Becoming History in the Okanagan

When the rail line along Kalamalka Lake was decommissioned, communities along the trail came together to purchase the land and turn it into a four-season lake-side trail. Preparation work included ripping out the tracks and ties, the laying of a twelve-foot-wide gravel pedestrian and bicycle highway, and the scouring of all living things within two metres of the path. Even so, it is advertised as a Nature experience. See:

Everything has fine print. Here’s the fine print:

“Closer to nature than you ever thought possible!” Really? Because they killed this poison ivy, a vital indigenous species surviving here while pretty much eradicated everywhere else.

Without poison ivy, there is no Okanagan Valley. They tore out this clump too:

With the poison ivy gone, there is no reason to go to the trail, and the Okanagan is sterile. It’s like eradicating grizzly bears. Oh, wait, they did that, too. I have been in mourning at this senseless loss of more than human power. Good news, though! I found some last week in the Similkameen.

No child ever messed with poison ivy. Its danger is revered by them as a sacred thing.

Given the circumstances, it’s best not to say where, but let it suffice to say that in the Similkameen it does love cottonwoods. Oh, right, most of those have been cut down, too. The philosopher Martin Heidegger pointed out in 1927 that the quality that makes humans “human” is an awareness of self in the presence of a physical obstacle. It’s a bodily response that builds identity in the mind.

The answer is obvious.

Apparently, the replacement for nature is a road. One gets to experience it as if one were, oneself, a car, and we even, as you can read above, get to learn that history is in the past. No, we are history.

3 replies »

  1. I grew up in a poison-ivy-infested area along Lake Michigan adjacent to my aunts’ cottage. We had no plumbing in those days and no one had even heard of herbicides. So we emptied the strong, ammonia-saturate(?) urine from the chamber pots (“save it; don’t use the outhouse”) and tried to control it that way.

    I remember one foolish neighbour put on gloves and scythed and raked up the poison ivy, and then! burned it and inhaled some smoke. Not smart, almost fatal.

    Meanwhile, we knew that if one wanted to find pheasants, look for poison ivy and keep your hands off the stuff and tuck your pants into your boots.


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