The flight path from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan flies over some of the most beautiful section of the Boreal Forest, looking east out the window of the small plane trees, shrubs and bushes are far as the eye can see broken up by snaking rivers that reach up to the expanse of Lake Athabasca.
However, if you look west out the plane, you will see the oil sands, mine sites, tailings ponds and the place that I worked for six years. I left that job, but it has left its mark on me and now, I’m not sure how I feel about development at the scale that it takes place in the north.
I am on my way to teach Environmental Monitoring, as part of my new job I get to travel to remote communities and teach with indigenous knowledge holders. Somehow, I have landed at the intersection of Western Science and Indigenous Wisdom. This road has been long complicated, I am, after all, a western scientist. I trust statistics and hard numbers to give me answers. But I will say that I have always had something in me that has guided me off that path, something that has spoken to look beyond the numbers see past the hypothesis and try to find the life that exists as part of the ecosystem that is being measured.
I am a Buddhist, and as such, I believe that all sentient beings deserve love and respect in this world, but I see the way trees breath in the air, I can feel the life that a forest brings, I can touch the fungi that is the only organism that through death carries life. I believe that something exists that is more than the sum of its parts.
I feel like I am standing on the precipice of something incredible.