Welcome to the inaugural edition of FieldWork. I’m James Sidney.
This program is dedicated to telling the stories of thoughtful and creative people, who contribute to the culture and health of their community. People who, as Jack Imhof says in our first profile, see things not as they are, but as they could be.
These are people with a calling: artists, activists, researchers and writers, whose imagination and hard work have left the world a slightly better and more interesting place. We hope you enjoy it.
We begin with Jack Imhof. A lifelong conservationist and biologist with Trout Unlimited. I met with him on the banks of Bronte Creek. In Lowville, Ontario.
The work that I do is, I try to do—look at damaged landscapes and try to restore them. The trouble is I’m never satisfied with things as they are, I always like to see if I can make them a little bit better.
As much as I love lakes, I’ve always been drawn to flowing water. As I got a bit older I got into fly fishing, started spending a bit of time on the Upper Credit River around the Forks, and that river is beautiful. It’s a very healthy system, it’s got a lot of wood in it, it’s got riffles and pools and runs, and I started looking at other rivers in Ontario and asking myself, “Why don’t they look like that?”
Back in 2010 I retired from the Ministry of Natural Resources and moved back to Trout Unlimited. I took an unpaid leave of absence for about five years of work with Trout Unlimited as their national biologist. I came back to Trout Unlimited in 2010 to resume that position, and I’ve been with Trout Unlimited ever since.
I just love tinkering around with things. I love taking a system that’s not very healthy, that’s maybe been fishless for a lot of years, working with the local community, local chapters of Trout Unlimited, other organizations and groups, and over time, watching that system come back to health.
The biggest challenges with our work is convincing people what needs to be done in order to make their landscape healthier. The greatest benefit we have are the people we work with, and the greatest challenge we have are the people we have to convince. And like everything else, people sees things as they are, I see things as they could be. And the challenge is trying to convince communities and individuals that live on watersheds, that they could have a better and healthier system.
The volunteers we have are spectacular. They work their rear ends off, they do phenomenal work, and we’re really happy to have them. And once they’re committed and they understand the process and understand what we’re trying to do, sometimes the biggest challenge we have is slowing them down.
Never be satisfied with the minimum standard. Try to work with the private sector and business to get the best out of change. That means, actually not thinking as a regulator, but as a manager and an environmental restoration specialist. And I think that’s where we should be going.
John Franklin has spent his life surrounded by the “big questions.” After a career teaching philosophy and art, he now serves as the Executive Director of IMAGO, a charitable arts organization that promotes dialogue between religion and the arts, and provides a funding platform for artists of Christian faith.
John is that rare breed, able to balance a deep inward thoughtfulness with an undeniable outward enthusiasm—for the arts, for artists and for life. I met with him at his home in Toronto, Ontario.
Art is inherently hopeful. There’s something about art that leads one to believe there’s something more. There’s another way to see, another way to understand, another way to grasp the world in which we live and something about ourselves and what we’re about.
Faith is very much about newness and transformation. Within the Christian tradition we understand that we’re not quite what we ought to be. That we need to be something different. And we’re on a journey towards that difference, whatever it may be. Art is for everyone. And art is one of those places that can be provocative, that can be nurturing and comforting, that can be disruptive, and I think to engage with art has a real value for us on our journey, whether we are people of faith or people of no faith.
Art, at its best, has a certain ordering capacity. Often in the world we live in we seem surrounded by a kind of chaos and uncertainty. And I think that art can speak into that situation and bring a measure of orderliness to life. Whether we’re looking at a painting, listening to music, watching a drama, we are somehow lifted out of the chaos of life brought into an orderly place where we can enjoy, and perhaps have generated within us a sense of hope. So in that respect, I think the two overlap. I see the value of art as a great companion for the spiritual journey.
I’m very, very interested in hospitality. I think it’s at the heart of what the biblical story is about—that we are called to be hospitable to one another and our belief is that God is hospitable to us—but I think also when we listen to the music, when we read the poem or hear the poet speak, when we look at the visual art, there’s a sense in which we are being hospitable to the artist. We’re taking time and receiving from the artist—what the artist has offered us. And I think that’s part of what it is to be human.
We need people who believe in the value of the arts, and understand that it’s not just a business. But it’s something inherent in the human spirit and vital, I think, for the flourishing of any culture.
Finally, reading from a recent re-release of his 1990 volume Naked Trees, Hamilton poet, and cabinet maker, John Terpstra.
A tree asks nothing in return for what it gives, fruit, shade, figure, timber.
A tree is brought to the lumber yard when it’s role in society has already been clarified. Some are called to be wall studs and others to be joists. Some to be decking, others posts. Two by four, two by ten, one by six, four by four. Some are set aside and sawn into planks for the wardrobe, the table. Some are called and are chosen to be sliced into sheets almost as thin as this paper, then sandwiched together with other sheets and pressed flat. Four feet by eight, three quarters of an inch thick, forty-two ninety-five. Delivered.
The need exists for further clarification. A truck grumbles up the drive with the load. Meanwhile, standing in the doorway to the shop, and using a scrap of wood from the pile beside the table saw, someone pencils a small sketch, tossing imperial measures about in his mind as a branch might its leaves.
It was a tree that first persuaded these hands to work the grain, and silently stepped inside.
NEXT TIME ON FIELDWORK
Approximately 5-7% of world greenhouse gas emissions are coming from reservoirs.
I’m now working on getting rid of coal generation. Coal generation is a really big problem as far as creating air pollution.
What is the story, what is the biography so to speak, of all of these chemicals and microbes that constitute my own body.
Thank you again for joining us on this first broadcast of FieldWork, it was our pleasure to have you. Please let us know your thoughts about this new program and please share it online. Until next time, I’m James Sidney. Thank you for watching.