Posts tagged ‘trees’

May 7, 2013

The taste of joy

Quote of the day:

If you could bottle joy, it would taste like fresh birch sap.

This from freelance writer and songstress Laurie Sarkadi in her article “Tapping birch” (Canadian Geographic, April 2013).  As for what fresh birch sap tastes like, Sarkadi continues:  “think cold, pure spring water with notes of honeysuckle.”

Sarkadi is lucky enough to live in an off-grid, lake-front home in the boreal forests outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.  Surrounded by birch trees, she joined a birch syrup-making co-operative and found herself — a staunch environmentalist and conservationist — confronted with the questionable task of drilling a hole into the pristine trunk of a thriving paper birch tree on her property.

Despite her knowledge that proper tapping techniques wouldn’t harm the tree, Sarkadi still found it difficult to drill that first spigot hole, as if doing so were a violation of both the tree and the natural world she strove so hard to protect.

Her conservation ethic put to the test — and the hole eventually drilled — Sarkadi arrives at this conclusion:

It is the paradox of conservationism that in our desperation to save and protect our natural spaces, we lose some of our own wildness.  We put our trees into tree museums (as Joni Mitchell astutely noted) to look at them — like fine china that sits untouched — instead of building sustainability inside our forests in the spirit of cohabitation.

True balance with the natural world, Sarkadi suggests, sometimes means interacting with it at an intimate, reciprocal level, wounds and all.

April 29, 2013

Observed on the street: A circle of life, turning, turning

I came across this beautiful rendition of the aboriginal medicine wheel (also called the wheel of life or the sacred hoop) on the outer wall of my local/district community arts council building:



I love the grounding stones at centre; the depiction of the cycles of nature, the seasons, the sun; the symbolism of birth, growth, death and rebirth — of life itself.  I love how the prints of humans and animals exist together in the soil, intermingled with the roots of the trees, connected to both the seeds of life and the earth to which all living things eventually return.  I love how each component of the circle relies on every other for balance, for continuity, for solidity, for completeness.

We are all one, forever united in the loop of this enduring narrative.  We share the same history; we share the same future.  Let’s take care of one another the best we can.  Peace.

January 4, 2013

Why I love B.C. – Pulp non-fiction

I saw this sign outside the University of Northern British Columbia:

Sign for a Pulp Bleaching Conference at the University of Northern British Columbia

Here in northern B.C., a two-day conference on this topic is completely normal!

October 31, 2012

Where do Olympic mascots go when they “die”?

Ever wonder what  happened to that Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic mascot “Quatchi” — the stocky, smiling sasquatch with the blue earmuffs?  Seems he’s hanging out in a tree beside the Fraser River in Prince George, British Columbia — at least that’s where I happened upon him a few weeks ago…

Photo of Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascot "Quatchi" in a tree by the Fraser River.

Perhaps he was enjoying the autumn sun during a tour of his reputed home of “Canada’s mysterious forests”?

Nice to see that, almost two years after his Olympic contract went belly up, he’s still smiling!  Good man!

September 9, 2012

Observed on the “street” (trail): Tree bears

Observed on the trail during a hike I did today: two trees, each “marked by a bear” in different ways.

  1. This beech tree had the honour of being scaled by a bear.  The claw marks, which ran all the way up the trunk, are easy to spot on trees with smooth, clean bark like this one.

Beech tree sporting claw marks from a bear up its trunk.


2.  This tree (also a beech) sported a marking that looked like the head of a bear.  Natural or human-carved, I couldn’t quite tell.

Beech tree with a marking like the head of a bear on its trunk.


Granted, it looks more like the head of a polar bear than of a black bear that you would find in my neck of the woods.  It also looks like the head of a beaver, but, hey, beggars can’t be choosers!  I do think that what appears to be a giant claw mark below the head helps lend credence to the bear idea, no?  😉

September 4, 2012

Speak for the trees; they need your voice

I just saw the movie The Lorax.  What an amazing film; what an incredibly important message.  Dr. Seuss wrote this tale of how man’s lust for dollars and his ever-expanding web of industrial enterprise is despoiling the environmental at an unsustainable pace back in 1971, and the story is just as poignant today — maybe even more so.  It’s a message we all need to hear on a much more regular basis, I think.

