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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Natural Resources

MacEwan pondered the evolving relationship between humans and the planet on which they lived. The way he understood it, the Earth was not created primarily to serve mankind's needs. In fact, humanity's long history of greed has caused a great disturbance in nature. As the world's population continues to increase at an alarmingly rate, MacEwan wonders why there have not been more serious discussions on conservation. Of course, one must realize that MacEwan was writing in the 1960s when burgeoning ideas concerning conservation were still being discussed by few.

Conservation, according to MacEwan, focuses principally on responsible resource management.  Historically, enthusiastic expansion in North America translated into resource exploitation without a long-term plan for resource management. In the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, explorers and pioneers commented on frontier life by describing its resources as "unlimited" and "inexhaustible." There was no clear understanding as to the fragility of the natural environment. Prairie buffalo, an essential food source for Aboriginals for centuries, disappeared by 1884. Reports published in the late 19th century referred to the West's "unlimited supply of resources." As for the wheat crop of the West, "there was no limit but the want of a market." The fur trade was a bustling industry-while it lasted.  Wells go dry and soils erode. Resources are not inexhaustible and too many nations have made errors in wasteful and reckless use. Many of these errors are ones that cannot be undone.


MacEwan, Grant. Entrusted To My Care. 1966; Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1986.

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