COLUMN: Warm, fuzzy, and in the know

We feel warm and fuzzy when it comes to nature. What’s not to like about our furry friends of the forest?

J.B. MacKinnon (above)

Second in an Elephant Mountain Literary Festival mini-series

We feel warm and fuzzy when it comes to nature. What’s not to like about our furry friends of the forest? Who doesn’t warm up to a walk in the woods on a summer’s day? Yet when it comes to eco-sensitivity, warm can be a warning of unwelcome change, and fuzzy thinking does nobody any good.

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival provides a sure-fire antidote to fuzzy thinking in the form of the literary triple-header “Reading the Earth.” The event, which features eco-scribes J.B. MacKinnon, Richard Cannings, and Briony Penn, takes place on Friday, July 8, 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre.

J.B. MacKinnon packed the house some years back when he came to Nelson with co-writer Alisa Smith to promote their book, The 100-Mile Diet. Their experiment in living sustainably captured imaginations and was a key player in the “eat local” movement.

MacKinnon’s most recent book, The Once and Future World, looks at nature as it once was, as it is now and as it could be. It’s a thoughtful, eye-opening commentary in which MacKinnon asks us to reimagine nature; to reconnect, re-wild re-fuzzy, if you will.

A Vancouver Sun review of The Once and Future World lauded MacKinnon for creating “A compelling, relevant story without preaching or darkening our minds with guilt.” The worldwide bestseller was proclaimed “Beguiling vividly written and exquisitely structured” by the UK Sunday Times.

MacKinnon told the Vancouver Sun that “Nature has been pushed to the margins of our lives, but the wild is still out there, ready to be rediscovered and erupt back into abundance. Nature isn’t gone it’s waiting.” Join us to learn how we can reconnect.

If you didn’t know Richard (Dick) Cannings before, you may know him now as the member of parliament for South Okanagan-West Kootenay. For many, he’s long been a household name as a biologist and birder with 18 books on the natural world to his credit, many co-authored with his brother Sydney including British Columbia: A Natural History, a BC classic and the focus of the evening’s talk and slide presentation.

Cannings has served on the boards of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Committee on Endangered Wildlife, among other groups aimed at protecting natural habitats. His experience as a broadcaster and a teacher makes him a natural for the Capitol Theatre stage.

I once wrote Briony Penn fan mail after a friend gave me a copy of A Walk on the Wild Side, a compilation of her Victoria Times-Colonist nature articles. It was one particularly playful piece that compared a Red Tide to Mick Jagger’s lips that got me writing (once I’d stopped laughing). She has since written several books, and made the cut for numerous awards in journalism and television broadcasting.

Penn is at EMLF with her new book The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan. The first official biography of “the father of Canadian ecology” just won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize at the 2016 BC Book Prizes.

McTaggart Cowan pioneered nature TV in the 1950s with the shows Fur and Feathers, The Web of Life, and The Living Sea. His work in Canada’s national parks became the foundation for wildlife conservation and environmental education in Canada. Get ready to join Penn in her deep appreciation for a game-changer too many of us have never heard of.

The evening is hosted by Bill Richardson, no stranger to the stage, the airwaves, and the printed page. I always feel warm and fuzzy about Bill, and I’m pretty sure you will too. Bottom line: there’s a whole lot to warm up to at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, which runs July 6 to 10 in Nelson, also includes the ever-popular Thursday night 100-Mile Gala, the Saturday Night Live! event featuring Bill Richardson and Caroline Adderson, Saturday panel discussions and more. For information and tickets go to emlfestival.com.

Previously in this series

Bibliobrilliance comes to Nelson

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