Tuesday 27 May 2014

EcoSask News, May 27, 2014

pelicans on the river

Wings Over Wascana, Regina, May 31
The public is invited to attend Wings Over Wascana on May 31 in Regina. There will be displays and interactive activities for all age groups to get to know Wascana Marsh.

Man of the Trees Marker Presentation, June 5 
There will be a short program and dedication of a marker beside the last tree planted by Richard St Barbe Baker at noon on June 5 in honour of World Environment Day. Details are available on the Man of the Trees Marker Dedication and Presentation Facebook page.

Richard St. Barbe Baker, June 6
The legacy of the pioneering “global environmentalist,” Richard St Barbe Baker and personal stories about him and his long association with Saskatoon will be shared by Robert White and Paul Hanley at the Prairie Star Gallery (1136 8th St East) at 8 pm, June 5. More details are available on Facebook.

Native Plant Society Field Tours 
Discover and learn about Saskatchewan’s native plants on one of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan’s summer field tours. Contact Chet Neufeld at (306)668-3940 or info@npss.sk.ca to register.
May 31, 1:30-3:30 (Saskatoon) – Spring wildflower walk in the Saskatoon Small Swale
June 14-15 (Hudson Bay) – Orchids, carnivorous plants, bogs, and more
July 19-20 (Frontier) – Hunt for the lost treasure of the Southwest
Aug. 9 (Lumsden) – Big Valley, Big Views
Want more information? Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s profile of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan.

Birding, June 1-15 
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on one of their upcoming walks:
June 1, 1:30-4:30 pm – Butterflies II
June 7, 8- 11 am – Birding at Chief Whitecap Park
June 8, 2-4 pm – Sanatorium Site Bird Walk
June 14, 2-10 pm – Sparrow and Marsh Bird Field Trip (Delisle, Goose Lake)
June 15, 8-10 am – Meewasin Park Bird Walk
June 15, 1:30-4:30 pm – Butterflies III

Golden Eagles, June 12
Join the Golden Eagles, a sub-group of the Saskatoon Nature Society, on June 12 when they visit the Biddulph Natural Area. The site combines sand dunes, natural grassland, and wetlands with over half of the native plant species of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Solar Tour, June 21
Take the 5th annual Saskatchewan Solar Tour and visit homes and businesses powered by solar energy, including a solar farm, a multiple-dwelling solar hot water system, and a solar/geothermal horse-riding arena. Tour Regina in the morning and Moose Jaw in the afternoon. Solar contractors and homeowners will be on hand to answer questions.

Wouldn't it be great if we had a similar tour in Saskatoon?

Want more information about solar energy? Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s article about solar energy for your home.

Bluebird Trail, June
Join the Saskatoon Young Naturalists as they monitor bluebird populations around Saskatoon. Space is limited so register right away.

Paddling Routes of North Central Saskatchewan
Paddling Routes of North Central Saskatchewan is a new publication by Gregory Marchildon. It lists potential start and end points, wilderness campgrounds, and sites to visit for 20 canoe routes with 50 illustrated maps. It’s available at McNally Robinson Booksellers and the Saskatoon Public Library.

Thumbs Up
Millenials want transit-served communities: buses and bikes – not cars

Student detectives seek out phantom energy loads

The Province of Saskatchewan has confirmed that public ownership is the best way to conserve the most ecologically significant lands

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday 22 May 2014

Summer Explorations in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan

There are so many ways to have fun outdoors. Here are some suggestions.


