Extinction through the eyes of a five year old

Photo Credit: Joe Riis, iILCP

A friend of mine once shared with me her experience of trying to explain to her five year old son what extinction meant. How do you conceptualize the idea that an animal or plant will never again live, anywhere? Let alone explain that the reason is likely because our expanding human footprint has gone so far as to disrupt the earth’s entire climate system? It’s sobering, heart wrenching—and for this 5 year old, absolutely unacceptable.

But this is our reality. One million species are facing extinction: that was the headline that dominated the news this month after a UN report highlighted the staggering rate at which nature is being destroyed across the world.

This report comes on the heels of the extirpation of not one but two mountain caribou herds in the South Purcell and South Selkirk mountains, a fact that cuts deep each and every time its uttered. Where once they thrived, now there are none.

The biodiversity crisis is global, and it’s happening right here in our backyards.

We humans are driving nature to the brink; ironic, given that we depend on her for our very livelihood. It’s not just mountain caribou fighting for survival—wildlife populations in the Kootenays are experiencing serious declines and our ecosystems are increasingly under threat.

Throughout the past 15 years, mountain goats have declined by nearly 40 per cent. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep have declined by more than 30 per cent. Elk and moose have declined by 50 per cent. The grasslands of the Rocky Mountain Trench are home to many species at risk, like badgers and curlews, while some that used to call this home, like the sharp tailed grouse, are gone. The Creston Valley Wetlands and Columbia Wetlands are both home to an abundant number of endangered species. Across BC, there are more than 1,800 species at risk of extinction—yet we have no provincial legislation that protects them. Canada is warming at twice the global rate without a strong federal plan to address this. 

We have a responsibility to act before it’s too late.

Despite this overwhelming and depressing trend of global declining wildlife populations, we live in one of the most biodiverse regions in BC and one of the most important areas for continental connectivity for birds and animals to move north-south and east-west. We have an opportunity —the responsibility—to take action to reverse this trend and put nature first.

So what can you do?

  1. Learn more and get worried faster. The Narwhal and Wildsight’s blog are great places to start to expand your knowledge.
  2. Get involved in your community. Connect with local grassroots groups that are driving change across the country.
  3. Let your local MP know this issue is important. Write a letter, make a call, organize an event.
  4. Donate to Wildsight, or another environmental organization that supports the cause.

Let’s work toward solutions so that we can tell our children—so that we call tell my friend’s five year old son—that biodiversity loss and species extinction is outrageous, and this is what we are doing to safeguard their future.