GLENCOE – On the evening of October 17, the Glencoe and District Historical Society kicked off its fall meetings with a captivating exploration led by guest speaker Larry Cornelis. The event, both attended in person and virtually, unfolded a narrative spanning 15,000 years, unraveling the intricate history of Southwestern Ontario's landscapes.
Cornelis began the journey from the era of ice shields, detailing the transformation from tundra to boreal forests, evolving into deciduous forests and savannas over millennia. The audience was transported through time, witnessing the First Nations' stewardship, maintaining an open landscape through controlled burns and harmonizing with freely roaming herbivores.
The impact of European colonization brought rampant disease that decimated the continent's population by 90 percent. This catastrophe led to a resurgence of forests and old growth cover. Pioneers arriving in the 1800s encountered a deep, dark forest, unaware of its recent history.
However, by 1860, local forests saw a significant depletion of 65 percent, reaching a staggering 90 percent loss by 1910. Cornelis emphasized the adverse effects on wildlife due to habitat loss and deforestation, drawing attention to the challenges of restoration once something is lost.
The speaker, a certified Horticulturist, Conservationist, and Naturalist, concluded by sharing insights into the unique Carolinian Forest zone. The evening culminated with the launch of Cornelis's book, "Trees, Forests and Nature in Southwestern Ontario," offering a comprehensive exploration of the region's ecological heritage.
Attendees had the opportunity to engage with Cornelis, who autographed copies of his book. The event not only provided a historical panorama but also underscored the pressing need for environmental conservation in the face of ongoing challenges. In Cornelis's words, "You can make a difference to what evolution has to work with in the future. Like what a wonderful opportunity. Instead of saying it's hopeless and not trying to do anything. Come on, there's a lot you can do."
David Gomez, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner