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Wildfires across British Columbia bring a heightened sense of fear in communities. For Esk’etemc, a looming fear of wildfires in the Cariboo Regional District has been replaced with a renewed confidence in community ability to manage wildfire risk and a certainty that its decision-making is transparent and reflective of the community. Efforts towards—and inter-generational investments in—individual and community health have led to a reclaiming of their role as caretakers of Esk'etemculucw—“the land of the Esk'etemc—allowing the people to retake authority, manage natural resources and steward the land.

Revitalizing a healthy natural environment takes a long-term approach that focuses not on a single patch of earth but on surveying the land broadly, looking upstream and reviving knowledge and practices that have been buried. The Neskonlith are applying this holistic, long-term strategy to improve environmental and community health by developing wide-ranging partnerships and focusing on knowledge sharing. Neskonlith leaders encourage a diverse, multi-sector assembly of allies and invite partnership and collaboration with all types of community groups.

Born in Singapore and having spent many years living in a “vertical village,” Francis Heng has seen firsthand how communities can flourish in high-rises. But when they first arrived in Vancouver 17 years ago, Heng experienced culture shock. In contrast to their hometown where high-rise living is the norm, they sensed building residents in Vancouver didn’t talk to each other.

“That was really strange for me,” Heng describes. “I saw a lot people were very shy and afraid to talk to their neighbours.”

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