Out of sight hence out of mind

January 2, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

A thought attributed to Hans Christian Anderson, ‘The world is full of miracles with which we are so familiar that we call them ordinary things.’  Looking out the window, one is able to see a few hundred trees.  In an annual report of the Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario is home to about 87 billion of them. Each is a miracle growing a fraction of an inch in diameter every year while sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, producing oxygen, and protecting ground water.  One lives with a few trees which are taken for granted but Ontario’s vast billions are far beyond what people can see.

A reader from Maxwell, in Grey Twp., G Brinkman, forwarded a 1975 issue of “Your Forests “ with an article about Mono Twp. Forest.  One photo included was of desert lands in 1906 by E.J. Zavitz a forestry leader in Queens Park in the nineteenth century when the province had 9 nurseries producing over 35 million seedlings annually for reforesting in the province.  Other photos illustrated 50-year-old plantations. At a meeting in the Ganaraska watershed a few years ago. one old timer commented on the flow in the river as having returned from the former perennial stream through the desert he had known as a youth. A conservation officer when asked what the most significant forest product in the region was replied that he felt it was fish migrating further upstream to spawn.  Those living in cities today are hardly aware of early populations that contributed to the region’s ecology.

The over three hundred thousand acres of county and authority forests of the Oak Ridges Moraine provide a model of wise use land management.  Development of wood harvesting for economic purposes was the principal motivation.  The primary forest product has been economic sustainability of forest ecosystems. This has changed.  China is one example of a county with a policy replacing emphasis from log piles for sawmills to the greater value of standing trees.  Controlling encroachment of the Gobi Desert which limited food production and causing sandstorms which impacted manufacturing capacity is their goal.  

Those living close to the land have shown that factors of wise land use enhance social, ecological and environmental purposes. Aboriginal folk in various parts of the world depend on forest lands to meet their needs while still serving industrial goals.  One U.S. rural community visited managed land granted to them by Congress.  Forest inventories demonstrated that the band had harvested over twice the original volume over many years while still retaining their forest cover.  Arial photos illustrated the reserve as being an ecological model while adjacent areas appeared only marginally productive.

Nature achieves what urban folk seldom see.  Lakes and rivers serve the basic needs of people who rely on water by turning on the tap.  The Forest industry developed a transportation system for moving harvested wood to pulp mills or lumber production.  The flow of rivers was the basis for community development, and it is hardly coincidental that towns and cities across the province are established in association with forest industries at the mouth of rivers.  Cities of the Golden Horseshoe originally depended on hydro electricity from Niagara Falls.  

Beyond economic values contributed by running water is the beauty of the many waterfalls to be seen and enjoyed in many provincial watersheds.  Enjoyment of Ontario’s land base is apparent to society particularly in the fall colour season but even after leaf fall many folks bring the beauty of nature into the living room at this time of year.  Decoration of at least one of nature’s contributions is the traditional habit of adorning it with Christmas ornaments and tinsel.  For some the production of maple syrup or picking apples and other tree fruits provide enjoyable trips to forests in the south.  It is unfortunate for many that these miracles of nature are only associated with shopping in grocery stores.

Quoting a common expression, “The best things in life are free.”  Certainly, this applies if we stop to think about what we breathe so many times per minute throughout our lives.  Nature provides many unrecognized values essential to society but generally not recognized.

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