The end goal in proper environmental reclamation in the forest is to undo damage to the ecosystem and replace it with something good. And I can do this without creating environmental harm, right? Wrong.
This month an obvious, yet often overlooked question was posed to me by a 10-year-old girl during an online presentation to children ranging from grades 4 to 6. While listening to my stories related to working in the forest the child asked, “when you are working, does your job ever hurt small birds?” Now, as a dad, I am used to hearing such questions and have never felt uncomfortable in my response, “sometimes to do good, you create a little bit of harm”. Now, do I like that reality? No. Is it the truth? Yes.
So here is what I said to the child, “When I work in the forest, I try to make sure that I am not hurting small animals so this is what I do.
- First, I make sure that I know the land and the types of animals that live there, the ones that live there for a short time and the ones that live there all year. To do that I need to collect information about the site and start talking with people that know a lot more than me about the site and its animals.
- After talking to them I start to develop a plan to fix the site in a way that does not hurt the animals, get permission from the owners to do the work, and make sure I follow the law.
Now, to answer your question directly, this past season we changed our project start date by three weeks because of small birds. Why? Well, we needed to cut down some small trees that, at that time of year, sometimes have small bird nests on the branches. So, what we did is we waited until the bird eggs hatched and the baby ones flew away. After they left, we went in and did our work. Now, is it possible that we missed a nest or a bird? Yes. Why? Because the forest is huge, birds hide their nests in the branches, and it is impossible to be perfect. But we did follow the government rules and did our own check of the trees before we cut them down. What that means is this, when we were trying to fix the land, we do our absolute best not to hurt birds. Unfortunately, we are not always perfect, but we sure try.”
Although experienced in the art of talking to small children, it was a hard question to answer, because deep down I know that even if I do not intentionally create harm in my actions, it does not mean it has not happened. In the end, I am trying to do the right thing, and sometimes I unknowingly create harm. As a professional, a dad, a neighbour and a respecter of the land, it was a reminder for me to remain sober about the reality that sometimes in the act of doing good, I can create harm. To reduce the potential and consequences of harmful outcomes associated with my activities, I shall remain duly diligent ….