It’s difficult to imagine that just 50 years ago awareness of the state of the environment was not part of the collective consciousness. Photo: Metro Creative

Earth Day: A new relationship to wildlife is needed for nature and people

Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

By Dan Kraus

Nature Conservancy of Canada

COVID-19 has brought us unprecedented health and economic challenges. It will test the resolve and resiliency of each Canadian and our nation. Crises have a way of unveiling truths, flaws and misconceptions in any society. Our immediate crisis is reinforcing the importance of family, community, health care and food security.

But at the root of the current crisis, and fundamental to the solution, is our relationships with the other species that share our planet. Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on how we value all species, including our own, and our connections to the natural world.

The good news amidst the current crisis is that while society adapts to a new normal, nature is continuing to provide us with critical services. Wetlands are filtering drinking water and holding back floods.

The roots of willow and cottonwood are binding soil and keeping it from eroding along rivers and streams.

Budding urban trees will soon ramp up their service of purifying air and shading our streets and homes. All point to nature’s critical role in our well-being. And that we need nature’s services now more than ever.

READ ALSO: Esquimalt celebrates 50th anniversary of Earth Day online

Many of the fruits and vegetables grown in Canada are pollinated by non-native honeybees that are shipped around the world. As these shipments are stalled, the role of local native pollinators has perhaps never been more important. While native bees, butterflies, beetles and other insects may never fully replace honeybees on our farms, their conservation and restoration in our agricultural ecosystems will help to strengthen future food security.

Perhaps the most important service that nature provides is how contact with the natural world can benefit us. There is clear evidence that spending time in nature improves our well-being. Many people are practicing safe physical distancing outdoors. But even just looking at pictures of wildlife, virtually exploring nature and making plans to visit natural areas once it is safe to do so can help to nurture our mental health.

There’s little question that COVID-19 was transmitted to people in wildlife markets. Growing calls to shut down the illegal trade of wild animals, including endangered species, will support conservation and reduce the probability of future outbreaks. But the loss of nature and disease is not just limited to foreign places. In North America the rapid spread of Lyme disease has been linked to human-caused alterations to food webs and habitats and climate change.

The fact is, biodiversity loss and climate change don’t just result in a loss of nature – they create uncertainty. Uncertainty that threatens our security, economy, well-being and unnecessarily pushes our society into dark and uncomfortable corners. The health and security of nature are the health and security of all of us.

READ ALSO: Saanich mayor signs up for mason bee rental service

If there is a silver lining in our current situation, it may be that this time of physical distancing represents an opportunity to renew our connections to the people we love, our communities and to nature. In every community across Canada, birds are still migrating, wildflowers are blooming and many animals are preparing for their next generation. This time offers an opportunity to learn about the extraordinary wildlife that shares our country and communities. If you have a backyard, it’s an opportunity to explore how nature can be welcomed back home in the place you live.

Nature is the foundation of our society. Once we emerge into a post-COVID world, we will have an opportunity to rebuild this foundation. In the south, wildlife and habitats can be restored, while in our northlands we can conserve some of the planet’s last wilderness. Caring for nature is caring for ourselves.

Discovering, knowing and sharing your relationship with nature is critical. Use this time to connect with nature. Help your children to find this connection and a love for the natural world. This relationship will change you. And you can change the world.

Dan Kraus is senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusEnvironment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salmon Arm man reported missing by RCMP has been found unharmed

Ken Derkach apologizes for having caused anyone concern

Preparations for flooding in the Shuswap accelerate

A sandbagging machine and a crew to run it have been set up in Silver Creek.

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan, Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecasting strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy downpours in parts of the Interior

From mouldy attics to giant wasp nests, Shuswap home inspector shares surprising finds

Salmon Arm’s Brad Campbell assembling photo gallery of disturbing discoveries

WorkSafe BC conducted 70 inspections in the Okanagan amid B.C.’s reopening plan

WorkSafe BC has conducted 100 inspections at restaurants across the province since May 19

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

District offers safety tips after cougar spotted near Lake Country school

The animal was seen on a walking trail near Peter Greer Elementary Saturday morning

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Similkameen winery co-owned by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C.’s provincial health officer is part of the original ownership group of Clos du Soleil in Keremeos

Emergency crews rush youth to hospital after quadding accident in West Kelowna

West Kelowna Fire Rescue’s new off-road vehicle was used in the rescue

Shuswap History in Pictures: Floodwater food run

A young boy rows through Sicamous’ streets during the 1972 flood.

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

Most Read