Environment 2000: Blog One

Name: Gursharan Gill

Student Number: 7793799


Part One: Read

Truth and Reconciliation in Canada is indisputably linked with our ability as a nation to achieve Sustainable Development Goals1 outlined by the UN.

TRC as a movement is founded on the principle of amending the past wrongs and creating a future with unity, where both sides are treated with respect and humility.2

This directly tackles the fundamental purpose that UN’s SDGs are trying to accomplish: to eradicate inequality, poverty, provide peace and justice. It also hopes to step up the protection of our environment. These complex issues are interwoven in a complex web, which makes it hard to focus on only one of them while ignoring the rest.

 Screenshot-2017-10-4 SDGs Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
UN’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals that it hopes to accomplish with the next 15 years. sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Let’s take inequality for example, whether it be gender inequality or poverty. If we solely focus on educating our youth about the issues that some groups, like the Aboriginals, face today in our society, it would surely foster understanding. However, if we fail to implement a strong institution focused on upholding the justice and values of our society then nothing would change, and even if it did, there would be nothing to maintain it.

If Canada is to move forward with UN’s SDGs, then it is necessary to acknowledge the path that TRC has already undertaken. Not only achieving TRC’s goals reduces the inequalities amongst the Aboriginals and rest of the Canadians, it would also allow the federal government to work with the indigenous communities to establish a beneficial cooperation on various matters.

It would allow the Canadian government to be more proactive in their attempt to eradicate poverty, bring clear drinkable water to communities that are desperate for it and to allow a chance for Canada as a whole to make amends with its past and grant Indigenous people the rights that they deserve.

A brief video by The Canadian Encyclopedia explaining Residential Schools that were used by the government to assimilate the Aboriginal youths into the society of “White Canadians.” The last of these Schools were not closed until 1996.

The list of benefits could go on and on, but ultimately actions speak louder than words. At the very least, as citizens, we have the right to elect the government that would acknowledge TRC and aggressively pursue UN’s SDGs.

Part Two: Watch


In our hectic society today, we rarely stop to think about how nature is all connected. In their Ted Talks, Suzanne Simard and Munir Virani, they present a different view of the same nature that we usually view as mundane.

In her talk3, Suzanne mentions how the forests are not just individual trees grouped near each other. She explains that these trees are all connected by a network of mycorrhiza and these trees even recognize their kin. In my biology courses, I was forced to cramp all the information about plants and mycorrhiza, but to the very end I only viewed that information as part of studying material for my exam, and it was all quickly forgotten.

However, after listening to Suzanne’s talk on how interconnected these organisms are, it has completely changed my perception of nature from something that needs to be preserved for the better of this planet, to something that seems a bit more personal.

I only viewed nature in an objective sense; It needs to be protected, or Earth’s environment would degrade, and humans would suffer major consequences.


 A simple web demonstrating how mycorrhiza connects the forest. Image from “How trees talk to each other,” by Suzanna Simard

But, now that I think back to how the trees in nature can recognize their kin and pass on their wisdom and nutrients, like a parent, and the mycorrhiza that acts like a pseudo-internet to make it all happen, it evokes a sense of empathy. It makes it easier to relate and care for the well-being of forest and nature in general. In a way, it almost humanizes them.

Similarly, before watching Munir’s Ted Talk4, I never thought about vultures when I thought about “nature,” but he perfectly demonstrates how widespread and fragile these connections really are. Due to his effort, it raised awareness to some of the lesser known cornerstones of nature. Honestly, vultures did look quite hideous to me before, but like Charles Darwin, Munir has also managed to change my mind.



I feel that protecting wildlife habitats are the most important aspects of protecting the nature and biodiversity. Biodiversity in nature is only possible due to the habitats that support them.

Not everyone will realize that biodiversity is a cornerstone of Earth’s environmental integrity. We depend on it more than one would think. More diversity amongst plant species leads to a wider variety of crops5 and this lets them recover from a variety of disturbances, like diseases, which would have otherwise decimated the entirety of the crop species.

Why biodiversity is so important, by Kim Preshoff6

Entire regions can turn into desert through the process of desertification and cause immense damage directly to the ecology and the people living in that area.

There are many ways to protect wildlife habitats and perhaps the simplest is just to stop buying products that encourage damaging the ecosystems. A good example of this is the Palm Oil industry. Palm Oil has become the most widely used vegetable oil7 and that has made it into one of the biggest drivers of habitat loss through deforestation.8

If the consumers try to avoid products containing Palm Oil and switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives, it would help send a signal to the profit-driven corporations. They would be forced to take actions that would promote safer practices and help protect the biodiversity of that region.


