Beauty and First Person voices on eve of Climate Change Bill

As I sit here this evening, contemplating what the vote will be tomorrow in the US as the House of Representatives votes on the Waxman-Markey Climate Change legislation, I wander through a few late night Tweets (Twitter), and suddenly find myself face-to-face with three youths in Alaska.  The video (on YouTube) is simple and is the kind of documentary we need more of – first person, authentic, real things.  Something that we need to move to, within this complex world that is full, synthetic, resonant, and full of noise.

Take 4 minutes and 28 seconds to absorb this beautiful video of high school students sharing their observations. We have the responsibility to ask our legislators to change the laws in Canada – move forward to Copenhagen, with Canadian targets to reduce emissions.


Sometimes, it’s just being there..

Yesterday, we left at about 6:00 AM, Stephanie Lisoway, an enterprising young writer with the Neepawa Banner in Neepawa, Manitoba. (Neepawa is the birth-place of Margaret Laurence, the well-known Canadian writer).  Stephanie contacted me some weeks back, asking if she could head out for a morning of wildlife viewing and a short photo safari.  She felt that the 13,000 readers of the Neepawa Banner would like to know what we do, as an outdoor learning adventure company.

We had a great morning.  I am grateful to be able to live beside a national park, where I can be reminded of the bio-diversity of life, where the water that comes out of the national park is rich with invertebrates, and where wild nature re-connects me each day to the why I enjoy inspiring and putting visitors in touch with the beauty of our planet.  She has kindly provided us with a downloadable pdf link of the article – Hidden Gem In Our Own Backyard– that she wrote.  Thank you Stephanie!

The video below gives you some short insights into a few memorable moments of wildlife that we encountered during our morning photo safari into Riding Mountain National Park.  A lost gosling, a white-tailed deer buck feeding, whose antlers were in velvet, young bison calves, some beautiful footage of our bird of Manitoba – the great gray owl, and a gray catbird singing its heart out…be patient; it will take a few seconds to load, as it is saved for high speed broadband viewing.

Merlin dines on robin in front yard

Merlin on ground with robinYesterday, While meeting with a couple of people to plan the September field activities for the  Riparian habitat workshops at Onanole’s Sonics and Sojourns Festival of Learning & Music, we happened to look up from our planning discussions and saw a male merlin mantling a fresh kill.  As we watched, the merlin (a small falcon) proceeded to feed on the robin for about 20 minutes.  After this, it picked up the half-remaining body and moved to a new location for a “picnic lunch”.

Merlin with robin in talons

And, then he headed off.  Merlins typically feed on small birds (starlings, robins, finches, swallows) and small mammals, snakes, and insects.  About 80% of their diet is small birds.  When it took off with so much of the robin in its talons, I wondered whether there was a female and young at a nest that were needing to be fed.  We live on the edge of mature aspen and balsam poplars, with lots of open grassy meadows and nearby (half mile) is the south boundary of Riding Mountain National Park.  When I see this kind of amazing natural occurrence, I am deeply reminded of the depth of biodiversity we have on this planet.

It brings sharply into focus the responsibility we have to educate and inform our elected representatives to shift their policies and laws to deal with climate change.  Yvo de Boer, the UN Climate Chief offers four (4) important political essentials that we have to get right at the UN Climate Change Conference December 7 – 18, 2009.

What a great Christmas gift it would be to our children and grand-children to offer them a new global climate treaty that moves all of our countries towards a 350ppm CO2 atmospheric carbon target.  This will be the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (also known as COP 15) and the 5th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 5). According to the Bali roadmap, a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 is to be agreed upon at Copenhagen at this conference.  Maintaining a healthy atmosphere as part of our everyday community and business livelihoods contributes to biodiversity and a rich, healthy planet.

Natural Horsemanship – Training for Courage workshop in Erickson, Sept. 18 – 20


Heather Howdle, from Erickson, Manitoba forwarded information about a very unique workshop that will be taking place this September 18 – 20, 2009 during the same time as our Sonics & Sojourns Festival of Learning and Music.  A Natural Horsemanship three-day workshop, dubbed Training for Courage with Paul Dufresne will occur at the Erickson Arena and Fairgrounds.   Heather says, ” It’s very exciting as it will promote a harmonious relationship with your horse and allow you to work with the horse and teach the horse without using fear or force.”

For a POSTER providing information about this unique three-day clinic CLICK HERE, or

To register for either the Thursday evening demo or the clinic, please contact Heather Howdle at or email Heather

Learn techniques to improve the partnership between you and your horse, and promote a relaxed and willing attitude, confidence in both horse and rider, and the keys to achieving collection, lightness, and impulsion. Develop an exceptional relationship with your horse.

Listen to this  radio interview with Paul Dufresne, in which he gives an insight into his approach to his unique style of horsemanship training.

