ENVR 2000: Blog 1


Part 1: Question 1- How does Truth and Reconciliation in Canada relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Canada seeks to understand the stories and experiences of Indigenous people across Canada who had been forcibly taken from their homes as children and placed into residential schools where their culture was stripped away and almost entirely destroyed. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to actions, we see similarities with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals include: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, sustainable use of the ocean, sustainable protection of terrestrial ecosystems, peace, justice and strong institutions, and global partnership of sustainable goals (sustainabledevelopment.un.org).

The TRC findings have shed light on several aspects of reality that plague Aboriginal communities in Canada. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern as Canada has ignored the auditor general’s findings of “inequitable child-welfare funding” resulting in the measures needed to address the “discriminatory overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care (Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 138). The resolution to address this issue is to provide “adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so” (139). This issue connects to the UN Sustainable Development goal of reducing inequalities as it offers more of a balance between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities in terms representation in the child-welfare program.

The lack of education for Aboriginal people in comparison with their non-Aboriginal counterparts need to be addressed. The 2006 census reports that “34% of Aboriginal adults had not graduated from high school, compared with only 15% of their non-Aboriginal counterparts” (146). With lower educational standards met, unemployment rates increase as “their employment and earning potential” (146) is limited. The TRC asks the federal government, alongside Indigenous communities to develop a plan to eliminate the educational and employment gaps between Indigenous and their non-Indigenous counterparts. They hope to do this with the aid of federal funding in terms of post-secondary education as well as teaching culturally appropriate subjects at primary and secondary levels (149-150). This resolution connects to several UN Sustainable goals such as quality education for all Canadians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, economic growth for Indigenous communities, reduction in poverty as unemployment is reduced, and industry, innovation and infrastructure as Indigenous people will learn how to give back and provide for their own communities to help future generations grow.

Other resolutions by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (322) include a need for bettering of the health systems of Indigenous people as well as acknowledging the history and effect of the residential schools (238). Both these calls to actions relate to the United Nations sustainable goal of good health and well-being where it is “[ensured that] healthy lives and [the promotion of] well-being for all at all ages” (sustainabledevelopment.un.org.).

Image taken from trc.ca

Part 2:

Question 1: How did the information presented in the talks above affect how you think about nature?

Several aspects of the information presented in both Suzanne Simard’s “How trees talk to each other” and Munir Virani’s “Why I love vultures” Ted Talks revealed many things that I did not know before. I did not realize that different kinds of trees could help one another grow and develop (Suzanne Simard) as well as how much vultures actually impacted their environments by helping with the decomposition process of decaying animals (Munir Virani). Overall both speakers made me realize that nature needs to come as a priority before the needs of humans. In Virani’s talk, he notes that human conflict led to the poisoning of predators because they put human lives at risk, but this ended up destroying the natural cycle within the ecosystem in Kenya, and later led to another issue affecting humans: the possibility of widespread rabies from the stray dogs that have taken the vultures place to eat the decomposing carcasses.

Question 2: What aspects of nature and biodiversity do you feel are most important to protect? How can you take action to protect this aspect?

In my opinion, it is more important to protect both animals and plants, but the ecosystems that make up the world. In Simard’s explanation she explains how with the dying of hub trees, the clear-cutting of forests, the ending of root networks and their mycelium and the replacements of the less commercial trees with more commercial trees like cedar, the environment is placed in a state of distress. This includes the wildfire in Alberta and the destruction of animal habitats.

Humans can take action by contacting their Members of Parliament voicing their concerns over the environment, take an activist approach by protesting or working with local organizations to promote environmentalism and sustainability and spreading the word to people they know about the need for environmental sustainability (Virani).

Part 3:

Question 1: Describe where and when you spent your time in nature.

On January 19th, 2018 I was able to go out skating with my friends on the Red River River Mutual Trail at the Forks. The Forks allows Winnipeg locals to skate down the river as a winter activity.

According to the Forks website on the Red River Mutual Trail, we ensured that we watched out for surface cracks that have formed on the ice, so we would not get hurt if we tripped over them (theforks.com).

The Forks originally served as an Aboriginal meet place which is why La Vérendrye set up Fort Rouge, a distance close to the area during the fur trade so that they the European settlers could interact with the Indigenous people of the Prairies. This concept takes on an anthropocentric view as people have kept the Forks as a place for people to meet and  presently use it as one of Manitoba’s main attractions and tourist sites (theforks.com).

Question 2: What did you experience in your time in nature? What did you see, hear, smell, feel? What effect did this time in nature have on you?

When we went skating, I was able to experience nature first hand. Although very cold because of the winter weather, I felt freer than I would have while remaining indoors. I think this was due to the fact that the skating trail was wider than a room would be. I also think this was due in part to the fact that the air felt cleaner and more breathable. On our path, I saw dogs that people had brought with them to enjoy the scene. This is not what I usually see when I go hiking outside of the city, but it is interesting to see animals with their human owners alongside them.

While walking, I felt energized by the feeling of skating over top frozen water as well as the length of the Red River. Around the trail large trees surrounded the area especially above the edge of the hill leading to the river.

From my experience, I learned that the need for being in nature rather than indoors is a necessity despite still being able to exercise at the gym. Since my last outdoor experience, I have recently organized several events that I want to accomplish in the upcoming year including participating in a few marathons in support of several charity organizations. Since our last outdoor activity, my friends and I have made it a goal to try to be more active and continue our events such as skating, hiking and camping throughout Manitoba depending on the season.

