Monday, 8 October 2012

The TEDxAlgonquinPark Experience

For those who were unable to take part in the TEDxAlgonquinPark experience and for those who want to re-live it, our blogger Vanessa shares her summary of the day. 

On Thursday September the 6th, the Algonquin Visitor Centre came alive for TEDxAlgonquinPark. The sun was shining on this warm summer day and Autumn colors were beginning to peek through the trees - a perfect setting for the event. The day began with registration and warm welcomes where attendees were given homemade birch bark nametags and many fascinating conservations sprung up between new acquaintances.
Everyone gathered in the theatre and the TEDx talks began. Megan Summers and Courtney Sinclair, our hosts, introduced the event and explained the TEDx format. Each speaker gives a dynamic 18-minute key note speech. The motto of TED, “ideas worth spreading” accurately describes our purpose. The day aimed to make people think, discuss and share. Everyone heard ideas that gave them a new perspective, ideas that they disagreed with, and ideas that they were passionate about.
Smiling faces gather for a group photo on the viewing deck. Photo by Rob Stimpson
Terri LeRoux kicked off the day by speaking on how she believes children are becoming disconnected from nature. Words like willow, heron and beaver have recently been removed from the Oxford Children’s Dictionary to be replaced by words such as chat room, mp3 and endangered. She touched on ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’, a term used to describe the lack of connection the young generation has with nature. Sadly more and more children are acquiring repetitive stress injuries from keyboards instead of scrapes from climbing trees. As a parent, one thing Terri hopes to instill in her own child is the difference between loneliness and solitude. She explained that loneliness is the feeling of disconnection whereas solitude is the feeling of universal connection. She left us with a call to action to help ensure all children in Ontario have the chance to experience the wilderness at an early age.
Chief Kirby Whiteduck of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan was the second speaker of the day. He shared his expansive knowledge of the Algonquin history as well as the hopes that the Algonquin nation has for the future of Algonquin Park, with the audience. 18 minutes was certainly not enough to recount the entire Algonquin history but it gave us some understanding of his peoples’ past. Chief Whiteduck spoke on Samuel de Champlain’s discovery of the area and showed us the original territories of Algonquin Park and surrounding areas. It was very interesting to imagine this area centuries ago.
We all sat back for a short interval to watch the TED video “When ideas have sex”, which showed that ‘WE’ is greater than ‘I’. When we work together we lay the foundation for a more prosperous future and our goals become much more attainable.
Finishing off the first session was Jamie McRae – a fifth generation lumberman. Jamie makes his livelihood in Algonquin Park and spoke on the continuous cycle of disturbance and renewal in the forest, the methods of shelter wood and selective cutting, and forestry’s role in conservation. He spoke of nature as a finite resource that has a life cycle much like that of a humans He left us with the message to buy Canadian wood for our economy and for our planet because Canadian wood is harvested with responsible practices.

Artist Gene Canning takes the stage at TEDxAlgonquinPark. Photo by Rob Stimpson
The second session began after a short break as TEDxAlgonquinPark continued. Artist Gene Canning began with an inspiring account of his trip through Algonquin Park following in Tom Thompson’s footsteps. Gene is on a search for the sites of Tom Thompson’s paintings, with paints and an easel in tow, to capture these iconic spots in his own style, as they are now. He shared images of his paintings and recounted his delight and insight into Tom Thompson’s experiences. Through his journey Gene has discovered much of Algonquin Park’s hidden human history and urged us to do the same.
This led us into our next TED video, “How we can eat our Landscape”. The talk spoke to grass roots movements and a community’s conviction to make a difference. A very passionate woman described how her town has revamped itself with the help of volunteers to plant herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and other edible plants in every available green space of their town. As she so rightly put it, “Food is the universal language”.
Dr. Kathy Lindsay then took the stage. She spoke on the importance of water preservation and took us on a journey of Algonquin Park through space and time. Algonquin Park is the source of watersheds such as the Madawaska, Bonnechere and many others. Kathy spoke on the importance of recording and monitoring levels of important resources such as water and animals in order to understand where we are, track change, and understand where we are going. Dr. Lindsay presented models for our future, illustrated by local artist Jerome Coulas, and left with us the responsibility to choose which way we take our communities.

Dr. Margaret Penner, who was enthusiastically described as the woman who shoots lasers from airplanes, explained the cutting edge technology called LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging). It may be used to map the x, y and z coordinates of the ground below to gather information on ground vegetation and forest inventory. LiDAR works by sending laser beams down from an aircraft, which bounce off the objects and ground below. The laser beams return to a receiver mounted below the plane and create an image. The resulting LiDAR images look much like topographical maps, except in greater detail. LiDAR has proven itself a useful tool for Habitat Analysis and Forest Management. It is an information collection system of the future.
The second session was concluded with the TED video, “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” Through time lapse photography of flowers, this video showed the wondrous energy of nature and touched on the important things in life, bringing tears to the eyes of many in the audience.

Classical guitarist Adam Ruzzo shares his passion for Algonquin Park. Photo by Evan Holt 
The third and final session of TEDxAlgonqiunPark began with a performance by classical guitarist and Algonquin enthusiast Adam Ruzzo. Adam composed songs inspired by his solo trips in Algonquin Park and performed them with the accompaniment of two fellow guitarists, Brent Crawford and Alan Kulka. Adam’s hope is that his music will inspire others to discover the park for themselves. He created the image of Algonquin Park in the audience’s mind through the sounds of wind in the trees and water droplets. Adam’s passion while he played was exceptional.
The final TED video played was, “Biomimicry in Action”. It showed us that professionals are finally recognizing that nature is usually wiser and that we are part of a brilliant planet. Scientists are looking to nature for design solutions such as for water filtering and many technologies. Leaders in biomimicry have created the website as a compilation of all of nature’s useful and natural technologies. This video made us ponder what answers lie in Algonquin that are overlooked?
To conclude the day Olympic medalist Adam van Koeverden took the stage. His talk was entitled “Chop wood. Carry water”, where he began by saying Algonquin Park is his favorite place in the world. After all, Adam’s first kayak race was in Algonquin Park on Cache Lake. He won. Adam acquired a lease on Tea Lake in Algonquin Park a few years ago. There he built a cabin with his brother. Through his experience Adam told us he has learned that hard work creates value. Coffee boiled over the fire is the most satisfying taste because you carried the water, and you built the fire, making the coffee meaningful. Adam believes that people who work hard are spiritually full people and sees Algonquin as a peaceful place, a classroom, and a great training arena. He aims to share the natural beauty of Algonquin with people he brings to the park. Maybe we should too.
Alfred Villeneuve shares his art through spoken word. Photo by Evan Holt  
The audience was abuzz with opinions, questions and thoughts following the day at TEDxAlgonquinPark. We spent the evening enjoying the tunes of the North Algona All Stars and even got up for a dance. We listened to stories by Tom Stephenson and appreciated the poetic stylings of Artist Alfred Villeneuve. It was an amazing day at TEDxAlgonquinPark.

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