In 2018, I went to a Conference, which I won’t name, pertaining to environmental issues. I had a great time, but there was something that stuck out to me from that experience. I remember sitting in the room and hearing someone say something along the lines of “the youth don’t care, all they care about is playing video games”. Yes, this happened, and yes, it angered me. I remember wanting to raise my hand and say “Hello! I am a youth! I am here and I care!”. This is a stigma that many people still unfortunately believe. There is a stigma that youth simply don’t care, that we’re too invested in our phones to actually care about something else. Youth have shown time and time again that we truly do care. We’re anxious, we’re angry, and we’re willing to dedicate our time to restoring our planet for our future and future generations. You don’t have to look far for an example of this, at 16 years old, Greta Thunberg started an international movement addressing the climate crisis that is still being protested around the world to this day.
There’s another misconception that I have unfortunately faced as youth, people think that because we’re young we don’t know anything. However, when you look at the age range of youth, it mainly falls between 18-35 (depending on the organizations guidelines). This means that we have experience, either academically, or from our time going out and exploring what the world has to offer. We have valuable knowledge and experiences that offer a different perspective on how to save our planet from more irreversible damage. We have urgency to do so. Sometimes I think of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen, such as the sunset on the Georgian Bay, or the vast amount of stars over me in the Chilean Atacama Desert. I also like to think of the areas I have yet to visit, such as the wildlife and sights in parts of Africa, or the oceans bustling with an abundance of species in Australia. I think to myself how sad it would be that we got to the point where my generation and future generations are deprived of seeing these natural beauties again.
Finally, I think that it there is so much talk about “the youth” from different parties, but these voices almost never come from actual youth. In certain recent events in Canada, which I once again will not name, the word “youth” came up approximately 50 times. The people speaking about the youth were saying “well, the youth think…” or “for the youth”, but in this event, there was no actual youth voice. I appreciate any time that there is someone who wants to advocate for the youth, but I believe that it’s important to allow us to have our own voices heard rather than relayed. In these critical moments when there are conversations that are important to the youth, it is beneficial to have an actual youth voice at the table.
On this International Youth Day, I believe that it is more important than ever to remember that the time for youth is now. Speak with youth, listen to youth, and include the youth.
Organizational Development Coordinator, Canadian Youth Biodiversity Network
It was November 2018, and I was headed to Egypt for the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This would be my first time to Egypt, but not my first time overseas, or in the region. I was headed there for three weeks, followed by another week in Vancouver, B.C., where I had to attend class for my MBA degree. It was insane, and some people thought I was crazy for doing so much in such a short span of time. I regret nothing.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Joseph Tootoosis. I was born and raised in Saskatoon, SK, and am a citizen of Canoe Lake Cree First Nation in north-western Saskatchewan. My academic background is in political science from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Masters of Business Administration in Indigenous Business and Leadership from Simon Fraser University. My professional background is based in First Nations lands, resources, and environmental stewardship. This is what led me to the UN Convention on Biodiversity, and where I met other founding youth members of what is now the Canadian Youth Biodiversity Network, as well as other youth from chapters across the world. My first experience was in July 2018 in Montreal, QC, and later in November 2018 in Egypt.
To preface this experience and what I was walking into was a somewhat dangerous country for westerners; on the Canadian delegation we had received a presentation and instructions from the embassy on things to avoid and the potential risks. It was not my first rodeo but safety would come first; a few years prior I had travelled to Israel and Palestine in one of the most dangerous places in the world, but I admit I felt safer than in many places in my own country and my own hometown. This past experience gave me the confidence that with the right amount of research and caution, I could give myself the best chance to experience a different culture, have what I figured was most likely a once in a lifetime experience, and of course to be able to have fun.
The place we were headed to was Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. This was a tourist destination in the country on the Sinai Peninsula next to the Red Sea. One of the things I had found out about this place was that in 2004 there had been an air plane taking off for Russia that had exploded because of a terrorist attack. This somewhat gave me the chills, but I was assured it would be safe and that we would be well protected by the Egyptian government and their military, which was the case----they kept us very safe.
My passion for environmental conservation came from a young age. I still remember learning in grade 6 (11 years old) what composting was, and that it can be used to reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills, and help reduce greenhouse gasses. Composting food scraps rather than throwing them in the trash was something I misheard or misunderstood. After school I got home and I took all of the garbage and spread it across the front and back yard so we could have a better lawn and reduce waste. My father came home and was absolutely irate that trash was all over the yard. He came through the front door as I was watching TV and said “Who the heck threw our trash all over the yard!” After finding out it was me, (I admitted to it) he told me to get out there and pick it all up.
Throughout my academic and professional careers, I have always sought to protect the environment, and to find ways to help protect the rights of Indigenous lands and the traditional uses of bio-resources (this is in article 10(c) within the convention which is considered international law). What I learned through this experience is that Indigenous Peoples across the globe have better track records of conservation practices and environmental protection than governments do. This should not come as a surprise now to people, but many would be shocked to learn that many government practices are not only harmful to the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, but throughout history have produced human rights violations contributing to cultural genocide here in Canada, and that even now have been counterproductive to the intent of protecting lands, waters, plants, and animals.