In the City
Look for songbirds or learn to identify butterflies (Saskatoon Nature Society)

Visit the College of Education’s Prairie Habitat Garden

Admire the cougars, wolves, and deer; take a walk around the 100-year-old former forest nursery station; or smell the roses at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo

Rent a bicycle and head out on the trails along the river

Admire the pelicans at the weir

Help pull weeds every Wednesday evening at the Garden Patch

Participate in a riverbank clean-up with Plastic Smart Saskatoon


On the Water
Explore the history of Saskatoon’s river on a day-long canoe trip and corn roast (CanoeSki Discovery Company)

Take an overnight canoe trip on the City’s doorstep (CanoeSki Discovery Company)

Explore Chappell Marsh, a 148-acre wetland conservation area (Ducks Unlimited Canada)

Look for medicinal plants or explore Redberry Lake by canoe (Clearwater Canoeing)

On the Prairies
Visit one of our few remaining patches of native prairie at Saskatoon Natural Grasslands. Keep your eyes open for red-tailed hawks and blanket flowers (gaillardia)

Take a walk at Wanuskewin Heritage Park and keep a look out for one of the 184 species of birds or 37 different animals you may see as you walk along the creek or the cliffs

Enjoy the sun on the beaches at Cranberry Flats Conservation Area or take advantage of the wheelchair accessible boardwalk overlooking the river

Go for a walk at Beaver Creek Conservation Area. If you’re lucky, you may see a beaver or a sheep grazing demonstration

Grasslands National Park

Further Afield
Take a walk around the Kerrobert Reservoir

Walk or cycle the Trans Canada Trail as it winds its way up a hill, through a tunnel, and across the river at North Battleford

Visit the Crooked Trees whose branches twist and loop and reach out in all directions

Take a walk on the largest set of active sand dunes in Canada

Study the passive solar design, straw bale walls, and other green building techniques at the Craik Eco-Centre

Take a hike or pick berries at Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve – you’ll find Buffaloberries, Hawthorn, and Rosehips at summer’s end

Participate in one of the Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association’s workshops or camps


Provincial and National Parks
Plan a backpacking adventure in Grasslands National Park

Visit Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Check for cacti as you walk among the active sand dunes in Douglas Provincial Park

Admire the stars at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Rent a canoe at Pike Lake Provincial Park


Additional Resources
Nature Viewing Sites in and around Saskatoon, Saskatoon Nature Society (available from the Saskatoon Public Library)

Saskatchewan’s Best Hikes & Nature Walks and Saskatchewan Scenic Drives, Robin & Arlene Karpan (available from the Saskatoon Public Library and McNally Robinson Booksellers)

Nature in our Backyard: Saskatoon’s Naturalized Parks

The Northeast Swale: Ancient River Valley, Urban Nature Reserve

Heading out on the Water: Saskatoon Kayak/Canoe Training and Tours 2013

Pine Cree Regional Park

Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary

Come Out and Play: Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures

Canoe the Bagwa Loop

Saskatchewan Tourism: Our Natural Heritage

Tuesday 20 May 2014

EcoSask News, May 20, 2014


Regina Environmental Films, May 25 
The SK EcoNetwork's Environmental Film Festival is part of the events during the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in Regina on May 25.

Birdwatching for Beginners, May 29 & June 5
Curious about birds but not sure how to become a birder? Then this two-evening workshop offered by the Saskatoon Nature Society is for you. May 29 is a classroom session, while June 5 is an outdoor field trip.

Sparrow Identification Workshop, June 12
Find out how to identify the many different sparrows found in and around Saskatoon using sight, song, and habitat clues at a 2-hour evening workshop on June 12. Advance registration for this Saskatoon Nature Society workshop is required.

NatureCity Festival, May 25-31
Here are a few more events we’re looking forward to during NatureCity Festival:
May 25, 2 pm – Prairie Birds, Flowers and Butterflies at Northeast Swale
May 25, 4 pm – Nature Photography with Branimir Gjetvaj at Northeast Swale
May 26, 12:15 pm – Birding near Mendel
May 27, 1:30 pm – Wildflower Walk to Peturrson’s Ravine
May 28, 5 pm – Insects in Your Garden
May 30, 6:30 pm – Pond Dipping (Saskatoon Young Naturalists)
May 31, 1:30 pm – Small Swale Plant Walk (and native plant yard tour)

new leaves

Take Action
We can make a difference. We just need to take action.
Join Saskatoon’s CarShare Co-operative