Part Three: Action



Image by Nature North

A little while ago, I spent some time in the Narcisse Snake Dens as part of the autumn viewing season of the garter snakes.



While I was at the Narcisse Snake dens, I got to experience something that is so far removed from my usual city life. I’m deathly afraid of snakes and to say the least, very happy that I’ve never encountered one in the city. However, at the snake dens, there were hundreds of snakes either basking in the sun or crawling around. There was no barrier between them and me.

Initially, I was very acting skittish as my fear of anything that crawls, was dominating my brain. The hubbub from the crowd and the occasional rustling had put me at the edge, and I was only thinking of trying to make an excuse to get out of there. However, as I watched my relatives touch the snakes and take pictures with them, it started to dull my sense of unease long enough to take a less than stellar picture of a tiny garter snake.


In my time spent at the snake dens, I came to realize that these garter snakes are just a part of the whole. There was no need for me to be afraid of them. They went about their business, and I went about mine. In the end, this small time in nature allowed me to move past my old rigid thinking and come to terms with what’s around me.


Part 4: In-class Blog Questions

Human Environment Connections


Exploring and understanding the environment around us goes a long way in establishing a connection with nature. If you go on a hiking trip, you get to leave behind the busy cities and just explore the beauty of nature and relax your mind.

This helps humans appreciate nature and at the same time connect to it.



On the other hand, when we return to the city, we are sucked right back into our busy lives. Spending more than half your day at school or work, surrounded by glowing screens of computers and phones and just generally not have any free time for yourself. This creates a big disconnect from the nature that we just can’t avoid.



The growing disconnect between nature and humans can cause us to become apathetic. If nothing binds us to nature, then we will not be able to put any value to its existence. In case of widespread destruction of nature, no one would care. They would just carry on with their daily lives without a single thought. Similar to how we read news about some people dying on the other side of the planet, humans just don’t care since a connection never existed.




While writing this blog, this question was constantly on my mind, and after tons of thinking, I think that my environmental ethics lie in the Ecocentric zone. There are sometimes when a species needs to be weeded out to maintain the overall health of the system. Take invasive species for example. They tend to aggressively expand and out-compete the local organisms because the ecosystem lacks an effective controlling mechanism for this exotic species.

An intriguing, yet alarming video on Zebra Mussels by North American Fishing

Species like Zebra Mussels are a prime example of an invasive species that are causing serious issues in hundreds of lakes in Canada and US. They cause structural damage, deplete the food source of the native species and put a strain on the ecosystem which could lead to massive biodiversity loses9.


Wild Spaces


National parks protect some of the most wondrous landscapes in Canada. However, they face a regular challenge of maintaining a balance between the integrity of the ecosystem and the tourism or human activity that tends to impact the wildlife in those parks.

Maintaining the dual mandate of access and protection is important as these parks have a vital function in maintaining the biodiversity, ecosystems and provide a natural heritage site for current and future generations10. The balancing act can be tricky; however, it is not unmanageable as raising awareness amongst the population goes a long way to ensure that a certain amount of respect is maintained while visiting these parks.


Another method could be to integrate advanced technology that can blend into the environment and cause very little disruption, while at the same time preserving the ecology.

If all else fails, national parks can also tighten the restrictions. They could implement a system where visitors can only visit certain areas with high amounts of supervision and breaking this rule would get you kicked out, or at worse, gain you a temporary ban. But, this would risk turning the parks into glorified zoos.



The previously mentioned methods could also be applied at Wapusk National Park to maintain the dual mandate. Wapusk National Park is unique because of its polar bears, so the challenges are different, but the basic principle still applies.



All images used in this blog are royalty free images taken from pexels.com

  1. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/
  2. http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf
  3. https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other
  4. https://www.ted.com/talks/munir_virani_why_i_love_vultures#t-46531
  5. http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-cares#WhyisBiodiversityImportant
  6. https://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-is-biodiversity-so-important-kim-preshoff
  7. http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/stop-deforestation/drivers-of-deforestation-2016-palm-oil
  8. http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/stop-deforestation/drivers-of-deforestation-2016-palm-oil
  9. https://www.lakewinnipegfoundation.org/zebra-mussels-101
  10. http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201311_07_e_38677.html#hd5a



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