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

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

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Police say that a U-Haul truck abandoned in Cache Creek on Jan. 19 (pictured) was being used to transport equipment and supplies consistent with a fentanyl drug production operation. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Rental truck abandoned in Cache Creek believed to be connected with fentanyl drug production

Police seized high end equipment, chemicals, and several firearms

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read