Thumbs Up
Fully sustainable businesses – from renting a carpet to reusing old phones to create new ones
World-wide support for banning pesticides in urban areas
Biodiversity 34% higher on organic farms than conventional ones

Summer Reading
Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds, Trevor Herriot
Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, George Monbiot
A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, Candace Savage

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday 15 May 2014

Protecting and Constructing Urban Wetlands

“We lose an average of 28 acres of wetlands a day in Saskatchewan,” says Barbara Hanbidge, Education Specialist, Ducks Unlimited Canada. “That’s 10,000 acres a year and it doesn’t include the wetlands that are degraded.”

For so many years, we have taken water for granted. We used it and then threw it away. But last year’s floods in Alberta were a sharp reminder that water is a powerful force. “Flood, drought, water quality, wetlands – it’s all connected, and it’s our collective responsibility,” says Joan Feather, President, Saskatoon Nature Society.

Wetlands are areas where the soil is saturated with water for at least some time in the growing season. They range from temporary wetlands in a low-lying areas to wet meadows, shallow and deep marshes, and permanent open water. The whole ecosystem is effected by the water, changing the soil and providing a home for water-tolerant plants. Wetlands provide a breeding ground for waterfowl, a source of water for wildlife, and provide a home for a wide variety of plants and insects, including dragonflies and damselflies that devour large quantities of mosquitoes.

Wetlands also play a critical role in preventing erosion, controlling flooding, improving water quality, recharging ground water supply, and creating mini climates that are cooler in summer and warmer in autumn. “Wetlands are like sponges,” says Barb. “They can absorb and improve water quality by filtering it through plants and, by holding water and slowing down the flow, soil and other materials being carried in the water will fall to the bottom of the wetland.”

In rural areas, property owners drain wetlands to create more land for farming. This causes downstream flooding and erosion. Fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides end up in the river systems creating problems downstream rather than remaining on the land.

Sudden rainstorms can overwhelm urban storm water drainage systems causing flooded basements and sewer backup. Urban wetlands can play a key role in slowing down and absorbing the water. In addition, people like living near bodies of water. Some of the most expensive houses in Saskatoon back onto wetlands, such as those near Hyde Park in Rosewood.


Balancing Competing Interests
Saskatoon’s rapid growth over the past few years has led to a buying frenzy with developers eager to buy land, build houses, and turn a profit. Insufficient attention has been paid to long-term community needs for maintaining and developing wetlands as part of a comprehensive strategy to protect our water, our land, and all its inhabitants.

In 2006, the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee proposed the development of a wetlands policy as part of the Official Community Plan which guides the city’s growth at the strategic level. It was a slow process as the value of wetlands was not well understood. “There weren’t a lot of examples from other municipalities to serve as models of best practice,” says Chris Schulz, a Senior Planner for the City of Saskatoon. “There were also differences of opinion among stakeholders as to what was needed.”

In 2012, it was agreed to introduce a policy framework that would provide broad guidelines rather than rigid rules. Urban development should strive to:
  • “Avoid impacts to wetlands, where reasonably possible, with particular consideration given to significant wetland resources;
  • Minimize impacts to wetlands where avoidance cannot be fully achieved; and
  • Undertake compensatory mitigation for any impacts to wetlands that occur as a result of development.”
The Northeast Swalewatchers has expressed concern that the policy is not sufficiently robust. They do not believe that the policy adequately recognizes the “vital ecological functions of wetlands, from sustaining biodiversity, to enhancing water quality.” They are also concerned that the policy language is ambiguous: “Use of the words ‘may’ and ‘possible’ and ‘should’ rather than ‘will’ and ‘shall’ suggests the policy can be loosely interpreted without penalty.” The group also recommended greater clarity around monitoring, enforcement, and penalties.

