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Stories and images about nature and photography on the Canadian Prairies

Jane Jacobs – a 100 years of progressive urban thought

Posted by on 4. May 2016 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Jane Jacobs – a 100 years of progressive urban thought

Jane Jacobs – a 100 years of progressive urban thought

Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) an American born journalist and activist, best known for her work on improving the quality of life in urban communities, was born on this day 100 years ago. Jacobs saw cities as ecosystems that had their own structure and dynamic that would change over time according to how they were used. She promoted city planning with higher population density (and criticized car-centric culture of suburban sprawl), advocated for support of local economies, and for mixed use of smaller, more nimble city blocks. In her influential and most cited book, The Death and Life of American Cities, Jacobs argued that urban development and renewal did not respect the rights and needs of most city inhabitants.     Jacobs carried her fight for community-based urban planning to Canada in mid 1960s. After moving to Toronto in 1968, she published six more books about city planning, economics, ethics governance and culture. Jacobs is credited, together with sociologist and historian Lewis Mumford, with inspiring the New Urbanist movement. I can personally relate to her ideas how people can build a solid foundation for their communities (see Jane Jacobs – Ten Big Ideas) especially by: Strengthening social capital – everyday activities and interactions among people that occur in neighbourhoods slowly build up a network of intertwined links between neighbours. This eventually provides a foundation for mutual trust, cooperation and resilience to stress in difficult times, Promoting citizen science – the people best equipped to understand the complexity of urban life (and its connection with the natural elements within city limits) are “ordinary, interested citizens”. With open eyes, and not limited by assumptions imposed by professional training and code of practice, city residents can more freely learn from what they see and encounter in their daily lives.     A strong believer that local residents should have input on how their neighbourhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to become familiar with the places they live in. I am proud to have participated in last three Jane’s Walks, citizen-led walking tours towards community-based city building inspired by the ideas and work of Ms. Jacobs. This year I will lead a nature photo walk to a beautiful prairie landscape on the northeast edge of Saskatoon (more info after the link). Hope you will be able to join us and continue Jane Jacobs’ legacy....

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Saskatchewan election – vote for the grasslands

Posted by on 3. April 2016 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Saskatchewan election – vote for the grasslands

Saskatchewan election – vote for the grasslands

On the eve of the 2016 Saskatchewan election, it is disappointing to see that the environment and sustainable development have not been a serious topic of debate. We have heard almost nothing what the major political parties will do to safeguard our disappearing native prairie landscapes. The prairie ecosystem is one of the most altered and threatened in North America; only 20% of Saskatchewan’s native prairie remain, and in some areas, such as in the Regina Plains, there are less than 1% native prairie left. Even protected areas do not have a secure future, as a series of political measures have recently undercut their status.     Why should we be concerned how our elected leaders will manage natural resources that belong to the people of Saskatchewan? When we look at the most imperilled ecosystem in Canada, there many reasons why Saskatchewan grasslands matter (as compiled by writer and naturalist Trevor Herriot): Because they are rare and threatened by cultivation and other kinds of development. Because they support endangered species. Because they are diverse. Because they protect soil and water Because they sequester carbon. Because they support ranching economy and culture. Because they contain the cultural heritage of the prairie. Because people need native prairie places they can visit. Because all natural land has value that goes beyond economics. Because we have a responsibility to the future.     When you go to the polls tomorrow to elect the provincial government for the next four years, vote for a MLA representative that cares about, and is interested is supporting our grassland heritage.  ...

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Jane’s Walk 2016 – nature photography at Northeast Swale

Posted by on 25. March 2016 in Blog / Journal, Workshops | Comments Off on Jane’s Walk 2016 – nature photography at Northeast Swale

Jane’s Walk 2016 – nature photography at Northeast Swale

I will lead a nature photography walk to Meewasin’s Northeast Swale. This guided photo walk is part of the 2016 Jane’s Walk festival taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We will focus out lenses on wild critters and details in nature found on a beautiful prairie landscape along the northeast edge of town. Date: Saturday, May 7, 2016 Time: 7 – 8 p.m. Jane’s Walk is a global movement of neighbour-led walking tours inspired by urbanist Jane Jacobs. The idea behind Jane’s Walk is quite simple: encourage people to walk, talk to their neighbours and build a community based on diversity. The Saskatoon festival will start on Friday May 6th and end on Sunday, May 8, 2016.     The nature photography field trip will take place immediately after the guided nature hike with Renny Grilz and Louise Jones (6 – 7 p.m. at the same location). Renny is a Resource Management Officer with the Meewasin. He is an ecologist with over 20 years of managing conservation areas for biodiversity across the Prairie provinces and specialized in native plants. Louise Jones is Chair of the Northeast Swale Watchers, a group of concerned citizens who came together in 2011 to monitor plans for development in and around the NE Swale. Come early and learn about things you will be photographing later during the golden evening light. What to bring: your camera, a macro lens (or a zoom lens that can focus close enough to photograph lichens on rocks), snacks, drinking water, insect repellent and a wind-proof jacket. Optional but recommended: a tripod that can be lowered close to the ground. We will be walking on rough terrain; please bring shoes with adequate ankle support. Event will be cancelled in case of a heavy rain. There is no cost to participate.     Location (updated directions): Meet at the Meewasin Northeast Swale on Lowe Road (Range Road 3050). Drive north on Central Ave (north of Attridge, intersection next to Dutch Growers) to Agra Road  where Central turns to gravel. Pass Fedoruk and turn right on Agra Road and drive to the intersection of Lowe Road, Agra Road and Fedoruk Road. Turn left onto Lowe Road. Look for an orange portapotie and parked vehicles. Northeast Swale is next to the slough on the east side of road before reaching the Sas­katchewan Wildlife Federation building (Range Road 3050 Saskatoon S7S 1N1). Location coordinates: 52°10’36.9″N 106°34’29.7″W (view on the Google Map) Alternate route: if Central Avenue is under construction: Drive north on Central Ave, turn right on Somers Road, turn left on Konohoski Road until the intersection with Fedoryk Drive.  Turn right on Fedoryk Drive and turn left onto Lowe Road; Northeast Swale is next to the slough on the east side of road before reaching the Sas­katchewan Wildlife Federation building (Range Road 3050 Saskatoon S7S 1N1).  ...

