Archive for May, 2019

Celebrating World Biodiversity Day with Action

The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22) focuses on biodiversity as the key provider for our food and health. Also called World Biodiversity Day, it emphasizes the critical link between a healthy ecology of diverse communities of beings and the viability of long-term human welfare.
It has long been known that the climate emergency has become a key catalyst in negatively transforming our planet’s ability to provide food and sustenance for humans and all other animals. Whereas past mass extinctions of species occurred over millions of years, the current mass extinction of flora and fauna started with the Industrial Revolution and most disturbingly has accelerated to new destructive heights in the last 25 years. Not only have rising carbon dioxide levels and ocean temperatures caused vast changes to marine life (notably through the destruction of many coral reefs), but also the stability of our atmospheric climate has been weakened to such an extent that the vast majority of recorded heatwaves have occurred in the last 25 years, resulting in ravaged places with seemingly unending wildfires and, paradoxically, flooding. California is a case in point. All of these crises have been spawned by western countries’ apparent total disregard for other people as well as for their planetary cousins.
In his recently published book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? climate activist Bill McKibben outlines the greed, the misinformation and ultimately the culpability of corporations such as Exxon that knew back in the 1970s that fossil fuels contributed to climate instability. He also details the deceit of coal baron billionaires who foster a new age of ecological disasters. Multinationals with untold millions at their disposal have lobbied governments to push for an agenda of the super-rich that celebrates hyper-individualism at the expense of social justice and a chance of prosperity for many of the world’s poorest people. Governments, including ours, have succumbed to these groups and individuals to such an extent that an insidious plutocracy has put democracy in dire peril and threatens to strip the Earth of its insects and amphibians as well as most other wildlife. People who dare to confront the anti-Earth lobbyists are suffering dire consequences.
May 20 is World Bee Day, acknowledging the crucial part pollinators play in providing food for all beings. Yet the Canadian government, unlike France and other European countries, refuses to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to be toxic to bees and other insects.
Recently, Louis Robert, a Québec government scientist, gave the CBC documentation showing that the pesticide industry controlled some of the decision-making abilities of the Québec Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, he lost his job. Please see tinyurl.com/whistleblower-pesticides-fired
The climate emergency and the acceleration of the biodiversity crisis have caused a monumental shrinking of habitat. The abandonment of lands due to sea level rise and extended heatwaves has pushed flora and fauna populations to the brink of extinction, and humans are not exempt from this carnage. Consider the 93 deaths in Québec last summer from the extreme heat. Most of those people were elderly and/or living in poverty.
Climate change and biodiversity loss have already shrunk our cultural, economic and physical connections to this planet. Increasingly, humans and other sentient beings are becoming climate migrants driven from forest or farming communities by drought, floods or the destruction of their native soils. Contaminated river and coastal villages and polluted cities are making life unbearable.
McKibben’s Falter speaks of non-violent resistance and engagement in the face of entrenched power. But let’s first call this tragedy by appropriate names. The 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg put it this way: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”
It is time to firmly resist fossil fuel lobbyists. At the same time governments must stop giving obscene subsidies to those same Earth destroyers and support solar power.
In marking World Biodiversity Day we need to affirm the right to move away from ecocide and once more embrace this planet’s fantastic diversity. Only then can we chart a course towards a new, just balance that respects and nurtures all life on Earth.
To celebrate all wildlife, please watch this amazing video featuring the monarch butterfly: www.thisiscolossal.com/2019/05/monarch-butterfly-sounds

Nature and Community Activism

The May 6 headline said it all: Human Society Under Urgent Threat from Loss of Earth’s Natural Life
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

Our Earthly inhabitants are at a dangerous crossroads. In 2002, the biologist E.O. Wilson said that humans and the other species on Earth are caught in the bottleneck of an accelerating ecological crisis. Industrial countries have lost their way, without the certain knowledge that we are capable of extracting ourselves or indeed willing to exit this relentless multi-faceted extinction squeeze on species ranging from insects to primates. Within just 150 years they have succeeded in threatening our planet’s viability. If humans won’t acknowledge and actively respond to the dangerous situation we have drifted into, we will sink with the remaining creatures into the quagmire of our making, for without pollinators, soil and seas we are doomed.
The daily scientific news is relentless: unless we change our ways, and soon, climate change will cast an unchangeable veil of greyness across the planet. The U.N. Climate Report last November warned that we have 12 years to drastically reduce our fossil fuel emissions so that global temperatures don’t exceed 1.5 °C. As the respected environmental activist Bill McKibben has stated through his many books, starting with his 1989 treatise The End of Nature, the world is rapidly moving towards “climate chaos”.
On May 6 this year The U.N. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services published its critically important 1,800-page Global Assessment Report. The outlook for us and our fellow Earthlings is becoming progressively bleaker. This fact is well established, but North Americans, and their politicians in particular, behave as if there were no planetary bio-climatic crisis. Québec’s Biodiversity Atlas demonstrates how serious the situation is in southern Québec, but few people know of this document.
Yet one single person can inspire the rest of us to rise to the enormous challenge, “where the voice that is in us makes a true response, where the voice that is great within us rises up”. Last year a schoolgirl named Greta Thunberg did just that, galvanizing her fellow teenagers to find their voices and demand that adults protect them from the ravages of climate change.
After centuries of feeling alienated from Nature, can we find our way back home ­– our only home? The path is tortuous, but we can focus on a vision that will allow us to succeed. Earthly community is the way forward. The 17th-century English poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…” Now we know that our involvement must move to embrace all creatures.
People are finally reacting strongly to government indifference, and speak of the climate and biodiversity crisis as a deeper symptom of our general malaise: increasing social injustice, over-population and capitalism’s mantra for unlimited growth on a finite planet are among the grave concerns that are being voiced. A multitude of global initiatives have gained traction, including the Green New Deal championed by the youth-led Sunrise Movement. The recent 10-day Extinction Rebellion civil disobedience actions across the world shook up British politicians to declare a climate emergency. The student climate strikes here in Canada and globally have been hugely successful in creating a momentum that promises legislative change.
One example of how school and community can become involved in protecting and respecting Nature is Cookshire Elementary School’s transformation last year into a Living School, incorporating Nature into all aspects of learning so that the students and staff can benefit mentally and physically from a connection with the natural world. Dawson College in Montreal is a partner in the initiative, and St. Francis Valley Naturalists’ Club is sponsoring guest lecturers. Representatives from universities have visited the school, which it is hoped will serve as a model for other schools and campuses to follow.
My purpose in writing these articles is to celebrate what is best locally and globally that can bring us together to confront the ‘great thinning’ of our fellow inhabitants on this planet and create a viable community that includes all of us, not just humans. May 22 is International Day for Biological Diversity. Let’s come together to celebrate our interdependence with the rest of Nature.