Photo: The value of wildness

Foundation intern Emily Keller remembers her five-year-old self watching her beloved forest cut down. (Credit: Moss via Flickr)

By Emily Keller, David Suzuki Foundation Intern

It's 1989. I'm five years old, standing on a moss-edged path, gripping Mama's hand, watching a long-armed, yellow machine scrape the earth.

Other giants grow tall and straight around us. Needly branches twist in the wind. Insects hum, a raven cries. An orange-helmeted man wades into the sword ferns, brandishing a saw at the foot of a thick Douglas fir. Metal teeth bite and sawdust flies. I think of the little brown mice, white-bellied squirrels and red-chested robins. There's a smell of raw dirt and tree pitch. The tree falls and a heaviness settles behind my ribs.

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This scene repeats throughout my childhood. Coloured plastic flagging mark cut blocks across Read Island. Giant trees fall on the trail to our swimming lake, the place where chanterelles grow and the steep mountain behind our house. The mossy trail becomes a wide gravel road. Adults speak of logging and righting wrongs. There are tense community meetings, letter-writing, whispers of spiked trees and, one day, police asking about the yellow machine.

That giant felled Douglas fir and the demolition of my favourite places steered the course of my life. Without understanding why, I nurtured a deep knowledge that something was broken about how we treat the Earth. From that place behind my ribs, a commitment grew — to help make a better, more beautiful world.

Thanks to The Co-operators' generosity, I'm now part of the inspiring, talented and passionate David Suzuki Foundation family. As Right to a Healthy Environment Project Intern, I'm helping build a bold campaign to enshrine environmental rights in Canada's laws.

I've learned about campaign strategy, project planning, public engagement and the potential of environmental rights, including better environmental regulation and enforcement. I've grasped the impact of community organizing, grassroots movement-building and the power of stories — especially my own.

I'm hopeful. Our beautiful, ancient land has only recently been despoiled. Canada is a nation of diverse individuals and communities sharing a deep love for our natural landscapes. Some would say it's more than love — it's who we are, our national identity. And I'm not alone in my urgency. Canadians across this vast country are ready to ensure places we love can be shared with people we love — now and for generations.

Out for a walk on a recent visit to my childhood home, I found a new dirt road pushed into the forest. I stood among the tall trees and my gumboots sank in feathery step moss. The wind stirred the branches. These last remnants will soon be gone. But nature will adapt and recover. Maybe next time I come back we'll have learned the value of wildness.

February 18, 2014

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1 Comment

Feb 02, 2014
2:15 PM

This story is quite similar to my own, recently posted on the Mountain Equipment Co-op blog a few days ago. Tragedy can sometimes trigger positive change.

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