Chris Schulz, City of Saskatoon, says that the policy is intended to be flexible but that it also adds uncertainty for the development community. “Everything is on the table on a case-by-case basis,” he says. “This uncertainty means that the community, developers, and administration have an incentive to work together to achieve a reasonable balance. The Wetland Policy ensures that wetlands are a significant consideration during the neighbourhood planning and development process.”

The policy framework that is currently in place is only the first stage in policy development. During Stage 2, the City will prepare Design, Development, and Management Guidelines for Wetlands and Constructed Wetlands. Stage 3 – Education, Ongoing Management, and Monitoring – will follow.

Chris Schulz believes that the City has successfully achieved a balance in developing the concept plan for the new community of Brighton. Dundee Developments voluntarily agreed to undertake a demonstration project to see how well wetland principles could be applied in developing this area. Dundee conducted a wetland inventory and developed a storm water management plan that included a number of wetland areas.

Unfortunately, the current wetlands are at too high an elevation to effectively drain the new neighbourhood. As a result, Dundee proposed removing the existing wetlands, lowering the elevation, and reconstructing them in more or less the same location using the original soil as much as possible. Barbara says replacing the original soil can be highly effective. “Wetland plants are very resilient. They’re used to drying out, so the seeds in the sediment will stay viable for an extended period.”

“There will be some net loss of wetland area,” Chris says, “but the constructed wetlands will have the benefit of some permanence, even during dry spells.” In addition, Dundee is proposing to use low-impact development techniques, such as permeable surfaces and a swale in the median on McOrmond Drive to assist with storm water drainage and help compensate for lost wetlands.

Aspen Ridge
Aspen Ridge, another new neighbourhood that is in the planning stage, does not contain any wetlands, but it adjoins the Northeast Swale and must conform to the Swale guidelines. Chris explains that the Swale can be used for storm water management but only under specific conditions and at certain locations. “Aspen Ridge will have a retention forebay to pre-treat runoff and reduce the sediment going into the Swale,” Chris says. A greenway will provide a buffer zone and local storm water management between the Swale and adjacent development.

Urban Wetland Construction
Conventional storm water ponds may effectively manage storm water, but there can be drawbacks. Neatly mowed lawns attract flocks of Canada geese, and algae coat the surface because there aren’t sufficient plants to absorb the nutrients.

This was a problem for Winnipeg, which has no natural wetlands and is prone to flooding. The city turned to Native Plant Solutions, the for-profit wing of Ducks Unlimited Canada, to help them out. Native Plant Solutions has now designed and installed over 60 storm water retention ponds in Winnipeg. The ponds are surrounded by a tall grass prairie buffer and look like they’ve been there forever. They’re attractive naturalized parks, and they’re doing a better job of managing storm drainage and improving water quality.

The native upland buffer zone intercepts excess nutrients, and mixed vegetation in the shallow areas helps clean the water as it enters the pond. Construction costs (for the Winnipeg examples) are lower than for conventional storm water ponds, and, once they’re established, native grasses require less maintenance (mowing, fertilizing), so the naturalized ponds and associated upland areas reduce annual municipal expenses.

New homeowners in Winnipeg neighbourhoods with a constructed wetland receive an information package explaining the naturalized approach and there is interpretive signage beside walkways and benches around the ponds.

Hyde Park, in Saskatoon’s new Rosewood neighbourhood, contains a string of natural wetlands that have been adapted to also serve as a storm water retention pond. The ponds are linked to ponds in neighbouring areas, finally draining into the South Saskatchewan River. A large area has been seeded with native grasses and forbs, and Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation hope to use one of the ponds as an outdoor classroom and education centre.

American Robin

Barbara Hanbidge, who was a member of the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee for six years, says that the importance of wetlands is a new idea for Saskatchewan and emphasizes the importance of education. “We need to consider everyone’s education needs – the City, developers, residents. It can be a very slow process,” she says.

“We’ve suggested to the City that they partner with groups like Ducks Unlimited and the Saskatoon Nature Society to develop education strategies on the functions and importance of wetlands,” says Joan Feather.

