The land is your village. This might mean that forests look a little different. This Douglas-fir grove on the Big Bar Eskers is dying, partly because of the stress of the ingrowth created by a lack of fire. Each of these trees needs to pump about 500 litres of water into the sky each day. If they were gone, grass and flowers could hold much of that and release it slowly to the remaining trees and plants downslope. They would quickly gather it up and hold it in place when it rained or when snow melted. We can expect less of both of those, so any holding is going to be welcome as we go forward.
Sound extreme? Not really. Since 1920, the number of trees in Cariboo forests has increased by between 100 and 1000%. That is a significant alteration in water flow through living systems. Add to that the near-elimination of beavers, who also store water, and the great reduction of aspens (beaver food) by grazing cattle (aspens which greatly slow fire and spring back quickly after it), and the capacity of the land to hold water has been severely damaged. It’s not just glaciers that we have lost or are losing, but the lake system that is the land itself. Instead, we have concentrated on free-flowing water. As a result, the land has dried out and is burning. It is making way for grass, so the slow cycle of building water within the land can begin again.
We can help, easily. Every house that uses water from a watershed will, in the future, have a responsibility to that watershed. Leaving it wild is not an option. Wild watersheds will burn, and the continued escalation of water storage (in liquid form) will only accelerate that process. This is the new climate. It requires new forms of social organization and new understandings of water. In this context, wildness is a privilege, which sustains the very commodified behaviour that destroys it.
Tomorrow: living in place.