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Do you picture yourself in a boreal forest environment?
If you don’t, I can’t blame you. Hard to get to or get through it; too wet or dry, invested by blood-sucking beasts, swarming around and eating your skin bit by bit.
Yet, we Canadians own it.
Whether I like it or not, owning it means caring for it. That would be an expectation of the rest of our world, sooner rather than later. Why? The world’s boreal forests are essential in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide. It contains half the global carbon storage in its forest vegetation, wetlands, bogs and soil.
The boreal forests zone has been experiencing warming at twice the global average rate. I witnessed it bubbling on its surface. There is an increased frequency and intensity of fire disturbance. Helping Canadian beavers with water management practices might be necessary. More pockets of water intensify evaporation-condensation cycles. As might be a restoration of the native ways of controlled burns.
I was asked many times why I kept going there. It’s hard to say.
Maybe to witness the scale of processes that impacts my city life? To observe fights for life expressed by different colours of spruce or Canadian Jack pine trees coping with life-changing conditions? To be thrilled finding the remnants of the most ancient plant lives? To witness the co-dependency of life when faced with challenging conditions? Possibly, to be away from everything but all of the above.
Once, I paddled my canoe for three whole days along the path of one wildfire. By the end, I spent one quiet evening sitting on the shore and listening to the sound of falling down dead trees scourged by this fire. A soul-piercing sound, one by one, every few minutes, stretching that evening into a dark night hard to forget.
The ultimate freedom of the human mind transpires in the choices it makes. That coincides with the specific value assigned to the process happening around us. We often ignore our vital collective interests. Individually, we screened ourselves from them as much as possible.
In reality, the perceived utility of boreal forests doesn't stand for much. It is the primary source for toilet paper production on this continent. As our world is changing.
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