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Video: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere
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Video: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere

Greening your NatureHood! A forest planted by humans, then left to nature’s own devices, typically takes at least 100 years to mature. But what if we could make the process happen ten times faster? In this short talk, eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma explains how to create a mini-forest ecosystem anywhere.

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 2]
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National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 2]

[This blog post is part 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 can be found here]

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o it’s Canada Environment Week — did you know? More importantly, did you know that in mid-May the federal government made a significant commitment to conservation in Canada? Notwithstanding what’s missing, the National Conservation Plan does promise $20 million/year and $10 million/year investments in the Nature Conservancy of Canada (for ecologically sensitive areas) and wetland restoration, respectively, which is very positive. It’s fair to question how these investments will help to connect all Canadians to nature, however, since they seem to be focused on protecting private lands, instead of lands (not waters) that will be publicly owned and accessible, or located in or near large population centres. After all, more than 80% of us presently live in urban centres. So how will the government ensure that it delivers on the National Conservation Plan’s promise to connect urban Canadians to nature? There’s less and less capacity within departments like Environment Canada and Parks Canada to develop and deliver these programs and neither Budget 2014 nor the Plan assign this mandate to any specific department. It’s very positive to see the government reaching out to conservation partners like Earth Rangers and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, but this task will require many more players working with a variety of approaches to engage Canada’s increasingly distracted, increasingly culturally diverse and increasingly urban population in this venture – or as Prime Minister Harper puts it, this “ethic of true stewardship… of the heart”. You can’t change people’s minds, attitudes or behaviours simply with an advertising campaign, no matter how well produced or widely broadcast it is. As proponents of community-based social marketing would advise, you first need to understand the real and perceived barriers to the beneficial behaviour(s) you want people to adopt and then work to remove or overcome those barriers. The most effective approach to making these beneficial behaviours stick is to work locally where people can observe more and more of their neighbours and peers gradually adopting the behaviours over time. Curb-side recycling is the best example of this – no one wants to be the only resident on the street who doesn’t recycle. Hopefully this strategic approach to engaging Canadians and fostering a new nationwide conservation ethic is inherent in the thinking behind the National Conservation Plan, but we’ll have to wait and see. [caption id="attachment_11934" align="alignright" width="300"]Cars stuck in traffic on a multi-lane highway in a Canadian City. More than 80% of Canadians currently live in or near urban centres.[/caption] Of course, we’ve got no time to lose since our relationship with nature is only becoming more broken with time, to paraphrase host Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s program Q. We should point to another significant oversight in the Conservation Plan: the private sector. If we want a wholesale, Canadian stewardship ethic to begin evolving in the next 5 years, wouldn’t it make sense to engage the businesses driving our commerce and trade (domestic and international), selling us consumer goods and providing countless services to Canadians? Shouldn’t we have the opportunity to nurture our heartfelt stewardship ethic at the cash register? The gas pump? The grocery store? Moreover, businesses and industry may be driven by heart, but their actions in the market and on the ground are governed by regulation. And in order to make a National Conservation Plan truly relevant, it must be espoused and endorsed by industry and the private sector. Don’t get us wrong, we think the National Conservation Plan is a good step in the right direction, and we applaud the government for making this bold commitment. But let’s make sure this isn’t just an investment in good feelings.

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 1]
News

National Conservation Plan: Great news, but HOW will we make it a success? [PART 1]

[This blog post is part 1 of a 2-part series. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2]

[dropcap style="default"]S[/dropcap]o it’s Canada Environment Week — did you know? More importantly, did you know that in mid-May the federal government made a significant commitment to conservation in Canada? That’s right. On May 15th, just days before the United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22), the federal government released its long-awaited National Conservation Plan. Though the details are still unclear, the Plan promises to invest $252-million over the next five years in Conserving Canada’s lands and waters, restoring Canada’s ecosystems and Connecting Canadians to nature. This is a positive achievement and it’s one that we at Nature Canada generally applaud. For a long time, we have been a key advocate for a lot of the sorts of things that this plan talks about and, of course, connecting Canadians to nature is our core mission. [caption id="attachment_11926" align="alignleft" width="300"]Algonquin Park wetland showing black spruce and a typical Canadian Shield landscape, Ontario, Canada, protected area Publicly accessible protected areas like Ontario's Algonquin Park aren't directly addressed in the National Conservation Plan.[/caption] During Prime Minister Harper’s announcement of the Plan in New Brunswick in May, Canadians were told that “[a]n ethic of true stewardship cannot be imposed by regulation, it is of the heart”, and that we  “… should become willingly and eagerly a community of stewards”. We don’t disagree with either of these statements, but we question how the investments announced under the Plan will achieve these lofty goals. In Nature Canada’s case, we’ve been trying to achieve these goals since 1939 — longer than any other national conservation organization in Canada — and it’s not easy. And with the phenomenon of ‘nature deficit disorder’ and our growing disconnect with the natural world, it’s surely not getting any easier with time. This question of “how” to achieve the Plan’s goals arises again this Canada Environment Week, for which this year’s theme is “Strengthening our Environment Today for Tomorrow”. The government’s investment of $252 million promises to “build on the conservation measures announced in Budget 2014” over a 5 year period from 2014 to 2019, with notable funding injections in the following areas:
  • $10 million/year for the voluntary restoration and conservation of species and their habitats (presumably referring to species at risk stewardship and recovery funding)
  • $7.4 million/year for marine and coastal conservation (presumably referring to marine protected areas, which need to jump from just 1% protection currently all the way to 10% by 2020, as per the UN Convention on Biological Diversity)
  • $1.84 million/year to connect urban Canadians to nature (presumably referring to new programs, or perhaps the Rouge National Urban Park…?)
These investments are intended to build on approximately $406.5 million announced in Budget 2014 for natural heritage conservation by Parks Canada and Fisheries & Ocean over the next 5 years – 96% of which is actually for infrastructure improvements in national parks and along historic canals. One could argue that this infrastructure makes it easier for people access to nature, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily remove the most important barriers for people. Barriers like the distance, cost and time associated with visiting Canada’s amazing national parks and other protected land- and seascapes. Absent from Budget 2014 was any mention of funding for the protection of publicly-owned marine or terrestrial protected areas because Canada protects so little of its overall land area compared to the United States. Today, however, in response to CPAWS’ Dare to be Deep report on marine protection in Canada, CBC reports that Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea’s office stated the following: “We remain committed to meet our target of protecting 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020 under the International Convention on Biological Diversity.” Again, the question of “how” looms large. Stay tuned tomorrow where we'll explore the "how" issue and others in depth.

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