Canada: World Leader In Deforestation

This is a devastating article from the Huffington Post.  I’d like to say, “Thank you, Harper,” but I’ve met Canadians from one end of this country to the other for decades who think the forest is just money. This isn’t just a political policy problem, this is a Who We Are problem.

Text below.  To see the original article, click the image:

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n-LOGGING-CANADA-largeAdd another black mark to Canada’s environmental image around the world: The country now leads the planet in the degradation of untouched forests, according to a study from Forest Watch.

Some 8 per cent of the world’s virgin forests were degraded between 2000 and 2013, according to the study. That’s 104 million acres, or an area about three times the size of Germany, Forest Watch said.

“That means human activities disturbed 20,000 hectares of pristine forest every day for the past 13 years,” the group said.

Of that degradation, more than a fifth — 21.4 per cent — occurred in Canada, the study found. That’s more than any other country. Russia, in second place, accounted for 20.4 per cent of the damaged or destroyed virgin forests, while Brazil, site of the Amazon rainforest, accounted for slightly more than 14 per cent.

There is no political will at federal or provincial levels for conserving primary forests,” Peter Lee of Forest Watch Canada told Canada.com. “Most logging done in Canada is still to this day done in virgin forests.”

The study was put together with the participation of the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, the World Resources Institute and other groups.

Researchers analyzed detailed satellite imagery to locate “intact forest landscapes,” as they are known, around the world, and then tracked their progress from 2000 to 2013.

The imagery shows severe loss of forests in the northern parts of the Prairie provinces, including around the oilsands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta. Very little new forest coverage has been added to compensate.

The interior of British Columbia has seen widespread forest loss, as have parts of northern Ontario and northern Quebec. Only the Maritimes showed evidence of any significant reforestation.

By Forest Watch’s calculations, logging was worth some $21.5 billion to Canada’s economy in 2011, accounting for 1.2 per cent of all economic activity.

Not all the degradation is due to logging — some of it is due to forest fires, which Forest Watch’s Lee blames on climate change.

“You are getting these huge fires which are truly degrading and no longer a part, in many cases, of the natural historic functioning of fires in boreal forests,” he told Canada.com. “They are now transforming many of these northern boreal forests into shrub lands.”

Not all the degraded areas indicate total loss of forest. About three-quarters of the degraded areas around the world suffered from “fragmentation” — a thinning out and breaking up of forested areas due to logging.

“The fragmentation of IFLs is problematic because smaller, more isolated forest patches will lose species faster than those that are larger or less isolated,” Forest Watch said on its blog.

“Small forest ‘islands’ typically cannot support the same biodiversity or ecosystem services that a single contiguous forest would.”

The study calls on government officials around the world to direct logging activity away from untouched forests, and urges businesses “with sustainability commitments” to steer clear of virgin-forest products when making purchasing decisions.

The interactive map below was provided by Forest Watch. The areas in pink indicate degraded forests; areas in blue indicate reforestation.

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Organic Pest Management for the Coming Growing Season

tomatoesIf you want to make your own home brewed organic pesticide, it’s not hard at all, and here’s how:

Grow tomatoes. When you prune them, take the prunings and put them in a bucket. Add water to to the top of the prunings. Let it steep for 3 days. Strain out the prunings. The resulting tea is your organic pesticide and it’s very effective. Don’t drink it! Like all plants from the nightshade family, the green parts are quite toxic. (I’ve never done it, but I suspect you could make a highly effective organic pesticide tea from potato and eggplant leaves, too.) Spray it directly on your plants whenever you see bug damage. Do remember that most bugs you see in your garden by day are beneficial and most bugs you see by night are harmful. Try to only spray at twilight or in the dark and run the sprinklers so it washes off by day.

You can also get a pure liquid dish soap and mix it with water and spray that on plants. It will kill most soft bodied insects.

Diatomaceous earth is my personal favorite bug control substance. Again, wash it off in the morning so you don’t end up killing pollinating insects such as butterflies and mosquitoes (yes, they are important pollinators).

If there is a pond with uncut grass around it nearby, you may get especially lucky and fireflies will lay eggs in your garden soil. The firefly larvae not only glow beautifully, but they are highly predacious and will hunt many garden pests.

The very best way to get rid of bugs is just have nearby hedges and plant a swath of wildflowers around your garden. This will attract small mammals, birds and insects which will prey on your garden’s pests.

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June 2015: Wild Food Foraging I (Only 2 slots remaining; book soon!)

