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Can We Stem Today’s Apathy Toward Nature? - Pioneer of Prairie Ecology Inspires a New Generation of Conservationists

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Filed under: News

Prairie conservationist have their work cut out for them today, as industrial and resource extraction interests destroy habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse and Woodland Caribou, and policy-makers abandon responsibility for Crown grasslands and their endangered species. “Meanwhile,” according to well-known Regina naturalist, Trevor Herriot, “as prairie culture becomes increasingly urbanized, technology-dependent, and farther from the ecological health that our indigenous and settler ancestors enjoyed, each new generation becomes more out of touch with the land and the ethics that might protect it”.

Two timely new books have been released that connect the past to the present providing today’s environmentalists and conservationists with an inspiring example from our settler history. Celebrating the remarkable life of Robert David Symons (1898-1973), pioneer of prairie conservation and natural history, these two new books bring back the all but forgotten voice of one of Western Canada’s earliest and most passionate defenders of wildness.

Robert David Symons, Countryman: Artist, Writer, Naturalist, Rancher (Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery / Hagios Press; 2013) by Terry Fenton (with an introduction by Trevor Herriot) presents a wide-ranging retrospective of this early prairie artist and conservationist. The next book, A Country Boy: From Sussex to the Canadian West (Hagios Press; 2013) brings to life a recently discovered memoir of Symons’s formative years in England and his early years in Saskatchewan.

R.D. Symons was a Saskatchewan naturalist, whose books greatly influenced this generation’s prairie naturalist writers including Trevor Herriot. “Symons is a mentor I never met.” says Herriot. ”He spoke passionately on behalf of prairie ecology and prairie culture and has become a foundational inspiration for contemporary prairie environmentalists and writers. The discovery of a lost memoir is exciting news for those of us who look to Symons as an early prophet of prairie conservation. ”

Taken together, these new books present Symons to a new generation of readers when environmental and conservation issues that Symons championed are very much in the public eye. Revealing his passion for nature and his visionary beliefs on conservation, these two new publications are an invaluable addition to understanding the roots of Canadian conservation, promoting a society that is sympathetic to nature, and creating a new generation of vocal advocates for the environment. 

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