The upcoming NatureCity Festival provides several opportunities to learn more about our local wetlands. There is a Wetlands Workshop for teachers, tours of Chappell Marsh, and a keynote address by Michelle Molnar of the Suzuki Foundation.

For more information:
Giving Nature a Voice at the Urban Planning Table: Saskatoon's Northeast Swale
Nature in our Backyard: Saskatoon’s Naturalized Parks

Photo credits: Barbara Hanbidge: constructed and naturalized wetlands in Winnipeg, fall 2013; Andrew McKinlay: duck and robin, 2014

Tuesday 13 May 2014

EcoSask News, May 13, 2014

prairie crocus

WAM Potluck Supper, May 13
We Are Many is holding a potluck supper from 6-7:30 pm, May 13, to discuss volunteer requirements for the NatureCity festival warm-up, hydration stations at summer festivals, and garlic planting parties. Email WAM if you plan to attend.

Sustainable Lawn, May 20
Find out how to have a healthy, beautiful lawn without too much water, chemical control of weeds and pests, and endless fertilization from 7-8:30 pm, May 20, at the Frances Morrison Library. This event is part of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society's Sustainable Speaker series.

NCC Speaker Series – Prince Albert & Weyburn
Robin and Arlene Karpan will present a photo tour of Saskatchewan as part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Speaker Series. RSVP by May 15 as space is limited.
Prince Albert May 20, 7-9 pm
WeyburnMay 22, 7-9 pm

Enrich Your Garden, May
The City of Saskatoon is selling compost and mulch on Saturdays in May. Plus, leaves, grass, sod, topsoil, and non-elm branches, stumps and tree trimmings are accepted at the compost depots free of charge.

Green Birding Challenge, May 25-28
Everyone is invited to participate in the Saskatoon Nature Society’s Green Birding Challenge from May 25-28. Spend up to two hours in your favorite local bird habitat and record your findings. For more information, email the Saskatoon Nature Society.

NatureCity Festival
We’re really looking forward to Saskatoon’s second annual NatureCity Festival. Here are just a few events that should be really interesting:
May 26, 1-3 pm - Patterson Arboretum Tour
May 27, 6:30-8 pm - Owls and Owl Pellets (Saskatoon Young Naturalists)
May 28-29 - Pop-Up Nature Museum, Broadway Theatre
May 29, 12-1:30 pm - Environmental Tour of Downtown and River Landing
May 30, 5:30-9 pm - Green Drinks Festival Edition
May 31, 10 am-12 pm - Hyde Wetland Conservation Area Spring Cleanup

prairie crocus

Take Action
We can make a difference. We just need to take action. As you plan your summer garden, think about:
Gardening better with less water
Being pesticide-free

Thumbs Up
In 2012, Saskatoon had 19 community gardens. In 2014, we have 34. Nice work, CHEP Good Food Inc.

Patagonia is using business to help solve the environmental crisis. Check out their work on a waterless washing machine

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Wednesday 7 May 2014

University of Saskatchewan Sustainability Initiatives

Students from the School of Environment and Sustainability educating other students about bottled water issues

The University of Saskatchewan resembles a city within a city. It is responsible for constructing roads and buildings, supplying heat and water, food, accommodation, and waste disposal. In the past, not much thought was given to the long-term costs to the environment, but that is changing.

In 2008, the University of Saskatchewan included sustainability in its Integrated Plan, the university’s core strategic planning document. A Sustainability Commitment Working Group was established with student, staff, and faculty representatives. A key element of their work was to involve the campus community in their discussions and to reach consensus.

The Working Group developed a draft Campus Sustainability Plan, which was recently officially adopted by the President’s Executive Committee. The draft plan addresses all areas of campus life: education, research, operations, governance, and community engagement.

“The University has turned a corner,” says Margret Asmuss, Sustainability Coordinator, Office of Sustainability. “Five years down the road things will look a lot different.”

