Thursday 3 May 2018

Jared Clarke: Naturalist and Climate Change Advocate

When he was 5 years old, Jared Clarke was given a birdfeeder. And that simple act changed his life. When a Spotted Towhee landed at the feeder, Jared and his parents weren’t able to identify it, so they purchased a bird guide. Jared, despite his young age, was soon a backyard birding expert.

Jared joined Nature Regina when he was 10 or 12 years old and his mother accompanied him on all the group’s field trips. “I was definitely a lone wolf,” Jared says. “There was no one else my age on those trips.” It was the same at school where none of the other students shared his fascination for birds and nature. Jared wasn’t deterred. He now bands birds and is actively involved in the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas project.

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Jared worked as a park naturalist at Wascana Centre for 5 years. It was around this time that he and his wife, Kristen Martin, a biologist with a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Management, purchased a quarter-section of land northwest of Edenwold. Their goal was to put the land back to grass and create a patch of prairie.

“Healthy prairie needs a grazer,” Jared says, so they started investigating their options. A neighbour raised goats. That sounded interesting, so they purchased 5 does. Over time their herd expanded to 48 does and 93 kids. Jared took advantage of his flock in his work at Wascana Centre, transporting some of the animals to graze on the caragana growing in the natural area. “But we won’t do that again,” he says. “It was too intensive. We had to sleep in the conservation area, staying with the goats 24/7.” The birth of twins of their own has led them to downsize their herd, and it has become more of a hobby than a business.

Jared returned to university and obtained a degree in Education. A Grade 6/7 teacher at Regina’s Lakeview School, Jared tries to incorporate the environment and outdoor education into the classroom program as much as possible. The first day of school is reserved for a Beetle Blitz. The students are sent home with a small container to collect 5 beetles from their yard or cabin. They go on to donate their collection during a visit to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. “It’s an opportunity to talk about what we learn from collecting and studying,” Jared says.

Jared also shares his love of nature through a weekly radio program, The Prairie Naturalist, on CJTR Radio in Regina. He’s hosted over 100 episodes since beginning the program in February 2016, holding over 180 conversations with more than 135 people. It’s a one-man show and Jared is responsible for finding and booking guests, writing the script, and producing the audio. “It takes about 3-3 ½ hours’ commitment before the ½ hour show, but I really enjoy it,” Jared says.

A woman Jared had interviewed on his radio program suggested that he attend Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training. It sounded interesting, but it was a big commitment – 5 days off work and away from his family. Nonetheless, Jared applied, was accepted, and spent 5 days in Pittsburgh in October 2017. “It was really energizing,” he says. “There were 1400 people from 32 countries who were doing amazing things. We heard from 7 scientists whose work demonstrates that climate change is real.”

Jared points out that some areas are already experiencing climate change in a very real way. “Miami is spending millions to raise roads and add pumps because of flooding,” he says. Saskatchewan weather has always been variable, so it’s easy for residents to overlook the impact of climate change. However, the Regina/Yorkton/Moose Jaw region has just experienced the driest 15-month period in 130 years.

Convinced that we need to start talking about climate change, Jared set out to share what he had learned in presentations to over 1,000 people to date. The presentation provides evidence that the climate is changing and the solutions that are already on hand today. “As a biologist and scientist, I’ve looked at evidence from around the world, and I’m convinced that climate change is real and caused by humans but that we have everything we need to deal with it,” he says. Jared encourages his audiences to go home and start talking to family, friends, and politicians about what they’ve learned. “We need leadership from government at all levels to set policy to ensure we’re all moving in the same direction,” he says.

Jared says he and his family make decisions through a climate lens. They’ve installed solar panels on their house, drive a Prius C, and grow a lot of their own food. “I want to leave the world in a better way than I found it so that my kids can see just as many birds as I did when I was a kid.”