Our Water, Our Land

by Hannah Gartner

At the beginning of the month President Obama rejected the proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have run crude oil from the Canadian Tar Sands in Alberta to the gulf coast refineries outside of Houston, TX. Over the past few years this pipeline has become a pet project for environmentalist and conservatives alike. One of the reasons that environmentalists have been so adamantly against the Keystone pipeline was its planned path through the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is a 174,000-square-mile reservoir which lies beneath the states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, and Wyoming. It supplies water to millions of people, and irrigates the fields of farmers in this region. Lying beneath the earth, it is easy to forget that it is there, yet it is so important that it was able to play a role in halting the creation of Keystone XL.

There are many ways in which one can know the world around them. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, most see it as a man-made, concrete jungle. It is more common for someone to know every player in the world series than where their water comes from. The danger than becomes that things like endless tap water are taken for granted, always expected and not preserved.WWF

The United States Great Plains; Source: World Wildlife Fund

The Ogallala Aquifer is just one of hundreds that lie beneath the surface of North America. The map below shows the vast extent of land carrying these underground pools in the United States alone. Aquifers are formed when rock is porous enough to let water flow through. The layer of rock and water that is formed is called the water table. Depending on the type of rock, that water will run faster or slower. This also dictates how quickly the water in an aquifer can replenish itself. Through clay this can take a very long time, while a sandstone water table may refill much quicker. This is incredibly important to think about when using an aquifer as a water source.

aquifers in the US

Aquifers in the United States; Source: USGS

It would be amazing if we were able to say that the Ogallala Aquifer is safe now that Keystone XL has been vetoed, but this is not the truth. Since the 1940’s Midwest farmers have used this water source to grow vast amounts of corn, cotton, wheat, and cattle. The  current estimate is that 30 percent of the water in this aquifer is already depleted, and it is projected that this percentage will only rise over the coming years. As of yet that farmers and citizens who utilize the Ogallala Aquifer are not taking action to stem this problem.

Even if you live very far away from this particular aquifer, there is a lesson to be learned here. The Earth is plentiful, but it is not endless. It is important to understand the land and water systems were you do live though. This may mean looking beyond the surface to what is hidden underground. Take the time to do your research, become an informed citizen, and try to find the ways to interact with your land in the most appropriate ways.


Ducks Unlimited Canada

By Marcelo Kawanami

Hi everyone! Well, this has been a super busy month and I’m sorry for the absence here in the blog. Just to start with, I would like to talk about the tree planting and wetland restoration initiative from the Green Party members at Gamiing Nature Centre. The 1st Bobcaygeon Scout also supported the work and the group removed invasive species and planted a variety of trees and shrub species.

Today I came across a video from Ducks Unlimited, which is one of the global leading organizations on wetlands and waterfowl conservation. Ducks Unlimited Canada recently posted a video talking about the wetlands in Alberta and the impact that it has on biodiversity, flood protection and water quality.

It is a very short video, but that it is worth watching to know more about the organization and the work that they do in North America. If you want to know more, I invite you all to visit their webpage: http://www.ducks.ca/

NGOs teaming up!

By Marcelo Kawanami

The preservation of land, water, oceans, rivers and lakes are the core for Gamiing Nature Centre. Working closely with the local community, Gamiing has developed a set of programs such as trainings, workshops, recreational programs and events in order to educate the participants on the importance of land preservation and the environment.

We are also constantly benchmarking what similar organizations are developing regarding the topics that are important to us. Apart from the big global ones, we are always observing and collaborating with the local small ones like us!Imagem2

Today, I would like mention some these organizations that do amazing things for the environment. I selected some international ones that might not be well known to you, and also some very nice local ones with which your support will certainly make a difference!

Ramsar (Switzerland): http://www.ramsar.org/
The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Imagem1PFE (France): http://www.partenariat-francais-eau.fr/
The French Water Partnership (FWP – Partenariat Français pour l’Eau), a non-profit association, is a muti – actor platform which works on conveying key consensual messages on the governance and management of water resources in the international arena.

OCC (Uruguay): http://www.occ.org.uy/
Local organization from Uruguay (South America) that fights for the conservation of the oceans with a focus on the white whales.

BHNS (India): http://bnhs.org/bnhs/
One of the largest local Indian organizations, BHNS is a pan-India wildlife research organization, that has been promoting the cause of nature conservation for the past 131 years.

Living Planet Report 2014

By Marcelo Kawanami

WWF has recently published is famous Living Planet Report 2014, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, the Global Footprint Network, and the Water Footprint Network. This 170+ pages report brings an in-depth analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of the human activity.

