James Kamstra: Consulting the Environment

Over the past 8 years of writing this column, I have had the pleasure of interviewing many different, and sometimes unique, personalities. This month is no different, as James Kamstra relayed his life experiences and a brand new book, which he has recently penned and has just released.

For those of you not familiar with James, he is a terrestrial ecologist and environmental consultant, and a very well-known personality in the world of ecology. I was quite surprised when I picked up a copy of his new book, ‘Can’t Sit Still’.

I expected the book to focus on James’ area of expertise, basically the environment. You can imagine how surprised I was when I began reading it, and discovered it was a historical memoir of his father’s quest to leave Europe, relocate in Canada and build a mini empire in the Durham Region.

We should start with a little background on James. Born in Oshawa, the eldest of three sons, he did an undergrad at Trent and roomed with a Latin American archaeology student, Jaime Awe. Jaime went on to become a very well-known archaeologist, not only in his homeland of Belize, but throughout Latin America..

No doubt, Jaime had an influence on James’ decision to travel to Belize for a year, and do an undergrad thesis on a rare animal known as Baird’s Taper. The experience led him to further his studies in ecology, which he pursued, and eventually turned into his career.

His parents owned a landscape company in South Durham, which is where James spent his off hours during high school years. Throughout university, he started his first ‘real’ job, as he called it, working as a park naturalist, stationed in Algonquin Park.

After graduation and his stint in Belize, James came back to Ontario. He was offered a position with the Ministry of Natural Resources, as an Ecologist on Pelee Island. From there he moved to Chatham, as an environmental consultant with Aecom, a multinational engineering firm, where he still works today.

I asked James what type of consulting he did, and he explained it was anything from tailing dams in the mining industry to golf course development. “The environment is so critical to our well-being, and I am so glad that companies are taking it serious.” James spoke with a concerned passion in his voice.

So why a book about his father? James explained it did not start as a a book. He simply wanted to tell the story of his father’s struggles and successes, so James’ children had an understanding of what he went through.