This morning my little family took a bike ride on a new trail that my partner was made aware of because he is an avid cyclist. He hits the trails with groups of other bike enthusiasts, using it as a form of exercise, mental wellness, and general well-being. We have invested in our family get-up so we can enjoy bike rides together. It’s a low impact activity, we can enjoy the outdoors and our beautiful natural region, and introduce a very healthy activity to the kids. Recently we invested in an e-assist bike, so we can ride longer and further with our wee family.
This all seemed beautiful and wonderful until I started considering the impact on the Eco-systems of this low-impact activity.
The trail we went on this morning was a new one. The marks of the machinery were still visible where the trail was cut out of the earth. Stumps, roots, and re-positioned plant-life made us sadly aware that there had been heavy human activity here. My thoughts didn’t stop there.
Where are our limits? Do we recognize them? Do we honour them? How far are we going to push to satisfy our every need, want, and hope? When is enough truly enough?
We live in wide-open spaces here. We do not live in the city, where Eco-systems have been completely altered to support human activity; where animals no longer roam freely, they have been completely pushed out. But where we live, we share this home with animals and plant-life – just as we do on our planet Earth. And still there is impact.
My e-bike may seem like a sound Eco-choice, and yet… There is the battery to think of, and also the noise that comes from the “motor”; some wild animals are very sensitive to sound, and even this odd bicycle sound can disturb an animal, or family of animals. A group of bicycles going through an area have been shown to disturb bears and alter their routes.
The trail itself is approximately two meters wide. Trees had to have been cut down, earth dug up, soil disturbed, and plants re-positioned. Heavy machinery compacts earth, soil Eco-systems, and spooks the animals that already inhabit the area. Some animals may not return there because it has been so disturbed. And all this affects everything else.
So at what point do we stop building trails and roads for our recreation? Where we rode, there are several intersections where other trails are proposed to go – flags and signs are up.
We have been witnessing for decades that back-roads and forestry service roads are disturbing wildlife, and compacting animals into smaller areas. The use of dirt-bikes, side-by-sides, and trucks on and off trails are causing the habitat of species to shrink so exponentially that they are easy targets. We have already witnessed the extinction of our caribou herds. And don’t blame the wolves. When you cut off the habitat and force caribou into a square, you can be sure they are an easy target for predators like wolves. And then we think a wolf cull is going to save the species. No.
But limits can. We can just stop. We can enjoy what we already have. We don’t need more. We can make do. We have thousands of trails and roads that we are already using. This can sustain our lifestyle. We don’t own the forests. We don’t own the earth. We don’t own the planet, waterways, Eco-systems. We are part of the whole system.
I mean, in an alternate universe, I’d be pretty pissed if a group of bears got together with their bear-machinery, and cut around my house to expand their habitat, forcing me to stay within my area out of fear for myself and my children. Too abstract? If you have an empathetic mind, it really isn’t that abstract.
Humans need limits. Every single action we take, impacts something else. Let it be enough.
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