Wild Insight

Submitted by Kat Graves
Wildsight Invermere

There’s a peculiar word I learned in graduate school — and, amidst the many hours spent squinting at a screen, deciphering the sometimes unintelligible gobbledegook of academia — it has stayed with me longer than any vaunted philosopher or lofty theory: Haeccity. I know, it doesn’t look like a word at all but bear with me. Haeccity is defined as “a moment of awe-full or enchanting proximity to another animal in which one or both are changed, or become otherwise, from the encounter.”

In essence, it’s that jolt of adrenaline or inspiration or wonder that zips down your spine when you see a herd of caribou barrelling down a hillside or glimpse a grizzly bear and her cub from afar. I don’t think it’s limited to encounters between species, however. I think it can, and does, happen when we experience a profound sense of connection to place. In fact, I’d argue most of us who weren’t born here, but chose to live here, experienced it when we visited the Columbia Valley for the first time. 

Maybe it happened when you looked down upon the breadth of the Valley after a sweaty hike up Mount Bruce or when you witnessed an eagle soar overhead in the Wilmer Wetlands. Whenever, however it happened — you catch your breath. It is enchanting and you are changed by it. 

As part of my job — but also as a chronic and incurable over-thinker — I spend a not-insignificant amount of time considering the concept of ‘haeccity’ in the context of our already changing climate. As the planet becomes increasingly less habitable both for ourselves and for other species, what possible encounters are we — and our children and grandchildren — losing out on? Will the generations yet to come have the chance to experience this wild place and the animals that inhabit it the same way we have? I don’t know, and, to be truthful, I’m not always hopeful. 

What I do know is that we can continue, as ever, to try. Our region — Canada’s Columbia and Southern Rocky Mountains — has been rated by global scientists as providing one of the best opportunities on the planet for successfully addressing the impacts of climate change. This kind of place-based approach is what’s come to be referred to as a nature-based climate solution (NBCS) and, according to one Nature United report, such solutions could reduce Canada’s greenhouse gasses by as much as 78 megatons per year — more than 10 per cent of Canada’s total emissions.

So, by protecting, restoring and better managing natural areas — like our Inland Temperate Rainforest or the Columbia Wetlands — that we love, and which are necessary for the removal of greenhouse gasses from our environment, we can simultaneously protect ourselves from the consequences of climate change and reverse, or at the very least halt the progress of, wildlife decline. Those are hefty promises, and, of course, there’s more to it than a short paragraph can possibly do justice to — but if you’re curious to learn more, Wildsight will be hosting a webinar on nature-based climate solutions on Oct. 21 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. MDT. Joining us will be Nature Canada, Protect Our Winters and the Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative — and, we hope, you. 

To register for the webinar, please go to wildsight.ca/events/nature-as-a-climate-solution/

With questions, please email Kat Graves at [email protected]