Those of us who live near ravines in Toronto are blessed with an escape into a natural world on the edge of office and residential towers. As part of the recent University of Toronto’s alumni weekend, a lecture advertised as “Stress -Free” and entitled Re-Wilding Toronto, The Billion Dollar Dream - was an obvious choice.

The public lecture was filled with a wealth of information and excellent slides - some of which I couldn’y resist snapping and sharing here. Eric Davis is currently a PhD candidate, but he brings a wealth of work experience and a passion for restoration.

We learned that the Toronto Ravines are one of the world’s largest ecosystems, that cover 27,000 acres or one fifth of the city.


What an uninformed public does not know is that after years of neglect the ravine system is on the verge of collapse:

Damaged ecosystem.jpg

Eric Davis is a gifted instructor and used good analogies throughout. His points are illustrated in the mini-slide show below.

He started by showing us that trees are part of a system of biodiversity on which an entire ecosystem depends to produce a number of services on which other forms of life - including ourselves - depend. The intricacy of the system can be compared to a racing car - in which the importance of the most minute parts will determine the success of the race - a comparison that another forester named the rivet hypothesis. When the Nascar race happens, the integrity of the parts is crucial and the emergency repair team is on it with repairs in seconds. We need a comparable repair pattern for the trees in our ravines.

What has happened is the ravines have become invaded by non native trees- brought in by the owners of adjacent properties over the past decades - and the percentages of these are growing.

A study of the Rosedale Ravine 40 years ago has provided a baseline to study the changes:


The time lapse shows the urgency of the need for change. But unlike too many of the studies that we read about, Eric Davies has some clear solutions. The summary of the study can be read here and includes the following:

  • A Tree inventory has been completed

  • Other inventories are not under way - both native and non-native vegetation, mammals, birds and insects

  • Citizens are becoming involved in local studies and inventories

  • Schools and households are encouraged to collect, plant and grow local plants and trees to prepare for reforestation.

Perhaps the most important answer came from a response when a questioner wondered why we aren’t planting for a future client change. The answer - trees have been adapting to changing conditions for thoustands of years. We can probably trust them to do so - and do what we can to help them flourish.

And the billion dollar price page? A cathedral generated two billion in one day for restoration. Perhaps it is time to get our priorities right when we compare the importance of an ecosystem to our future.

The Ont. Endangered Species Act


I’ve been very favorably impressed by the newly named Broadview, a publication that was formerly known as the United Church Observer. The national monthly print publication is now available in newsletter format and subscribers can read excellent articles on a number of issues that concern us all. A recent article deals with proposed changes in the Ontario Endangered Species Act and you can read it here.

Most of us are much too absorbed by our personal concerns to pay attention to the fact that we are living in one of the most massive animal extinctions that have taken place for millions of years. A few concerned individuals and groups do care and monitor public policy. Proposed changes by the Ontario government are problematic. Your local MPP should know of your concern when you voice it.

Double messages


Fossil fuel corporations are now faced with push back from those who recognize that they cannot foster impressions that they support environmental campaigns while continuing to pollute the atmosphere. We’re getting full page advertisements of how necessary oil sands industries are to our country - remember that they used to be called tar sands.

As we approach a crucial election in one Canadian province, we all have choices to make. Some in other parts of the world are responding to duel messages and you can read about one of them here.

Nature Needs Half


I’ve been busy enough travelling and catching up on event posting and neglecting things to put here. This one is easy - a Podcast reminding us that Nature Needs Half.

Join our hosts, Ruth Midgley and Courtney Burk, while they talk to experts from around the world on the problems facing nature and how we can solve them. From elephants in Mali to mangrove forests in the Kingdom of Tonga, the Nature Needs Half Podcast will explore biodiversity, talk about our relationship to the planet, and introduce you to the people who are fighting to save nature.

Nature Needs Half is an international movement to give nature the space it needs to thrive and benefit all life on earth. You can find the podcast here, where I’m looking forward to hearing it too.

Today's Leaders Have Arrived


Recently I watched a video of a panel in Georgia where a member of the audience asked panelist Mary Evelyn Tucker, “Where are today’s leaders”? He referenced some names of famous adults; Tucker reminded him that Martin Luther King was 26 years of age when he started his crusade for freedom. The moderator noted that emerging leaders are even younger and challenged the audience to watch Greta Thunberg tell us how we are doing so far.


You can see a recent talk here.

Thunberg says that she recognized the crisis on her own and her parents listened to her concerns. Her single action of sitting outside the Swedish Parliament She has inspired thousands of other teens to join her and has spoken at those who enjoy the title of leaders at the UN and Davos.


At the recent WaterDocs festival I became aware of another young leader, Autumn Peltier, who sat at the feet of her great aunt. Josephine Mandamin, known as Grandmother Josephine. She was an Anishinaabe grandmother, elder and water activist involved with the Mother Earth Water Walkers.  They have riased awareness of the importance of water and our need to protect it.


Her great niece, Autumn Peltier carries the torch after re great aunt’s recent death and has already spoken to the United Nations on World Water Day in 2018 and earlier berated Canada’s Prime Minister for his inattention to the importance of Water. She connected with Swedish activism by attending the Children’s summit where she shared her story of the sacredness of water from an indigenous perspective. You can see her UN address here.

Both of these young women in their mid teens have a long perspective - already imagining themselves as grandmothers and having to tell their grandchildren how negligent we were in facing up to reality. They already show the pain of their wisdom in their serious young faces when they speak. At very least it has inspired me to share the story of the Water Walkers with the younger children that I know. As information speeds up, they know too much already and will hold us accountable.