When I had the chance to meet other likeminded people from around the world, I had not been privy to the amount of danger that many people face to protect their lands and wildlife, some to the point of dying from assassinations----I had to do my part, and without having to fear for my life at home, 3 weeks should be easy. Upon learning this a few months before Egypt, I then had little fear of the trip because of what others are doing around the world. I also remembered riding in the car with my late father who was a lawyer, when the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was finalized----and he cried; he told me that this would be one of the ways we would be able to right historic wrongs, and get our rights back. UNDRIP also has several articles that are overlapping with the CBD and its objectives. I was also very heartened to hear from the other people in the Indigenous Caucus at the CBD that they had worked on UNDRIP in the drafting stages, and they encouraged me to help carry that on for our generation, and help others to do the same.
The Way There/First Week
On the way to Egypt I was travelling from Ottawa, Ontario, where I lived and worked at the time. Our first stop was London, England, in the United Kingdom. My Director who I was travelling with had been there before, and we had an overnight flight so we were able to walk around the city for a few hours and see some cool spots. It was an experience riding the London tube, seeing Big Ben, The London Eye, the River Thames, the British Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, and stopping at a legit British pub for a pint before going back to Heathrow Airport. Our next stop was in Istanbul, an airport that I had been through 2 years prior. Due to travel arrangements I continued on alone to Egypt and arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh at about 3 am in the morning. I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get to my hotel. I happened to be in a shuttle with about 9 other people, all from different countries and staying at different hotels. We also had a driver who spoke only Arabic, but we all helped him to navigate with our GPS. I finally checked in around 5:30 am, but could not fall asleep until about 8 am.
The next day was a prep day where I was able to catch up on sleep, check emails, meet my colleagues on the Canadian delegation, and then wander the resort for a bit. Later that evening a few of us went to dinner together at a lovely restaurant close to water, where the owner was jokingly but not jokingly asking me to come back and meet his daughters to marry one of them (I was one of the youngest guys on the team at this time at 28 years old). I jokingly said I would, but of course I was far too busy working to be looking for a wife; it was still pretty funny though and made everybody laugh----I don’t mind getting picked on a little bit. Anyways, the culture, or at least the food was similar to what I had experienced before in Israel and Palestine, which was unreal, but with several differences that were both unique and very cool; I was also told that Sharm El-Sheikh is very, very different from the rest of Egypt, and that it was one of the few places alcohol was served for tourism. Every place that I had went, there were friendly people who had been more than welcoming in the restaurants, shops, and on the streets.
Prior to the opening ceremonies of the conference we were all told that the Egyptian president would not be present for the opening ceremonies, which was something usually attended and addressed by the leader of the host country. The reason why I was told this was that this president had so many people who wanted to get to him. Whist wondering whether to go or not, we were told last minute that he would be there. I was going. While getting into the conference, it was the most security I have ever seen in my life. I had to go through 3 levels of security and wait in a huge line. It took me about 40 minutes to get into the conference. That was when I realized how serious the existing conflict must have been in the country. I also had wondered why there were so many walls around the outside of the town with turrets at certain points, and was told that those were for safety (gunners/sharpshooters) if needed. It was pretty sobering, and safety and security should always be a concern for those of you who have the opportunity to attend these meetings----yet do not be discouraged.
Field Trip to the Red Sea
One of the highlights of the trip was a field trip to a national park called Ras Mohammed. It was a protected area on the coast of the Red Sea. The trip was to include about 5-6 charter busses from the convention to the area which was about 40 minutes away, and to spend the day in the company and hospitality of a local Bedouin tribe. The food was absolutely unreal, and so was the coffee and tea. The hospitality was second to none, and so were the views.
This was the thing I absolutely did not want to miss. I missed the bus.
I forgot my security badge in my hotel room and had to go back for it. My boss got on the bus and messaged me that they had left. My heart absolutely sank. In our instructions we were told not to take taxi cabs in case of possible abduction. At first hesitating, I hailed a taxi. I saw others take taxis so I thought I would be safe. I asked the driver if he knew where I was supposed to go, and after confirmation I hopped in and noticed we were going in the opposite direction driving towards the mountains. I was like “Oh my God this is it. This is how it ends.” But, I also want to say that my fear was unnecessary, and this driver turned out to be a beautiful soul and went out of his way to help me.
I then shortly realized he was just taking a loop to get onto the highway and we were up and away. I was so relieved but then also realized that I was not going to have cell service so I wouldn’t be able to contact anyone to find out where they were. I said out loud “Ah man I am not going to have any wifi!” The driver turned around and said “You need wifi? Here you go.”
He handed me a portable wifi device and I was again relieved and he kind of laughed at how stressed out I was. I showed up to the park and we soon found all of the busses, but another barrier presented itself. Soldiers in tactical gear and vehicles had set up an escort and perimeter for the group, and I couldn’t get past them, even after showing them my UN security badge.
I walked back to the taxi and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I paid my taxi driver $100 in US dollars, which was about $1400 Egyptian pounds at the time, and I told him I would just stick around and wait until someone came to help me. My new friend Eva who was helping facilitate the tour was there and saw me. Still my guy turned into my translator to the soldiers and they let me pass; the driver then struck a conversation with one of the soldiers and they lit up their cigarettes. At this time I didn’t even smoke, but I had just gone through this ordeal, and I thought why not? (I do not encourage smoking by the way). Some of the people in the group who I knew were like “Oh my God you’re crazy!” I was just like “Hey, you just gotta do what you gotta do.” My boss also thought I was a bit nuts but I think he respected the effort.
