"When ecosystem services are compromised, economic and health impacts such as lower agricultural productivity and lower quality drinking water can result, raising costs for Canadian, industry and governments."
Did you know that only 10.6 per cent of Canada’s lands and fresh water is protected?
Considering that Canada holds one fifth of the world’s freshwater, 24 per cent of the Earth’s wetlands, 20 per cent of its forests, is renowned for its vast and dramatic landscapes, and has a Prime Minister who is referred to as a ‘Climate Leader’, it comes as a shock that Canada is not as environmentally conscious as it is often considered.
The issue of Canada’s lack of environmental protection was brought to light recently by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s (CPAWS) annual report. CPAWS 2017 report, ‘From Laggard to Leader?’ looks at how far Canada has come to fulfilling its obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, which was signed by the Harper government in 2010 and aims to halt widespread biodiversity loss. Canada promised to meet the international target of protecting 17 per cent of its territory by 2020, however, with three years to go CPAWS reports that Canada has only increased the amount of land and water protected by one per cent, bringing the new total to 10.6 per cent…
Figure 2. Protected Areas in Canada. Image: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (2016) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). 2015
While Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna has been meeting with various stakeholders this year to attempt to meet this goal by 2020, very few other steps have been made. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, CPAWS national executive director Eric Hébert-Daly explained that Canada needs to go much further than protecting 17 per cent, and scientists say that in order for nature to survive it will need Canada to protect at least 50 per cent of its land and freshwater. Meanwhile, other countries are putting Canada to shame by making huge strides in increasing their protection of land and waterways, with some almost reaching 40 per cent.
Figure 1. Data from Globe and Mail
The facts and knowledge are there… but where is the motivation?
Looking beyond the importance of protecting non-human species from manmade pollution, industries, communities, and human health depends on the health and preservation of biodiversity. The Government of Canada states that “when ecosystem services are compromised, economic and health impacts such as lower agricultural productivity and lower-quality drinking water can result, raising costs for Canadian, industry and governments”. Canada is renowned for its abundance of natural resources which are the backbone of the country’s economy, and these sectors - forestry, agriculture, fisheries and national parks - are essential to our job force. Since it’s clear that the Canadian government is aware of how important biodiversity is, it’s strange that there seems to be no federal motivation to protect it.
So… what can you do?
There are lots of great things you can do to help out, and I’ve listed a few below:
1. Be aware:
- Stay informed of environmental issues in your community and in Ontario by following environmental organizations and charities online: CPAWS, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, Friends of the Rouge Watershed, Ecojustice, Ontario Biodiversity Council and Sierra Club Canada
2. Use your VOICE!
- Sign petitions and call your elected officials to prevent the development of pipelines - these developments devastate ecosystems,
- Sign petitions and call your elected officials to support clean, green energy and the expansion of the Greenbelt in Ontario!
- Call and write to your local MPs and MPPs to express your concern about the lack of protection for biodiversity in your local community and more importantly, across Canada.
3. Support environmental organizations and non-profits:
- Support developers using LEED practices and green companies,
- Invest in solar and wind energy,
- Become a member/ and or volunteer of local environmental groups,
- Support national environmental charities like Sierra Club Canada Foundation! Join us in our fundraising campaign - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon’s Charity Challenge - and raise money with us to protect the environment!
4. Take action now!
- Plant native plants in your garden - these will support pollinators and enhance your local ecosystem
- Be mindful of your Ecological Footprint - if possible, walk or take public transportation instead of driving
- Practice the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) – our wastes like plastic bags and coffee cups end up polluting streams, soils, and get eaten by wildlife.
5. Watch our "Biodiversity in Ontario" video to learn why it's important to protect biodiversity in our province, for our own sake, and hear from local farms and businesses on how biodiversity loss affects their livelihoods!
Politicians work for the people they represent, and if politicians don’t have the motivation to protect Canada’s biodiversity, we need to show them that we do! The more we can do as individuals to support the environment the more the government will do in response. Let’s show the Canadian government what we care about, and let’s protect this beautiful planet.
This article was written by Stephanie Hulse, Environmental Outreach Coordinator at Sierra Club Ontario. It is Part II of a 5-part blog series for our Biodiversity Video Campaign.