Fighting for the future

Adam Dhalla (Photo by Taylor Roades)

Adam Dhalla (Photo by Taylor Roades)

Adam Dhalla can remember seeing a shadowy figure lurking just below the water’s surface, as he walked along the dock jutting out from Okikamuro Island in Japan.

“It was like a blanket was moving effortlessly below us,” he recalls. “Little did I know that it was a five-foot-wide stingray. It was one of my first introductions to wildlife.” Visiting Okikamuro is like going back in time. A tranquil island in the Seto inland sea, it still lacks a convenience store. Perishables are delivered twice a  week from the mainland to the residents.

“My great-grandmother lived on this island. I would visit her with my parents every time I went to Japan,” explains Dhalla. “That place is so wild and natural. There are these giant buzzards that live there, towering over everything. It’s like they own the island.” Back in Canada and wise beyond his 14 years, the ninth grader and avid birder calls Vancouver home, and can be found in forests and natural places alive with melody. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by nature,” he says.

“I see that action needs to be taken [to protect these places]. I could never stand to lose the sounds of birdsong around me.” As early as 2012, Dhalla could see a shift in the natural world around him. “There was a huge influx of snowy owls that had migrated south from the Arctic in search of lemmings. At the time, I didn’t understand how rare it was to see snowy owls in the area. It was a catalyst for me  in grasping the interconnectedness of nature. That moment is what really got me into conservation."

Dhalla’s passion for nature is not something he takes lightly. In 2018, he was named the American Birding Association Young Birder of the Year and gave a presentation at the annual, international Ornithological Congress. He has now partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to combine his passion for technology, birds and climate change awareness. Together, they are working on “Find The Birds: US + Canada,” an interactive mobile game that challenges kids to do their part for birds and the natural spaces they rely on.

“We’re still in the fundraising stage, but the goal of this game is to inspire youth to care about conservation. It is important that they learn about the real-life issues affecting birds.”

Dhalla is hopeful that Canadians will band together to protect changing landscapes. “I believe that as a society we will do the right thing, if not for the birds then for the untouched landscapes and large forests that we’re lucky enough to still have in Canada. I hope that when I’m much older, my grandchildren will have these places too, and I can take them there. And when I do, I hope to still be able to hear birdsong.”

This story first appeared in the winter 2020 issue of the Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine. Donors who contribute at least $25 or more per year will receive four issues of the magazine. Click here to donate today and start receiving the magazine.

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