Covering the entire global ecosystem, the report was very focused on topics that are very relevant to Gamiing such as freshwater, marine biodiversity, and water scarcity. I separated below some key highlights from the report:

• Energy generation uses Living Planet Report 2014approximately 8 per cent of the global water withdrawals, afigure which rises to 45 per cent in industrialized countries

• The main threats to freshwater species are habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and invasive species (Collen et al., 2014). Direct impacts on water levels or on freshwater system connectivity have a major impact on freshwater habitats

• More than 200 river basins, home to some 2.67 billion people, already experience severe water scarcity for at least one month every year

• Global freshwater demand is projected to exceed current supply by more than 40 per cent by 2030 (WRG, 2009); by 2030, almost half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress (OECD, 2008)

• Energy generation uses approximately 8 per cent of the global water withdrawals, a figure which rises to 45 per cent in industrialized countries

You can download the full report in the following link: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/

You can also find the booklet summary if you are too busy!

Great Lakes Now!

By Marcelo Kawanami

Two weeks ago, The Nature Conservancy posted a great video entitled “Investing in the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands”. This 5 minutes video shows the importance of the Great Lakes for the coastal communities that significantly rely on the local ecosystem resources.

Combining recreation with sustainable economic growth is a key element for successful projects regarding wetlands and coastal communities.

I believe this video brings a good perspective of possible actions in order to protect natural resources while bringing economic benefits for local communities! For more information, I recommend you all to check The Nature Conservancy website and its projects: http://www.nature.org/

Global Insights: Alberta, Canada

by Marcelo Kawanami

The extraction of oil sands is one of the main economic activities in the Alberta province in Canada, which led millions of Canadians to migrate for working purposes in the region over the last years. Nevertheless, this strong Canadian economic source that generates millions of jobs and profits is also polluting rivers and lakes in the province of Alberta.

An aerial view of the Suncor oil sands extraction facility on the banks of the Athabasca River in Alberta, Canada

Additionally, an increasingly large share of U.S. oil comes from Canada’s tar sands. There are environmental consequences of this development, but until recently, Canadian regional and federal governments left it to the industry to monitor these effects.

A dead fish floats belly up on the water near Fort ChipewyanRecently, a renowned Alberta scientist discovered deformities in fishes in the Athabasca River downriver from oil sands developments, bearing a striking resemblance to ones found in fish after spills in U.S. waters. are environmental consequences of this development, but until recently, Canadian regional and federal governments left it to the industry to monitor these effects.

How to leverage economic development without putting into risk communities and interest groups that rely on the water resources in Alberta? This is quite a challenge that corporations need to work better, fighting for the interests of the entire society, and not only for their own profit gains.

One organization that I discovered today promotes exactly this, taking actions on watershed protection for the public interest in Alberta. Called Water Matters, this organization develop projects that involve the raising of public awareness and the empowering of communities in order to protect Alberta’s watersheds. Visit their website to know more about their projects: http://www.water-matters.org/

Global Insights: Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

By Marcelo Kawanami

Today our journey will take us to a place that is close to my heart. Back in 2009, I had the chance to live in Montreal to complete my studies and had the opportunity to visit the region of Parc National du Mont-Mégantic and its surroundings. Recently, the region was in the global spotlight due to a derailment that led to a tragic fire and explosion which destroyed almost half of the downtown area of Lac-Mégantic town.

Chaudière River

The environmental impacts caused by the accident are still hard to predict, according to specialists. Nevertheless, the oil leaking from the derailment has already contaminated both the town’s namesake lake and the Chaudière River. As we can observe in this picture on the right, crude oil from the Lac-Mégantic explosion flowed down the Chaudière River, threatening towns and ecosystems downstream.

Workers collecting crude oil from the lake Megantic

Some four million liters of contaminated river and lake water have been contained, officials say, but the site soil still needs to be cleaned or replaced, a work that can take up to a year.


The accident also impacted the local economy which relies strongly on tourism mainly during the summer season.

After some research I was very glad to discover that many organizations are supporting the clean-up process of the lake and fighting for the protection of the local environment. Gamiing is also part of this group and I would like to promote two organizations that are seriously fighting for the protection of Mégantic lakes and its ecosystem:

  • David Suzuki Foundation: join us in telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper that we will not tolerate compromising the safety of our communities and environment in the name of oil transport – http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/lac-megantic
  • Association pour la protection du lac Mégantic: local organization that promotes projects and actions in order to protect Lake Mégantic – http://aplm.lac-megantic.org/

Global Insights: Colombia

By Marcelo Kawanami

Tota Landscape

Our trip around the main water resources in the globe and their current situation continues. Today we will explore Lake Tota in the beautiful Colombia, a country that is emerging as an economic power in Latin America. Lake Tota is the largest lake in Colombia and it is located in the department of Boyacá. A vital water source for the country, the lake is key to the tourism and also the ecosystem of the country. The iconic Lake Tota is the habitat for local wildlife, including several threatened or endangered bird species. Additionally, many cities surrounding the lake rely on this water resource for consumption and agriculture.

Nevertheless, the same agriculture that relies on the lake is also destroying it. The department of Boyacá, where the lake is located, is one of the main producers of onion in the region. The pesticides and fertilizers used in the cultivation of onions are strongly polluting the lake.

Many organizations are fighting for the lake’s protection, which recently gained global headlines but not for positive reasons.  I attached a video from BBC talking about the lake.