In the rush I was in I didn’t bring as many things as I should have, but still I walked in the Red Sea; it was the clearest water I have ever seen in my life and it was so peaceful to chill by the water and chat with other like-minded people from around the world. It was a very beautiful experience. We stayed until sunset, and what capped it off was watching the sun set over the water and the bay just as a full moon was coming up over the mountains of the Sinai Peninsula. I honestly didn’t even want to take a picture, because all I wanted to do was be in the moment and remember everything about it----The view, the wind, the smell of the sea, and how I felt at that moment. This was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had and it was totally worth bending the rules a little bit to get there.
Nature and Culture Summit
The serenity was short lived however. I had to get a good sleep for the next day, because I was presenting alongside my director on Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas to everyone who attended the Nature and Culture Summit. It was nerve-racking but a very cool experience. Up until this time I had done a lot of public speaking. We gave a great presentation and I felt like a rock star (exaggeration) for a little bit before then heading back to the resort and chill by the pool (not an exaggeration).
My mother says that I am like Forrest Gump, and for good reason. Early in this stay (about 3 weeks), I had woken up one day and had SO many bites on my arms and legs. I got super nervous and thought that it was due to bed bugs and I panicked. I still threw on my suit and went to the meetings, but I had showed my boss the bites and he cringed. I had asked him if I should go to the hotel and notify them, so he excused me for the evening.
I had quietly asked for the manager and showed him the bites discretely so as not to start a panic at the resort. They had told me that they were mosquito bites and that there was no problem. I took their word for it because the mosquitos over there are quite different than ones here in Canada. The ones here buzz pretty loud, but the ones there were like little silent kamikaze mosquitos that you didn’t feel on your skin until later on when the bites started to itch. I was just about to turn out the lights and go to sleep, but the manager had ordered his guys to upgrade me to the nicest room in the resort that was beside the pool. My room was bigger than the Canadian headquarters room that we were using every day, and bigger than my last apartment. They also took all of my luggage and clothes to have them washed and dry cleaned---these guys took their jobs serious and didn’t even let me raise a finger. I had nothing on except for my shorts and a T-shirt and they drove me in a golf cart to my new room. The next day I had thanked the manager and told him it wasn’t necessary, but I was very thankful and absolutely appreciated it. For a couple weeks I got to live like the Pharaoh (exaggeration)---but this room had a huge TV on a swivel, a very nice living room, fridge that was constantly stocked with drinks, a King sized bed, a huge bathroom that was about 4-5 times the size of a normal hotel bathroom, a huge closet and wardrobe, laundry service, and my front door took me right beside the pool which was also huge, and next to the walkway that led to a little island bar in the middle of the pool. I now had the best room, and some of my friends there thought it pretty hilarious because I was one of the most junior people there.
When I told people where I was going and what for, I know a lot of them thought it would be like a vacation to go to Egypt. The reality is the days were so long. I was usually working every day from when I woke up until I went to sleep. At certain points there are negotiations on important pieces that you are assigned to monitor, which can go early into the morning hours. The longest session I was in lasted for 11 hours straight, and this didn’t count the work I already did earlier in the day. What made up for those were some of the evenings and days off that we got to explore. I met a lot of new friends, and this was where I also met Kelsey, another founding member of CYBN, and member of the Canadian delegation.
Being a part of this experience led to new friendships and an expanded network. Being a part of the Canadian delegation was the most fun experience I have had while working. In fact, it was actually so fun for me that I forgot I was working myself like a madman to do a good job. It also led me to the friends I made who had helped to create CYBN, and also be a part of other similar initiatives here at home in Canada. I began to really admire the people and the work that was put into what we did at COP-14, and the openness and inclusion for Indigenous Issues, which is why I was there.
Besides the around the clock work, my typical day included waking up, meeting for breakfast, a Canadian delegation morning meeting/update, meeting with the Indigenous Caucus, attending the meetings I was assigned to throughout the day, and provide analysis, advice, and monitoring of my assignments. Evenings usually consisted of meeting for dinner with colleagues and friends at different spots, getting out for an adventure if your work for the day is done, and lots of nights ended with playing Uno cards with some of the delegates who kept destroying me (I didn’t win once). Also one of the funny stories is when I tried to take coffee for the day in my metal water bottle (there were no mugs, and coffee was a must). I quickly remembered that metal is a wonderful conductor of heat, and the coffee was honestly so hot whenever they made it, that it would be like lawsuit temperature hot here in Canada. I couldn’t even hold the bottle and kind of burnt my hand----I wasn’t able to drink it at all for like an hour and a half to 2 hours and I was dying from tiredness. Oh well.
Winding it Down
Many of the delegates and attendees didn’t stay for the entire 3 weeks, but I did. I was there 2 days before it started, and 1 day after it ended. As things were winding down at the end for some folks, mine were actually ramping up. I was assigned to the Post-2020 Framework, and to monitor all of the negotiations until the very end (it was the last thing to wrap up). I was able to go out one last night for dinner and shopping, where I bought gifts for people back home and back at work. One of the things that people forgot, and I also did at times, was that I still had a week of class attendance in Vancouver, B.C. for the legal portion of my MBA. It kind of gave me anxiety, but being so busy all of the time kept my mind off of it enough to be able to focus on the task at hand. If I had any time in the evenings, I would be reading and chipping away at assignments. I also watched a lot of James Bond movies because there was only one English channel and they were having a marathon.
