National Parks of Canada

by Kevin McNamee, J. A. Kraulis,
224 pages,
ISBN: 1550139851

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Brief Reviews - Nature
by Myron Sloboda

Over the years, pictoral books on nature and parks have evolved in both style and substance. What was once a quiet, artful exploration of the wonders and vistas of nature, is now a somber and somewhat nervous portrayal of an ever diminishing number of natural sanctuaries. Books on nature now carry a new responsibility of educating the public about the delicate and important relationship between ourselves and the natural environment, and how the relentless force of human development affects our ecosystems and the beauty they contain.

As with nature herself, a balance is required. Books that trespass too far on the side of protectionism are dismissed as overzealous environmentalism; books that simply record and re-present scenes from nature fail to communicate the necessity of our being caretakers of the natural world.

The National Parks of Canada (Key Porter, 224 pages, $29.95 paper) is a delightful photographic-narrative exhibition of the subtleties, contrasts, extremes, and diversities found in each of the thirty-eight National Parks and Reserves of Canada. The book is a composite of photography by J.A. Kraulis, text by Kevin McNamee, and a powerful foreword by David Suzuki.

McNamee weaves a delicate tapestry of the history of Parks Canada with a description of their most notable natural features and characteristics in order to help us understand the meaning of the parks, and how and why we should act to maintain and enhance them. "When a national park is created, the land itself is not altered, only human attitudes toward it... The existence of national parks... lends validity to the idea that Canada's land and waters are of value even when they are not developed into marketable products". Kraulis gives us an interesting and carefully researched narrative of the significant moments in the rich history of the various parks. This account not only provides a context for the photopraphs, but also helps us to understand the importance of a careful and conscientious observation of the dual mandate of the National Parks Act: "to use and protect".

The diversity of climates and landscapes contained within Canada's boundaries is unique and extensive. Temperate rainforests, boreal ecosystems, wild rivers, rocky mountains, and prairie grasslands are only a handful of the variety available to us. There are thirty-nine regions in Canada, each harboring "observable differences" in landforms and vegetation. Kraulis' pictures are taken from eight geographical zones that show us scenes from each of these regions.

Kraulis' images are the necessary complement to McNamee's narrative. Kraulis has a talent for perspective, a keen ability to blend grand scale visuals, such as the jagged cliffs of Tilted Mountain in Banff National Park, with other images on a more minute scale, such as the shrubby beard-tongue wildflower, also found in Banff. He shows a profound understanding of colour and offers a wide variety of image types, each capturing a memorable aspect of the region. Kraulis' images and McNamee's text coalesce into a riveting, provocative portrayal of the diverse beauty within our vast nation and the challenges we face to maintain these wonders.

The National Parks of Canada is not only a written and visual record of the types of wilderness experiences available to us, but also a well-documented educational guide for helping us to understand the value of the parks and the loss we would all have to endure with their demise. 

Myron J. Sloboda


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