Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada
Angels and Cats and Birds…Oh My!
News

Angels and Cats and Birds…Oh My!

[caption id="attachment_31533" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Laura Couvrette Laura Couvrette, Women for Nature Member[/caption] A conversation with Margaret Atwood by Women for Nature member Laura Couvrette. While she may be best-known for her critically acclaimed novels “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Blind Assassin,” “Alias Grace,” and the like, Margaret Atwood made a special appearance at the Toronto Reference Library on Tuesday February 22nd, to present the much-anticipated 2nd volume of her graphic novel series, ANGEL CATBIRD: TO CASTLE CATULA. More than 200 people eagerly awaited Margaret’s arrival, sitting patiently yet excitedly in the spacious atrium of the library. The diverse crowd of literary enthusiasts, students and Atwood fans spanned all ages, and was a true testament to the universal appeal and continued relevance of Margaret’s works. Those who are fortunate enough to have heard Margaret speak know that she is a witty, eloquent, and captivating storyteller with a hint of mischief behind her words. Image of Margaret Atwood Toronto Reference Library Book Launch The lively conversation, moderated by host Mark Asquith of the Space Network, and joined by Johnnie Christmas, illustrator of the Angel Catbird series, spanned a variety of topics including Margaret’s childhood interests, the changing political climate, the enduring appeal and influence of comic books, and of course, the inspiration behind the Angel Catbird graphic novels. As a long-time environmental advocate and a founding member of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature, Margaret created the perfect opportunity to blend her passions for bird conservation and cat welfare with her special interest in graphic novels and her talent for writing, through the Angel Catbird series. Angel Catbird is a curious combination of bird, cat, and human being who faces an ongoing identity conflict. Sprinkled throughout the novels are statistics and tidbits of information related to Nature Canada’s Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives outreach campaign, aimed at protecting birds by keeping pet cats from roaming unsupervised. It’s an entertaining story that aims to educate readers about the declining bird population in Canada, and the ripple effect it has on our forests, and wildlife in general. So, what’s next? Margaret assured her fans of a third installment in the Angel Catbird series, but as for further volumes? Margaret says we’ll just have to wait and see. Something tells me that whatever she comes up with, it will be worth the wait! Until then, we encourage you to take the pledge to keep your cat from roaming free outdoors. Visit www.catsandbirds.ca and join the movement. 


Laura Couvrette is a fellow Women for Nature member through Nature Canada, and a Partner at Fuller Landau LLP, a dynamic mid-sized accounting, tax, and business advisory firm. Fuller Landau is a proud sponsor and supporter of Nature Canada, and has had the privilege of providing professional advisory services to Margaret Atwood for many years.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 50,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