Location: Northeast Nova Scotia, Twa Corbies Hollow, approx. 1 hr from New Glasgow and Antigonish

Date & Time: Saturday, June 6, 0900 – 1800
Cost: $50 per person
Reserve Place: $25
Contact: twa.corbies.hollow@gmail.com

All rights reserved.

Email to register.  Directions will be provided to registrants.

Course Description:  Most people know there are wild foods in the meadows and woods, but they don’t know how to identify them.  Even fewer know how to harvest and use them.  Some are even afraid of them.  According to David Arora, author of Mushrooms Demystified: “There are few things that strike as much fear in your average [person] as the mere mention of wild mushrooms . . . [But] once you know what to look for, it’s about as difficult to tell a deadly Amanita from a savory chanterelle as it is a lima bean from an artichoke.”  This applies to wild plants, as well.  If you know what to look for, Nature provides abundantly and the Maritime provinces are blessed with a surfeit of wild edible foods.  In fact, our family resides on a semi-remote wooded homestead and as much as 25% of our food is foraged from the wild meadows and forests.  And this is a skill you can learn, too.

Sumac makes a pleasant summer beverage similar to lemonade.

There is no “perfect time” to pursue wild foods.  Some are best in spring, others midsummer, still others far into autumn.  Some wild foods are even to be found in winter.  This course will take place in late spring which provides two advantages: (1) it is before most biting insects have arrived in earnest, and (2) it is a prime time for many early season wild plants.  Participants will learn to identify, harvest and use a number of wild Maritime edible foods, including some of the easier-to-identify mushrooms, cattails and various wild herbs and berries.  Of special interest will be fungi, cattails, wild mint, sorrel and sumac, edible trees and shrubs, and medicinal lichens.

One of the most common mistakes foragers make is not knowing when to harvest or how to make use of wild foods, so we will cover the full lore of each plant and/or fungus so the new forager can make best use of them.  We will also look at testing foods for edibility and reaction, and how to render use-resistant plants (such as cattails) edible.

Course begins at 0900 Saturday, June 6 and concludes at 1800 the same day.

Course Requirements: Dress appropriately for warm weather, but it is advised you bring a day pack with rain gear and a sweater as the weather in these parts is fickle.  Be sure to wear appropriate footwear.  Some sort of hiking boot is strongly advised; this is rough country. Also, participants should bring a stout knife, folding or straight blade, as well as lunch and snacks.  Use hats, sunscreen and bug spray according to personal need, though in June biting insects are rarely much of a problem.   For your own safety, please do not wear shorts or you will get scratched up as we hike through meadows full of wild rose shrubs and bramble berry canes.

The wildwood is a source of hidden bounty, if you learn to see it.

Your teacher: Author and naturalist, Cliff Seruntine, is a certified psychotherapist, shaman, horseman, and fiddler. He is also a veteran of some of the most rugged wilderness on Earth–the Alaskan bush–where he dwelt at a remote cabin for many years.  Cliff now resides on a homestead in the Nova Scotia highlands and brings a polymath, spiritual perspective to Nature experiences and decades of wilderness living know-how to his courses.

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Nature’s Pantry

As we approach the first quarter of March, it is time to start thinking of the spring gardens. Winter seems at its worst now, with snow chest high on the slopes and thigh high in the meadows, icy wind spilling out of the north and the cold biting through the walls. Yet, spring is as inevitable as winter and the time has come to contemplate what to sow.

One thing that became evident to Daphne and I last autumn was we now know so many edible wild plants and mushrooms of the Maritimes that we do not need to plant as much in the way of vegetables. In fact, if we wanted, we could probably subsist just about entirely from Nature’s bounty. We are still enjoying last year’s lamb’s quarter, sumac horns, dried boletes, wild cherry preserves, and so much other wild food. Roughly half our food came from the forest and meadows last year. And compared to relatively fragile garden vegetables and fruit that need constant nurturing, wild foods are very hardy and begin to become available before the last snow melts and persists until the ground is covered with the next snow. I don’t want to plant less, but we should change what we plant. We need a lot less domestic vegetables, so we may plant more tasty, unusual but less productive vegetables.

Natalia harvests ostrich fern fiddle heads by the sackful.

Natalia harvests ostrich fern fiddle heads by the sackful.

You know, before civilization saved the human species with cable TV, text messages the petty drama of actors and a ceaseless torrent of great and small wars, and gave us a purpose in the form of paying bills and taxes, the human species suffered the tyranny of lives enmeshed in Nature where we had lots of free time to devote to arts and spiritual things, and family and friends. Only a few decades ago, anthropologists thought that life in prehistory was brutish and short. They now know that subsistence lifestyles required in general only a couple hours work per day, except at times of peak harvest. It is true, and Daphne and I are living it. If you know how to live well with Nature, she really does provide all one needs.

