Who are the Women for Nature?
This blog is written by Women for Nature member Dawn Bazely.
Cedar Swan, CEO of Adventure Canada
I had a chance to interview fellow Woman for Nature, Cedar Swan, about her career, and her environmental philosophy while watching this CEO in action on her company, Adventure Canada’s Mighty St. Lawrence cruise, as the Ocean Endeavour sailed from Quebec City to St. John’s from June 1-10 2016.
I was already familiar with the Swan family business, through my husband, Dr. Peter Ewins of WWF Canada, so I was thrilled to be invited to join the Adventure Canada Resource Team as a naturalist. Along with other expert resource staff, I gave talks about, and interpreted the region’s rich biodiversity, culture and history.
As we visited sites along the St. Lawrence River and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I discovered that many of the passengers were veterans of Adventure Canada expedition cruises, who love these trips and keep coming back for more.
Cedar is both a company president, and a mum of two young daughters: Charlotte (b. 2013), and Islay (b. 2015). Islay accompanied Cedar on the cruise!
Adventure Canada is truly a family business. Cedar, along with sister, Alana Faber (VP Operations), and brother, Matthew James Swan (Director of Business Development) are its 2nd generation leadership. Their dad, Matthew, founded the business in 1987, with his brother, Bill Swan and friend, Dave Freeze. Cedar’s partner, Jason Edmunds, Alana’s husband, Brian Faber and Matthew James’ partner Devon all work in the company! Other 2nd generation members involved with Adventure Canada include founder, Dave Freeze’s sons Daniel and Dawson. The entire enterprise has a real family feel that extends to the guests!
What inspired you to become a Woman for Nature?
Cedar was inspired to become one of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature, first and foremost, because she believes in Nature Canada’s mission. Cedar sees enormous value in connecting people to nature: “If I can help to facilitate these connections, then this work has meaning for me.”
Cedar explained, that from a personal perspective, she is also interested in, and enjoys the idea of connecting with other women who are not only passionate about conservation and the natural world, but who also have the means and capacity to take some kind of concrete, transformative action on this front.
Cedar’s philosophy about nature and the environment and the importance of connecting people with nature draws inspiration from many different sources, though she credits her rural upbringing with playing a major role in shaping her outlook. She grew up in Beachburg, Renfrew County, surrounded by farms, and nature.
Her father, Matthew, worked as a rafting guide when she was young, and Cedar enjoyed wilderness activities from an early age. These experiences had an important influence on her philosophy.
Who were your mentors or inspiration, and what books have inspired you?
Cedar’s uncle, Bill Swan, was very influential in shaping her approach to sustainability and the environment.
“I was 7 when my father, my uncle and their friend, Dave Freeze started Adventure Canada. Bill was working in Kootenay Mountains National Park. We spent a lot of time in the park and that was my first exposure to understanding the environment as a science. Bill’s dedication and passion for sustainability and alternative energy continues to inspire me.”
Stefan Kindberg, a family friend, who was involved with Adventure Canada from its early years, has known Cedar from a young age. Cedar credits him with instilling in her a passion for going out to the edge of the world to explore isolated environments. At these edges, she is inspired by the feeling that the human species is a small part of a bigger picture.
One book that particularly resonates with Cedar, is the novel, Sweetland, which is about a one of Newfoundland’s South Shore communities facing resettlement, and the old man who is not going to leave. Sweetland’s Canadian author, Michael Crummey has been a resource staff person on Adventure Canada cruises.
The novel, says Cedar, “reminds us of the importance of the sense of place to a person’s identity and cultural identity… the importance of land. Sweetland also reminds us that many people are being cut off from their sense of place. This is perhaps the biggest challenge for conservation: how people are losing their physical connections to nature.”
What advice would you give to future women for nature leaders?
I would advise young women to not let yourself be intimidated by other people. Don’t be afraid to claim your space, even when, in my case, being surrounded by the larger corporate world of adventure travel.
Instead, she encourages young women leaders to find inspiration from, and learn from these people and groups. Find ways and means of using them as a platform or springboard for developing your skills based on the inspiration and learning that you get.
When Cedar has a rare spare moment, she tries to catch up with Game of Thrones. “I love this show for its unpredictability! No character is safe.”
She is also a fan of the book and TV series, Outlander, because it’s set in Scotland, which she loves. Cedar started reading the series as a teenager and loves it. Her family roots are in Scotland, and she enjoys the wilderness of the highlands.