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States of Nature: Conserving Canada's…
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States of Nature: Conserving Canada's Wildlife in the Twentieth…

by Tina Loo

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Canada’s unique environmental history is explored in Tina Loo’s “State of Nature”. Published in 2006, it explores the changing shifts in how Canadians related to the environment in the twentieth century. By focusing on Canadian wildlife conservation, Loo attempts to take an extensive look at how Canadian conservation efforts developed, survived and evolved through the years. She looks at how political changes influenced public forms of conservation regarding wildlife management. She explains how Canadian conservation shifts from at-home initiative to one almost entirely controlled by the federal and provincial government, then back to a shared initiative. Rural regulations and practices became neglected as federal legislations began promoting the ‘art of hunting’ through protecting land for sport shooting while hunting for subsistence became increasingly restricted. She points to Canadian figures who have aided the move towards conservation such as Archibald Belaney aka Grey Owl, Jack Miner, Farley Mowat and Bill Mason.

States of Nature explains how there were shifts in how Canadians viewed and related to the land. In Canada, many of these shifts were a result of industrial growth affected the Canadian landscape. Attention to wildlife shifted from the rural dwellers to the politicians in the first half of the century. Wildlife management was developed and maintained using scientific ways of understanding the environment. They became regulated by provincial and federal jurisdiction, which undermined community initiatives and activities. Loo explains how parks were created to protect areas of land, though with the intention of protecting the land was for future industrial use or for game hunting, rather than for protection of the habitat. The protection of the North was also a large concern within the federal conservation efforts. However, Loo states that the role of regular Canadian citizens continued to play a vital role in the protection and development of conservation efforts. Even though many of the federal and provincial laws were not upheld and poaching and illegal hunting continued, Loo argues that on the whole, rural populations impacted the conservation efforts in a positive way. The Hudson Bay Company was also a contributing factor in Canada’s conservation efforts, as they depended on the survival of many animals in the wild for their company’s survival. Their interested in making sure that hunting regulations were followed came from their awareness that less hunting by illegal hunters, and the survival of natural habitat for animals meant that more fur was available for them.

The second half of the century began with governmental powers still controlling most of the conservation efforts. The conservation of specific animals was professionalized, such as the caribou and bison parks that the government created in an attempt to control animal numbers. For the most part, the government’s main concern was the accessibility of the meat of the animals, rather than the conservation of the species from extinction. Illegal hunters (including many Aboriginals at this time) and predator that hunted on the protected animals were treated as enemies of the governmentally controlled (and in some cases created) environments. The idea that the wilderness had a right to exist away from humans gained public attention during the 60s. While conservation continued to focus on the protection of the environment for sport shooters, there was an increase in the involvement of non-governmental interest and activity, such as Ducks Unlimited.

Loos book provided a great of deal insight in the development of conservation in Canada. It is well organized, providing a general outline of Canada’s movement in conservation which was followed by a chronological study through the twentieth century. She uses a variety of sources such as reports from annual meetings of commissions on Conservation in Canada, high level academia such as the Acadiensis and the journal Labour/La Travail, and a variety of publications on all parts of the conservation spectrum such as studies on specific mammals, birds, and significant people or institutes affecting conservation. However, while she uses a variety of sources, she focuses most of her attention on the actions of the government rather than providing a well-balanced approach focusing on how Canadians at all levels of society involved themselves in conservation efforts and environmental concerns.

Loo’s sources are almost all Canadian sources, providing a wide assortment of evidence of the Canadian experience. She discusses a variety of Canadian topics in conservation, such as Grey Owls influence, that were specific to the Canadian experience. She helps the reader distinguishing Canadian opinions and events from those of Americans or the British during this period. However, in providing limited information about international conservation action, she downplays the significance that British and American conservation played in influencing Canadian decisions and public opinions in the first half of the century. In the first half of the century, Canada had depended on the British as a role model in almost every part of society. While this changed in the second half of the century, it’s unlikely that the British impact in the first half o the century was as modest as Loo’s book suggests. The actions of the Americans would also have created a much larger impact then Loo suggests because Canada received many sources of media directly from America such as magazines and radio broadcasts.

The north is discussed many times by Loo, but she did not include any information about the High Arctic Relocation that the Government of Canada initiated in the 1950s. Many Inuit were moved from their traditional lands to locations much further North in an attempt by the government to maintain sovereignty of the North. The Inuit would have had to learn the habits, lifestyles and cycles of the environment much further north. It is unclear whether this move to the north affected the natural cycles of the animals in the far north as they now became victims of subsistence hunting. Perhaps animal levels were maintained, but it is also possible that animals became endangered as the Inuit were unaccustomed to these animals and the environment that far north. This could also be linked to environmentalist concerns later in the twentieth century, where some animals and habitats were identified as having been adversely changed due to human interference. There is some information about this provided in other sources, but Loo does not discuss it.

Loo also does not mention the affect of popular media, such as Bambi. It has been mentioned in other ecological studies books that the movie Bambi brought an awareness of animal rights to a whole generation of viewers since its release in 1942. If Loo believes Bambi to be insignificant to the Canadian experience, she does not explain why, leaving the reader wondering why Bambi was excluded as a key figure in the studies of environmental studies.

Overall, Tina Loo’s book, States of Nature, provides the reader with a very good understanding of the Canadian experience with conservation of Canadian’s wildlife. Her book is well written, well researched, and well presented. It contributes to not only the studies of environmental studies, but also to Canadian studies as she educates the reader about Canadian events, perspectives and social practices. ( )
  gothic_hands | Feb 4, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0774812907, Paperback)

States of Nature is one of the first books to trace the development of Canadian wildlife conservation from its social, political, and historical roots. While noting the influence of celebrity conservationists such as Jack Miner and Grey Owl, Tina Loo emphasizes the impact of ordinary people on the evolution of wildlife management in Canada. She also explores the elements leading up to the emergence of the modern environmental movement, ranging from the reliance on and practical knowledge of wildlife demonstrated by rural people to the more aloof and scientific approach of state-sponsored environmentalism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:21 -0400)

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