The Enemy of the Good is the Perfect

Road Scholar Tour Group

So, after a weekend spent walking in local parks and natural areas and listening to my heart, as well as to what my friends were saying, I came to the decision to continue to leading tours.

I absolutely love leading educational natural and cultural history tours with people keen to learn about the places we visit. I firmly believe that I’m “called” to do this work. From a very young age, I’ve known that my mission in life is to save and restore wild species and areas. My way of doing this has been and continues to be as a naturalist,interpreter and educator.

Two Polar Bears Playing Winnipeg Zoo

As I acknowledged in my previous post, I’m fully aware of the extra greenhouse gases I’m contributing through my personal consumption of goods and services and that of my guests. I’m equally aware that everything that my wife and I do to live generates waste, of which one are greenhouse gases and in particular, carbon.

For years, we’ve been committed to reducing our carbon footprint. We’ve always been good at refusing to buy things we don’t need, buying used goods where possible, and recycling most everything we dispose. We live in a small suite.

According to BC’s Ministry of Environment, each resident of the province produced about 13 metric tonnes of carbon in 2018. Back in 2015, I used an on-line carbon calculator to determine that our joint footprint. Unfortunately I can’t recall nor can I find a record of it, but I believe our combined footprint was considerably less than this, around 6 – 8 metric tonnes. I could be wrong, so don’t quote me on this.

I started leading tours in 2016 which has increased our carbon footprint. By how much I don’t know yet. I haven’t been keeping track but it is something that I intend to do. I then will be offsetting the emissions through a not–for-profit that invests my money in the developing renewable energy sources and making them financially accessible for the masses.

The enemy of the good is the perfect some wise person once said. So true. I’ll never be perfect when it comes to not emitting any greenhouse gases (even for quite awhile after my death!). However, I’ve reminded myself that I am doing good to reduce them.

Meanwhile, as a tour guide, I have the opportunity to encourage others to do the same.

Talking about Moon Snails with Guests

I think to some degree my ethical struggle over whether to continue guiding tours was influenced by a powerful and devious narrative that dominates our times. This narrative places the responsibility of fighting climate change on the shoulders of individuals, like myself. But the narrative as perpetuated by government and corporations is intended to deflect our attention for their responsibility and the lack of them taking it seriously.

It’s a narrative that we need to aware of and not be taken in by it.

Rick on a trail in Golden Ears Prov. Park
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Feeling Conflicted As A Tour Guide

If you're open to either separate the two presentations by even a day or two or run my presentations in the morning, then there

Why am I feeling conflicted as a tour guide? On one hand, I absolutely love the work. Not every moment, for sure. But over all, well, I pinch myself that I kind of stumbled into it.

Take this year, I’ve committed to lead tours for every month, except August, from mid-May to end of Oct. Each and every trip I very excited to be leading. My calendar looks like this:

  • May: across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax by VIA Rail;
  • June: a tour of Alberta’s Badlands, including Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park/ Áísínai’pi, pictured above; 
  • July: another coach tour, this time in Saskatchewan, taking in both Prince Albert National Park and Batoche National Historic Site;
  • August: My wife and driving back to Manitoba, camping along the way in some of our favourite parks;
  • Sept: this is a busy month as I’ll be leading two trips: one to Haida Gwaii via the Inside Passage and the other to the Western Arctic via Whitehorse, Dawson City and Inuvik; and
  • Oct.: Another busy month with me leading two trips to places and experiences that have been on my bucket list for decades: to the Seal River to witness and photograph the Northern Lights and to Churchill to observe and photograph Polar Bears. In case you’re not familiar with these places, they’re both in Manitoba’s high north.

Note: I’ll provide more details on each of these tours along with links on the calendar page soon.

Group Sunken Gardens Prince Rupert
Rockies by Rail Group photo final evening

Not only do I get to see and experience these fabulous places; but I get to travel in a style I could never afford and with interesting, fun-loving people eager to learn. And I’m paid very well for my services. Bonus!

But I’m also acutely aware of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each of these trips and all the others offered within the travel industry. I suppose it’s the trip to see Polar Bears at Churchill that cause the strongest pangs of guilt.  See them before they’re gone, right?

It’s not too late for me to change my mind and let the tour operator to find someone else. I know this would be terribly disappointing for them, particularly for their representative. She and I have formed a really nice working relationship even though we’ve never met. I’ve led other tours for them in the past, pre-COVID. I also know that this tour will go ahead whether I lead it or not. Another important consideration is whether my replacement would have as strong of an environmental perspective as I do.

And yes, I’ll admit I’d really like to see and experience polar bears in their natural habitat. I’ve only seen them in a large tank at the Winnipeg Zoo a number of years ago.

Sure, watching these two individuals roughhousing it under water over my head  was a thrilling experience. But it has only fueled my desire to see them on the barren lands around Churchill. Where they are free to roam at will.

And so I arrive back on the horns of my dilemma. Should I go or should I stay?

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Yorke Edwards: Pioneer of Heritage Interpretation in Canada

Portrait of Yorke Edwards

In the spring of 2021, the Royal British Columbia Museum published a very important book, titled “The Writings of Yorke Edwards A Pioneer of Heritage Interpretation in Canada” authored by Richard Kool and Robert Cannings. I had been given a copy to review, but I wanted to explore some questions I had after reading it. In particular, I was intrigued to know what motivated Rick and Rob to produce the book and what the relevance of Edwards was to field of heritage interpretation today. After all, nearly all of Yorke’s work in the field was done between 1960 and 1980.

In his introduction to the book, Rick offers an apology for not getting to know Yorke better while working at the museum. I share a similar regret. Back in the late 1990s, more than a decade after his retirement, I reached out to Yorke to interview him for a book I was writing about the threats to Canada’s national parks. I recall sitting in his book-lined study, sipping tea and listening to his views on the subject. His love for the natural world and the need for better protection of it was amply evident.

Not long after a couple of these chats, I dove into writing my book and did not continue to get to know Yorke better despite the fact that he lived a few blocks away. I guess I just didn’t understand and appreciate what he represented.

Rob Cannings has done a wonderful job of pulling together a concise biography of Yorke that helps illuminate the character and accomplishments of this remarkable individual.

To make up for being too focused on my book project and for not getting to know Yorke better, I felt the need to make some kind of amends. My way of doing this is to help promote the book by Rick and Rob by producing the following video from an interview with Rick shortly after the book’s launch.

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