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Nova Scotia’s Politicians Send Their Forests Up In Smoke for $$$

In typical NS political fashion, completely ignoring environmental long-term impact, Nova Scotia politicians have embraced the delusion of wood chip biofuel, in which rare hardwood forests are cut down, ground to pulp, and burned to power mills.

In typical NS political fashion, completely ignoring environmental long-term impact, Nova Scotia’s tragically ignorant, self-serving politicians have embraced the delusion of wood chip biofuel, in which rare hardwood forests are cut down, ground to pulp, and burned to power mills.

While there have been many things I have loved about life in Nova Scotia, the fact remains both government and populace are, by and large, short-sighted and afflicted with intractable notions of 19th century economics. If you guaranteed Nova Scotians jobs today but also guaranteed them that their grandchildren would find the province poisoned and uninhabitable if they took those jobs, I think most Nova Scotians would figure: Well, that’s their problem. With barely 1% of its native forests left, and almost no remaining old growth woods, the government of Nova Scotia continues to sanction the idiotic policy of biofuel, which involves cutting down slow-growing hardwood forests, grinding them to chips and burning them for electricity. And when I say “cutting down”, what I really mean is giant machines that look like archetypes of a “Terminator” apocalypse are used to rip everything from the forest, right down to the roots. It’s all ground up and burned, leaving nothing to even revitalize the soil. But in a country which has no required qualifications to serve in office, can one expect any different? The PEI Minister of Environment’s qualification is a real estate license. The Nova Scotia Minister of Environment is an avaricious, sniveling MBA. The Minister of Agriculture is a self-serving pawn of corporate farming. Soon, I think, Nova Scotia’s environment will be wrecked, all the traditional jobs like violin carving and woodworking will be gone, and so will the province’s legendary beauty which once made it a tourist draw. And that’s not to mention that hardwood forests are environmentally diverse and rich biomes that are being destroyed wholesale.

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The Wildwood Way: Coming Soon to Your Bookstore

Wildwood Way“But now there was this little fox, weaving and leaping in a meadow of green-beyond-green, among countless bright hued butterflies on a perfect summer’s day. It wasn’t after food. It wasn’t after shelter. What it did, it did for joy’s own sake—there could be no doubt. And would an automaton with no soul do such a thing? Would an insentient being desire to play? All that activity would burn calories, and among wild creatures which must strive for every morsel of food, energy was hard won and precious. Wild creatures must hide, for there is always some other creature that would prey upon them if opportunity presented. If this little fox were merely an automaton with no real emotional life, no appreciation of beauty, no dreams, no joy . . . then why was it risking no cover and burning energy to play in a meadow of flowers and butterflies?

“And it was there in that moment I began to question all I thought I knew of the natural world, all that priests and science alike had taught me. It was, so many years ago, a transformational moment for me. I was barely more than a child, but it was like in that moment I woke up inside. I had loved the natural world before, but as I realized its creatures were so deep, so profound, so full of life and spirit and joy, it was like Nature took on color and marvel, depth and mystery, and I knew of a sudden that that little fox down there was my brother or sister in all of life’s wonders and perils. And if the fox, then perhaps all the creatures that shared this world were likewise. Even the slow green spirits of trees were my kith and kin, and the realization was so profound it brought laughter to my lips and tears to my eyes. That moment, I think, was the first time I ever touched the deep magic at the heart of the wild in a truly spiritual way. It was a gift of the Great Spirit. And though I did not know it at the time, because of that fox my life would be changed forever.”

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Mother Earth News: Corporate Mega-Farmed Meat Kills Small Towns & Small Farms

More than 40 years old, the single most comprehensive publication on small farming and rural living in the world, Mother Earth News reports this month on how mega-farmed meat kills small farms and small towns. Colwell, take a look at the article at the bottom (the one highlighted). Oh wait, you can’t do that–you’re corporate masters and personal yes-men say you cannot.

men factory farming

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What Nova Scotia Forestry Does When Government Lets It Police Itself