Office of Sustainability
A small group of employees are responsible for initiating and coordinating the University’s sustainability initiatives through the Office for Sustainability. Margret Asmuss facilitates initiatives to help integrate sustainability into education and research. Kathryn Theede is responsible for energy and water conservation initiatives, while Heather Trueman liaises with campus units (e.g. Culinary Services) to assess and improve existing practices.

Repurposing bicycles that have been abandoned on campus

Pilot Projects
The first stages of the University’s sustainability efforts have involved a wide range of pilot projects, laying the groundwork for more comprehensive initiatives. Here are just a few examples.

Water Conservation: The toilets in the Education Building have been replaced with dual-flush, low-flow toilets, and the urinals have been retrofitted with a sensor system designed by Gord Poole, one of the university’s electricians. The changes have reduced water use in the building by 48%, saving 18.5 million litres of water a year and should pay for themselves in about three years.

Green Road Project: The North Road was reconstructed using salvaged materials (construction rubble, crushed concrete, glass). The asphalt in one section was applied using a less energy-intensive cold process, while permeable pavement was applied to another section. The road performance will be monitored and it is hoped that these techniques will lower emissions, improve road performance, and make use of waste that would otherwise be discarded.

Landscaping: The College of Education has established a Prairie Habitat garden, while the College of Agriculture and Bioresources marked its 100th anniversary by planting a garden of domestic fruit crops to demonstrate the potential for landscaping with fruit trees to support sustainable local food production. The Horticulture Club and the Seager Wheeler Residence have community gardens, and the Grounds division is experimenting with drought-tolerant plants and different turf grass mixtures to conserve water.

Green Buildings: There are a total of five completed LEED buildings on campus and one currently under construction. The College of Law addition received LEED Gold certification in 2008 and has a living roof. The additions to the Academic Health Sciences Building have various green features, including heat reclamation, a pond to manage storm water runoff, solar collectors, and sensors to control lighting and ventilation.

Photovoltaic panels at the 14th Street Horticulture Greenhouses

Major Initiatives
Three major initiatives will have a significant impact on the campus as a whole in the years to come.

Campus Sustainability Revolving Fund: Energy and water efficiency measures save money in the long run, but there is often an up-front cost that is difficult to absorb. The University has approved a two million dollar sustainability revolving fund to provide assistance. Colleges and other units will be able to apply for funding to cover the up-front costs and then pay it back from the savings.

Sustainability Living Lab: The Office of Sustainability provides students with course projects based on campus sustainability challenges. For example, fourth year mechanical engineering students investigated an air cooling problem in the Education Building and came up with a solution, while students in Pharmacy and Nutrition developed a database of local food sources that could be used on campus.

Using the campus as a living lab for teaching and research, students, staff, and faculty work collaboratively on projects that address campus sustainability issues and challenges – environmental, economic, and social. Students benefit by gaining real-life experience in project management and research and deepen their understanding of sustainability.

Work Green Program: In order to engage individual departments and workplaces in the campus’ sustainability initiatives, the Office of Sustainability plans to establish a network of workplace champions who will encourage their colleagues to implement more sustainable workplace practices. Workplaces will be measured against a checklist of desirable “green” practices in seven categories (energy, waste, outreach, purchasing, water, transportation, and innovation) and will be certified as Member, Bronze, Silver, or Gold, depending on how many of these measures they adopt.

Three workplaces are currently participating in the Work Green program on a pilot basis. The Office of Sustainability intends to launch the campus-wide program in fall 2014.

Students from a Sustainability Learning Community constructed a tree from hundreds of discarded paper coffee cups to raise awareness about their use

Student Involvement
Campus sustainability is a many-faceted activity with many different players. The Office of Sustainability works closely with the USSU and provides support for student groups. They also hire student interns to assist them.

The Diefenbaker Centre offers a one-hour tour of some of the University’s sustainability initiatives on an occasional basis.

