My time with Canada's nature

A leisurely walk with NCC colleagues (Photo by Clement Wong)

A leisurely walk with NCC colleagues (Photo by Clement Wong)

October 25, 2016 | by Clement Wong

Canada is the place where I was born, but I moved to Hong Kong at a young age for the long-term. This summer, I had a valuable chance to come back to my hometown and volunteer with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help with stewardship activities at NCC properties.

As a city person from Hong Kong, I’ve always wanted to escape from the concrete jungle and take a deep breath in the countryside. I was thrilled to learn about the opportunity to lend a hand with NCC this summer — a great opportunity to experience the beauty of nature. Over the course of several weeks, volunteering at the MacMillan Nature Reserve and Happy Valley Forest, I felt refreshed and relaxed from the natural scenery that surrounded me.

The MacMillan Nature Reserve, located in the City of Vaughan, was the place I visited the most. As it is surrounded by houses, it just feels like a breath of fresh air in the heart of the city. The reserve has retained its natural look, with hiking trails with tall trees, and rivers that run through the property.

However, like many areas, the property is facing the problem of invasive species. My duty there was to remove garlic mustard to help the native plants there. NCC staff told me that the species would grow very quickly and spread over the forest if no action was taken.

In fact, what I expected before coming to NCC was that I would be working to eliminate the human influence in a forest. But while picking garlic mustard, it surprised me to learn that even plants can harm nature. This reminds me a Chinese proverb: “Nature selects, the fittest survives (物競天擇, 適者生存)." But as is the case with invasive plants, we may also say, “Nature selects, the fittest may not survive.”

The Happy Valley Forest is also facing the same invasive species problem. Here, I picked and treated garlic mustard.

Skull of a baby deer (Photo by Clement Wong)

Skull of a baby deer (Photo by Clement Wong)

On another day I helped out with a corporate event to built a fence around the perimeter of a property. This was the first time I tried my hands at digging, installing posts and fencing. After NCC staff demonstrated the procedure, I worked alongside other volunteers.

In my conversations with my fellow volunteers, I learned new things about NCC’s management plans and activities for the protection of the property. For example, along a long stretch of fencing, gaps are left as a passage for animals.

Aside from that, as I chatted with the volunteers, I began to understand more about Canadians’ connection to nature. Volunteers are concerned with the nature on the property, as it is in the City of Toronto’s backyard.

Overall, my time with NCC was worthy and enjoyable. I learned from biologists how to identify animals and trees; I also gained insight on how to sustain the protection of the nature from environmentalists. The most rewarding part of my volunteer work was witnessing my fellow volunteers’ attitude towards conserving the environment. I appreciated the effort made by NCC staff and I was touched by their enthusiasm toward nature protection.

Although my story with NCC comes to a pause for now, I wish to spread the core values of NCC in Hong Kong to raise the awareness of environmental conservation.

Clement Wong

About the Author

Clement Wong is a student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Read more about Clement Wong.

More by this author »