One of the main organizations that is focused in the social-environmental balance of the lake is Fundación Montecito (http://www.fundacionmontecito.org/). I strongly recommend everyone to visit their website and check out their projects and actions.

The Story of the Land Part 3: The Schipper family learns from the land and the creation of Pigeon Lake

By Mieke Schipper

As told to a grade two class visiting Gamiing Nature Centre

25 years ago

It is 25 years ago when our family came here to this farm to live. We called it “Paradise Farms”, because we thought it was beautiful.  However, the land was rather barren, that means unproductive ; not much was growing there, except rocks it seemed, like large pebbles and small rocks.

We walked the land every day and went into a different direction each day.  And we began to wonder.  What has happened here?  Who lived here?  What did they do?  We had so many questions and we really didn’t know where to get the answers.

And then, one day, I got it. I thought, the land is telling us something.  But how can I find out what it is the land is telling us?

What do you think? How can we find out what the land is telling us?

Listening, that is good. But is the land talking? Well, yes, but the land is NOT talking like you and I can talk and listen to one another.

I had to learn to listen another way, in a way my friend Nancy listens. She is deaf, but tells me she listens with her eyes and nose and hands and mouth and smell. That is how she finds out what it is I am talking to her about.

So, I had to learn to listen like Nancy is listening,
with my ears –listen to the sound of the wind, the birds, the rush of water;
with my eyes – what is growing here and why is that not growing anywhere else, what kind of animals are living here;
with my nose – the smell of flowers, trees and shrubs, the smell of animals,the smell of the lake, which changes with the season;
listening with my hands – feeling the different barks of trees, grabbing a hand of soil;
and with my mouth – tasting what the land is offering me, like berries, lots of berries, roots of plants and young leaves of dandelions.

So when I had finally figured that one out, I started to walk the land in a very different way.
Why was it so barren and rocky?

 If you look at this land, right here at GAMIING, you will see many leftovers of the years when people chopped the trees down and tried to farm.

Here, we are on top of a hill. Down there is the lake and the lake is in a valley. The top of the hill is on the west side and the lake down below is on the east side. Most of the winds that blow here come from the west and they blow toward the east. So when the trees were all cut and the grass had not grown yet, what do you think happened to the soil? Yes, that all blew down into the valley. That is what we call EROSION, the soil was wearing off the underlying rubble.

That is how I found the land. Now there are some trees and plants and shrubs that can live on and between rubble. Christmas trees are a good example. So, I thought that is probably what the land would like, getting dressed up again, not laying so naked there.

baby christmas tree

So we planted hundreds of Christmas trees, spruce and pine, but also hardwood like maple and ash and walnut. The roots of these trees kept the soil in place so it stopped blowing away and under the trees other plants and grasses started to grow, plants that would die down in the fall, then rotted and that became a little bit more soil. Also the wind and the sand rubbed the rocks and that became soil. So after many years, there became more soil of the rotted plants and the scoured rocks each year and the trees started growing and birds came to the trees and they carried seeds from other trees with them and dropped them in the field and that started to grow and the wind blew in seeds and they started to grow.

And in the soil there were still seeds from long ago and they started to sprout and grow. So very slowly we are getting a forest back.

And then the animals came. They found shelter on the edges of the new forests. There is now white tail deer, foxes, coyotes, wild turkeys, grouse, pheasants and many other birds.

And the land is so happy. It gives us so much back every day. But we still have to help the land a bit because sometimes there are trees and plants that are just like bullies. They come in and grow and they want to take over, but they don’t belong here. So we have to make sure that that is not going to happen. We like to keep the land happy.

Now I want to tell you a little bit about a lake that used to be a stream.

Just a minute ago I told you about the wind that blew the soil in the valley. I did not say that it blew in the lake, because there was not a lake yet.

On this old map you can see where Pigeon Lake was and then there was Pigeon River.
Pigeon River still exists but now starts further south, near Omemee.

When the dams in Bobcaygeon and Buckhorn were built, the government went to the farmers along the Pigeon River and told them that their land would be flooded. And that is what happened. So much land along the Pigeon River was flooded that it no longer was a stream but now had become a lake. But remember, the soil that had blown in the valley, well that is now the bottom of the lake, and things started to grow there, cattails mostly.

Lots of people hate cattails and marshes and wetlands and weeds in the lake. But actually if you listen very carefully, marshes and wetlands are the very best thing that can happen to a lake. They work like a coffee filter. The water goes through it but it holds dirty stuff back, like the coffee grinds in the filter. The marshes and wetlands are also home to many different kinds of birds and ducks and blue herons and ospreys and fish. And there are many flowers growing in the marshes. The marshes and wetland here at  Gamiing Nature Centre are called Victoria Wetland and they are special. They are an Area of Natural and Scientific interest, a mouth full. Just call them ANSI wetlands but remember that they are special!

So next time when you hear someone complaining about the weeds in the lake, especially about the marshes and wetlands you can tell them that these “weeds” are doing a bang-up cleaning job keeping our water healthy and they are home to many plants and birds and mammals and amphibians.

So, that is to story of the land. I hope when you go out that you can listen to the land and learn from it too.