‘I have a dream’

September 9, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

One of the most often quoted comments in the media was made by Martin Luther King pertaining to recognition of equality of people regardless of race, religion or colour.

Black folk, descendants from slavery in the southern U.S. were particularly subject to being killed or abused.  King looked forward to a day when all folk would be treated as human beings regardless of origin of birth and existing culture.  He himself was shot and killed for promoting such ideology.

History records many similar events occurring in many parts of the world but predominantly resulting from continuity of slavery thinking.  Today it shows up pertaining to ‘white supremacy’ movements by various organizations often in the form of ‘neo-Nazis’, the ‘Ku-Klux-Klan’ as an outstanding example.  Every effort is being made especially in some southern U.S. states for those in power to down-play electoral influence of minority groups.  The power structure particularly in some  of those states seems to disregard the results of the civil war in changing electoral rules to favour dominance of existing rule. Martin Luther King’s dream still hasn’t been achieved.

A related situation in Ontario pertained to dispute over the abuse of land for ecological benefit and development.  Nineteenth century history outlined the life of E.J. Zavitz (Two billion trees and counting, The legacy of Edmond Zavitz  2011, John Bacher).  Large regions of southern Ontario had reverted to desert conditions due to misuse of land, clearing of forests and converting it for economic purposes. Zavitz dreamt of rehabilitating waste land primarily through establishing new land policies.  Tree planting in Ontario reached a production level of 35 million annually before the provincial government, the political power structure, eliminated the program, closing out the nine nurseries and public responsibility for reforestation.

The prosperity of the Oak Ridges Moraine across the south is a tribute to his efforts.  The key example of success is illustrated by the productivity of watersheds supporting Lake Ontario. Renewed forest ecosystems have changed the region’s ecology supporting the rebuilding of aquifers basic to wetlands, rivers and lakes. From an ecological perspective the agriculture industry has regained its former potential providing for the country’s prosperity.  This has been a valuable lesson in land stewardship, one in danger of being lost with society’s emphasis on short term economic policies.

The tribute to Zavitz also noted two elements with relevance to the wider subject of resource stewardship. While priority emphasized sand deserts the more extensive loss was in the rocky ‘desert’ of the Canadian Shield. A vast area of Ontario was cleared for wood products and further abused by fires which reduced the productivity of the thin soil restricting forest ecosystem re-development. A second important note pertained to the establishment of professional foresters in each district of the province. Over the years the emphasis on a core of people dedicated to promoting the province’s environmental state has been eliminated from public responsibility, leaving it up to the private sector.  Responsibility for maintaining ecological prosperity has largely reverted to private enterprise, currently a relatively low priority.

During the nineteenth century a major provincial public endeavour concentrated on ensuring supply of wood products for economic development. Forest Resources Inventory (FRI), a multi-year project was conducted to guarantee the security of an industrial future supporting the province’s economy.  Today society’s pressure is on controlling global warming, ecological protection of resource ecosystems.  Land rehabilitation has been recognized as basic to improving quality of life.  Recognition that accumulation of greenhouse gases, the dominant factor causing climate change, is resulting in severe drought conditions and massive flooding, basic to destruction of communities and related loss of life.

An effort similar to FRI, an economic / ecological land productivity survey of land, is proposed to determine how to ensure the nation’s prosperity. The surface of the planet can provide for the needs of even eight or nine billion people. Stewardship of the world’s resource base is the essential element required of the human race.  The emphasis must be on ecological support providing adequate supply of the basic elements of life, food and water, the daily needs of every individual. This twenty-century dream includes mankind’s acceptance of responsibility in sharing responsibility with nature to provide benefit for all the world’s creatures.

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