The ongoing conversion of large parts of Canada from wilderness expanse to recovering post-industrial wasteland has greatly accelerated in recent years and warrants public discussion.
This website takes its name from a 2013 gathering dedicated to the politics and poetics of wild places. Held amidst the wilds of British Columbia’s Clearwater Valley, Speak to the Wild attracted 60 writers, poets, philosophers, scientists, naturalists, conservationists and others who came together to consider two questions.
The first question concerns the possibility of legal reform around the rights of wilderness: Is it time to move Canada’s constitution towards a formalized land ethic; and if so, what would that look like?
The second question pertains to our personal connection to wild places: How can we strengthen this connection in ourselves and encourage it in others? In particular, what is the role of narrative and the poetic experience in developing a meaningful relationship with wild Canada?
Our deliberations extended over four days against a backdrop of lectures, poetry readings, naturalist-led outings, focus groups and campfire chats. In the end we came to unanimous agreement that Canada’s constitutional checks and balances simply do not safeguard the integrity of Canadian ecosystems – or indeed the long-term well-being of Canadians themselves.
Pointing to the ease with which Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister at the time, had recently overturned or weakened the country’s federal environmental laws, participants felt it well past time that Canadians engaged in a wide-ranging public debate concerning the need to entrench the right to a healthy environment and, indeed, the rights of nature in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many other countries have taken these steps, now it’s Canada’s turn.
We are not alone in these views. In late 2014, the David Suzuki Foundation initiated its Blue Dot campaign, calling upon local communities to pass municipal declarations respecting people’s right to live in a healthy environment. As of October 2016, 143 municipalities representing over 15 million Canadians (43%) have passed resolutions in support of environmental rights. Having achieved critical mass, Blue Dot is now pursuing a federal bill of rights, focused on gaining the support of MPs in key ridings across Canada. You can become involved and learn more about the Blue Dot movement at Bluedot.ca.
In response to our second question – how to strengthen our connection to wild places – we take the view that lasting change must involve a shift in our shared cultural narrative. To this end, participants expressed the wish that Speak to the Wild might in some way contribute to the creation and dissemination of an alternative narrative, one less embedded in Cartesian dualism, Social Darwinism, linear causality and other outmoded concepts that continue to inform many of our social institutions. In the final hours of our gathering we concluded that this objective could be most effectively advanced through the publication of a book of essays dedicated in part to our discussions of the previous four days.
This website is intended as clearing house for both of these initiatives: the rights of nature and our forthcoming book. Here we also periodically post pertinent materials published by our core members – as well as by other like-minded thinkers.
It is our hope that the materials gathered in these webpages may contribute to a gradual reframing of Canadian polity and other institutions in light of the new paradigm of Gaian reciprocity now being gestured to by science; you can read more about these topics in our forthcoming books.