At the end of it all it was a great experience that changed my life and inspired me a great deal. If you are thinking about joining the Canadian Youth Biodiversity Network, I think you will find it rewarding in finding like-minded people that are passionate about working for the youth voice in Canada. Canada is one of the most unique countries, governance wise, in that there is such a diversity in geography, regional identities, legal jurisdictions, and Indigenous nations around the country. To put it in perspective, there are 3 territories, 10 provinces, and between 40-60 Indigenous language groups/nations across 634 First Nation communities, and the Inuit and Metis peoples, all with their own legal frameworks of operation which affect conservation policy implementation. Having the chance to have CYBN be a conduit for finding innovative ways to practice reconciliation in Canada would be a great attribute of CYBN, and has great potential for driving the Post-2020 Framework of the CBD. If you have questions feel free to reach out through social media and the website, and if I can I would love to help out! Everybody stay safe, and my best you and yours. I look forward to getting to know you all better as we grow. Peace and Love!
Written by: Joseph Tootoosis
When I was told that I will be sent to work at an aquarium on the west coast of Vancouver Island, my mind was full of cold water diving and marine critters that I will find underwater. Nothing prepared me for the towering trees of the BC’s temperate rainforest that welcomed me.
Before coming to Ucluelet, BC, I was under the impression that all rainforests are tropical, but the indoor terrestrial rainforest garden at the aquarium, educational signs along myriads of trails close to town, and free educational classes hosted by Raincoast Education Society and other local NGOs soon proved me to be wrong.
This 800-year-old rainforest receives an average rainfall of 3.4 meters annually. Tall and straight Sitka Spruces grown up to 90 meters in height and shielding the rest of the forest from salt sprays of the waves. Large 1,000-year-old Western Red Cedars are "the cornerstone of Northwest Coast aboriginal culture". Western Hemlocks offer their young leaves as a tasty citrus-flavoured source of Vitamin C.
When a tree falls, it becomes a Nursing Log where the decaying wood provides nutrients for young saplings while giving them a height advantage over saplings growing from the ground.
This forest is intrinsically connected to the ocean and my work as a marine biologist by the salmons. Salmons are anadromous: they are born in freshwater and live up to a year sheltered in the nutrient-rich streams of the rainforest; they then move out to the ocean where they mature and bring rich nutrients from the ocean back to their birth stream where they will spawn.
When I am troubled, I like to go for a stroll in this amazing rainforest to listen to the birds, marvel at the life force of all its inhabitants, and wonder what wildlife I will find under the shadows next.
By: Lisa Chen
From Woodlands to Wetlands, coronavirus may affect the natural habitats and set conservation efforts behind by years.Read Now
Scrolling through the social media posts weeks into COVID-19 lockdown, I was elated by the news stories of how nature had hit a reset button.
“With a third of world’s population in lockdown, the animals are taking over”- read a post on Twitter. This is probably the first time in human history that billions of people are forced to spend time indoors and the wildlife seems to be reclaiming the places where the human activity has decreased.
Dolphins, that typically kept away from the murky waters of Venice appear to have returned to the now clear waters of the canals. In Canada, people are spotting wild turkeys in east-end Montreal neighbourhoods. Throughout the southern Ontario, common urban species such as skunks, raccoons, white-tailed deer and foxes are being spotted more often since the pandemic lockdown began.
Author: Yoko Lu
I was travelling in Guatemala during the Christmas break of 2019 while I was doing an internship in Belize. Since it is a neighbouring country, I crossed the border on road without trouble. I took the bus from the capital Belmopan to Benque, a city right next to the border. Then I took the taxi to the border, then went through the immigrant control, and that’s it. There was no machine for scanning the passport – the passport was just passed to the officer, stamped, and returned to me.
I was in Guatemala for 16 days, with some of these days being ‘stuck’ in Antigua because of no shuttle busses on holidays. Antigua is the main hub where there are various connections for long-distance shuttle bus travel. I could have taken chicken busses but that meant spending the whole day transiting in local busses which would stop at anywhere on the road where there were passengers who wanted to board or get dropped off. On one of those days, I went to Copan, Honduras from Antigua, to specifically visit a well-known Mayan archaeological site. There is one sculpture in the picture above that is slightly different from other objects. Can you guess which one? This sculpture is from Copan.
While most of these souvenirs are oriented towards tourists, they are nevertheless connected to biodiversity and nature. The two masks, for example, represent the Mayan history and wildlife. I am guessing what the orange mask with cheetah-like design may represent, but as I was netsurfing through the Internet, I would say that it is a margay. It resembles an ocelot, but with smaller body, longer legs, and tail. Margays are monkey-cats that thrive in trees. They reside in Central and South America.
Conservation-wise, margay (Leopardus wiedii) was widely hunted illegally for wildlife trade, until the 1990s. The animal is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In terms of the recent issues, its population is believed to be declining due to habitat loss, specifically deforestation, as the cat relies on the forest for survival. Other threats are: illegal pet trade, killing for poultry protection, and low reproductive rate. Currently, the cat is fully protected; however, in Ecuador, Guyana, and El Salvador, its protection status is not set. There is a high probability that the margay will be listed as vulnerable in the future. Status and abundance of the animal is poorly known; therefore, more research is necessary.
While the wildlife – flora and fauna – is the primary focus for biodiversity, Mayan culture is important as well. Tikal, for example, is one major archaeological site in Guatemala, and it is also along the border crossing between Belize and Guatemala. Tikal was the first destination I went after entering Guatemala through Belize. Tikal can be reached from Antigua via flight as well.
