Best Canadian Essays: The Business of Saving the Earth


Best Canadian Essays 2010 is taking shape, but for the moment I’d like to take a look back at Best Canadian Essays 2009. First appearing in The Walrus, “The Business of Saving the Earth,” by Chris Wood concerns, among other ideas, ecological economists assigning value to irreplaceable biological factories. With permission from the author, here are the first two paragraphs:

“When I was a boy, our family owned a summer cottage on Georgian Bay. It was a small, glass-fronted box set on a sweep of grey-pink granite scoured smooth by long-gone ice. Juniper and Scotch pine dug their toes into the rock in front, and behind us a few hardy oaks held arthritic fingers to the wind. It was there that I first heard the dry buzz a massasauga rattlesnake makes when it vibrates the hollow scales at the tip of its tail. My father promptly beat the unfortunate serpent to death with a shovel.

Over the next few seasons, other rattlesnakes met a similar bad end on our property. But then our perceptions began to change. In addition to their being endangered, it dawned on us that these elegantly garbed reptiles helped control the mice whose annual winter break-ins left rice-sized black droppings to be swept up each spring from kitchen drawers and cupboard corners. We began, that is, to appreciate the snakes’ service as well as their menace (more theoretical than real, in any event). By the end of my youth, any rattler that visited was captured gingerly in a bucket and relocated deeper within the island.”


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