Nature primeval — let it be, for our sake

Are land, forest, birds, plants, sky and water valuable only if they generate taxes for its community?

Are land, forest, birds, plants, sky and water valuable only if they generate taxes for its community?

Should any part of these be demolished or lessened because they’re not on the tax roles or spending money? Are taxes and the economy everything in the greater scheme of things?

In the early days of North America’s European settlement, trees and forests and animals were endless and uncountable.

They were in the way; they were the enemy, and so they were hacked at, pushed back, and slaughtered to make way for humans. For hundreds of years, few people ever thought about the forests or the animals coming to an end.

It’s true it’s hard to see the forests for the trees when you’re standing on the ground. With the age of air travel, the continent’s growing bald spots became visible. Gradually, some realized forests and their inhabitants were finite. Some of them even began to understand that without our natural heritage we’d be without a lot of other things.

But haughty humans that we are, we too often turn a blind eye to the disappearance of “natural” things in our sphere. Our faith in the human technology that allows us to lead easy, comfortable and sheltered lives tricks us into believing that the loss of a chunk of bush here, some old growth there, a few bugs and weeds, a view of sky or mountains, or the mirror surface of the sea at our doorstep cannot possibly affect our well-being. What hubris!

Do you truly “see” the trees in those woods as you walk or drive by; do you thrill to the mountains etched against the blue vault of sky, feel the mystery, the secrets, the solace they encompass?

What about the homes, food and shelter they provide? (No, not for you, for the creatures who call them home.) Do you think of the life that surges there through all the seasons? Do you give any thought to the wonders that can be found there? Wonders that had evolved, been tested, and found satisfactory ages before we came up with our own “modern miracles”

But would a subdivision or higher buildings not be an improvement? After the land was cleared, the houses built, the owners moved in, how much and for how long would the predicted benefits be felt in our community? In the long run, would all the storefronts be full, would more people be spending more money (locally), would taxes go down, would Qualicum Beach be a better place to live?

What makes Qualicum Beach a “desirable address” right now? So far, it’s a community with some heart left in it. All, so far, has not been sacrificed to pavement, stores, condos and the dollar grab. We still have patches of true forest, relatively clean beaches, clear air, sensibly low-rise buildings and views of the mountains. These are what make Q.B. special — but they’re being chipped away at. That’s how the natural world which we enjoy is being endangered beyond repair.

And why should we work to save these attributes? They should be saved to save our souls. Deep in every human is a need to touch the earth and the earth’s wild things. It’s a need too often denied, to our own detriment. Not everyone living or visiting in Qualicum Beach uses or even appreciates the nature surrounding us, but not everyone comes here for the stores and the buying ethic, either.

There are many who cherish these wonders and benefit just by knowing that they are there. Some cherish them with their eyes, their ears, their touch and their breath. Others pay homage by learning from the life burgeoning around us.

The thing here, is that it’s rather imperative to make the right choice. If we decide that our natural surroundings are not that important, that they come too dear, and we go ahead and cut and build, there’s no changing our minds down the road. Neither we, nor our children nor our grandchildren, ad infinitum, will see that particular slice of nature again – ever.

A certain Gerard Manley Hopkins once entered his plea thus:

“What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and wilderness yet.”


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