Selva Maya is a forest region that covers Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. It is the largest rainforest in Mesoamerica, which ranges from Central Mexico to northern Costa Rica. Within the Selva Maya, there are 20 unique ecosystems that make up different categories of protection, including National Parks, Forest Reserves, and Biosphere Reserves. Tikal itself is dated to being 600 B.C. and A.D. 900, flourishing as an ancient city that consists of over 20 major pyramids. This means that ever since ancient times, ancient people have been utilizing the nature for survival, and used nature as a religious form of worshipping the nature gods. It is thought that there were at least 166 deities, known as the Mayan pantheon. Within the pantheon, some religious figures included animals of Maya, relating to biodiversity being important in both ancient and modern times. For example, the Jaguar Sun God refers to: “Almighty God the Sun dwells in the highest levels of heaven. When he traces the path of the sun across the sky in the daytime, his name is Kinich Ahau. When the sun falls into the West Door and enters the Underworld, he becomes the fearsome Jaguar God.” Tikal Temple I is known as the Temple of the Great Jaguar, as shown as the highest temple in Tikal (left, image below). Another animal god, called Itzam-Yeh, the Celestial Bird, is represented as the Serpent Bird or Seven-Macaw. Four corners of the world are associated, with the world represented as the temple, creating the summit of the sacred temple.
Link: Air Pano (Can be viewed as 360° panorama view by scrolling the mouse)
There are two music instruments that are visible in the assemblage of souvenirs: flute and shaker (placed right of the flute). They are not directly connected to the biodiversity, but they are well-represented as Mayan (or Guatemalan) music culture.
There is a band of crafted dolls in front of larger objects. These reflect the unique Guatemalan textile style as well as relation to the social culture.
Below the band are two belts. I am not sure what the design means, but I was so fascinated by the designs, I decided to purchase in addition to my collection of souvenirs.
Below all the objects placed on the table, there lies a blanket. This is not a blanket; it is a poncho. I have always wanted to be part of the nature and culture; therefore, I was fortunate to have bought it.
P.S. I ran out of space, so I ended up buying an extra luggage in Mexico City to hold all these souvenirs, on my way back to Belize. I carried all these souvenirs on my latter half of the trip, through most of those days, I stayed in Antigua. I was not planning to go to Mexico City, but I had to, because of passport stamp problems (I couldn’t go to El Salvador nor return to Belize via Guatemala – I had to go back to Belize via Mexico or the U.S.).
TRAVEL TIP: If you end up traveling to Antigua, and if you wish to buy souvenirs, Nimpot (Nim Po’t) is the best place to buy souvenirs because their prices are set as minimal. If you buy on the street or at any other stores, the prices are typically much higher, as much as twice the price you find in Nimpot.
Dr. Qinq Li talks about the benefits of the forests in his article Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. He starts by describing the experience of being immersed in nature, “the sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air — these things give us a sense of comfort. They ease our stress and worry, help us to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.” Indeed, if you have ever felt like being in the outdoors and near nature has healing qualities, you are not alone.
In Japan, there is a term for spending time in nature and its “something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.” This experience is not about going hiking or jogging; it is merely about being in nature and connecting our minds to the experience. It is about smelling the forest, touching the earth, and tasting the air.
While we can be very busy with our daily chores and activities, make sure you spend time in nature.
SO, how does one go about forest bathing?
Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness Hardcover 2018 by, Dr. Qing Li
The Little Book of Forest Bathing: Discovering the Japanese Art of Self-Care by Andrews McMeel Publishing
By: Laura Gaitan
INTRODUCTION TO HONEY
Honey is produced and used globally for different uses including health care and medicine. Honey has been collected by humans since the Stone Age, where the ancient people have stone-carved to show the tradition of honey harvesting, since at least 8,000 B.C. Beeswax has also been used as waterproofing for pottery as well as offering to the gods and healing for illness and wounds. These miraculous benefits have been passed on even to today, where we use honey on many occasions.
Honey provides many health benefits. It has antibacterial properties, having positive effect against several strains, such as E. coli and salmonella. Honey helps soothe throats and improves sleep. Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes can also be prevented as well as hemorrhoids and ulcers. Honey is often regarded as a better treatment than typical medicine that can be found in the pharmacies.
While honey is very beneficial, it is always important to remember that the overconsumption should always be prevented. A high amount of honey consumption may lead to having too much sugar and calories; therefore, honey should be used as a replacement for sugar.
A selection of dessert recipes based on honey is listed in this article, in which the recipes are from geographic regions of the world.
TABLE OF CONTENT
1. SOUTH AMERICA (ARGENTINA, BOLIVIA, CHILE, PERU, URUGUAY) & NORTHERN MEXICO & US (NEW MEXICO, TEXAS)
Sopaipilla, also known as sopapilla, sopaipa, or cachanga, is originated in South America, now widespread into northern Mexico and southern U.S., with a large population of Hispanics. Sopaipilla can be found on menus of the Mexican restaurants in the U.S., where some restaurant-goers have been inspired and made recipe of their own. In the case of one online recipe provider, the author remembered that sopaipilla was her favourite food as a child. Her link is as below.
Here is the link to the recipe.
Source: Picky Palate (link)
Indian-style Eggless honey cake is like sponge/vanilla cake with an exception of the icing which consists of honey and strawberry jam. This cake is very popular in southern India. This cake can be found in local bakeries as slices. This cake is perfect for someone who is allergic to eggs.
Here is the link to the recipe.
Source: Hebbar’s Kitchen (Link)
Struffoli is a collection of honey dough balls that are mixed and ornamented. It can be made for Christmas and Easter Holiday. It is a wonderful treat for your family.
