Learning about nature and respect

I have generally made it a point not to respond to people who either take exception to or disagree with what I write.

(Part one of a two-part column)

Over the past 40 years or so of writing about the outdoors and, more specifically, the past 16 years of writing The Great Outdoors column which appears in the Shuswap Market News, I have generally made it a point not to respond to people who either take exception to or disagree with what I write.

If memory serves me well, I think I have only responded twice. In both incidents it was, quite simply, because I was wrong about something I had written. I am at least old enough, if not wise enough, to know when I am wrong. I also like to think that I am big enough to admit to it when I am wrong.

Be that as it may, I have decided to respond to yet another letter to the editor about one of my columns and the subject of fishing in McGuire Lake.

In actual fact, the basic premise of my April 29 column was about respect for nature.

However, in his most recent letter to the editor, Mr. Tom Crowley suggests that in my discourse about respect for nature, I inexplicably omitted to include respect for fish.

I should mention here that I personally have tremendous respect for Mr. Crowley.

I have known him for pretty well as long as I have lived in Salmon Arm and although we may not always agree on everything, I do respect both his opinions and his knowledge.

Over the years we have talked about various issues and I must say that I have learned a great deal from those conversations.

Like I say, I respect what he has to say and would not dismiss his opinions without at least giving them some thought and consideration.

As I wrote in my column last week, I have always tried to show respect for nature.

Just being out in nature is, for me, to be a part of nature. As a kid I spent much of my time wandering along the banks of a creek that flowed not far from my home and I also admit to squandering much of my youth casting a line to fish in that creek.

I fondly remember spending many hours there with my father, talking and learning about the wonders of nature, both great and small, that surrounded us. Even now, I enjoy just sitting out in my boat, watching the dragonflies buzz in and out among the reeds. I derive a simple pleasure from listening to songbirds and watching eagles and ospreys soar high in the sky above.

And yet, with all that I have written about the outdoors, it is still hard to put into words things like the sense of loneliness I feel when I hear the cry of a loon as it calls out across the lake or the sense of wonder I feel as I watch flocks of ducks and geese honking their way across the autumn sky.

As for the stocked fish in McGuire Lake:

I concur that it is an unnatural process in an unnatural environment. The sole value of the fish stocking program lies in the fact that it provides a certain number of kids (and kids together with their parents) with an opportunity to at least experience fishing.

In an ideal world, we would not have altered our natural environment to the degree that we have. We would live in harmony with nature. But that is not reality. Sadly, there now exists a disconnect between many young people and nature.

What one fails to understand, one invariably fails to respect.

I believe that the disconnect between young people and nature cannot be mended unless we provide opportunities for young people to experience nature. McGuire Lake should not be about fishing or not fishing, but rather about experiencing and learning about nature – and respect for nature.

Salmon Arm Observer

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