For over a year, I and other woodsmen/homesteaders/organic-permaculture farmers around the province have been telling Nova Scotians that the government is allowing the illegal cutting down of old forests for pulp wood. NS government has ignored this because apparently it’s “good for the economy”, and they have given NS forestry the ability to “police” themselves. I have photographed this ongoing destruction at various sites. You won’t see this from the roads. It’s often tucked away behind a hedge of trees or in folds of hills so it’s not obvious to passersby. This is one old forest that was destroyed, probably to feed the Pictou County pulp mill, over the last year. In the first image, my wife and daughter stand near a great tree for scale. In the second, taken middle summer, you can see the loggers going to work. I figure they’ve cut about 100 acres in this image. In the third section, taken yesterday, they have leveled roughly a square mile (640 acres) of old forest. The cut is so large, I had to zoom way back to squeeze it all in and still couldn’t get all of it in the photo. Why? Either biofuel or for the pulp mill, to make toilet paper or fuel pellets to sell to the “green minded” Europeans, where green really means buying the environmental destruction of other places of the world.

forest kill sequence small

This is “responsible” Nova Scotia forest industry at work. Hundreds of acres of old forest leveled for pulp. Apart from the irreplaceable value of the forest itself, anyone one of those trees represented layers of employment if used wisely, from cutting and air drying these aged woods to carving into fine musical instruments, art and furniture. But the NS forestry’s modus operandi is slash and burn, fast as they can.

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The Colwell/Big-Ag Monopoly Scam

I had to go into town today to pick up our new truck, which was getting a rust prevention treatment. While there, I stopped at the grocer to get some things we cannot grow ourselves, like tea, and some day old bread for the livestock. I noticed the price of groceries. Unbelievable! Prices have skyrocketed over the last year alone. Some meat is triple the cost. Chocolate was 25% to 50% more expensive. Veggies are through the roof. One small chicken, 2 or 3 lbs, was “sale priced” at $18. We notice food prices so rarely because we grow and forage so much of our own food, but how on Earth do most families afford to eat anymore. Daphne and I calculated that, eating leanly and mostly buying on sale products, it must cost a typical Canadian family over $100 per week per family member to maintain a healthy diet. This is sham agriculture, people, and I know for a fact at least some of those prices are due to engineered shortages. And if people like the Nova Scotia Minister of Agriculture, Keith Colwell, have their way, it will become rapidly harder for families to get affordable food from local farms and market gardens. Colwell says it’s all about food safety. He is lying. it’s about lining pockets.

Please click on the link and join "Food Sovereignty for all Nova Scotians".

Please click on the link and join “Food Sovereignty for all Nova Scotians”.

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The Wild Hunt’s Review of “Seasons of the Sacred Earth”

Recently, the Wild Hunt did a thorough review of my last book, Seasons of the Sacred Earth.  It was heartwarming to read it, and I was deeply honored to have my work compared with that of Richard Louv and Henry David Thoreau.  I am sharing it below.  You can visit their photo be clicking any of the photos.  Keep an eye open for my new book, The Wildwood Way, available at bookstores everywhere next summer.

WH Book Review: Seasons of the Sacred Earth by Cliff Seruntine

Lisa Roling —  November 8, 2014

In 2005, Richard Louv introduced an emerging theory that many of our modern children’s ills – obesity, depression, behavioral problems – are caused by their lack of interaction with nature. In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, he brought together research and information from several sources to support the idea that reconnecting with nature was the antidote for many of these struggles.

His work was inspirational and influential in several ways including the founding of the Children and Nature Network, an organization with a vision of creating a world “where every child can play, learn and grow in nature.” This is a stark contrast to the reports of children who spend endless hours inside watching television and playing video games.

Increasing numbers of people, either out of support for the environment, concerns over rising food costs, or the desire to feed their families higher quality foods, are creating urban and suburban gardens and (re)learning how to preserve food, brew beer, make cheese, and raise chickens. Other people, including many who have been inspired by Louv’s work, are doing so for the healing that nature provides. Still others turn to nature in their search for deity and a meaningful spiritual connection to the Earth that we share.

In Cliff Seruntine’s most recent book, Seasons of the Sacred Earth, he argues that in “this artificially rational, industrial era … it is important that folks remember the truth of a deeper reality.”Seasons of the Sacred Earth is a collection of thoughts, stories, and magical experiences that take the reader from the Louisiana bayou to the Alaskan wilderness and, finally, to his family’s Novia Scotia homestead. Seruntine’s storytelling and vivid imagery make the magic of forests, raging storms and even a struggling vegetable garden come alive.

9780738735535Raised in Louisiana, Seruntine recounts the many childhood hours spent in a “vast, rambling, lazy realm of forests and farms,” losing all sense of time on river banks while deepening friendships on forest floors and becoming mesmerized by the natural magic surrounding him. After leaving this magical environment for college and career, he and his wife moved to Alaska where he learned the ethical hunting of caribou, the way to fish for salmon, and the process for harvesting wild mushrooms.

