Half the world must be set aside for nature, says Canadian conservationist

Originally published August 27, 2017 by CBC Radio Canada Listen to the full radio segment > Harvey Locke is a self-described “free range conservationist”. His ancestors lived in the mountains of the Bow Valley before Banff became a national park, and he still lives in the town of Banff. He happily shares his property with wildlife. It’s not rare for a grizzly bear, or a wolf, or a 700-pound elk to wander through his backyard. Locke helped lead the charge in the 1990s to link together parks and protected areas along what he calls the spinal column of North America — the Rocky Mountains. He first discovered his passion for conserving the Canadian wilderness when he was attending college and living in a mountain town in the Swiss Alps. “I was astonished over time that we didn’t see anything else that was alive there — how regulated the forests were, how the rivers were polluted, [how] the streams had all been dammed,” he tells The Sunday Edition‘s guest host David Gray. “As lovely as it was visually, it was biologically terribly impoverished. To my great personal surprise, I kind of made a vow to myself: I am not going to let that happen to the Canadian Rockies,” he recalls. The result is still a work in progress, but the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which he helped spearhead, has led to wildlife overpasses on highways and connects habitats from the U.S. to Canada. “It was just the new scale at which we needed to practise conservation,” he explains. Continue reading the full article...

From Laggard to Leader?

Canada’s renewed focus on protecting nature could deliver results Originally published by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Executive Summary CANADA IS A COUNTRY DEEPLY CONNECTED TO NATURE. It underpins our sense of place, our well-being, and our economy. Maintaining the health of Canada’s ecosystems to sustain wildlife and people requires the creation of an extensive network of protected natural areas as the foundation for effective nature conservation strategies. This report examines Canada’s performance relative to other countries in protecting our land and freshwater, as well as progress made towards our international commitments. In 2010, as part of a worldwide effort to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, Canada committed under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protect at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020 and to improve the quality of protected area systems so they conserve nature more effectively. Achieving this target is an important step towards the much larger-scale protection that is needed in the long-term to safeguard functioning ecosystems, healthy wildlife populations, and sustainable communities. The report finds that Canada currently ranks last among G7 countries, with only 10.6% of our land and freshwater protected. It also finds that we lag behind other large countries, such as Brazil (29.5% protection), China (17.1%), and Australia (17%). With all Canadian ecosystems in declining health and Canada’s list of endangered species growing each year largely due to habitat loss, urgent action is needed to protect much more of our land and inland waters. Jurisdiction over land in Canada is shared among federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments. With 90% of Canada’s land and 100%...

Nature for the People

Nature for the People: Toward a Democratic Vision for the Biosphere   Originally published by Erle Ellis in the Breakthrough Institute Read the full article here > Introductory Comments by: Ted Nordhaus, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Breakthrough Institute For over a decade, landscape ecologist Erle Ellis has marshalled an enormous trove of  archaeological, paleontological, and historical evidence to demonstrate that humans have been terraforming the Earth for many, many millennia. A planet that once could support perhaps a few million humans today supports seven billion. Humans today use over half the terrestrial planet, mostly to grow food and raise livestock but also for settlements, mining, energy, and timber production. Even the areas of the planet that haven’t been intensively managed by humans bear the signature of our presence and our impact in one way or another. In so doing, Ellis has complicated two longstanding environmental ideas. The first being the notion that human transformation of the biosphere has been a relatively recent development and the second, relatedly, that there is some scientifically discernible baseline to which nature, as distinct from humanity, might be returned. For doing so, Ellis has been demonized in some quarters, accused of counseling complacency in the face of new and catastrophic ecological threats. If human transformation of the planet is an age- old phenomena, then why worry about present-day affronts to the environment? And if there is no baseline or original state to which nature might be returned, then why bother with conservation? In a new Breakthrough Journal essay, Ellis offers a convincing case for why we should care about conservation, what it...

Progress In Canada’s Boreal Forest Shows We Can Protect Half Of Nature

Originally posted on 15 May 2017, by Jeff Wells on the Huffington Post In the midst of a steady stream of grim reports about the environment, a new study offers a welcome ray of hope. Researchers have determined that there are still hundreds of regions around the globe healthy enough to help maintain clean air and water, support rich animal and plant life and slow climate change. If we act fast, we can preserve the natural systems we all depend upon. But we have to think big. The study, released in BioScience (and co-authored by Harvey Locke), looked at what it takes to maintain clean air, safe water, vibrant biodiversity and other values that keep us humans alive and well. It concluded that we need to protect at least half of a regional landscape to have the best chance of ensuring it can still nurture plants, animals and human life. The study examined 846 eco-regions around the world and found that one-quarter have been eaten away by development and pollution and have just an average of four per cent of their natural habitat left. But the good news is more than 300 ecoregions still have enough unaltered landscape to meet the 50 per cent threshold for necessary protection and long-lasting vitality. Read the full article...

What is needed to protect our wild lands, waters, and animals?

Originally published on 2 May 2017, by Jeff Wells on CPAWS How many people know the truth about what is needed to maintain our wild animals, plants, clean air, clean water, and other values that keep us humans alive and healthy? Still not enough, apparently, as the last global protected areas target that most countries of the world signed on to in 2010 (the so-called Aichi target) was to protect 17% of their land area by 2020. Moving from the current level of 10% protection of Canada’s landscape to 17% protection by 2020 would be a solid next step, and one that Canadian governments have now committed to.  But this will not be nearly enough to conserve nature in the long run. Scientists around the world are coming to a mass consensus that this goal must be radically raised. In fact, it is clear that protecting only 17% of our planet and allowing the rest to be developed would result in massive numbers of species going extinct and massive costs to try to clean the air and water we humans need to sustain us. A new paper released last month (Friday, April 18, 2017) in BioScience highlights the science behind the need to protect at least half of each ecoregion to have the highest probability of maintaining its biodiversity, its ability to keep the world’s air and water clean and healthy, and its functionality to slow climate change and buffer its impacts. Read the full article...

If we want a whole Earth, Nature Needs Half: a response to Büscher et al.

Published on 27 April 2017, Cambridge University Press Büscher et al.’s (2016) recent article ‘Half-Earth or Whole Earth? Radical ideas for conservation, and their implications’ raises some important issues for conservation, but it paints a misleading picture of the Nature Needs Half movement. Nature Needs Half expresses three main tenets: (1) habitat loss and degradation are the leading causes of biodiversity loss, (2) current protected areas are not extensive enough to stem further loss of biodiversity, and (3) it is morally wrong for our species to drive other species to extinction (Wilson, 2016). Conservation biologists agree that to maintain viable populations of most of Earth’s remaining species, we will need to protect c. 50% of landscapes and seascapes from intensive human economic use (Noss & Cooperrider, 1994; Locke, 2014). This bold goal is necessary if we hope to bring our societies’ massive displacement of other species to an end. Read the full letter...
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