COMMENTARY: Yukon’s healthy land and forests are essential services

Joe Copper Jack & Katarzyna Nowak

Special to the News

As essential services go, keeping land intact and healthy is vital to all of us. The health of our communities depends not only on the functioning of our healthcare system but also on vigorous, functioning ecosystems. Acknowledging that land is a source of health means starting with, rather than “incorporating,” Indigenous knowledge.

“Natural ecosystems are infrastructure,” says B.C.-based biologist Eric Balke, who advocates for salt marshes as protection against floods. The Yukon’s healthy ecosystems are protection against drought, famine and climate chaos.

Healthy wild fields and forests contribute to human diets well beyond animal protein. Spruce tips, fireweed shoots, rose petals, last year’s cranberries, and morels are all foods people have harvested and eaten since spring began in the Yukon. These wild foods have been freely consumed at a time when the food and agricultural sectors have been deemed essential services all over the world during COVID-19. The Yukon’s wild foods are the products of productive soil, land and forests, creating food security and resiliency. A study led by the Center for International Forestry Research demonstrates that wild fruit is consumed at a frequency of more than twice that of domestic fruit in countries such as Zambia.

In the Yukon, applications for hunt permits for animals are up by some 30 percent this year. People may be concerned about food security and wanting to stock up before a second wave of the novel coronavirus. They are turning to the land and the animals it sustains: moose, sheep, caribou, salmon, which rely on large, unencumbered landscapes and free-flowing rivers.

Access to safe, clean water results in good sanitation and hygiene in the Yukon. We cannot take this for granted given how many of the world’s people, including more than 100 First Nations communities across Canada, must boil water or have do-not-consume water advisories. The Yukon’s pristine air means no exposure to air pollution, which has been linked to COVID-19 mortality. The boreal forest, like the Amazon rainforest, is one of the world’s lungs.

In the Yukon, health is and will continue to be synonymous with the integrity of land, forests, and permafrost. If Canada and other world governments want to “build back better,” then they would do well to invest in land health, a nature-based solution to many contemporary problems: climate change, deteriorating mental wellness, and disease emergence. Some countries are already doing this — Australia just committed $650 million to Indigenous rangers programs, New Zealand is fast-tracking the construction of new wetland systems, and Scotland is promoting outdoor learning as key to reopening and recovery.

As we continue to discuss COVID-19 relief and recovery plans, keeping land healthy, restoring land-peoples’ relationships, and forging respectful partnerships between western and Indigenous knowledge systems must be central to our discussions. Primary pandemic prevention means healthy interactions between people, other animals, and our shared environments. This “One Health” holistic approach — that public and environmental health are so intertwined as to be one — is a framework that we can all agree on.

We must behave as part of nature, because we are. This means responsibility and recognition that among the Yukon’s essential services is healthy land. When we take care of the land, the land takes care of us.

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters on May 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Cap on rent increases will take effect May 15

The rollout of the policy is creating ‘chaos,’ says opposition

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Most Read