When his chosen career path as a psychotherapist took a toll on his spirit, he and his family moved to Nova Scotia and began setting up a homestead called Twa Corbies Hollow(“Two Raven’s Hollow). There he “found again the truth [he] knew as a child—the natural world is enchanted, powerful, healing, and ultimately vital to our wellbeing.”

Arranged by months, Seruntine’s book takes us through the Wheel of the Year and highlights the lessons that his family has learned by living close and in rhythm with the Earth. The most important lesson, it seems, is to “live in harmony with life’s weave and Nature keeps you.”

Seasons of the Sacred Earth is rich with stories and ideas that many practitioners of earth-centric religions will appreciate. He does not include spells, scripted meditations, or devotional prayers; nor does he include any history and interpretations of various deities across culture and faith traditions. Seruntine set out not to write a homesteading how-to book, but rather to offer a book about this “knowing,” about finding our spiritual journey in Nature rather than in books. He recalls,

… the more I studied the various paths, the more I realized their essential foundation in Nature was slipping from the experience of modern folk. Most modern witches I had met had never picked a wild herb in the woods. Followers of Norse lore were more concerned with casting runes than wandering the wild mountains in search of wisdom, as their god Odhinn had done. The British druids, who come from a path firmly rooted in the green world, had become an almost entirely urbanized and academic lot. I recall a discussion I once read on an online druid mailing list. A new person asked what he should study to become a contemporary druid. Every person on the network referred him to enormous reading lists on Celtic history and culture. Not one thought to advise him to immerse himself in the green world for a spell. How very odd for a path that is considered a Nature religion to entirely neglect the essential need of Nature.

In many popular seasonally-based, Pagan books and you will find crafts, spells, and meditations for each sabot or rite of passage. The writings often seek to inform us of the harvest of Samhain, the bitter cold and promise of Imbolc, the explosion of life at Beltane, and the hard work and toil of Lughnasadh. Seruntine’s stories take us beyond the meditations and workings that many of us perform in our climate-controlled temples with store-bought bread and wine, which are often followed by a feast of food shipped in from all over the globe.

Through his stories, Seruntine offers the reader the experience of enormous hauls of ripe sweet fruit from Grandfather Apple, blinding blizzards, stir-crazy humans and animals, balefires with friends, home-brewed cider, frighteningly violent electrical storms, and a soggy-turned-wildly-abundant vegetable garden. Along the way, Seruntine weaves in conversations and experiences shared with his daughters on magic and spirit folk, communication with other species, and sightings of the barn bruanighe and the Green Man.

Ban Falls, Novia Scotia [Photo Credit: M. Seely, CC lic. via Wikimedia]

Between the talks of magic are seemingly practical, mundane discussions of archery, soil improvement, and goat milking, through which he brings validity to his belief that “[m]agic comes in many ways, and there is enchantment in so many things. All you have to do is really open your eyes. It’s everywhere.” The few family recipes that he does share, such as making cider, cheese, and cough syrup, feel like spiritual processes full of tradition and the wealth of the seasons.He acknowledges that it may be difficult for many people to leave the comforts (and discomforts) of the cities and suburbs in order to set up a self-reliant homestead like Twa Corbies. He writes:

You don’t have to launch off deep into the wilds as we have done, but you do have to go out your door. The trees and grass, the animals and brooks and sea, and earth and sky have much to teach any who look at them. There is magic and wonder beyond your door, and it is happy to enrich you if you walk its way.

As it is for many Pagans, Seruntine’s relationship with deity and with nature is highly personal. This book is an intimate peak into his own experiences and interpretations. There are times when he has profound epiphanies that will easily stir excitement, despair, and understanding. There are also moments that, in his wanderings through the forest and farm, his explanations are so particular to his observations and experiences that readers may find it challenging to follow his logic. But logic is often not the stuff of enlightenment. Seruntine’s overall message is that, if we take care of the land and its spirit folk, they will take care of us in return. There is wisdom is in the dirt, in the trees, in the animals and in the Great Cycle.

The development of deep spiritual relationships with the land is not a new idea. It was over 150 years ago that Henry David Thoreau built himself a tiny house by Walden pond as an experiment, the experience leading to him famously writing, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” His explorations became an inspiration to many who value and advocate for the environment. Seruntine, like Richard Louv, is newer contributor to a continued movement toward a simple life embracing nature for both health, balance and spiritual connectivity.

Seasons of the Sacred Earth is available through book retailers in paperback and electronic formats. Seruntine’s ongoing musings and activities can also be found on Facebook and on his blog.

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