Biodiversity summit warns of doom
MUSKOKA - There are dark times ahead if drastic action isn’t taken.
Biodiversity summit warns of doom.
CLIMATE QUESTIONS. Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University answers an audience question about how individuals can be more effective at influencing government officials following his lecture on climate change at the Muskoka Summit on the Environment. (Photo by Roland Cilliers)
That is the central message that came out of the recent Muskoka Summit on the Environment. Focusing on biodiversity the two-day summit featured six hour-long lectures from experts and culminated with a panel discussion by the speakers that was recorded for the CBC Radio show Ideas.
The lectures featured dire warnings about the problems and consequences faced due to the loss of biodiversity. However, many of the speakers also provided tips and strategies for solving the problem. Judi Brouse, one of the organizers, said she hopes the audience came away from the event with a sense of how they can make a difference.
“We can empower ourselves and empower our politicians because we are in a state right now where things are not good,” said Brouse. “We are seeing the beginning of what could be the sixth mass extinction, but we have the ability to do something about it now as a public to engage people.”
The sixth mass extinction was a topic that came up during several lectures and refers to an event where more than 75 per cent of species go extinct. With the current steep decline in animal populations around the world, some believe a mass extinction event is imminent.
Brouse said that even here in Muskoka there are troubling signs.
“We have 30 species on the species at risk watch. So we have species that have the potential of going extinct. We have the responsibility to look after those species,” Brouse said. “We also have the responsibility to look at landscapes and protect our landscapes and make sure we maintain the very basis of life in the natural areas so we can enjoy the goods and services we get from that landscape.”
Held at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge the event touched on many issues relevant to the region including climate change, responsible development and invasive species.
In her lecture Losing Biodiversity: Is it important if we don’t see it? Justina Ray, executive director at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, aimed to raise awareness about the causes and effect of the ongoing loss of biodiversity. She talked about the devastating effect habitat loss has on species and how the more cottage-style development one sees in the region can be very damaging to local species.
“We sprawl out a bit more here, which means we’re using more land per person and we still are making decisions on a piece-by-piece basis that we don’t think will make a difference on its own, but collectively it will so I think that syndrome is here as much as it is anywhere in Canada,” Ray said.
Another speaker who evoked a strong reaction from the audience was Thomas Lovejoy and his lecture called A wild solution for climate change. During his talk the George Mason University professor outlined a plan for combating climate change that involved the rebuilding of previously destroyed ecosystems across the planet.
Other lectures included Living Landscape – Greater Sudbury’s Biodiversity Action Plan, Biodiversity science for global environmental change and The Science – Policy Nexus: making public policy as if biodiversity mattered.
For those interested in hearing the panel discussion from the summit it will be broadcast on CBC Radio’s Ideas program at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13.