Worried about climate and biodiversity loss?
Think globally, conserve locally
Recently, a United Nations’ team of 450 scientists and diplomats issued a stark warning: the accelerating deterioration of nature is jeopardizing humanity’s collective future.
The most comprehensive-ever study of life on earth has determined that the loss of global biodiversity -- the sum total of plants, animals and ecosystems — is as serious a threat as climate change, and like climate change, is being caused by human activity.
The Global Assessment Report, published May 6 by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found that the loss of natural habitats around the world has placed 1 million species at risk of extinction. With every species lost or weakened, the foundations of economies, food security and health are further eroded, with potentially “grave” implications for human life.
The report is overwhelming in its scope and urgency. However it provides hope, direction and practical solutions that can be put in place anywhere in the world. The report recommends transformative changes for governments, reduced individual consumption and massive investments in reforestation and conservation measures.
Without these efforts to restore habitat, many at-risk species could disappear within decades. By protecting the functioning ecosystems that still exist and restoring those that have been damaged, it is still possible to slow the decline in biodiversity.
What can be done locally in the face of this seemingly overwhelming global challenge? The old adage, “Think globally, act locally” applies: the first step is to face the global facts of biodiversity loss, coupled with climate change. The next step is to find ways to accelerate the protection of local ecosystems and biodiversity through every possible means.
The Government of Canada has committed to conserving 17 per cent of the country’s lands and inland waters. Groups like the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) are working to protect more of the most diverse and threatened habitats such as old-growth forests, salt marshes and river estuaries. By accelerating conservation in every province and territory in Canada, we can address both the biodiversity and climate crises. Recognizing this urgent need several years ago, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is working to double the size of its conservation areas.
In Nova Scotia, NCC has protected key intact wilderness areas from Brier Island to the Pugwash Estuary to the Cape Breton Highlands. This type of wilderness conservation is an important way forward. We also need to protect nature near our cities, to make them healthier and more sustainable.
That’s why NCC is working with the Halifax Regional Municipality to establish the 379-acre (153-hectare) Halifax Wilderness Park in Purcell’s Cove. The conservation of this future park, located next to the Purcell’s Cove Backlands, will help protect local biodiversity, including a rare ecosystem called the jack pine-broom crowberry barrens. The park will also protect a diverse mixed forest and habitat for more than 40 species of birds, while providing a place to hike, swim and connect with nature in the city.
The Halifax Wilderness Park project, underway for 3 years, has the support of HRM and the Province of Nova Scotia. As a charity, NCC is also seeking support from individuals and companies to complete this conservation project. While just one example, the Halifax Wilderness Park could be a model for other cities and towns seeking to protect more of their natural heritage, improve the quality of life for their citizens and reverse the devastating decline in plant and animal species highlighted by the United Nations’ report.
The world’s top scientists are urging transformational changes to address both climate change and biodiversity loss. Of these transformational changes, conservation is an important step. It is something all Canadians can do something about right away, in every community in Canada. We can all become part of the solution by supporting conservation projects and joining organizations that are actively working to protect nature and the interconnected life support systems on which we all depend.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is Canada’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization working to protect our most important natural areas and the plants and animals they sustain. Since 1962, NCC has helped protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres) across the country. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved 30,500 hectares (77,000 acres) in Atlantic Canada.
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