EcoAesthetics and Environmentalism: How to understand what it means that the Wood Buffalo National Park is in Danger

According to a CBC report “A United Nations agency has issued a warning about the environmental health of Canada’s largest national park.” Further, “UNESCO says northern Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park is threatened by energy development, hydro dams and poor management. It warns that unless management of the area improves, the park will be added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.”

The Wood Buffalo National Park is a part of the Boreal forest, one of the largest intact forests in the world, one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world, and home to 600 indigenous communities. So this UN report should not only suggest concern for the park but for every Canadian  a moment to pose larger questions about the wellbeing of our ecology about ongoing post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission impacts upon Indigenous peoples. What’s happening in the Boreal forest? While we don’t hear much on the news about industrial developments the Boreal Songbird initiative have put together a useful resource that covers the four main forms of industrial impacts: logging, mining, oil and gas, and hydro. They have illustrated that

The footprint of natural resource extraction industries the boreal forest already encompasses an area of at least 730,000 km2 (180 million acres), largely from forestry, hydropower, mining industries, and oil and gas extraction.

More than 30% of the Canadian Boreal Forest has been reserved for some form of current or future industrial development overall. New resource roads are pushing further and further north into the heart of the boreal each year, demonstrating the need to conserve large portions of the forest to create a balance in the boreal forest.

But these numbers are hard to understand and that’s why I feel ethnographic film is so valuable. In my film Pimachihowan I have attempted to create a filmic experience for viewers to feel what is at stake by these forms of industrial impacts. While I don’t deal with industrial impacts directly, I attempt to create a space where Boreal Cree elders Conroy Sewepagaham and Leonard Tall Cree can reflect on the feeling of industrial/colonial encroachment.



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