Enter one feisty orange environmental crusader who isn’t afraid to speak up for the natural world.

“I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees.”  Do you?

Lorax image and quote:  "...the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.  UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not."

July 20, 2012

Your ten square feet of personal potential

Charlotte Gill writes in her book Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe:

If you dig out ten square feet of dirt from an old-growth forest, you might find embedded within it a thousand seeds.

One thousand seeds.  In ten square feet of soil.  “Seed rain,” Gill calls it — a veritable downpour of seeds from trees of all ages and lifetimes and locations lying together in the forest floor.  Some of these seeds have fallen from the forest’s current occupants — the trees that stand above and around and about right now.   Others are from trees long gone; these seeds have lain dormant in the soil for decades — sometimes centuries — just waiting for the exact right conditions to come along so roots can burrow and shoots can grow.  Still other seeds have been blown, carried or otherwise transported to this patch of soil by winds, animals, weather, water or myriad other circumstances.

Only a tiny fraction of these seeds will actually germinate, Gill suggests.  But what a beautiful potential they together represent.

Perhaps, like that ten square feet of soil, we too are a bed of seeds all waiting to take root and reach skyward.  But maybe, in contrast to the trees, we don’t have to wait decades or centuries for the right conditions to finally come along.  Maybe we can create those conditions ourselves.  If we water our soil accordingly, our potential for growth is virtually limitless.

July 16, 2012

How many trees does it take to fuel your SUV for one year?

Consider this statistic from Tree Canada:

Over the course of their lives, 12 trees absorb 1.9 tonnes of carbon — the same amount produced by one SUV that has been driven 20,000 kilometres.

Let’s put that figure in some perspective, based on Canadian data:

  • Natural Resources Canada derives its yearly vehicle fuel consumption costs from an annual driving distance of 20,000 kilometres.  Therefore, we can assume that the average SUV produces 1.9 tonnes of carbon per year, and that the lifetimes of 12 trees are required to absorb one year’s worth of SUV carbon emissions.
  • According to the web site GoodCarBadCar, Canadian car dealerships sold 1,587,434 new passenger vehicles in 2011, 463,184 of which were SUVs.  Therefore, 29 per cent — or just under one third — of vehicles sold in Canada in 2011 were SUVs.  From this, we can infer that SUVs account for roughly one third of vehicles owned in Canada.
  • In 2009, Statistics Canada counted a total of 19,876,990 vehicle registrations for road motor vehicles weighing less than 4,500 kilograms.  Most SUVs fit into this category; the Hummer H2 — one of the largest SUVs on the road — has a gross vehicle weight of just under 4,000 kilograms.  Assuming that one third of Canadian passenger vehicles are SUVs (see the previous calculation), we get an estimated total of 6,625,663 registered SUVs eligible to drive Canadian roads in 2009.

From these data, we can draw the following conclusions:

  • 6,625,500 Canadian SUVs, each driving an annual average of 20,000 kilometres, together pump 12,588,450 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year.  
  • It takes 79.5 million trees a lifetime of work to absorb the carbon produced by Canadian SUVs in just one year.  The next year, those same SUVs will require another 79.5 million trees to do the same work.  After ten years of driving, those SUVs will have engaged the carbon-absorbing lives of almost 800 million trees.
  • Since beginning operations in 1992, Tree Canada has planted over 77 million trees.  That’s not quite enough to absorb the combined carbon emissions from all SUVs driven in Canada in 2009.  
  • According to the Ecology Global Networksome 11.4 billion trees are harvested each year worldwide.  Left standing, those trees would have the capacity to absorb 143 times the amount of carbon produced by Canadian SUVs in 2009.  

Now consider all the other types of vehicles motoring around on Canadian roads, and on roads in countries all over the world.  Consider that not all vehicles are up to North American emission standards.  And consider the carbon emissions from other sources — industry, utilities, waste burning, etc. — that we assume trees will also absorb and cleanse from the air we breathe, even as we continue to harvest those trees at an unsustainable rate.  What conclusions do you draw?

Get planting.  Cut driving.  Reduce your footprint.

Now is the time.

Source list:

June 22, 2012

What are we doing to our forests?

Makes you think, doesn’t it?


Aerial view of  hurricane and logging damage in a Swedish forest.  The clearcut area looks like a giant oak tree stamped into the surrounding forest.



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