Count Catula & Two Women for Nature, a Conversation
News

Count Catula & Two Women for Nature, a Conversation

[caption id="attachment_12842" align="alignleft" width="150"]Picture of Bridget Stutchbury Bridget Stutchbury, Women for Nature[/caption] Bridget Stutchbury is a founding member of Women for Nature, author of Silence of the Songbirds and The Bird Detective, and a professor at York University. Since the 1980s, she has followed songbirds to their wintering grounds in Latin America and back to their breeding grounds in North America to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. Her latest research uses “geolocators” to track the amazing migratory journeys of Wood Thrushes, Purple Martins and Red-eyed Vireos. We invited her to interview Margaret Atwood about their mutual interest in bird conservation, Angel Catbird, and the importance of Women for Nature. Volume 2 of Angel Catbird, To Castle Catula is available February 14, 2017. For a preview, click here. [caption id="attachment_31201" align="alignright" width="144"]Margaret Atwood. Credit by Liam Sharpe Margaret Atwood. Credit Liam Sharpe[/caption] Bridget Stutchbury (B). In the introduction to Angel Catbird you wrote that you drew cartoons of flying cats when you were a child. I am wondering where you got the inspiration for the bat-cat-vampire character Count Catula? Margaret Atwood (M). Well I think it was just a natural because of his name. So, Dracula just naturally suggests ‘Catula’ when you are thinking in those terms. But he is one of my favourites and I hope we are going to be able to work in some bat conservation along the way. B. How does Count Catula develop in Volume 2 of Angel Catbird? M. Count Catula becomes a very helpful force on the side of the Angel Catbird and his friends. He helps them out quite a bit but he can only help them out at night, as you might expect. But we are going to find ourselves visiting Castle Catula and we will meet the wives of Catula. Count Dracula only had three wives as you will recall, but Count Catula, being a cat, has many more. B. Angel Catbird is your first graphic novel. Why did you write this book? M. As you know, this started its life as a way of thinking about one of the big threats to migratory songbirds, which are cats (both domestic and feral). It’s been a very hard issue for people in bird conservation to deal with because, of course, they can’t say “flush your kitty cats down the toilet” because nobody would do that and also, they would get very angry. And, having been a cat person, I know how people feel in that respect, so it seemed to me that the best solution would be to have a flying superhero who combined both cat and bird, and therefore could see both sides of the issue. And, to join that at the hip with Nature Canada, who could provide the science and the website, where you get lots of hints about how better to take care of your cat and make it safer, particularly in cities where they have a high rate of being run over by cars and being attacked by other cats, raccoons, and foxes. So, if people really love their cats as much as they say, they ought to treat them more the way we treat dogs and take better care of them. So that’s part of the campaign and the other part is also raising awareness of the issues, which a lot of people just don’t know about. In Volume 2, for instance, we introduce the window-strike issue. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but one of the evil super-villain’s weapons is a deployable glass window. We all know that it’s cats, windows, habitat loss and toxins that are the four apocalyptic threats to migratory songbirds. Although we are concentrating on the cats and birds, we can mention the others and get them in there. B. Angel Catbird features humans who are part Snowy Owl or part Common Raven. If you were to want to represent yourself in a graphic novel as part-bird, I wonder what bird species would you choose? Image of a RavenM. Oh, absolutely a Raven! They are so smart and quite social. Although, if I couldn’t do that I would be the Gray Jay; they are also very smart. I am very fond of owls but there are a lot of birds that are not meat-eaters so if you are feeling pacifist that day you might choose a seed or fruit-eating bird, or maybe just a worm-eater. B. How did you first get involved in bird conservation? M. I grew up in it. My father was a biologist. You know that Graeme [Gibson, her partner of many years] is heavily involved as well, and he would be what you call a convert, he came to it later in life. I was just there amongst the biologists and that was just something people knew. Somebody came up to me last night and said I knew your parents and they were early members of the Sierra Club. So they were into it quite early on. My Dad was also a member Toronto Anglers and Hunters, which people who don’t know about it think that’s just guns, which is it is, but let us not forget that Ducks Unlimited do a lot of conservation work. So, it stands to reason that if you are fond of hunting and fishing you are going to want a place where you can do it. Where there is are fish and things to hunt, so not a wasteland. B. Many people seem unconcerned about biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental degradation despite all the scientific evidence and media attention it gets. Why do you think this is the case? M. I don’t know whether they are absolutely unconcerned. I think that when the issues are that big, unless you give people something they can do, something they can engage with, they just feel helpless. So I think part of it is finding them points at which ordinary people, with not a lot of extra time on their hands, can make in their own area a small difference. B. I am wondering if you were ever tempted yourself to become a field biologist? M. I was tempted to become a biologist when I was in high school because I was quite good at it. And, unlike English literature, they didn’t take points off for spelling. I was quite good at spelling things like Ranunculus [buttercup] but I was bad at spelling things like weird. Image of a buttercupMy brother, you know, he did become a biologist. Our marks were the same. His English marks were the same as my English marks, and my Biology marks were the same as his Biology marks. And, I did Botany in Grade 13 as a subject that I studied without taking classes, which I did on my own, which worked out pretty well for me because I was able to use that as one of my top marks instead of my rather poor showing in Latin. But I think my Dad was always a little bit mopey that I had not become a botanist. B. I am teaching a graduate course right now in Conservation Biology and this is something that we discussed yesterday in our class. That we are in the midst of the so-called 6th mass extinction in the history of our planet, the “Anthropocene”. Do you see any signs of hope that this mass extinction can be avoided? How do you feel about the future? M. There have been some reversals in species that just looked as if they were just going down the tubes. For instance, pandas apparently have made somewhat of a comeback. And, as you know, Bird Life International is rather quite dedicated to preventing the extinction of every single threatened species. They have made quite a few successes. It looked as if Indian Vultures were going to be completely wiped out, for instance, until it was discovered that what was causing it was an antibiotic being used on cows. And, they were able to intervene once that was known, and persuade the Indian government to ban that particular one. Now they’re working on the poachers who to poison vultures because when you poach an elephant the vultures descend and their presence signals the authorities. They put poison in the dead elephant, killing not s not only the vultures but every single piece of wildlife that has anything to do with it. I managed to work the vultures into Angel Catbird Vol. 3. When the causes are known, and when they are specific, you can often do something about them, and the encouraging thing to me is that is that there are so many people all over the world in the Bird Life International partnerships, of which Nature Canada is one of the Canadian partners, who are dedicating themselves to this. And, there are also now some green environmental but also financially viable projects going on with respect to the regeneration of tropical and sub-tropical forests and wetlands. And, it is known if you do regenerate the biodiversity that it is helpful to the livelihoods of the people who live there. So, if you combine a plus-plus, good for people and also good for biodiversity, then that can work. B. What inspired you to become a member of the Women for Nature partnership that was created by Nature Canada? Image of Niagara FallsM. I think it’s a very useful thing in that it creates a number of spokespersons who can speak directly to the connection between a good environment and things that might particularly concern women, such as the health of their children. Who doesn’t want healthy air, healthy water, and healthy food for their kids, and how do you get those things? How do you for instance test for those things? We have to have people who constantly telling us, doing the science, and saying “don’t drink this”. So, we have to have the science but then we also have to have the communications. So I think it exists at the interface between people doing the science and people communicating the results and suggesting solutions. It’s no good to tell people don’t drink the water if there if there isn’t any good water they can drink. B. Do you plan to continue to writing graphic novels after the Angel Catbird trilogy? M. The next thing we are going to do with Angel Catbird is to turn it into an audio book like an old-time 1940s radio show. And as for Angel Catbird volumes 4-6 we will see if Johnnie Christmas is up to it. It’s a lot of drawing, with Tamra Bonvilliain colouring it, and of course we have Dark Horse publishing it so we will have to see if the team is up for doing it. I’m up for it but other people have to be up for it too. B. Thank you for time Margaret I really appreciate it. Do you have anything else you would like to add? M. Well, it’s been amazingly more successful than I thought it would be. Angel Catbird has been, I think, 13 weeks on the New York Times bestseller comics and graphics list and it has acquired some cult followers. Do you remember the Elmer the Safety Elephant? I think it would be great if Angel Catbird turned up in full costume with some of his friends and visited schools but that is pretty far down the line I think. At Fan Expo we did have our first cosplay. Well, somebody had dressed up as Cate Leone in the full kit, she had everything like she had the ears and she had the outfit and she was just gorgeous. And that was our first cosplay and Johnnie Christmas said “that’s so early, usually you don’t get cosplay until a couple of years later” and we were very encouraged by that and then got a picture of me with her.

