Power to the plants! Embracing the International Year of Plant Health

Clara Phillips, January 30, 2020

The United Nations General Assembly has named 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Plant health has been defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as “the discipline that uses a range of measures to control and prevent pests, weeds and disease causing organisms to spread into new areas, especially through human interaction such as international trade.”

When we think of plants and the environment, we typically tend to think of plant-based diets, tree-planting and protecting rainforests. But, benefits go much further than this. What gets forgotten is the fact that protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and boost economic development.

As the source of all life on Earth, we must do more to protect plants from pests and diseases. As a society we must take action to protect the environment. Climate change is no longer a threat of which the effects are distant and intangible to us. The last time you drove a car, threw a plastic wrapper in the garbage, or used a non-environmentally friendly chemical cleaner at home, the world didn’t come crumbling around you, did it? However, we are starting to feel these effects in many parts of the world. Devastating wildfires, rising ocean levels, melting ice caps, droughts and hurricanes. Without drastic action, these disastrous events will only increase in frequency and intensity.

How can we as a society do more to protect plants from pests and diseases? People generally have a lack of knowledge of the importance of plant health; thus, one of the main goals of the IYPH campaign is to inspire people to learn more about plant health and take concrete action. The FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise about 60% by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population, and with plant pests responsible for killing up to 40% of food crops globally, not to mention the reduced quantity and diminished nutrients of plants from climate change, it is critical, now more than ever, to educate and act on protecting plant health.

A blog post about plant health cannot go without recognizing the amount of tree removal across West Park’s campus for construction of the new hospital. The sacrifice of the campus’ trees was commemorated in September 2018 with an unforgettable Tree and Land Blessing Ceremony presided by First Nations Elder Shannon Thunderbird, who led a traditional aboriginal drumming ritual to honour the trees and land.

For every tree taken down during construction, West Park will plant three in its place. Our tree count will almost double with more than 1,200 trees on campus, offering comfort and therapeutic benefits and contributing to a healthy ecosystem.

Want to get involved or learn more about protecting plant health in your community? Join the IYPH 2020 photo contest, or check out the resources below:

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