News / Vancouver

David Miller: This Earth Day, remember that you're part of the wildlife, too

The challenges facing Earth can feel overwhelming. Don't lose heart, however. You impact your habitat every day, and even the smallest actions can have a major impact.

World Wildlife Fund Canada president David Miller, who served as Toronto's Mayor from 2003 to 2010, helps Metro Vancouver with a special environment edition for Earth Day.

David P. Ball / Metro

World Wildlife Fund Canada president David Miller, who served as Toronto's Mayor from 2003 to 2010, helps Metro Vancouver with a special environment edition for Earth Day.

As global temperature records are set, glaciers retreat and iconic wildlife populations decline, it’s easy to think we can’t make a difference. The challenges we face here in Vancouver, across Canada and around the world are real, but the solutions are within our grasp.

To achieve them, however, all of us need to help: Governments, communities and individuals. You’ll see that even the smallest actions can have surprising impacts.

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One of my favourite examples of this began with one person’s belief in the value of wildlife and a commitment to act, to be more than a bystander.

The chain of events started in the fall when a facilities manager at a sprawling suburban college campus discovered a nest of eggs near a bridge scheduled for construction. They turned out to be snapping turtles, an at-risk species.

Populations of freshwater species such as turtles and other aquatic life have declined by 81 per cent globally since 1970, WWF’s latest Living Planet Report shows. Land-based populations have experienced a 38 per cent decline. Ocean populations dropped by 36 per cent. We have lost, on average, 58 per cent of all wildlife populations since 1970 and unless we act quickly, we risk losing more than 67 per cent by 2020. That’s more than two-thirds gone in just one human lifetime.

Those are astounding figures that demand concerted action from governments and independent actions from individuals — individuals like the college facilities manager.

His attention and caring that day set in motion a series of actions that led to the rescue of those eggs. They were hatched at a turtle rescue centre, nurtured through the winter, and the 15 turtles were returned to the wild last summer.

Stories like this unfold all across Canada. They speak to how deeply Canadians connect with nature and wildlife, including in the heart of Vancouver.

Nature and wildlife are right here in the city. The drainpipe of your home and the storm sewers collecting rainwater from your street are part of a freshwater ecosystem. Your yard, balcony and local parks are habitat. The buried streams that run beneath the city were once nurseries for the salmon that used to help feed the now endangered orcas of the Salish Sea. The skies over the city are part of the Pacific Flyway, a route followed by thousands of birds on their migratory journeys.

The actions we make collectively and as individuals have impacts on other organisms near and far, because we are all wildlife.

Earth Day on Saturday is a reminder that we need to do more to protect our planet. Read the stories in today’s Metro to learn more about what can be done, from the clothes you choose to wear to how we can bring the endangered orcas of the Salish Sea back from the brink of extinction.

And our individual actions can add up. Like with the rescued turtle eggs, they set in motion a series of events with affirming and inspirational impacts.

David Miller is the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund-Canada

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