To learn more about Women for Nature, click here. And to learn about our Save Birds Lives initiative, click here.

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 50,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

A Magical Night Out For Nature!
News

A Magical Night Out For Nature!

On September 30th we held our inaugural Nature Ball, welcoming 300 of Canada's most notable nature friends and champions to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, in support of our NatureHood program, an initiative that supports activities that help children and families discover nearby nature for the mental and physical benefits and engage them in the future protection of our efforts. This “magical night out for nature” honoured Madame Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, Patron of the Nature Ball, as Nature Canada’s 100th Women for Nature. Mrs. Grégoire Trudeau speech highlighted some of her best memories in nature as a child growing up in the Laurentians and its positive effect on her. She shared a personal poem that connected deeply to our audience about the importance of appreciating and spending time in nature. [one_half] [caption id="attachment_29617" align="alignnone" width="300"]Image of Sophie Grégoire Trudeau Sophie Grégoire Trudeau at the 2016 Nature Ball[/caption] [/one_half] [one_half_last] [caption id="attachment_29618" align="alignnone" width="300"]Image of the Sophie Grégoire Trudeau Sophie Grégoire Trudeau taking the stage[/caption] [/one_half_last] Margaret Atwood, our featured speaker, spoke with wit and charm about her forthcoming graphic novel ANGELCATBIRD and its message of keeping cats safe and saving birds lives. Ms. Atwood generously donated copies of ANGELCATBIRD to each guest included in their gift bag that also featured African Black Honey products and a Woods sleeping bag kindly donated by Canadian Tire. [caption id="attachment_29620" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image of Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood at the 2016 Nature Ball[/caption] After enjoying a sustainable dinner, guests were treated to a musical performance by Chantal Kreviazuk, who shared with us select pieces from her sixth studio album Hard Sail. [caption id="attachment_29621" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image of Chantal Kreviazuk Chantal Kreviazuk at the 2016 Nature Ball[/caption] This night would not have been possible without the support of our bright and lively EmCee Marci Ien. The night ended on a high note as Sandy Sharkey loaned her energetic voice to our live auction. The most interesting auction item up for bid was the name-sake of a new character in future publications of Margaret Atwood’s ANGELCATBIRD series. Overall the Nature Ball garnered over $95,000 towards connecting more Canadians and their children to their nearby nature and shared the important message that wildlife and habitats in Canada is ours to protect and conserve, we must engage others in our journey and continuously advocate on behalf of nature. An enormous thank you to the Volunteer Ball Committee chaired by Sheefra Brisbin for their volunteer leadership and vision of the Nature Ball! [one_half]

    • Sheefra Brisbin (Chair)
    • Riad Mansour (Vice-Chair)
    • Henrietta Southam (Creative Director)
    • Sheila O’Gorman (Entertainment Director)
[/one_half] [one_half_last]
  • Niall Quaid (Production & Logistics Director)
  • Donna-Lee Brayton
  • Andrew Balfour
[/one_half_last] Special thanks to our sponsors, donors, volunteers, and all the staff at Fairmont Chateau Laurier who made Nature Canada’s inaugural Nature Ball such a success!
Canadian Tire Logo Woods-Logo North Star Logo Fairmont Logo TD Bank Logo Cadillac Fairview Logo Adventure Canada Logo

Click here to see our additional in-kind and Corporate Table leaders.

To see photos from this magical night, check out our slideshow below! Photography courtesy of Bente Nielsen. [rev_slider alias="NatureBall"] To see the event covered in the Hill Times, click here. To read more and see more photos, click here.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Subscribe to Nature Canada's online community!

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.

Donate