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British Columbia’s gift – and responsibility – on World Environment Day

June 5 was World Environment Day, and this year Canada has the privilege of being the host country
The natural environment is ours to value. (Citizen file)

June 5 was World Environment Day, and this year Canada has the privilege of being the host country for this annual day of awareness and action for the protection of the environment. Started by the United Nations in 1974, World Environment Day reminds us that the world we live in is singular, precious and in need of thoughtful stewardship.

British Columbia has an important role to play in global efforts to conserve and protect our natural environment. With its vast forests, fertile grasslands, rugged coastline and vital wetlands, this province is defined by superlative landscapes and unparalleled beauty. British Columbia contains a greater diversity of natural habitats than any other jurisdiction in the country and is home to iconic species, including grizzly bears, eagles and orcas. We are fortunate to be endowed with such a rare gift of nature, and as citizens of this magnificent province, we have a great responsibility to safeguard and steward this remarkable natural legacy with the future of all species in mind.

Nature is the very foundation of a vibrant future for all of us. Research shows that investments to protect B.C.’s natural capital and ecosystems support the essential ecological services on which we all depend: clean air, clean water, pollination, flood mitigation, climate regulation, carbon sequestration and more. And protecting these ecological services can be done at little relative cost. Nature also shapes our quality of life.

This year, World Environment Day seeks to highlight and support the connection between people and nature. “Get outdoors and into nature,” implores the World Environment Day website. As the British Columbia regional vice president of Canada’s leading land trust, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, I proudly echo this plea. With the growing consensus around the importance of nature to human happiness, health outcomes and well-being, taking time to forge and strengthen your own connection to the natural world will bring many benefits. Nature truly does defines us.

But there is much work to do so that we can make progress towards a sustainable future. Habitat loss and fragmentation, declines in plants and animals, invasive species, water contamination and climate change all require urgent attention.

These complex challenges can only be met through collaboration and partnership — governments, First Nations, non-profit organizations, businesses, communities, universities, civil society and individuals, working together so that we can find lasting solutions. From increasing protected areas and land conservation through public and private initiatives, to sharpening discussions on resource sustainability that value natural capital, to committing to excellence in forest and water stewardship, to unleashing the innovation and creativity to help reduce our carbon footprint, many diversified approaches, borne out of collaboration and partnership, are emerging.

B.C. is endowed with an abundance of natural capital — these precious resources cannot be taken for granted or squandered. World Environment Day 2017, hosted by Canada, offers every British Columbian — every Canadian — the chance to deepen our commitment to be visionary stewards of the land and waters on which we live, work and depend.

Linda Hannah, PhD, leads the B.C. region of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a non-profit dedicated to the conservation and protection of ecologically significant land. She is based in Victoria.

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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