Ken Hamm’s blues soothing and filled with stories

Ken Hamm

Ken Hamm

Poor Michael’s Bookshop & Café is our local meeting place in Onanole.  Here is where you can find an old, original copy of one of Grey Owl’s first books (signed) and under glass, ready for the collector.  Or, you can have a great fair trade coffee which you can take out into the courtyard with your lawn chair to set up for an evening concert like the one we had last night.Murray Evans, co-owner of Poor Michael’s introduced Ken Hamm (Juno award winner) last night.

Singing and playing delta blues

Singing and playing delta blues

A very personal evening of unique blues and roots from the deep south to more contemporary.  You can learn more about Ken Hamm’s music and his bio, or purchase his music online through iTunes.

Playing with a unique finger-picking style and slide on his 1930 National steel guitar combined with a throaty blues-style voice, or picking an instrumental on his Martin, Ken gave us a delightful set of music, stories, and lessons about the blues, much of it in the traditional Delta blues style.  Finishing off with a stand-up banjo was a treat.  No wonder he is a guitar teacher, and teaches guitar workshops across this country.

A great local crowd turned out on a clear night, with the sun setting, and tucked into the courtyard.  We picked a few video highlights to share with you.  Enjoy!

American Academy of Environmental Medicine calls for immediate GMO moratorium

Well, it is not a surprise to learn of the recent (May 19, 2009) press advisory released by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, from Wichita, Kansas calling for an immediate moratorium on GM foods.   “Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health,” said Dr. Amy Dean, PR chair and Board Member of AAEM.  Their media release specifically refers to their position paper which has a very strong declaration that requests the following.

With the precautionary principle in mind, because GM foods have not been properly tested for human consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm, the AAEM asks:

With the precautionary principle in mind, because GM foods have not been properly tested for human consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm, the AAEM asks:

  • Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.

  • Physicians to consider the possible role of GM foods in the disease processes of the patients they treat and to document any changes in patient health when changing from GM food to non-GM food.

  • Our members, the medical community, and the independent scientific community to gather case studies potentially related to GM food consumption and health effects, begin epidemiological research to investigate the role of GM foods on human health, and conduct safe methods of determining the effect of GM foods on human health.

  • For a moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term independent safety testing, and labeling of GM foods, which is necessary for the health and safety of consumers.
The correlations in animal studies with various serious diseases indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

Read the press advisory and the AAEM Position Paper about why they are calling for an immediate moratorium on GMO foods.  Please distribute this information widely.

Bill McKibben-international campaign to make 350ppm the upper limit of global atmospheric CO2

I have come across an inspiring website called Wonderful ideas, actions, interviews, and suggestions about world changing stuff.  We live within a deficit of inspiration and positive stories. We are surrounded by a world in which the media (TV, radio, news, newspapers) concentrate on sensationalism, reality shows, and negative news.  So, it always comes as a left curve to have a media channel in which positive actions, inspired leadership, and world changing ideas can be presented.

Bill McKibben - engaged citizens are the crucial lever to help establish climate change legislation

Bill McKibben - engaged citizens are the crucial lever to help establish climate change legislation

This interview is fascinating.  Bill McKibben is a world renowned activist.  He has started a new movement – – He started the international campaign to make 350ppm of CO2 the safe upper limite for atmospheric carbon.  He sees it as very important to become part of our ordinary household language, wants to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis.

Read this interview to become informed, inspired, and action-oriented.  Our current level of CO2 is 385ppm and climbing.  Bringing it down is absolutely critical – for our future, our planet, and our children.

Marsh Tuxedo and Tails – The Sora

Sora Rail, Marshes of Riding Mountain National Park 


Sora Rail, Marshes of Riding Mountain National Park

One of the delights of being out at night is hearing sounds that we are not used to – for example the cackling of a barred owl, or the whinnying sound of a Sora Rail.  The sora is a small rail (marsh-dwelling bird that feed on small aquatic insects, snails, worms, and tiny fish.  In winter, they also feed on aquatic plants and seeds.  They are secretive; you don’t normally get to see them unless you are a really avid bird-watcher.

Which made this photograph memorable for me.  You see, when weather changes, different behavioural responses from wildlife appear to take place.  I decided to photograph some nesting marsh birds in Riding Mountain National Park on a cool somewhat miserable, cool, rainy day in early June, and as I was meandering came across this beautiful bird foraging close by.  Using my car as a blind, I slowly traveled along photographing it.  

One of the great benefits of a hybrid-electric vehicle is that it runs on the electric motor if the battery is charged up.  So, you can slowly move along with a wild species that are photographing without consuming gas, and yet carefully staying a distance away from the species you are photographing.

You will notice, also, a really neat aspect to this photo.  It was raining just enough that I was able to catch a raindrop that had hit the water to the right and behind the bird, causing it bounce up, with the ripple from its original impact already on the surface of the water surrounding it.  As John Shaw, a well-known US photographer once said in a photography seminar that I attended, “there is no excuse for not being there”.  Indeed, secretive Sora, bouncing raindrops, and great photographic images in the making.  Riding Mountain National Park is my backyard.  

