Naturespeak 

Forty days and forty nights…

By Tobin Seagel,

Whistler Naturalist Society

"On that day, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.... The waters swelled so mightily that all the high mountains under heaven were covered... for 150 days." (Genesis).

Seven-thousand six-hundred years ago the Black Sea had been a freshwater lake hundreds of feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. Then, as the meltwater from the receding glaciers filled the world’s oceans, the rising seas flowed over the Bosporus Valley. Salt water flowed into the lake with catastrophic consequences to the area. The rising waters engulfed communities and people were forced from their ancestral homes. Noah, it appears, was the lucky owner of a boat.

As the waters subside and the clean up continues in Squamish and Pemberton, it is a good time to reflect on the recent flooding. Media has expounded significantly on the devastation caused by the flooding in Squamish and Pemberton, but so far has failed to highlight the importance of such events. In light of the recent floods, what can we learn from Noah and his merry band of animals?

First, floods are natural events. They are part of the global hydrologic cycle whereby water is continually cycled between the earth and the atmosphere. Just because we dike rivers and build communities, doesn’t mean Mother Nature will turn a blind eye.

Second, floods are a creative force. We depend on them. The fertility of the soils supporting agriculture in the Pemberton Valley is the result of infinite flooding events. Scientists believe that massive debris-flows and floods in Pemberton ~2,600, ~4,000, and ~6,200 years ago are responsible for sediment deposits up to 8 metres thick respectively.

Third, nature is resilient. Just like Noah and his animals, we will carry on after these big flood events. Floods are just one more component of the ecosystem we live in.

The recent high rainfall and flooding events as well as the fires throughout B.C. have had profound effects not just in our local communities but throughout the province as a whole. They will force us to re-think the management of our resources in light of further extreme climatic events associated with climate change. As we rebuild after the floods, it is a time of reflection. A time to reflect not just on the past, but on what we can do to ensure a sustainable future.

Upcoming Events:

Monthly Bird Walk — Saturday, Nov. 1. 8 a.m. Meet at the bottom of Lorimer Road at the Catholic church. Join Whistler experts in the monthly update of our feathered locals and migrants and brush up your skills to get ready for the Christmas bird count.

Whistler Naturalists Society annual general meeting — Nov. 13, 6 p.m. at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Frontenac Room. New board members needed. Positions available include:

• Weekly Naturespeak article co-ordinator. Great position for aspiring nature writers.

• Speaker Series Co-ordinator. Assist in organizing upcoming 2004 events; most speakers already booked.

• Federation of B.C. Naturalists correspondent.

• President, Vice-President, Secretary/Treasurer

For more information contact Veronica Woodruff at 604-935-8323, vwoodruff@whistler.ca.

Speaker Series — Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m. in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Frontenac Room. Dr. Scott Harrison will present a slide show of his research on cougars in B.C. He will talk about the four years that he spent capturing, radio-tagging, and following cougars. Scott will share what he learned about ecology from this elegant cat. These lessons may be useful to inspire Olympic athletes and to assist Olympic developers.

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