August 25, 2020 10:49 am Leave your thoughts
Somehow the summer is already approaching its end. The past few weeks of August spent doing research, interpreting cutover boundaries on the 3D station, clearing haul roads of fallen trees and more have gone by very fast. Despite the unique circumstances of the summer I have had the opportunity to learn a lot this season. Sadly, the 2020 Green Dream blogging season is also nearing its end. This will be my final blog and it is on the things I love about living and working where I do and why I plan to return here to pursue a career after university.
As we all work our way through our education, internships and summer jobs we are giving a lot of thought to what we want to do and who we may want to work for. While we do this we also have to think about where we want to be and what type of opportunities we will have in different locations. While I love the idea of doing lots of traveling (when safe to do so) and living in different places I think that I will always feel drawn to northern regions of Canada. This blog is about what I love about living here and why I am passionate about the important Green work there is to be done in the region.
I have been thinking about this for a while now and most of the northern elements I can think of are not anything that can’t also be found somewhere else; I see now that it is not one single factor but many coming together that make it so special to me. This has become increasingly clear after spending two academic years in Edmonton for school. While I enjoy the city, it makes me miss being able to see the stars, the smell of a campfire, and the deep and relentless snow that lasts long into the spring. Walking my dog in Peace River this summer I realize that I took for granted the fact that we are surrounded by authentic green spaces, even my old elementary school is on the edge of the town. Some places there are only a few blocks between the river’s edge and the edge of the valley, and that valley would gladly swallow the town and turn it into forest if it could.
Firstly, the wildlife and the natural landscape. Any nature lover relishes a trip to the mountains in the south- but not all of Alberta’s most beautiful creatures are found where things are Rocky… Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, big cats and elk are some of the large mammals that can be observed, not to mention the intrinsic value of knowing that you are surrounded by wild creatures whether you see them or not. In addition to the megafauna, it offers big dark skies alive with northern lights in the winter, long summer days where the sun never seems to set, and a beautiful spring and fall between them. In the spring many breeding migratory waterfowl make an appearance- they are beautiful to watch and bring many different species together. And while there may not be much for sandy beaches and clear waters, boating and fishing are easily accessible. In northern Alberta you can drive for only a few hours and be alone for miles. The winter brings deep snows and weeks of extreme cold- but these days only remind you to appreciate the beauty of a green spring, the days where your car starts with ease, and makes you all the more deserving of a cup of hot chocolate or a toasty evening by the fireplace.
In the North, we push a few inches of snow off the lid and barbeque burgers outside in January. We pack sunscreen, bug spray, rain gear, a sun hat and a sweater on the same outing as you may need all of them in one day (or even within a few hours). We watch for bears within town limits, and we smile when a doe gives birth to fawns on the grounds of the middle school. Tim Hortons is not only an addiction, but it is also a meeting ground. Learning to skate is a rite of passage- and the outdoor rink to people ratio is uniquely high. The schools are small. There are many languages spoken such as English, Cree and French and the transience of local industries contribute further to diversity. These are only a few of the qualities that make northern Alberta and communities like Peace River what they are.
For most people some or many of the things I’ve already talked about may seem familiar or common in other regions- but these are not the only reasons why I think there is important work to do in the north. The low human population of the region has allowed a lot of land to stay relatively untouched by humans and this protects and conserves animal species, water bodies and flora. There are also important renewable resources- such as the forested areas- that are important to industry, livelihoods, and whose sustainable management is important to its future. Agriculture in the area is also vulnerable to environmental degradation and is important for employing local people and feeding communities. Recreational sports, hunting, fishing and harvesting wild plants all depend on the land and its health.
Sustainable development, management and protection of existing industries is important- as is protecting local flora and fauna. By working with conservation and preservation in mind it is possible to positively impact the future of the people who have found their home here and help to maintain the wildness of the region. What draws me here most is knowing that there are many opportunities to make a big difference.
My advice to anyone, especially other Albertans, is to venture more northerly than you normally would (when safe to do so and in a safe and responsible way) and visit the forested, isolated and beautiful north. Be a tourist, responsibly enjoy hiking, camping and days on the lake and contribute to the economies of small communities along your way. It is easy to forget about the roads that lead north, and even I am amazed every time I venture further up the highway (I am so looking forward to my next opportunities to visit the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories and am excited to see Nunavut and Alaska for the first time some day). Beware, if you’re anything like me you may never want to return south.
I would like to end this blog by thanking all of the people at FPAC who work hard to make this program happen as well as FPAC itself for the unique and meaningful opportunity two summers in a row. I have really enjoyed writing the blogs and sharing photos and I like to think both my photography and blogging skills are improving thanks to it. I cannot believe the blogging season is already coming to an end but time flies when you enjoy what you are doing! I have really liked reading other posts and good luck to all the other bloggers for the fall!
Thank you for reading.