Hiking last week in Cathedral Provincial Park, my friends and I were constantly reminded of the huge biodiversity we were witnessing.
That diversity was rich and beautiful.
All manner of plants flourished in wet areas along creeks and around the shores of the core lakes. One of our group, quite informed on the varieties of flora, pointed out the differences from similar plants we might see at lower elevations (the core area of Cathedral Park is at over 2100 m. elevation, with hikes ascending skyward from there.)
Higher up, we encountered a wide variety of coniferous trees: black spruce, Engelmann spruce, several varieties of firs, larch and pine. And when we reached the alpine above the treeline, beautiful tiny alpine flowers–bright purple, yellow, white, red and blue (I wish I knew what they were).
We encountered high elevation mountain goats (I counted a flock of sixteen), some of whom also wandered through the campsite at will, hoary marmots, deer, golden squirrels, chipmunks and numerous varieties of birds. Fortunately, no bears.
The terrain itself was just as diverse: the gentle, vegetated slopes near the lakes yielded to open meadows as we reach the high alpine. The jagged “Denture Ridge” in one direction was offset by smooth-topped, glacially-honed barren ridges surrounding the core-area lakes.
From the summit—Stone City—we marvelled at nature’s expanse as we gazed upon the hundreds of peaks of the Cascades and across to the Coast Mountains, identifying such distant landmarks as Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. On our descent, we crossed a (somewhat treacherous) glacier, still doing its carving of the landscape beneath.
Also descending from the heights to the cluster of lakes were gurgling brooks and mighty waterfalls also doing their landscape whittling and providing wonder and music to their human admirers.
The bottom line: the Park contains a huge variety of those features we admire in nature; its reputation for diverse natural beauty well deserved.
Somehow, the presence of diversity, itself, seems to extract appreciation from us humans. At least when it comes to the natural environment.
Yet, that seems so difficult when it comes to appreciating it within our own species.
While we may pride ourselves in being a multicultural country—and Vancouver surely reflects that as well as any Canadian city—when I observe our human behaviour towards one another, I witness too little tolerance for diversity.
We’ve seen it in aggressive behaviour towards some ethnic groups during the pandemic.
We’ve seen it in the intolerance between people with differing perspectives on vaccines, lock-downs and government regulation of individual freedom.
We’ve seen it throughout history in the exclusionary practices, marginalization and crusades between followers of different religions.
We see it in the growing gulf between two opposing views of America, leading to concern whether our southern neighbour can even survive its diverging realities.
We see some of the same movement, if to a lesser degree, occurring in this country. We see it in a leader who labels those who disagree with his views as “unCanadian.” We see it in those “unCanadians” who counter with flag-waving demonstrations.
We see it in the breakup of families who hold opposing views on these issues. “I can only discuss the weather with you,” my friend’s sister recently told him.
Why can’t we appreciate diversity? Why can’t we let our human diversity bring us the kind of richness and awe that we see in nature’s diversity? Would we not be a much happier society if we appreciated the range of diversity around us?
Or must it always be “the survival of the fittest,” or strongest, or boldest, or richest, or the majority, or the prevailing dogma, at the expense of the rest?
Just wondering . . .