Photo credit: Office of Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan

Tuesday 6 May 2014

EcoSask News, May 6, 2014


Birding in May
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on one of their upcoming walks:
May 4 – Waterfowl at Brightwater Marsh & Blackstrap Lake (3-9 pm)
May 13 – Great horned owl banding evening (7-9 pm)
May 17 – Shorebird trip to the Bradwell District (9 am – 3 pm)
May 18 – Butterflies 1 (1:30-4:30 pm, cancelled if weather is poor)
May 19 – Birding at Buena Vista & Diefenbaker Parks (8 am – noon)
May 24 – May Day bird count – participants needed

Golden Eagles, May 
Golden Eagles invite retirees to join one of their leisurely outings to view birds and enjoy local sites:
May 15 – Warblers and songbirds (7:30 am)
May 22 – Shorebirds (7:30 am)
May 29 – Lakeridge and Heritage Park (8 am)

Permasask Potluck, May 22
Join members of the Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan for a native plant walk at Beaver Creek and a potluck supper on May 22.

Plastic Smart Saskatoon Spring Clean Up, May 25
Join Plastic Smart Saskatoon as they clean up the downtown riverbank from 3-4 pm, May 25.

Zoo Volunteers Info Session, May 28
If you are interested in helping the Saskatoon Zoo Society as either a Special Event Volunteer or an Environmental Education Volunteer Interpreter, be sure to attend the Information Session at 6:30 pm, May 28.

NatureCity Festival Keynote Events
The NatureCity Festival kicks off on May 24 with an info fair and parade. Over 80 groups are organizing activities during the week. You won’t want to miss the three keynote events:
May 24, 2:30 pm, Roxy Theatre - Why (Young) People Need Nature!, Cam Collyer, Evergreen Foundation
May 26, 7:30 pm, Roxy Theatre - The International Urban Biodiversity Movement, Grant Pearsell, City of Edmonton, Gary Pederson, City of Saskatoon
May 28, 7:30 pm, Roxy Theatre - Valuing Wetlands, Michelle Molnar, Suzuki Foundation, Barb Hanbidge, Ducks Unlimited Canada


Take Action
We can make a difference. We just need to take action.

Why not host a Parke Diem and clean, repair, and plant vegetation in Saskatoon’s naturalized parks?

Plastic Smart Saskatoon is gearing up for a busy season with both spring and fall river clean-ups, movie night partnerships, sustainability campaigns, and environmental action. Be sure to like their Facebook page and send them a message if you would like to be involved.

Thumbs Up 
Did you know that hemp-insulated houses take less energy to heat and that hemp fibres are used in Dodge, BMW, and Mercedes door panels? Find out more about Canada’s booming hemp industry

Thumbs Down
Drilling for shale gas is a booming industry, but a panel of experts says we don’t know enough about the potential risks

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday 1 May 2014

Trevor Herriot: The Road Is How

“But our resistance, our unflagging confidence in rationality, keeps us impermeable, closed, and dubious. The language of nature may remain untranslatable, but walking or sitting alone in wildness at least places you within earshot.” 

There are times in all our lives when we feel a need to grow and change direction. Sensing this need within himself, Trevor Herriot chose to walk from his home in Regina to his family’s rural property near Cherry Lake. As he walks, he meditates on human nature and our relationships with each other and with the earth. The Road Is How, published by HarperCollins Canada, is a summation of his thoughts and emotions.

I found the first half of the book heavy-going. As a woman with a very practical streak, I had little understanding for Herriot’s talk about male bonding, sexual desire, and religion. But gradually, as the book progresses, I began to see the connections and to appreciate his openness in speaking so honestly about profoundly personal topics.

Male-Female Relationships
“In a world bathed in industrial and impersonal sex, where real connection and tenderness are rare, will we sense also that something in us and in the earth is being harmed from the same absence of intimacy, care, and respect?”

