alone, provide the stewardship needed for a sustainable environment.  Volunteer nature conservation and early childhood education groups are needed to continue a host of initiatives related to increase our familiarity with nature, to reducing our ecological footprint by consuming less, recycling more, seeking renewable forms of energy and helping to reconcile differences. Responsible, local community volunteers, with minimal guidance, have a potentially huge and growing role in nature conservation. And as the volunteer condition is fragile, a continuing supply of willing volunteers for nature conservation is most important.

I look forward to following a sustainable “Framework of the Ordinances” as Ojibway historian and teacher Basil Johnston calls his belief system. Meanwhile, as a volunteer, I continue to do things which I believe benefit my community and family. I will watch as more of these stories unfold.

About the author

Patti Foley

Having spent 25 years in Bolton, Patti remains an advocate for Caledon. As a former Regional Councillor and a long-time community volunteer she is passionate about communicating information about its issues, news, events, people, non-profits and businesses.

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