Clara Phillips, June 5, 2020
World Environment Day was established by the United Nations in 1974, and is celebrated every year on June 5 to engage governments, business, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on environmental issues. The theme for 2020 is Biodiversity. The interdependence of humans and the ecosystems and species in which we coexist is essential to our existence. Climate change is threatening biodiversity globally, and its fragility is clearly seen with recent events such as uncontrollable wildfires, locust infestations across East Africa, clear-cutting for palm oil production, and collection of animals for wildlife markets. Experts believe this type of destruction of natural habitats increases the likelihood of infectious diseases like COVID-19. By distressing wildlife, reducing genetic diversity within animal and plant populations, and causing climate change, humans have created ideal conditions for the spread of viruses. To truly achieve a healthy planet and restore biodiversity, we must first understand the network of living systems and appreciate that it can only work sustainably if it functions coherently a whole.
The second-largest nation in the world, and bordered by three oceans, Canada’s abundant space and beauty makes this country unique. While we are a nation of rich biodiversity, we depend on it for survival, and thus we are responsible for the sustainable use of our biological resources. The Canadian Nature Survey, conducted in 2012, found that almost 70% of Canadian adults choose to spend time outdoors in order to experience nature, and that 13% of Canadian adults volunteered in nature conservation away from their home during an average of 31 days per year. Awareness of the terms “species at risk”, “biodiversity”, and “ecosystem services” was also consistently high in every province and territory. While it seems that Canadians may, in general, appreciate and take the time to enjoy their country’s outdoors, there is still more we can do, and must do, to protect our biodiversity.
Canada’s 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity highlights our conservation plans for biodiversity by protecting fragile areas. In 2018, Canada reported it was on track to meet its target of conserving 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. However, progress has been slower in areas of terrestrial land conservation, recovery of species at risk, ecosystem-based management of fisheries, and reducing pollution levels in Canadian waters. These will be continued areas of focus moving forward, as some of our ecosystems are showing signs of stress.
How to Get Involved
Biodiversity education begins with learning. Discover the names of trees, birds, insects and native plants in your area. Once you know a little more, get out and experience the joys of your diverse environment. However, please be cautious of health officials’ pandemic safety guidelines at this time, and if you are looking to visit a recently opened provincial or national park, be prepared before you go with these tips! There are also many ways to get involved without going out into your community: increase biodiversity in your backyard and in your home!
Thank you for your commitment to the environment. Stay Safe, Flatten the Curve, and Keep It Green!