It is a tremendous surprise and honour to get the news that Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada has found its way onto this year’s GG nominee list. As an author making his often uncertain way in the world of words, I am delighted to be in such capable company.
I am even more grateful that any attention this may draw to Lakeland will help to keep access to pure, beautiful lakes a vibrant part of the Canadian way of life. For those who have not read the book, Lakeland borrows its title from a small, lake-filled rural municipality in northern Saskatchewan, where my family has been lucky to own a small, lake-front cottage for 50 years. Places like it exist in every populated area of Canada. Yet many such places are being destroyed by rampant over-development and our ever-increasing standard of affluence. The ready access to natural beauty that defines Canada is fast becoming a perk affordable only to the few.
Working on Lakeland, I got to experience some of our most beautiful and accessible wilderness, from coast to coast. While too much of it has been touched by the blight of material excess — folksy cottages supplanted by mansions, canoes rocked by wakeboats, game trails bulldozed by all terrain vehicles — the nation I now call lakeland is still occupied by plenty of insightful, thoughtful people who would have things otherwise. In fact, having met so many of them in the writing of the book, I would say that the majority of those who migrate to the Canadian lakeshore in order to be recharged by nature — would welcome a moratorium on capital in our precious near-wilderness. For if we cannot achieve simple living at the lakeshore, then where?
The reasonable majority is a voice too often unheard. Money, meanwhile, screams rather than talks, as our guitar-poet B. Dylan reminds us. And so I pray that Lakeland, the book, can do a little to open up the debate about lakeland, the country. I wrote it to get people talking about access to nature and what role it ought to play in a country whose water-rich, still-glorious lakescape is the envy of a crowded, thirsty world. Who, among the current generation of Canadian children, ought to have easy access to nature? May every daughter and son get to wander the fringe of the wild that still exists not too far from the city, though some of their parents be not wealthy enough to afford a second house.
To paraphrase my hero, Edward Abbey, you cannot really fight for nature if you do not have a personal friendship with it.