Friday, September 9, 2022

Ancestor's Trail July 10, 2022

 Ancestor's Trail 2022

As we recovered from the isolation of COVID plans for a hike this year after a two year hiatus were instigated by George assuring me that HPHC, under the able leadership of Richard, would undertake the organization if I would lead the walk.  That was a tempting proposition as the hard work of organizing the hike would then be distributed and I would get the fun of leading it.

Settling on a date that was conducive to all made July 10th the preferred day, a preferable Sunday morning activity to sitting in the pews!  While HPHC did hold up their end of contacting St. John's Ambulance and the bus company, I pulled my strings to get Councillor Ron Starr to provide the park permit and picnic tables out of his budget.

I was getting nervous about having a support vehicle meet us at a few rendezvous points as the Previa van which had been our vehicle in the past was temporarily out of commission and although my son had a company truck to transport some of the heavy and bulky equipment like the tents and barbeque, it was not available to do support.  Fortunately, earlier in the week, my nephew volunteered his time and vehicle and I jumped at the offer.  Ian De Souza was a 'godsend'.

As I was preparing for the event, I thought that it would be a unique experience if others who could not make the hike on the preassigned day could do it at their own pace at a time of their choosing.  Investigating several apps that could create an audio tour I found to be the most comprehensive, intuitive and cost effective for what we wanted to do.  After contacting the owner, who was a GTA native and interested in our project, he offered a discounted rate to our non-profit community and I spent dozens of hours creating the Ancestor's Trail Audio Tour Hike.

This took some of the pressure off me having to carry the dozen or so folders with my printed material as the app would allow me to know where I was along the trail and the write-up I created could prompt my comments to the group.

Although we had quite a few sign up for the hike, on the morning of July 10, we had about half a dozen participants on what was a perfect morning for the event.  Our numbers were bolstered by the timely arrival of the president of Humanist Canada on his tRusty steed.  We set off along the Culham trail, each participant armed with a plastic bag to pick up trash along the trail and a resolve to learn a little more about evolution, including why the world was thrown into chaos over the last two years because of evolution.

Like everything that has ever lived, viruses mutate. Mutations are blind but their effects can either be beneficial or detrimental to the organism.  There is always a chance that, given enough tries, a benign or species specific virus can mutate to become more virulent or virulent to another species.  Even worse, it can gain the ability to become infectious between members of the new species, which is exactly what happened with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  How it happened is the subject of many debates but the way we interact with wild and domestic animals and birds are the reason for many of the most recent waves of epidemics.  In this case it is thought that the virus originated in a bat and then mutated in another host that may have been transported through the Wuhan wet markets.  When the Chinese government started noticing cases of a fatal flu, it tried to squash the news until the disease started spreading.

Within months a world wide pandemic had formed and we were to blame.  The last pandemic originated in a swine farm in Kansas and was transported by soldiers to Spain where it gained the name 'Spanish Flu'.  It was with this knowledge that I decided to dedicate this year's hike to our personal commitment to reducing the risks of having animal viruses mutate to infect humans by reducing our consumption of animal products and thereby reducing the intensive farming of animals which has been a disaster for the environment, human health (apart from viral pandemics) and animal welfare.  This is in line with Humanist ideals of reducing the harm we are causing to other beings and the planet which eventually is a benefit to us personally and as a society.  In fact there is a movement to have Sentientism accepted as Humanism 2.0

As we proceeded down the trail, I tried to impress upon the participants about how the actions of one species was impacting the lives and survival of countless others who had no part in this debacle.  It is the first time in the history of the planet that one species has been, knowingly, responsible for mass extinctions to the extent that we are entering another era, the one of man made destruction and species extinction known generally as the Anthropocene.  At every stop there were examples of how we were changing the atmosphere and the oceans with our love for fossil fuels that global warming and climate change are the biggest threat to our continued survival on this planet.  99.99% of every species that every evolved has gone extinct and humans are no exception, other than we are hastening our own demise with our eyes wide open.

As we progressed through the ages, we came face to face with surviving organisms with which we all had a common ancestry.  From lowly sponges and jelly fish to flat worms and lamprey eels we started recognizing our kinship with vertebrates, first ocean dwelling fish and sharks and then tetrapod amphibians all the way up to mammals with which we share so many characteristics.  Eventually in the last kilometer of this 12.5km hike we find our relationship to primates, old world monkeys, new world monkeys up to the most recent diversion from Chimps and Bonobo apes.  

In the span of the final length of the parking lot, we witnessed the evolution of humanity from early hominids to modern man (200k years) and eventually the modern industrial age of the last 300 years during which we developed everything we see around us powered by cheap fossil fuels, first coal then petroleum oil and it's distillates and now natural gas.  In a blink of an evolutionary eye, we have released so much carbon into the atmosphere that the existential crisis we now face is inevitable even if we were to magically stop polluting today.

As we had whetted our appetite along the trail, the thought of a barbeque lunch was on most minds but in a final twist, I had convinced the committee to allow me to sponsor the vegan hot dogs for the lunch in keeping with our theme.  I relented to allow chicken dogs after everyone had had a chance to have a vegan dog first.  Surprisingly, not many objected.  

Check out our Google Photo Album and add your own pictures if you attended.

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