All summer long the ants worked industriously, gathering grain from the fields and storing it away in their underground store houses. While the ants worked, carefree grasshoppers danced, sang and took long naps in the summer sun.
One day a grasshopper asked, “Why do ants work so hard hour after hour, day after day, all summer long?” Another grasshopper replied, “They work for a dark queen who commands them to serve her every need. Everything they do is planned out in precise detail and they work for almost nothing.” “Our life is much better,” said the 1st grasshopper, “Because we are so clever, we do what we want and have much more fun.”
“I have a plan,” said a 3rd grasshopper. “Let’s demand that the ants pay a toll for the path they take from the fields.” They sent word to the Ant Queen that the grasshoppers would require 1 seed in payment for each 100 seeds that passed on the path from the field. The Queen agreed but stipulated that they must replant 9 of 10 seeds collected before they kept one.
The grasshoppers were delighted and passed their new plan on to their friends. Other grasshopper agreed to plant seeds in return for a percentage of the planting. Each new grasshopper received 9 seeds, planted 8, and kept 1. They found even more grasshoppers that would plant 7 seeds, keep 1 and so it went. Soon hundreds of grasshoppers were engaged in the seed trade and the head grasshoppers were collecting bags full of seeds which they used to encourage even more grasshoppers to get involved in the planting process. The Ant Queen was happy that so many seeds were being planted for the next year’s harvest. The grasshoppers were happy that so many seeds would be growing into juicy green shoots. The head grasshoppers danced, sang and gambled with one another for the seeds that they expected to collect from the ants.
One day some of the grasshoppers discovered they had promised to plant more seeds than they had actually collected, so they began using notes that counted the seeds that would sprout in the next season since each seeded plant should produce 10 more seeds. It was easier to write notes than to plant seeds.
Then it occurred to the grasshoppers that they could also sell other grasshoppers the rights to the juicy green plants that would grow from the seeds that they had promised to plant. Grasshoppers could claim all the new plants that would grow from each packet of seeds they promised to plant. The more they promised to plant the more they could gamble or sell.
Soon the grasshoppers spent more time gambling with their promissory notes than they spent actually planting seeds. The worried Ant Queen finally sent out a message that no more seeds would be given to grasshoppers that had not actually planted the seeds as promised.
Then the weather turned bad and it became difficult to plant any more seeds. All the grasshoppers that had come to gamble for seeds began to look around for food and could only find leaves from the last of the plants the ants were harvesting. Soon the fields were stripped bare and the hungry grasshoppers demanded to see the Ant Queen.
“We are starving,” they said. “Let us have some of the seeds you have stored away for the winter!”
“My ants need those seeds to survive the winter so I cannot give you any from our storehouse. You wasted many of the seeds we gave you to plant or traded them for pieces of paper that you can’t eat,” she said. The head grasshopper reminded the Ant Queen that he had promises on paper from the grasshoppers to plant thousands of seeds. “Yes,” said the Ant Queen but those grasshoppers will not survive the winter and they have eaten all the plants that were producing seeds this year.”
“But what will we do?” asked the head grasshopper.
“Learn to eat paper,” said the Ant Queen.
“What will you do if no grasshoppers plant the seeds for next year? “ said the head grasshopper.
“Learn to eat grasshoppers,” said the Ant Queen.
by Jim Park
On July 30, under the warm summer sun, a group of concerned elders met in Volunteer Park on Point Grey Road in Kitsilano, Vancouver, to walk the beach where a proposed seawall extension is to be located. Led by Suzuki Elder David Cook, a geologist and naturalist, and assisted by Sheila Byers, a marine biologist, the walk spanned the area between the Vancouver and Jericho Yacht Clubs. With the two scientists were six Suzuki Elders, Mel Lehan from the Point Grey Foreshore Society, and two Vancouver Parks Board Commissioners, John Coupar and Trevor Loke. The walk was planned to show the participants the diverse intrinsic value of this beach area and to examine the features worthy of being preserved in their natural state.
David presented the geological history of this part of Kitsilano Beach and its unique characteristics, including coal veins, two basalt channels bounded on both sides by sandstone, a fossil repository, and other fascinating earth lore. Sheila discussed the rich and complex intertidal web of life found here, and emphasized the fragility of the beach ecosystems. There were many opportunities for hands-on experiencing of the topics being discussed by David and Sheila. Each handful of sea water that Sheila cupped in her hands contained a myriad of tiny life forms. It seemed so miraculous, I felt like a kid again. When David led us to a fossil repository and showed us a beautiful plant fossil that he had found there, I became the ten-year-old amateur paleontologist of my youth and started scouring the ground looking for T. rex bones. I didn’t find any bones but I did find a wonderfully detailed leaf fossil. In some ways, I think we all became children again as we slowly explored the seashore. Everyone was excitedly talking to each other, broad smiles of delight framing eyes bright with the joy of new discoveries and realizations. This is what a spiritual connection with nature does.
There will always be a need for more housing and more recreational areas for the public to access, but these needs are, in my opinion, greatly outweighed by the absolute necessity to keep some places free of human influence, left wild in their natural state to heal, grow and evolve. This area of Kitsilano Beach is one such place. As Elder Diana Ellis noted, it has a rich history of occupation by the indigenous peoples who lived here for thousands of years, as well as by many other settlers from all over the world who chose to make it their home in more recent times. In our time, it has been allowed to be itself, to slowly erase all signs of human occupation and to return to its natural state. These areas are becoming increasingly rare within urban environments.
It is hoped that, as a group, we conveyed our strong feelings to the two city commissioners who kindly made the time to join us, and that they will convey our wishes to the Vancouver City Council. If they felt any of the magic that we felt down on the beach, then I’m confident that they will recommend against building a seawall along that portion of Kitsilano Beach.
Thank-you to David Cook and Mel Lehan for organizing two walks that were deftly merged into one, and to each participant who added to the knowledge pool of this area. It was fun!
Left to right: David Cook; Sheila Byers; Jim Park; Diana Ellis; Cynthia Lam.
by Patricia Grinsteed
I visited the Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre near Fort Langley, B.C., in the fall of 2010 with a group of elders from North Shore Neighbourhood House, North Vancouver. We were shown a film on the near-extinction of the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). We then toured the facility and became educated on the long term breeding programmes intended to create healthy colonies of the species for release back into the wild. I promptly fell in love with these creatures. When asked “why?” I answered “because this experience has been the first in my life where and when I had come face to face with a near extinct species”. In 2010 the Conservation Centre, operating on shoe string financing, had only 6 pairs to breed from. This year they are hoping for 8 breeding pairs. Although the Centre maintains small numbers of other endangered species from Canada and around the world, including the critically endangered Vancouver Island Marmot, for me the plight of our B.C. Northern Spotted Owl affected me the most. Perhaps I was just responding to the deep wise look they appear to have.
The Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre was founded in 1986 by Gordon and Yvonne Blankstein. Initially comprising 55 acres of temperate rainforest in the Fraser Valley, it has since been expanded to over 300 acres. Mountain View’s mission and purpose is to save rare and endangered Canadian wildlife species from extinction by breeding them into thriving family groups and returning them to their natural habitat. More than 50 different species of rare and critically endangered animals have been hosted at the Centre over the past 25 years. The main facilities now include a large barn with quarantine areas, veterinary and keeper service areas, several hoofstock barns, an aviary complex, and several small carnivore houses. Important components are the Vancouver Island Marmot breeding facility, a 20 acre Northern Spotted Owl habitat area, and a wetland built specifically for marine & amphibian species.