Over the years I have had the privilege of introducing numerous people from all over the world to the Algonquin bush. Many of these individuals have marveled the abundance of large and beautiful trees.
The depth of my love for trees was emphasized while spending numerous years working in Nunavut (Canadian Arctic). Nunavut is a beautiful place that I believe has been mis- labeled as ‘barren’ and ‘drab’. Yes, there is a limited amount of vegetation but the flowers that they have are vibrant and the tiny plants that grow on and around the rocks and moss are fascinating and I could easily spend hours not only studying them but tasting them. Many people noticed my enthusiasm for the north and asked if I would eventually make my home there. I would easily reply ‘no’. Although I had a lot of fun every time I visited Nunavut, I always felt slightly homesick. I missed home for a variety of reasons, and one of those was the lack of trees. I missed the comfort of being in a thick timber stand surrounded by trees. I missed the rustling of poplar and willow leaves, the vibrant fall colours of maples and red oaks, the smell of balsam and spruce trees- crackling campfires and maple syrup!
Many people travel internationally to see the trees in the Algonquin area. For many Asians and Europeans this is because their trees have all been cut down to make room for cities, highways and agricultural land. As a rural Canadian I cannot imagine living a life without regularly seeing trees or having the privilege to sit beside one. Even if you live in Toronto you can see trees or at least drive just outside of the inner city and walk through a park or conservation area.
Many international travelers have told me that they have never been in the bush. They are excited to experience all that trees have to offer- syrup, fires, canoes, dog sleds etc. Now this is when it gets tricky- as a host who strives to share all I can about the Algonquin area it is sometimes hard to step up and limit our international guest’s activities. But often in their excitement guests become overeager and want to experience chopping down trees, splitting wood and creating the biggest fire possible (okay I know a few Canadians that love to do this too!). I believe that as Canadians we need to be stewards of our forests- globally, forests are a limited, dwindling resource. We have a responsibility to talk to our guests about the reasons why their countries may not have any forests left and how we need to treat our forests kindly- so that we can continue to enjoy all that they have to offer. Beyond that, we need to strive to conserve what we have left by practicing/ encouraging sustainable forestry practices and controlling our personal consumption of tree fibers.
We are privileged to have our forests- lets make sure we can continue to enjoy this privilege.