Healing Climate Change in the Grasslands of the Okanagan

In the last couple of posts, I talked about the industrial, environmental and social costs of growing fruit in the Okanagan Valley. You can have a peek in this post: The True Costs of Farming in the Okanagan. I then added the racial background to the story  in Race and Orcharding in British Columbia and Washington. Now, we’re in the third post in this four-part series. Here, I present some foundational possibilities for positive action against climate change and the healing and renewal that can come from changing interactions with the land. If health is desired (and I sure want it)…

Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) Okanagan Falls

A prolific fruiting crop that grows profusely with no cultivation, pruning, spraying, real estate speculation or irrigation. It’s not the only one that is suited to this harsh climate. Read more in my post Ten New Commercial Fruit Crops for the Okanagan.

…we can do a few things:

Take down the orchard fences. Let deer pass through. It can be in a controlled way, using wildlife corridors. We have corridors for water, after all. And cars. We know how to do this. The benefits would be an end to extreme erosion on grassland hillsides (as I note in my post How Fences Change the Climate), increased wildlife health, and a decrease in shrub density along waterways. You can have a further peek in my posts The Real Work is to Take Down the Fences and Wild Orchards and Fenced Orchards. Besides, the presence of deer would bring joy. The glee of that alone is worth this effort. As for effort, it has rewards. See below:

Define joy as health, not as recreation. Recreation is vital, as its name suggests: re-creation. People are renewed there. Much of that renewal is through joy. It can be the endorphins of extreme exercise, but also the whoo-hoo! of abundant life itself, as noted in Joy in the Week of Bees and Wind, The Pure Joy of Grassland Thistles, The Joy of Asparagus. There is also joy in the non-human people you meet along the way, bridging hundreds of millions of years of evolution in an instant as you go out gathering in a non-fenced world. You can read about that in A Joyful Day for the Spirit of the Land. The health that comes from making such bonds is profound. The food you make from this experience has meaning. It passes to others with a story. It is not a product. It is a relationship, extended to others. Think about the change that represents over buying a jar of jam in a grocery store, where food is not medicine. It’s just food. Sometimes the longest journeys are not very long at all.

Become the voice of the land. That’s healthy. The two interventions above are a call you make to the land. It will answer by changing you. For more detail on that, here’s a nine-part series that walks through this transformation: Getting Our Land Back 9: An introduction to the Cascadian Class System.  Just follow the links at the end, walking backwards. To add to that discussion, here’s a simple post that shows the land talking in its own language: The Voice of a Great Cascadian River. As you learn to hear this language, you will find that speaking for the Earth is also speaking for yourself. As you deepen your listening, you will deepen what you can hear. Your interactions with the land will deepen. That’s healthy.

This is a Bear and Its Mama

Read about this deepening in Bear Going Nowhere.

Soon we come to the point of this post.

Change the Climate to Resist Climate Change. The interventions above, taking down fences and gathering on the land, change climate. It reduces the heat of the land for the deer and it cuts away the desertification their entrapment creates. At the same time, it reduces human beliefs that the land is a desert. It becomes rich with potential instead, and not foreign, and not to be fought against. Some of these understandings are laid out in a problem-solving way in my post More Climate Change Lessons from the Okanagan.

Climate change is no time for panic. There are things we can do.

If you turn your leaves red, you can gain four weeks of growing weather. Four weeks!

You literally make the world warmer, when it matters. Read more here: How to Deal with Climate Change

This is not complicated. It’s not something you think. For example:

Plant for the deer, not against them. There are many claims that deer should remain wild — that is, on wild land. Keeping them away from humans, the thought goes, is vital. To be blunt, though, that’s insulting. For one thing, to the Indigenous people of the Plateau, deer are people. Saying they are not is racist and denies Indigenous knowledge. Besides, unlike settler humans, they don’t warm the Earth.

Curious? Check it out: Getting Intimate with Global Cooling

Hey, but not just deer, what about bears? They’re people, too. I explore the idea in my post Apple Hunting with Bears. I think you see the point: to arrive at an Earth that is not about humans, start with one that includes everyone. Racism doesn’t just apply between humans. Races of people, humans, deer, bears, porcupines and sandhill cranes, for instance, don’t need to be separated. Separation comes at a cost, so…

Accept Change. Weave it into the land. It will disappear. Everyone can benefit, even robins, as I note in my post Columbia Hawthorn: Secret Weapon Against Climate Change. And robins, may I point out, bring joy. Well, the robin that nested in my apricot tree for a few years sure did. You can see her, captured in my post Slow Food: Robin Waiting for Dinner. Her mate, who dive-bombed me (fearfully) when I tried to pick the apricots on the branch above her, wouldn’t stay still for an image. The principle here is gathering (as I noted above). It is one way in which the Earth teaches us. Such slow food brings life meaning, as I note in my posts about an apple pie created over years (and eagerly awaited): The Best Apple Pie in the World: a very slow recipe and The Secret of Apple Pie. It’s not far from there to a new food culture, which will provide economic foundations for moving away from the environmental and social costs of industrial water. This stuff is not complicated. For another thing:

Who Should Shoo?

Currently, deer filter down through the only open land, the houses and domestic yards that fill the bottomlands they need to raise their fauns and to feed in the hot season. They damage domestic landscaping and can be threatening when protecting their young. These negatives can, however, be controlled. This is not where deer want to be. It’s all we have left for them. Rather than attempting to keep them away from people, we can direct them with judicious planting and fencing. This might include planting of roses and hawthorns, productive plants in and of themselves, as I point out: Or it might: See below.

Restore small wetlands. We live in a grassland, but these ecosystems are not mere stretches of grass. They include many small lakes and ponds and wetlands. Most in the valley bottom have been filled in (the cities of Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon are examples), but some remain. Some $18,000,000 was recently spent on a walking and cycling trail between Coldstream and Kelowna, for human recreation. This corridor can be linked to the remaining wetlands, for example, and provide safe passage for deer as well. We could do this. Beyond that, many ponds, such as this above my house in Priest Valley …

… are dry. Their habitat, excellent for deer, has been compromised by human activity. It could be restored, to enable the deer to stay away from people. And not just deer, but coyotes and bears as well, as I noted in my post Walking with Bears. Currently, the poor quality of this bear habitat is pushing them down towards town, where they get into trouble, as I note in my post Big Yellow Bear in the Sagebrush. Riparian zones, such as the one that bear (and I) were following, are the kind of corridors that link the peaks and troughs of the valley. Look how they do it:

Got that? The bears, birds and porcupines that feed on choke cherries and roses, plant them in their shit, and they grow thicker yet, for all. This is a foundational Indigenous principle on this land. You can learn it from the land. Just be there. I walk through these thickets for you in How Ecology Got Messed Up.

Well, that was simple enough, right? Tomorrow, we can walk down these riparian corridors and see what lies in the orchards below them. It’s pretty heartening. So while you wait, just remember: we can do this together. We can.

4 replies »

  1. Thank you Harold. You posts offer intelligent empathetic insights, and suggest better ways of co-exisiting that give me hope. You are a true teacher. Best Regards, Ruth


  2. Thank you, Harold, for this post. I will be spending quite a while honing my understanding by clicking on the many, many links. This is one of the most optimistic, realistic spiritual encouragements I have encountered. cg


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