Call us for our early morning Wildlife Watch or Photo Safaris, introducing you to wild nature, as things happen.  We’ve been doing this for 13 years in all seasons of the year.

Greg Holden shares his appreciation for 2009 Environmental Award


Greg Holden, Superintendent of Clear Lake Golf Course receives Environmental Award

Greg Holden, Superintendent of Clear Lake Golf Course receives Environmental Award

On June 9th, in Winnipeg, Greg Holden from the Clear Lake Golf Course was awarded the 2009 Manitoba Eco-Network environmental award in the Special Category, recognizing his leadership and commitment to environmental sustainability.  Anne Lindsey, the Executive Director introduced the awards.  Celes Davar shared a few words about why he nominated Greg, and introduced Greg.  

The inscription on the award reads…

“The Manitoba Eco-Network Environmental Award presented to Greg Holden, Given in recognition of significant contributions to the awareness and protection of Manitoba’s environment.  June 9, 2009”

Congratulations Greg…from everyone in this community!

See and listen to Greg’s thoughts and appreciation at the award ceremony in this short video highlight.

Greg Holden receives provincial environmental award


Greg Holden-champion innovator for environmental practices at Clear Lake Golf Course

Greg Holden-champion innovator for environmental practices at Clear Lake Golf Course


The Manitoba Eco-Network is pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 Manitoba Eco-Network Environmental Award.  

Greg Holden is presented with this award June 9, 2009 at the headquarters of the Manitoba Eco-Network in Winnipeg.

Award winners are chosen each year in three categories from amongst nominations submitted by the general public. The award is given “in recognition of significant contributions to the protection and awareness of Manitoba’s environment”. Since 1990, it has been a way for the environmental community to salute the often unsung heroes who do so much to make our world a better place.

This year’s winners are:

  • “Individual” Category: Anders Swanson, cyling and active transportation advocate, nominated by Kevin Miller, co-chair of Bike to the Future;
  • “Group” Category: Organic Food Council of Manitoba, nominated by Anne Lindsey;
  • “Special” Category: Greg Holden, Superintendent of the Clear Lake Golf Course, nominated by Celes Davar, President of Earth Rhythms, Inc.


Greg Holden, Superintendent of the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park is the winner in the “Special” category. Greg was nominated by Celes Davar, of Earth Rhythms, an eco-tourism provider operating in Riding Mountain National Park. Greg has led the operation of the Golf Course and restaurant at Clear Lake for 16 years, transforming it from a conventional pesticide and fertilizer-laden, waste-stream driven course to a model of sustainability, innovation and recycling.

The conversion stems from Greg’s personal commitment to the health of the planet – he has also been a certified organic garlic grower, built his own energy efficient home, and provides sustainability presentations to Riding Mountain National Park area visitors.

Innovative features of this environmental turf management of the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park include:

  • the use of composting toilets and a digester to minimize waste creating a resource for natural fertilization of the course, and eliminating the requirement for 300,000 gallons of groundwater for conventional flushing;
  • use of compost teas and a variety of natural and biological controls for weeds and fungi;
  • over the past several years, diversion of about 10,000 litres of waste cooking oil from area restaurants as a biodiesel source for golf course vehicles and tractors;
  • composting of all kitchen waste, grass clippings and leaf debris for use on the course and in the herb gardens;
  • and use of native species for plantings around the golf course.

As Greg embarks next year on a term as President of the Canadian Golf Course Superintendent’s Association, he will be taking the examples and lessons learned at Clear Lake to a national audience – one that is committed to putting into practice his message of sustainability for this popular sport.


There are several good international references for sustainable golf course management.  Perhaps one of the best is the Royal & Ancient in St. Andrews, Scotland.  They have an entire page on their website dedicated to environmental management and sustainable golf courses.

The R&A is golf’s world rules and development body and organiser of The Open Championship. It operates with the consent of more than 130 national and international, amateur and professional organisations, from over 120 countries and on behalf of an estimated 30 million golfers in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and The Americas (outside the USA and Mexico). The United States Golf Association (USGA) is the game’s governing body in the United States and Mexico.

GEO Industry Forum drives sustainable golf in Europe – Last month (May, 2009), The Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) and its European Golf Partners came together  to consolidate a shared positive vision for sustainable golf, drive forward environmental programmes, and to collectively evaluate progress to date.  The meeting of this ‘Industry Forum’, administered by GEO, represents another milestone in the way in which golf’s strategic leaders are mapping out a future in which golf will be internationally recognised for enhancing environmental quality and human wellbeing.

And, in New Zealand, New Zealand Golf and the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute has published online their Sustainable Golf Course Design Guidelines – very straight forward.

Congratulations Greg!