John Davidson (August 6, 1878–February 10, 1970)
John Davidson was a botanist who popularized nature study through illustrated public lectures. He created the Vancouver Natural History Society and the University of British Columbia’s herbarium and botanical garden. Today, many consider Davidson an environmental folk hero for his conservation efforts.
Davidson the activist
During the fall and winter of 1916, Davidson wrote 20 lengthy newspaper articles on Arbor Day for publication in the Vancouver Daily World newspaper. The first article criticized BC lumbermen for their wasteful methods and commended those who saved and reused newspapers. In later articles, Davidson told readers that Vancouver’s greatest asset was the source of “pure fresh water” in the “forests on the mountains and valleys on the north side of the inlet” and that summer picnickers must guard and protect the “inheritance which Nature has given us.”
Davidson asked his readers to imagine what would happen if the trees on the north shore were cut down or consumed by fire, and recommended that readers watch the workings of the new mill on Mosquito Creek as well as the logging of the steep slopes of Dome Mountain, both on Vancouver’s north shore. If the lands were quickly reforested, all would be well. But “if not, wait and see,” he warned. Davidson’s unique position as a field scientist made him an observer of the human impact upon the landscape. He spoke out against needless waste and hoped that British Columbians would awaken to a sense of duty regarding the native flora before it was too late.