Friday, November 20, 2009

Philanthropy Should Include All Species: A Donation Challenge

November 15 was officially designated National Philanthropy Day in Canada. This is a good thing! A reminder to one and all of the importance of social engagement, compassion and altruism in our community.

Our sense of community, however, must be challenged and widened to include non-human species and the natural world, because our "community" really is the entire planet, and the future of life on this planet is in jeopardy. If we fail to protect the delicate web that forms this precious community, then we will all suffer.

Sure, we must support hospitals, feed the homeless, educate young women the world over, fight crime and fight disease. But we must never underestimate or deny the fact that without the healthy, thriving life support system that is Planet Earth, we are doomed to extinction. This is not sensationalism. This is reality. Committing ecocide means we are killing ourselves.

At a certain point, it won’t matter if our local hospital has the latest medical equipment or that we have cured the incurable, because there will be no future for our children. If they can no longer breathe clean air, drink clean water, grow crops, have children of their own … what then?

This is not just about creating more "green spaces." This is not just about shopping "green" this holiday season. This is about survival. Our survival.

Even the tiniest creatures—the moth, the ant, the aphid, the ladybug and the beetle—have a role to play in the scheme of things. Each is vital. Each holds one precious thread to the whole beautiful pattern of life. But it is unravelling at breakneck speed.

Some stats for you, courtesy of the Canadian Wildlife Federation:

• Approximately 75 per cent of Canada’s reptiles are listed as being of special concern or higher.
• The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently confirmed that 12 per cent of the world’s birds are at risk.
• Approximately 10 per cent of marine mammals (e.g. whales, porpoises, etc.) are ranked as at risk by Canadian standards.

This is just the iceberg tip of the whole damn tragedy. Honeybees are dying. Ice flows are melting. Even the magnificent lion—the so-called King of Beasts—is endangered. Recent numbers figure that only 30,000 of the big cats still exist in the wild.

In Canada alone, close to 600 species are endangered.

I realize people want optimistic stories and bright, "upbeat" stories—and there are plenty! Every day, I read about how someone is going the extra mile for wildlife and for the planet. I am moved, motivated and inspired by their efforts.

But we need to be nudged now and then by the sobering reminders of how much more we need to do. How little time is left. There is a sense of urgency now, as never before. There is no time to waste.

This holiday season—which is fast approaching—please consider a gift to one or several of the splendid, hardworking organizations in Canada and around the world dedicated to saving species, saving habitat, saving land and saving life on earth, in all its magnificent variety.

I will try to give as much as my wallet will allow in the coming weeks.

But I will also add my voice.

Every few days, from now until the 24th of December, I will feature an organization on this blog. Please follow the link, read about their work and their campaigns, and if you can give any amount—or any amount of time—to the cause, please do.

To begin today, I am featuring The Canadian Wildlife Federation, which provided the statistics quoted above and the magnificent photo of the stag and doe.

So if you are at all moved by this appeal, please pass it on. Spread the word. Let's see if we can hit record numbers of donations for nature, wildlife, animal welfare and environmental organizations this year.

We have a world to heal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Protection for the Wild Turkey

North America's wild turkey was hunted almost to extinction. Both Canada and the United States experienced severe declines in their numbers. My father long lamented the fact that he had not seen a wild turkey in our woods in many, many years.

Then, just a few years ago … there they were! We were all thrilled to see these birds take up residence in our woods. When species return to an area after long absences, it is encouraging. You really do begin to feel optimistic about the state of the natural world. Maybe there is hope! Our environmental programs might just be working after all.

So it is especially disheartening when the hunters turn up at the first whiff of a "wild turkey" dinner. This happened on Thanksgiving Sunday. Unfortunately, we cannot do too much about what neighbouring landowners allow on their properties, but when the damage affects what we are trying to achieve at White's Wetlands, it is particularly disheartening.

That Sunday I witnessed a flock of wild turkeys flushed out into our open fields as shots rang out from the woods. The birds were clearly distressed and confused. I felt so helpless. There was no action I could take at the moment because I would have caused them to fly back into the line of fire. Fortunately, they flew into our south woodlot, nearest me.

I never did see the hunters, although I heard their guns as I stood at the end of the lane. I am not sure if these big "weekend" game hunters bagged any members of the flock for their Thanksgiving meal, but I am hoping not. Not when domestic turkeys are in abundance in the supermarkets.

The other aspect to this whole sickening affair was the fact that the gate to our Wetlands was ajar, evidence of trespassing. Not only is trespassing on private property illegal, firing a weapon within city limits is as well. White's Wetlands is within city limits.

For the record here, hunting is not allowed on White's Wetlands. We are trying to protect existing species as well as their habitat.

So a word of warning: hunters beware! You are spotted on our property, the police will be called. You are breaking the law.

In the meantime, check out how wild turkeys are being protected in the United States on the Care 2 site:

Nature London

The McIlwraith Field Naturalists have been a part of the London Ontario community since 1864. The name of the organization honours Canadian pioneer and ornithologist Thomas McIlwraith. The group undertakes a variety of projects to promote environmental awareness, enhance habitat and protect natural areas. The club owns an 11-hectare nature reserve near Delaware. MFN members participate in the Christmas Bird Count, the annual Butterfly Count and other initiatives that encourage the study of local natural history and promote birding.

Check out their website and the Nature in the City flyer, which details the 2010 schedule of co-sponsored nature talks with the London Public Library. Of special note to wetland enthusiasts is the February 9, 2010 talk on the tenacity of wetland wildflowers: WETLAND WILDFLOWERS: Ingeniously Adapted to Life with Wet Feet.