Here is the link to the recipe.
Source: An Italian in My Kitchen (link)
Honey Castella is a popular sponge cake in Japan. It is a very simple cake with only four ingredients: eggs, sugar, bread flour, and honey. Its name is coined after the Spanish Castilla Monarchy, when the Portuguese merchants arrived in Japan in the 16th century via Nagasaki.
Here is the link to the recipe.
Source: Rotin Rice (link)
Author’s comments: Castilla cake can be found in any food stores in Japan and they are commonly sold as gifts, wrapped graciously. They are not very sweet, compared to many desserts we find in Canada – they are perfectly made for our tastes! You can try making one yourself without going to Japan and enjoy the taste of Japan.
5. SOUTH AFRICA
Heuningkoek is a honey cake that is not widely known (as it seems to the author, as there were not much information found online on this cake). This recipe provider has proved that her husband loved the honey cake so much that she was asked to make the cake many times, later making their children addicted too. Based on her instructions, if a butter or vanilla cake mix is available, all the required to make is just the sauce. If you want to try something different and original, then this South African cake should make your day much better.
Here is the link to the recipe.
Source: Simple Living Creative Learning (Link)
6. TURKEY (& Balkans & Middle East)
Baklava is an old traditional recipe that was originated in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire which is as early as the 15th century. It has now spread across the Balkans and the Middle East. Its recipe varies across each country, with the filling can be made from different nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pistachios. In Greece, baklava is a tradition during Easter, where 33 layers of filo dough (‘leaf’ in Greek) represent 33 years of the life of Christ. An interesting depiction of the Christ - it is indeed a wonderful recipe for celebrating the holiday.
Here is the link to the recipe.
Source: Hilah Cooking (Link)
Author’s comments: I have tried baklava while travelling in Europe. I don’t remember which country I have tried baklava, but I enjoyed it so much that I will always remember the delicious taste. The pastry layer was crunchy with a mixture of different nuts sweetened with honey. I wish I could find this in Canada and would love to eat it again.
***Do you know any honey recipes from your country or family, or any unique ways to use honey? Please let us know if you have any suggestions and we are happy to share!***
With everything going on in the world right now, there is no doubt that it is taking a toll on our mental health. While many resources have been available to help us during these difficult times, we may want to seek alternative help. A topic that has become popular recently is the impact of nature on our mental health. Studies have shown that a greater exposure to nature can result in the reduction of negative resources including anxiety and stress. You may ask yourself, “how can I get involved in nature in a way that will help me mentally?”. It can be something as simple as taking a walk, or if you prefer a more meditative experience, you can try forest bathing. Of course, it may not be possible or comfortable going on a walk during these times, but there are ways you can indulge in these benefits indoors. Studies have found that even looking at pictures of nature can improve our moods. During this time, it is important to know that you are not alone. While we are physically distancing from other individuals, we can still be in touch with nature. Throughout the month of May, we will be focusing on the benefits of the relationship between nature and mental health. We will be teaching you skills to help maximize this relationship, and we hope you will join us in this journey.
By: Francine Pauvif
Smartphones. Captivating, empowering, and enslaving devices. Can we resist their temptations? Yes, of course. Do we resist their temptations? Probably less often than we should. Since smartphones entered the market in 2007 they have revolutionised the world, both for better and for worse. Now, in an instant, seemingly anything you want to know and anyone you want contact is right at your fingertips. In mere moments we can learn all the successes and failures of generations or witness, in vivid detail, the splendor of others’ lives. Yet, with such innovation also came a surge in reports of anxiety and depression – even though humanity is more “connected” than ever, we are also increasingly lonesome. Everyday we are bombarded with so much information that fact and fiction have become blurred in captivating headlines while instant gratification becomes so commonplace that patience is almost considered a waste of time and sleep deprivation an elected choice. With so much knowledge and opportunity available, do we really have time to relax?
I have had a smartphone for ten years. Ten years of constant connection. If I want to know something, I Google it, if someone wants to talk to me, they call or text and I answer shortly because my phone is never far away. This device has become an extension of my body, with my visual cortex and reward centers sending a rush of dopamine through my veins every time I look at it. On more than one occasion I have panicked thinking I have misplaced my phone only to discover that I am holding it to my ear on a call. The explanation: my brain is compelled to look at the device every so often; however, when it realized that, for some reason, my phone was no where to be seen, it became stressed – like an addict needing their fix. Oh seductive smartphone, how I need you. Still, I remember my childhood, before your creation, when I would spend stress free summers splashing along shorelines in the pursuit of frogs, frolicking in fields making wildflower bouquets, and gardening with my grandfather helping him plant his famous beans. A time when experiences were personal and media was only accessible through the television or a desktop computer. Since you came into my life have we ever been apart? I think not. That was until last year – “No phones allowed” said the Outward Bound guides, on the eve of our 10-day wilderness expedition.