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Conservation groups call for protection of former PFRA pastures

Posted by on 4. November 2015 in Blog / Journal, Conservation | Comments Off on Conservation groups call for protection of former PFRA pastures

Conservation groups call for protection of former PFRA pastures

The 23rd Prime Minister of Canada was sworn into the office this morning. There are high expectations from the new federal government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau to repair damage caused by the departing Conservatives, especially in the area of environmental protection and climate change. Three large conservation organizations: Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and Alberta Wilderness Association are calling the new Liberal government to announce an immediate pause in transfer of community pastures formerly managed by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) to provincial control, until a legally binding plan is in place to protect their ecological value.     Former Conservative government announced in 2012 that it was cancelling the community pasture program, administered by the PFRA, and transferring the Crown land to the provinces. The Saskatchewan government, in turn, announced that it would sell or lease the former federal community pastures to individual pasture patron groups. Twenty out of the 62 pastures covering 720,000 hectares have already been transferred to patron groups or associations in Saskatchewan. Management structure and the ability to sustainably use the pastures differ widely between the groups. Situation is slightly different in Manitoba; the provincial government is supporting a more unified management structure through a non-profit Association of Manitoba Community Pastures. The AMCP is currently operating 14 pastures, with 9 more to be included in the network.     The community pasture system was created in 1930s with a goal to reclaim badly eroded soils, conserve natural prairie landscapes and provide grazing resource to small and medium size mixed-farm producers. Over the years, the management system under PFRA was developed to include maintenance of critical wildlife habitat, biodiversity protection and increase ecosystem resilience to climate change through water retention and ground aquifer replenishment. Government assistance in protection and management of these unique grassland areas is critical, especially in today’s ever-changing market conditions. Secure access to grazing space for livestock is important to small rural communities. It is also important to protect natural prairie landscapes from negative impacts caused by drought, over-use, development or conversion to intensive crop production. Call for an immediate pause on transfers of former PFRA community pastures should be followed by a commitment by federal and provincial governments to develop a unified plan to conserve native grasslands across the prairie provinces. We can not afford to lose more grasslands, the most threatened ecosystem in Canada.   Related news: Nature Saskatchewan wants pastures on Liberal agenda (Regina Leader Post) Province passes management of community pasture program to non-profit organization (Government of Manitoba press release)...

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Images on display to mark the World Photography Day

Posted by on 19. August 2015 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Images on display to mark the World Photography Day

Images on display to mark the World Photography Day

Did you know that the World Photography Day is observed around the world on August 19th? It is a day to celebrate the art of photography, whether you are a casual or a full-time professional photographer. Photography has changed the way we see the world around us. It has allowed us to connect and learn about lives and interests of fellow human beings. It allowed us to share our stories, places we have explored and memories of loved ones. In the era of digital photography, this ability to share became ubiquitous – millions of images are posted on “sharing” sites at speeds not possible just a short time ago. Don’t be shy. Grab the camera, snap a few pictures and share the beauty. The World Photography Day was first celebrated in 2009. August 19th was chosen to mark the day in distant 1839, when the French government announced the invention a rather practical gift to the world: the Daguerreotype photographic processes, developed by Joseph Nicephore Niepce and Louis Daguerre. The French government purchased the patent and announced the invention as a gift “free to the world”.     Select London Drugs stores throughout Western Canada will mark the World Photo Day with photography workshops and display of work by local artists. Good folks at the LD photo lab invited me to prepare several images to be printed and displayed at the 8th Street location in Saskatoon. I am honoured that they picked my work to mark this festive occasion. If you have time (and you live in or near Saskatoon), drop by the London Drugs store located at 2323 8th Street East. Walk around and look for 24 x 36 inch prints hanging from the ceiling. You can also enjoy viewing a small selection of landscape images from around Saskatchewan on a massive 75-inch TV screen. The display will be active until Saturday, August 22nd. And while you are at the store, check out the manager’s special – last time I visited they had (my favourite) Lindt chocolates on sale.  ...

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