As noted in a previous blog, I’m assisting with efforts to move Premier Horgan and his majority government to restore funding and staffing for BC Parks. He has said that dealing with climate change is a top priority for his government. Taking him at his word, a number of organizations are making the case that parks and protected areas should properly be seen and treated as a vitally important components of any climate change strategy.
I believe this approach has huge potential to be successful. And so, recently I set up a Zoom conversation with my friend, colleague and intellectual foil, Bob Sandford.
Bob and I go back quite a ways, at least 20 years. We met while I was gathering research for my book about the loss of ecological integrity in our country’s national parks. Both Bob and I started our professional careers as park naturalists with what was then the National Parks Branch but now known as Parks Canada. One of things we share in common is our passion for parks and protected areas.
Bob also happens to be the Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United NatIons University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. He’s a highly respected and much sought after expert on the interplay between climate change and water.
What follows are a series of sound bites I’ve lifted from our conversation which I hope you’ll find interesting and informative.
Climate change has emerged as the world’s most critical threat. While it is a global issue, its impacts are felt most acutely at the local and regional level. They are very real and very personal. Just ask any British Columbia who has experienced losing their home to wildfires or floods driven by the changing climate.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention in the USA has identified eight ways that human health is affected by climate change including increased respiratory illness, mental health issues, and cardiovascular failure.
But it’s not just human health that is threatened. So is that of the planet. Entire ecosystems that support life are collapsing as the Earth’s temperature continues to rise. In 2016, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources released a report entitled: “Climate Change Vulnerability of BC’s Fish and Wildlife: First Approximation”. In it, the authors list a host of ways in which climate change is likely to impact BC’s biodiversity, if it isn’t already, including the unavailability of suitable habitat to support migration, increase abundance of invasive species, and development of new disease patterns.
There’s no doubt that Earth is running a life-threatening fever and a solution to climate change needs to be found immediately and urgently. Restoring the planet’s health is an inarguable imperative. Parks and protected areas make an invaluable contribution to achieving this goal.
British Columbians can be rightly proud of the province’s parks and protected areas system; it is the envy of the world. But the creation of new parks has not kept up with the challenges of climate change and species loss. Nor is the agency – BC Parks – adequately funded to carry out its responsibilities properly. As a result, BC’s ability to mitigate and adopt to climate change is weakened.
The Government of BC must move quickly to expand the parks and protected areas system and to restore adequate funding so the system can be properly managed to protect, maintain and restore ecological integrity/planetary health.