Knowing the Land is Resistance (KLR) is based in the remaining Carolinian forest nestled between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, on the traditional territory of the Chonnonton people, now known as South-Western Ontario. In this area, almost all of the forest has been cut and, with very few exceptions, all the grasslands and savannahs have been cleared. But it is a landscape struggling to heal, with vibrant pockets of richness thriving along its many rivers and creeks, huddled close to the escarpment, and sneaking up wherever land is left untended.
As the KLR collective, we seek to ally with these healing lands by connecting with and learning from wild spaces, while also pushing back against the capitalist and colonial systems that continue to profit from their destruction. The coming years hold many opportunities for wildness and health in South-Western Ontario, though it very much depends on our ability to break the grip of governments, land-owners, and corporations who only values land when it is put to use by humans.
These days, most often people’s desire to act for the health of the wild gets channelled towards a handful of protected areas that offer a glimpse of supposedly pristine wilderness. Many of the pockets of health here are likely to remain protected, but most are too small and isolated to support the biodiversity they currently have over the long term. We really appreciate these spaces and the tremendous amount of work and commitment that goes into maintaining and protecting them, but they are only a very small part of the story of wildness persisting in this area today.
Once, on a tree walk we attended, the leader of the walk gestured dismissively towards a hillside forested with Manitoba Maple and Black Locust and said, “This, this is just junk.” Then he gestured out into the distance towards a nearby old growth forest and said “There, appreciate that,” as if we could only do one or the other. We love scrubby hillsides, trash-strewn traintrack corridors, relic forests speckled with garlic mustard hidden in suburban parks, the poplars growing along highway drainage ditches, the coyotes that roam the golf courses at dawn.
Many of the species called invasives are ones that thrive in the kinds of devastated landscapes left by industrial capitalist culture. As this culture has spread around the planet, so too have the species that are best adapted to its wreckage. We human settlers could learn from these brave plants that do their best to stabilize disturbed sites, allowing health and diversity to increase. When we discount the junklands and their capacity to heal, we are left with scattered relic forests doomed to fade – but taken together, they are a vision of connectivity and richness.
We are inspired by conservation and naturalist groups because of their deep, place-specific ecological knowledge. We are also inspired by movements for social and ecological justice, with their strong commitment to identifying and challenging the power structures that attack our communities and the health of the land. We are especially inspired by groups that seek to bridge these two traditions: herbalists, midwives, land defenders, Indigenous warriors, and anti-colonial allies.
We believe that by merging the place-based knowledge of naturalists with the systemic analysis of social justice movements, we can create opportunities to decolonize ourselves and better act in defense of the wild. This means learning to see the ways non-human life engages with the city space, to understand the ways this land is habitat. It means building a watershed-scale view of the health of the land, in which every piece of land, be it a parking lot or a conservation area, is just as important to the well-being of the whole system. We root our struggle locally, committing to listen to the land we live on and allying with wild spaces as they seek to heal from the carnage of settler occupation.