Skinny Dipping: Therapy For A World Careening Towards Climate Chaos

Sunrise on Mexican Hat Lake, Woodland Caribou Park

I’ve just returned from an invigorating five day wilderness canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. The Park is part of an bi-provincial bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is right out our back door. My family, along with 2 other families who were dedicated enough to travel the 6 hours from Winnipeg to our home in northern Ontario, set off for our adventure last Tuesday. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and all of the coach/computer potatoes and urban dwellers among us, and the youngest members of our group on their first long canoe trip, rose to the challenge magnificently. Setting the pace for the rest of us was 15 year-old Annie Rose, who had spent two weeks canoeing on the Bloodvein River in Manitoba this summer. That trip included a dramatic helicopter rescue after one of the group leaders was struck by lightening; luckily the young woman recovered completely. Our trip, fortunately, was not as eventful but did include over 20 portages through rocky Canadian Shield terrain as well as kilometres of paddling.

There is nothing like getting unplugged for a stretch to give a different perspective on things. When I turned on my computer yesterday, headlines like these were waiting:

  • Arctic Ice To Reach A Record Low Within Days: Arctic sea ice is set to reach its lowest ever recorded extent as early as this weekend, in “dramatic changes” signalling that man-made global warming is having a major impact on the polar region.With the melt happening at an unprecedented rate of more than 100,000 sq km a day, and at least a week of further melt expected before ice begins to reform ahead of the northern winter, satellites are expected to confirm the record – currently set in 2007 – within days…
  • An Outbreak of West Nile Is Worst in U.S. History: The mosquito borne West Nile virus has killed more than 40 people and infected nearly 1,000. The latest outbreak is set to become the worst ever in US history. Almost half of the reported cases have occurred in the state of Texas. Dallas county has responded by launching an extensive West Nile education programme campaign.
  • Food Riots Predicted Over U.S. Crop FailureThe world is on the brink of a food “catastrophe” caused by the worst US drought in 50 years, and misguided government biofuel policy will exacerbate the perilous situation, scientists and activists warn.When food prices spike and people go hungry, violence soon follows, they say. Riots caused by food shortages – similar to those of 2007-08 in countries like Bangladesh, Haiti, the Philippines and Burkina Faso among others – may be on the horizon, threatening social stability in impoverished nations that rely on US corn imports.This summer’s devastating drought has scorched much of the mid-western United States – the world’s bread basket.Crops such as corn, wheat, and soy have been decimated by high temperatures and little rain. Grain prices have skyrocketed and concerns abound the resulting higher food prices will hit the world’s poor the hardest – sparking violent demonstrations.
  • Food Shortages Could Force World Into Vegetarianism, Scientists Warn: There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations,” the report by Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.
    “There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5% of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a … reliable system of food trade.”Dire warnings of water scarcity limiting food production come as Oxfam and the UN prepare for a possible second global food crisis in five years. Prices for staples such as corn and wheat have risen nearly 50% on international markets since June, triggered by severe droughts in the US and Russia, and weak monsoon rains in Asia. More than 18 million people are already facing serious food shortages across the Sahel.

It’s more than enough to make a thinking person throw up their hands in despair. For me, it is helpful to close my eyes and go back to the quiet mornings in the wilderness, when a few of us early risers would take advantage of the quiet to go for a skinny dip which refreshed our aching bodies as well as our souls. On the last morning I was joined by my friend for a swim and we set off around the island, christening ourselves the “Bare-naked Blueberry Babes” ( in recognition of our other shared passion, picking wild blueberries). As the soft cool water caressed our skin as we swam, we felt ourselves getting in touch with our “inner mammal”, that part of our senses that we share with other animals yet so often are called on to deny in our disconnected, urbanized culture. We need to consciously work on getting more in touch with our senses, says Jill Bolte Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. Dr. Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained neuroscientist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain when she was 37 years old. Her left-brain was disabled as the hemorrhage flooded it, but it was her experience of the right side of her brain that affected her most profoundly during and after the stroke. The right side of our brains are the home of intuition, feelings, awareness and the ability to see ‘the bigger picture’.  Our culture is profoundly left-hemisphere dominant, and that’s what’s got us into the dire trouble we are in  – we are profoundly disconnected to the natural world, including our own bodies, these days. Imagine the difference in our world if we all spent time cultivating our right brains, the center of peacefulness and connection. One of the ways to “feed” our right hemispheres is to focus on our body, and our senses. Bolte Taylor recommends dancing in the rain to reconnect with this part of our brain; I think she would also approve of skinny dipping in the lake.

So, Mr Harper, President Obama, Mitt & Ryan,  I prescribe at least 2 regular doses of this therapy daily, until you come to your senses – literally!

Swimming in the Lake, 1942. Source:

More links:

Woman in Recovery After Being Struck By Lightning During Manitoba Canoe Trip

Dr. Jill

For those of you who would like a taste of my week, and/or perhaps need some inspiration to plan your own back-to-nature adventure, here’s a video from another fan of the park, Woodland Caribou Provincial Park: Why I Come


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