Image taken from theforks.com

Part 4: In-class Blog Questions

1a. What promotes human connection to nature?

The human connection to nature is promoted by the feelings of being outdoors, compared to the indoor sanctuaries where many of us dwell throughout our days. During spring and summer, people go running for exercise rather than working out in a gym, others use their backyards and front yards to plant flowers, challenging their neighbours to do the same.

Although I argue in the following question the negative effects of advances in technology, there are also some positive ones. Molly Flatt, a reporter at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) says that there is “software that aims to boost our appreciation of the great outdoors, from Leafsnap UK, which applies facial recognition to leave in order to help users identify 156 tree species, to mindfulness apps that can help us learn to reconnect with our environment” (bbc.com). Through nature and the correspondence with new technologies, humans are able to combine two worlds: the traditional view of children and families playing outside with the modern world of technology.

1b. What promotes disconnection from nature?

Several factors come with one’s disconnection from nature. These factors include advances in technology such as gameplay, a new form of connection between individuals through social media platforms, some of which can only be accessed through a cellphone (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) and sometimes the feeling of developing professionally, only participating through events that may promote one’s social reputation.

Molly Flatt, a reporter at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) says that Cristopher Potter “points out in his book How To Make A Human Being, “Humans never were part of nature. We were always part of technology” (bbc.com). She goes on to say that “when we do venture outside, mobiles and wearables can keep us trapped inside our heads, even on the most glorious of countryside walks” (bbc.com). While individual gadgets can consume the attention of humans, distracting from the environment, so can the concrete environment around us.

Other things that promote a disconnection from nature include growing cities where environmental spaces must be removed and built on in order to create new areas for humans to move to and live. According to One Green Planet, “a statistical analysis of 41 countries around the world revealed that deforestation is largely driven by urbanization” which result in the destruction of both ecosystems and biodiversity in the now urbanized areas (onegreenplanet.org).

Image from thebreakthrough.org

1c. Is there a danger to a growing disconnect from nature?

There is a danger in the growing disconnect from nature. Paul Sandifer, a former chief science advisor for the National Ocean Service at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, studying how urban policies and environments impact human health and well-being, found that “lack of exposure to a ‘natural environment,’ leads urban city-dwellers to be more prone to allergies and asthma” (onegreenplanet.org). Sandifer continues to say that microbes that can only be found in non-urban areas have the ability to help reduce allergies and asthma, showing that exposure to diverse ecosystems actually helps humans (onegreenplanet.org).

Humans are also very dependent on nature and what it offers. From water, to oil and the food that we eat to maintain or better our health and sell as luxuries, to the clothes we wear and the homes that we live in.

Kate Good, a writer at One Green Planet says that a “recent study linked the health of bee and other pollinator populations to human nutrition and found that as these pollinators decrease, people are more susceptible to malnutrition and disease” (onegreenplanet.org). The natural cycle of pollination greatly impacts people in a way that humans around the globe are trying to prevent. If the environment were being cared for correctly including all species of flora and fauna, then the human race would fare better in the long run.

  1. Where do your environmental ethics lie?

Environmental ethics lie within three different perspectives: the anthropocentric view, the biocentric view and the ecocentric view. Each view merits a different result after being applied to environmental and sustainable practices for future generations of human communities and societies. The anthropocentric view is “Human-centered” and sees the environment as “protecting the environment in order to protect themselves.” The biocentric worldview believes that “All life has ethical standing” and the ecocentric view stands with the “Integrity of ecological [systems]” (Hunter, January 10th, 2018).

My personal environmental ethics lie within an anthropocentric view of the world as I believe that society should plan for the future curbing the possibility of environmental issues that affect future generations. I can also empathize with the concepts that embody the biocentric thought were all forms of life have their own need for consideration in ethical decisions concerning the environment.

Kim-Pong Tam, writer of “Saving Mr. Nature: Anthropomorphism enhances connectedness to and protectiveness toward nature” argues that the anthropocentric worldview fosters the desire to conserve and the behaviour that is associated with conservation of nature. He also argues that people feel more connected to nature when it is anthropomorphized (sciencedirect.com).

I think that there is a way for all three forms of ethical views to be considered in making ethical decisions, but the decision makers would have to compromise in specific areas regarding that sole decision.

Wild Spaces

3a. Can parks meet its dual mandate of access and protection?

I think parks can meet its dual mandate of access and protection of the environment simultaneously. Section B of the mandate of Parks Canada to “maintain or restore the ecological integrity of national parks” while also “[managing] visitor use and tourism to ensure both the maintenance of ecological and commemorative integrity and a quality experience in such heritage and natural areas for this and future generations” (publications.gc.ca). Through these pieces of Parks Canada constitution, it is understood that it is the responsibility to maintain both the tourist activities within the park while also maintaining the ecological factors of the park itself. Through the works and priorities of Parks Canada, both access and protection are met.

3b. How can this be achieved in Wapusk?

I believe that the dual mandate of access for tourism and protection of the Wapusk National Park can be met by leaving it the way it is in its present state. That is to say that tourists will keep to natural trails in the park rather than have ‘artificial’ ones made for the sole use of tourism. In this case, it is important to note that the park itself is a place for many animals like polar bears to breed, mate and hibernate which is why the park should not be made to expand itself for visitors (pc.gc.ca).

Image of Polar Bear mother and her cub; taken from i.ytimg.com


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