All eyes are on me. It could be the getup. I’m wearing chest-high, army green, water waders held in place by short suspenders and matching rubber boots. That alone would raise most eyebrows, but coupled with the fact that I’m nervously―and slowly, thanks to the cumbersome outfit―making my way to the edge of a bog whose last entrants lost their footing and sacrificed their phone in the process, adds to the drama. That, I vow, will not be me, but neither will I let my nerves stop me from this quintessentially Canadian experience.
The bog that’s calling to me is filled with cranberries. A sea of the red and yellow pea-sized fruits bobbing in a field in which their brethren remain moored to the vines. The bog is a simulation of the harvesting technique that is used regularly on this farm in Ontario just north of Toronto. These waders aren’t a costume; they’re a uniform.
Soon enough I’m in, and the water begins to act like a suction on my oversized ensemble, providing both warmth and, surprisingly, support that steadies my stance and allows me to feel more confident as I play and take photos in the gorgeous scene. I could happily stay longer, but there are others waiting for their chance. They, too, have been drawn to the water. No surprise there. We Canadians always are.
Look closely at our history, culture, and lore, and you’ll find water at its heart. We are nestled between three oceans, and enjoy our lakes, rivers, and ponds year-round. And while we are raised in, on, and around it, recent years have hammered home the billions of reasons why we can’t ever take water for granted. A full 20 percent of the world’s freshwater lives here. Only about seven percent of it is renewable―coming into our rivers and lakes from rain and snowmelt―and climate change warnings have made clear that it is at risk. A recent UN report on climate change paints a grim picture globally of higher temperatures, extreme drought, and rising sea levels. And Canada isn’t immune—on June 29th this year, British Columbia recorded its hottest temperature in history. In fact, as Canada is warming on average at twice the rate as the rest of the world, its global role in water conservation is more important than ever.
As an example of those playing their part, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is helping to protect natural areas right across the country, including freshwater habitats–which improve our water quality and quantity, help to release water during drought, and hold it back during times of flooding. To date, the conservation organization has helped to protect more than 3,900 miles (6,300 kilometers) of rivers and streams, and more than 247,000 acres(100,000 hectares) of lakes, ponds, and wetlands. And with more to be done, Finish® has pledged its support to freshwater conservation through contributions to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Canada’s connection to water is a connection to its heart, and visitors who come here and don’t include it in their experience are missing out.
Visit one of our islands for a glimpse. Communities on Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Vancouver Island are among the many coastal enclaves that celebrate the land and the water through food and festival. But the cityscapes of Montreal and the Toronto Islands are islands, too, each offering spaces to celebrate the bounty of the region and the skylines of the surrounds.
You might choose to explore the powerful waterscapes that helped to shape this nation―literally. From the majesty of Niagara Falls to the hidden cascades that crisscross Manitoulin Island to the glaciers in Alberta. Or come to appreciate the history that waterways made possible: prairie rivers crossed in buffalo-hide boats, seaways that carried traders, canals that helped move timber from north to south. Explore the ocean floor without getting wet in the Bay of Fundy. Feel your heart pound while shooting white-water rapids in the Yukon. Discover a river valley oasis in the middle of the prairies in Saskatchewan. Watch whales and otters on ferry cruises in British Columbia, Zodiacs in Quebec, and sailboats in Nova Scotia. Gather at lakefront cottages and beaches on a city’s edge. Take the plunge in hot springs and cold-water spas. Follow salmon, bears, and moose whose natural meanderings provide a show worth staying for. Do as Canadians do.
We wade, splash, dive, rinse, dunk, paddle, and swallow. We freeze, slip, glide, crack, and build. We don the gear and get out in it. We skip the clothes and take our chances. We build windows big enough to watch a storm’s thunderous arrival and porches to admire the fruits and flowers the rains leave behind. Water is at the center of rituals in the summer (cannonball jumps and dragon boat races) and winter (polar bear splashes and outdoor ice rinks) and everything in between. And when we aren’t in it, we’re admiring it. The bright, bold reflections of auburn leaves across still waters. The rising mist that gives way to the brightness of day.
Responsibility is the thread that runs through it all. It keeps us bound to the water, the country, and the planet. And without our collective assumption of responsibility, it unravels. It’s the deep inhale after a summer swim or the breathless wonder of a kid crouched over a tidal pool calling you to “come see!” We can’t afford to take it for granted because for every incredible water experience we have, there’s the equally frightening possibility of losing it all―if we don’t do our part to protect it.
Helping is Easy
The good news is there’s no sacrifice required. It’s as simple as skipping the pre-rinse in the sink before putting your dishes in the dishwasher, not running the tap while you brush your teeth, using refillable water bottles, and watching the weather so you aren’t watering the lawn right before it rains. Simple things―that could determine whether your kids or grandkids will be able to enjoy dips in the lakes you swam in as a kid, know the pleasure of a backyard hockey pickup match, or feel the awe of slipping below and behind a natural world wonder. We must protect our water so that generations to come can also experience the pure joy of standing in a bog surrounded by tiny, tart fruit and dancing among the berries with the abandon of a person who is secure knowing that they won’t lose their footing or drop their phone―and that they are willing to do their part to ensure we always have an opportunity to play in the water.