Making a Difference for Canada’s Environment
When you hear the words “global warming” or “climate change” you might immediately think of its impact on humans and our habitat. But what about the animals living in Canada – how does climate change affect them?
Canada is the second largest country in the world and home to many different species of animals, all with unique needs. Some thrive in temeperate rainforests, like that found on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Others need the cold climate of Canada’s vast north, like Iqaluit or Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson’s Bay.
Climate change affects all of these animals. Perhaps the most well-known issue is with polar bears in Canada’s north. Global warming is changing how long ice is available in the north and this greatly affects the ability of the polar bear to hunt, swim and move about their habitat. Ice has been thinner and melting faster than ever before, causing many polar bears to scavenge for food in nearby towns. Unfortunately, many of these bears then can easily come into contact with humans and will have to be either put down or tranquilized and moved away from the town. However, the problem of not being able to hunt will cause a vicious cycle of the bear then returning to the town to find food again.
A similar problem exists in the temperate rainforest of British Columbia (yes, Canada does have a rainforest. How amazing is that?). Grizzly and black bears thrive on hunting salmon in these habitats, but even the salmon spawns have been decreasing in size due to pollution and overfishing. When they cannot hunt, they also enter nearby towns and inadvertently threaten human populations.
What can we do to help these animals? There are a number of seemingly small steps we can take to help slow down the effects of climate change that will in turn work to restore the natural habitats of these beautiful animals. One of the easiest things we can do is to turn down our thermostats. It may seem like a difficult thing to do in a Canadian winter, but lowering our heat consumption saves energy. Saving energy reduces the amount of fossil fuels our energy-producing plants need to expend. Turn your heat off when you leave the house or when you are sleeping.
Another easy change is to take public transportation. Even if you only take it once a week, you are reducing the number of harmful emissions and pollutants in the air which threaten the ozone layer (causing the heat to rise). Imagine if we all took public transportation more rather than drove our cars – we would make a huge impact on the amount of pollution in our air!
Our cell phone chargers, MP3 player chargers and other electronic devices all use up energy when they are plugged into the wall – even if they are not charging anything! Always unplug these chargers from the wall when you are finished using them.
Finally, an easy way to reduce waste in our environments (which pollute our waters and forests) is to bring a reusable bag with you whenever you buy groceries. Most grocery stores now charge for plastic bags in an effort to convince people to bring their own reusable bags. It’s very easy to do – just pop one in your back pack and leave it there! You will never be without it or run the risk of forgetting it. Plastic bags do not break down for hundreds of years – imagine an entire forest filled with plastic bags, or our rivers and lakes choked with them. Breaking our addiction to these bags because they are convenient is very easy to do and will make a huge difference for our environment and animals.
It may seem like an impossible feat, but making small changes in our everyday lives will make a big impact on the wonderful environment we get to call home. We are lucky to share this world with beautiful animals like polar bears, and it is our responsibility to help protect them. Implement these small changes listed above, encourage your friends and family to do the same, and we can ensure Canada remains beautiful and diverse.