Saskatchewan's Environmental Champions

Farley Mowat

Farley Mowat
(b. 1921)

This 'sissy nature kid', as some of his Saskatoon school chums called him, turned his passion for nature into great literary success.

One of Canada's most popular authors, Farley Mowat developed a love for nature while wandering the riverbanks of Saskatoon as a youth. Described as "a Canadian environmental and literary icon," his works of non-fiction dealing with the environment, the North, and Inuit life are immensely popular worldwide. Fifteen million copies of his 39 books have been published in 40 countries and 52 languages. He is also an award winning juvenile fiction writer.

Mowat spent four formative years (1933-37) in Saskatoon, where his father was working as a librarian. His first writing appeared in Nature Lore, a self-published periodical he sold at a Depression sensitive variable price of 5 or 10 cents. The profits went to feed ducks and geese that were unable to migrate and stayed in the water discharged from the City's coal-fired electrical plant. In his mid-teens he wrote a column on birds for Saskatoon's Star-Phoenix, until it was cancelled due to his controversial opinions.

In his mid-teens he wrote a column on birds for Saskatoon's Star-Phoenix, until it was cancelled due to his controversial opinions.

Speaking about his life in Saskatchewan, Mowat said, "I loved the Prairies because of the physical sensation of having no walls, of being in an open world. I could take a five-minute streetcar ride from anywhere in town and find myself quite abruptly in the country. There were gophers and meadowlarks, little stands of poplars and cottonwoods, and ponds in the spring were alive with ducks and shorebirds, a natural abundance such as I have never again experienced."

On a field trip as a student biologist, Mowat became aware of the mistreatment of the Inuit. This experience prompted his first book, People of the Deer (1952), which made him an instant, though controversial, celebrity. Among his books on nature and the environment are A Whale for the Killing (1972); Sea of Slaughter (1984); Virunga: The Passion of Diane Fossey (1987); and Rescue the Earth: Conversations (1990). The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (1957) and Owls in the Family (1961) are comic recollections of his youth.

He has remained controversial throughout his career. After being refused entry to the United States in 1985 as an 'undesirable alien', apparently due to his critical views of American environmental policy, he retaliated by writing a book about this experience entitled My Discovery of America.

Mowat contributed to a reversal of popular attitudes towards the wolf. His book, Never Cry Wolf, a highly entertaining account of time Mowat spent studying a wolf pack, was made into a popular Disney film in 1983. The book and film undermine negative stereotypes of the wolf as a predator on people and livestock.

As the Honourary Chair of the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, he is one of the most vocal supporters for an end to the seal hunt. The society renamed its famous flagship, the Ocean Warrior, the MV Farley Mowat. Mowat's many honours and awards include the Governor General's Award, the Leacock Medal for Humour, the Canadian Centennial Medal, the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal, and a Gemini Award. He was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1981.