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Monday, June 19, 2017

Going Wild with anthropologist Brian Keating


Chris Davis - Honourary Conservation Advisor, Calgary Zoological Society and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Calgary Brian Keating was the featured speaker at a very well attended event at Heritage Acres on the evening of June 9. His presentation, titled 'In Our Backyard, The Last of the Great North American Plains' was hosted by Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG). LLG board member Kevin Van Tighem acted as MC for the occasion.


Keating drew from his many years of  experience as an international adventurer and leader of approximately 80 expeditions to remote locations in the Arctic and Antarctic, Africa, South America and Canada to draw parallels to local conservation efforts to preserve the "last 1%" of the Eastern Slopes of southwestern Alberta.  "Our big challenge, really is reaching out to the ranch community to try and find solutions that they want, that we can help, that will provide meaningful durable conservation outcomes," said Keating during his introductory remarks, "So we can find solutions we can engage the rest of society on."

"It is the only remaining part of the Great Plains that, except for the bison, still has a full complement of the original wildlife that lived here some 200 years ago." - Brian Keating
Keating's talk was interspersed with several videos that he narrated live, covering a small portion of his travels to over 49 countries, and one from his own riverfront yard in Calgary following the fearless construction efforts exploits beavers there. He also gave a warm recommendation for the book 'The Beaver Manifesto' by University of Alberta Professor of Environmental Science Glynnis Hood.  "Every Canadian needs to read this book, because the beaver represents us," said Keating, explaining beavers change the landscape around them and create biodiversity.


Keating is very interested in habitat and species preservation, including the Eastern Slopes right here in our own backyard. "One of the things I learned in Kenya is the value of private land being made into what they call conservancies. There is now 27 of them in Kenya." As an example he spoke of an area in Africa's northern Serengeti, once a thriving wildebeest habitat. "It was overgrazed. It was used and abused, and hardly a wildebeest could survive there, even though traditionally that's where they went." Keating said that by renting that area out to nature conservancies the area was reclaimed over time. "Now, there's massive numbers of wildebeests coming in, and some of these conservancies we've been in we've seen excellent populations of lions, and we have come across cheetahs, and so on."

"The moral of the story there is you have to pay attention to the local people, and make sure that money goes into the local communities and into health and schooling and so on. In other words, profit sharing."
"I was born in Medicine Hat, and come from ranching 'genetics" (my mother is a Reesor, my Great Grandfather homesteaded in the Cypress Hills). My grandfather was a keen outdoorsman, and I have memories of being taken out on the land as a youngster, looking for owls, fishing in the Hills, horseback riding and hiking." - Brian Keating
Keating also spoke of his time in western Africa in Ghana setting up a Hippo sanctuary. "The facts are that the wild areas still in existence in Ghana are either national parks, or what they call sacred forests. Sacred forests are areas that have a symbolic religious reason for being. In other words, they are preserved for their intrinsic value. When you think about what we have done with nature, we buy it, and we sell it. We make money from it. That is what we have done for the last few hundred years. That's why we have such a wonderful standard of living. But it comes at a cost to nature. We are coming to that stage now where we have to start paying attention to the nature we have left."

"15% of the land in the world is sacred land."
Although I am best known for my international travel, my true passion is here, in my Alberta home. I have a strong belief that we need to talk about nature more, to share the importance of our green spaces with both young and old. That all important 'bond with nature', I believe, is both life giving and spiritually very important." - Brian Keating
Keating urges Canadians to consider our obligation to nature and to future generations.  "We (are) one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and talking about the last one percent, and if we can't find a way to address that, then what does that say about all the other environmental challenges we are going to have? Is this a priority for our society, or not?"
"This fact, to a large degree, is as a result of the kind of land use that has been prevalent here (in southwestern Alberta/ the Eastern Slopes) for the past 100 years: ranching.  With a landscape too difficult to plow, this outstanding terrain and it's wildlife has been preserved." - Brian Keating

Keating's presentation concluded with a premier showing of a segment of a just completed 4-part documentary TV series, called "Going Wild", which featured southwestern Alberta, and a brief questions and answer session.  "Going Wild" is scheduled to air on National Geographic TV Canada this fall."


Keating is currently the Lead Naturalist of goingwild.org .  He is also a weekly guest on CBC radio, appears regularly on The Discovery Channel, and gives many presentations around the world every year.

Videos and photos included in this article remain the property of their respective owners.












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