Herriot says that women are a mystery to him. He finds it much easier to bond with his male friends as they drink beer around a campfire in the woods. He freely admits his own male weaknesses, his desire for his wife to spend more time catering to him rather than following her own interests. And yet he also acknowledges that his wife is at the heart of their family:

“here I am at the age of fifty-two reluctantly admitting that the best thing I can do to mature, the best thing I can do for my family, is to be man enough to be there, to respect the circle my wife has made, and to either help or get out of the way when she is doing the work of expanding and nurturing it.” 

He turns to images of yin and yang, where opposites complement rather than divide, as a metaphor for fruitful male-female relationships and develops this concept further in talking about our relationship with the natural world.

Two-Sided Reciprocity
“When you live in a world of deal-making and commerce, everything sounds like a sales pitch. But the dream wasn’t a proposition; it was an invitation to nurture and join the deeper, wider reciprocity that fills the earth with life. The wild paradox of pasture land is that to remain healthy over the long run, it must give part of itself away to be eaten or burned.” 

When everything, including sex is for sale, it is difficult to imagine a more open-ended reciprocity between all living creatures. Herriot turns to nature for examples of a different kind of give and take. He refers to colonies of aspen trees where each tree appears to be separate and independent but is in fact a part of a single massive organism. He discusses the role played by the coyote in the aspen parkland prairie and the intersecting roles and pathways of grasses and trees, rodents and predators, soil and air.

What would happen, Herriot wonders, if people recognized that they were not just like the soil but actually were the soil:

“What would it be like to live in full awareness of that communion? Would the false binaries of commerce that divide body from soul, sacred from profane, religion from nature, and economy from ecology all give way to a wider reciprocity?” 

“What exercise could we undertake to become over time exquisitely attuned to signals in our bodies, in others, and in the whole matrix of life around us, developing the ear, eye, and touch that might let us perceive what our children and spouses need from us; to awaken resources in ourselves and in others to help a neighbourhood struggling with housing problems and poverty, or restore a creek suffering from upstream agricultural residues and urban sewage?” 

“The taste of a green thing still tender from its sunward leap is as good as dipping your cup in a mountain stream. A draft of courage from wild asparagus lets us know that health and wildness still flow together beneath this belaboured land.” 

There is something highly ironic about the fact that Herriot’s meditative pilgrimage doesn’t take place in an isolated wilderness region but rather the Regina Plains where less than 1% of native cover remains. As he walks past commuter traffic, feeder farms, and oil wells, he asks himself whether there is “anything left to love in a land we have handed over to herbicide-resistant crops.”

And yet, The Road Is How ends on a cautiously optimistic note. As just one example, Herriot points to sandhill cranes who have been living on this land for two and a half million years and whose numbers are increasing. The cranes can live for 25 or more years and they remain faithful to their partner throughout, renewing their commitment by dancing together at sunrise.

Mindfulness & Spirituality 
As he discusses the problems facing our society, Herriot notes the role that Christianity has played in separating people from nature:

“Instead of following Jesus’s example and looking for healing and spirit in field, hilltop, and seaside, the faithful took the narrative indoors, built grand idols of brick and stone, inside of which the approved rites and liturgies could be conducted by an elite of male priests while everyone else looked on from the pews. Is there a better way to seed the world with people who don’t know what their soul is for or how to open it up to the holiness all around them?” 

In The Road Is How, Trevor Herriot emphasizes the importance of spirituality in our lives. He reminds us that we have a choice, that through being mindful and paying attention to our actions, we can decouple ourselves from blind, genetic programming.

“If I sit on a hill or walk a road hoping to foster some sensitivity and cross into a life where I am attentive to subtler energies, it is not to sort out the spirit in things from the matter. I want to be able to feel their confluence, the messy incarnation of the divine in the flesh of everything from soil fungi to the grain being harvested in these fields, to the enzymes and proteins that allow my body to transform bread from that grain into the muscle, bone, and sinew that moves me down this road.”

Penny McKinlay
EcoFriendly Sask