In late October 2019 I became a member of the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Canadian Conservation Corps which provides young environmentally driven Canadians with networking and professional opportunities. For the first portion of this program participants are joined with nine other youth from across the country to take part in a wilderness expedition with the goal of strengthening their bonds to nature. Our expedition began in Comox, British Columbia where we gathered at an Outward Bound camp to pack and prepare for our 10 day sea kayaking adventure through the Southern Gulf Islands. There, on the day before our departure, we sifted through our belongings, moving items into stuff sacs ensuring that we were prepared, but not overpacked for our early November journey. That is when they said it. “No phones allowed, turn them off and pack them away in your suitcase.” In an instant the playful atmosphere of the group changed to one of mild anxiety and fear as we analyzed our guides faces, not sure if they were serious. Feeling our apprehension, the leaders assured us that the ocean was no place for expensive electronics. We were then given a few minutes to inform our loved ones and with that, for the first time ever, my phone was left behind. That night as we sat together under the light of headlamps, we each chose a job for the next day. You could be the leader (responsible for nautical navigation), ethnobotanist (educator on a native species), foodie (chef), scrubby (dishwasher), tarpologist (responsible for securing both kayaks and tarps), storyteller (journalist and leader of daily reflections - they were also given a basic waterproof digital camera for pictures) or hydro-pyro (responsible for water and fire). I chose to be a leader.
The next day we, the BC Sea Seals, traveled down to Maple Bay, slid our kayaks into the water and began the journey of a lifetime. Leading the team through the ocean waves was harder than I anticipated. In a single kayak, with only my strength to propel me again the current, I was quickly humbled. I had kayaked many times before, but never under those conditions or for that distance. That first day truly challenged me as I physically battled the waters and mentally battled myself. I was the leader. It is a position I frequently take, but in that group, each and everyone one of us shared that capacity. I had to learn to trust and rely on them. Together, as a pod, we traveled those waters encouraging each other while we shared stories and aspirations. I made a point to be the first to reach the beach of our campsite and as I tried to exit the kayak, I fell into the water – no else did, ever. Humbled again. I was experienced in the wilderness, but I was not invincible – this was a time for humility and learning. That night as darkness covered the distant mountains, I listened to the exhale of swimming creatures as I threw rocks into the ocean and marveled at the blue bioluminescent glow of startled dinoflagellates. Had my phone been with me I most certainly would have tried to capture their light, but probably to no avail. In that moment with no distractions, their luminescence was etched into my memory where I hope it stays forever.
Over the next several days we saw many sites of incredible splendor. As we traversed, we caught a glimpse of elusive porpoises, spotted a bald eagle feasting on its prey, and admired chubby seals relaxing in their banana pose. Before this trip I did not understand how incredibly adorable seals are! On multiple occasions seals would follow behind our group, intrigued by our presence, and once a seal even followed us for over a kilometer! Looking into the water we would frequently pass through smacks of delicate white moon jellyfish and clusters of purple and orange sea stars. Coming from an inland province, witnessing these creatures in the wild was truly astonishing; however, in all its wonder, I still could not help but imagine what Turtle Island was like prior to colonisation. This part of the ocean is now known as the Salish Seas named after the Coastal Salish First Nations whose traditional territory we were traveling through. The pre-colonisation Coastal Salish First Nations were some of the most prosperous tribes in all of North America due to the rich abundance of the land on which they resided. In particular, the Coastal Salish are known for their generosity, art and architecture with many common images of First Nations originating from the Salish people including: long houses, cedar canoes, potlaches and totem poles. As we continued to kayak, passing rocky and sandy outcrops, a strange looking tree – Arbutus menzeisii – with twisted branches, silken green bark and thick tropical looking leaves, would both greet and reminded us of the power and protection of nature. The Coastal Salish tell of a time where there was a great flood that covered the land. In order to save their people from drowning they tied cedar canoes to an arbutus tree at the top of a mountain. Since that day, the Salish people do not burn arbutus wood out of respect for their rescue. Gliding through those waters surrounded by sacred beings; I was present. I felt the breeze in my hair, the spray of water on my face, the sway of the kayak and the smell of the ocean. No image or video could have captured that moment. As I observed, tasted, listened, touched and smelled, I felt a sense of belonging.
The splendor of nature was not the only beauty I witnessed in the wilderness; my comrades were equally stunning. Traveling through the wilds we could only rely, confide and trust in each other. We become a family in a very short amount of time. With no distractions from phone vibrations or bad songs on Spotify we shared stories of our fears for the future and concerns for returning home. Each one of us felt freedom in the quiet of nature and, on more than one occasion, had voiced concerns over returning to a world of technological connection – of being reunited with our smartphones. When at home technology divides us as much as it connects us. On buses we do not talk to one another as we tap away on our phones, when in a group of new people we hide behind brightly lit screens and as we walk down the street, headphones on, we avoid eye contact with other pedestrians. Yet on the ocean, without technology’s sanctuary, there was no place to hide and no opportunity for façade. It turned out that we did not need our phones and in fact, they were almost too easy to give up. As the days progressed, I watched us all allow vulnerability, gain confidence in ourselves, relax and, most importantly, become present.
Nearing the end of our trip we made camp on Blackberry Beach of a forestry island that has zero amenities. Looking down the long dazzling white sand beach with tall conifers and arbutus trees you would never know the scars that the island is hiding at its interior – a hollow clear cut. We were told that this land was sold to a logging company generations ago for a minimal sum. With a sad heart I never gazed the destruction, yet I doubt its rarity. How much devastation and turmoil in our world is hidden behind beautiful exteriors? On that island we conducted our solos. An appropriate selection for a 24-hour period of isolation where we would confront our interiors. As we prepared for our solitary experience, you could once again see a mixture of angst, hesitation and excitement on peoples faces – similar to when we were told to leave our phones behind. Our last safety net of connection, each other, was about to be removed. When was the last time that we were truly alone with no friends or phones to keep us company? For myself, as with others, it had been too long to remember, perhaps even never. In silence, after the instructions were given, we each walked the down the beach and through the forest and until we reached the spot where we would reside in isolation. One by one as my comrades arrived at their plots and as I witnessed the emotions written plain on their faces one fact became clear; this would be a significant experience for all of us. As I reach my plot and gazing down the slope, I realised I had access to a driftwood covered beach. Amazing! Where we had camped the previous night was devoid of any driftwood, so this beach was truly a blessing and I knew exactly what I was going to do. Build a castle.
For the duration of the day I worked to accomplish my mission. I chose a site between two big logs, below a magnificent arbutus tree. From there I walked down the beach collecting wood acting as both an architect and a builder. As I continued construction time passed fluidly. I had no watch to check, but as the tide moved in and out and the sun dance across the sky, the day progressed. On a typical day how would I check the time? I would look at my phone, unlock it and once again get the dopamine flowing…perhaps it would be a wise to acquire a watch. As I persisted in my work, I knew I would never spend time in my castle again, but that fact was irrelevant for there was pleasure in my artistry. Although I was isolated from my companions I was never alone – I was surrounded by life. A king fisher was perched on top of the bluff then swooped into the ocean to catch a fish. A seal swarm right up to my shore and was just about to rest on my sandy beach, when sadly, he startled at my presence and swam away. In the intertidal zone seagulls smashed molluscs on rocks in preparation for a shellfish dinner. A raccoon, standing still, stared me down, fabricating his escape route on the same mission as the seagulls – this was the first time I had ever seen a raccoon not reliant on humans. Massive sea lions one by one swam in the distance, loudly gasping for oxygen as they traveled by violently flinging their prey side to side while hordes of opportunistic seagulls flew overhead ready for any available morsel. As the wind whistled through the leaves of the sacred arbutus, I understood that Nature is humanity’s oldest friend.
After I had completed the castle, I hung my tarp inside and started a fire. I have started countless fires in my lifetime, but that day I was using matches like I was eating potato chips, consuming one after another. Eventually when I did get my fire started, I was ashamed of my impatience and ill prep and once again was humbled. Shelter built, wood gathered, and fire started I took time to relax. I watched the golden sunset transform into a sky of lilac-rose, listened to the soothing hymn of the waves and smelled the smoke of my fire. I then took out my journal, drew my castle and sorted my thoughts. Art. I used to be so artistic, drawing, painting, crocheting, and playing instruments, but sometime in my pursuit of scientific education my artistic expression died. Throughout the trip I listened to people play the ukulele and it surfaced a sorrow I had long been repressing. I missed art. I had let it perish and for that, I have no defence. As I looked at my castle and my drawing, I decided to never let it die again. When return home, I will revive my old friend. This will be my relaxation. What do I usually do to relax? Read an article online, watch a video on YouTube, infinitely scroll down my Facebook feed. None of those things are relaxing. One night, a fellow BC Sea Seals mentioned how she could feel her brain become quiet, no longer cluttered by the noise of a million thoughts. I could feel it too. In the wilderness, without trivial preoccupations, the whispers of my inner truths become apparent. On that beach I had no other task than to exist. It was almost an alien feeling to my usual sensation of guilty relaxation. After all, there is so much to do…right? Wrong.
Social media and information glut have left many of us sedated. Today we experience such intense and constant stimulation that we are almost inexplicably drawn to and captivated by things we do not even care about. Our brains are both busy and exhausted all at the same time. With this lack of mental energy is it really a surprise that anxiety and depression are on the rise? When I think about humanity’s connection to Nature one question comes to mind. Why does it feel as though the older we get the less we see? This question has nothing to do with hectares of greenspace, but rather with a state of mind. Watching a child stare at a bird or chase a butterfly, one witnesses the pure wonder which they themselves have long forgotten in adulthood. Our society has become so engrossed with trivial matters of vanity and consumption that we have distanced ourselves from that which breathed us life, calm, healing and prosperity for time immemorial. Nature. Her embrace has been proven to cure mental health issues, to strengthen and heal immune systems and quiet the mind so we can hear the buzz of all the non-human life around us. As I contemplate the effects of smartphones, on myself and society I can not help but consider Billy Joel’s Vienna lyrics “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.” I think that is exactly what we need, to take time with our thoughts, to practice selfcare and to watch the clouds roll by while listening to universe’s whispers carried to us by the wind.
When the final day of the expedition arrived, I was a leader once again – a leader the first, a leader the last. It was also was the first full day of rain we had experienced throughout the entirety of the trip – we had encountered the best November weather the region had seen in over 60 years. On our last day of travels, we passed by rocky intertidal zones at low tide and were able to see constellations of sea stars close enough to touch. As we pulled up to our final shore, packed our kayaks and traveled back to Comox, I had much to think about. I had just been informed that during our days at sea my grandfather had passed away. Grief stricken, before I even said a word, the BC Sea Seals comforted me, like family. When I arrived back to base I was hesitant to pick up my phone. We all were. I did not want to go back to who I was before that journey. I did not want to be seduced by colourful screens and mindless happenings. This trip was both a gift from Canada and my grandfather who have always supported my dreams. As I sit here, thinking back on all the joy that trip brought me, as well as what I unknowingly gave up by attending it. I vow to not let it be vain. I will rejuvenate my inner artist, take time to observe the beauty of nature and will accomplish my endeavour of becoming a global leader in conservation-minded sustainable agriculture. I promise.
Written by: Fallon Hayes