Fifty years ago, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin witnessed a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California that killed an estimated 3,500 sea birds, as well as marine animals such as dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions.
In response, he proposed a “national teach-in on the environment” to force the need for greater environmental protection into the public consciousness and on to the national political agenda. He was successful in making this proposal and on April 22, 1970, 20 million people across the United States took part; Earth Day was born.
Approximately 1 billion people in 193 countries will celebrate Earth Day this year. Earth Day gives us an opportunity to organize both community events and global initiatives that celebrate our planet. It also provides encouragement to commit ourselves to protect our environment by living sustainably and by taking action to prevent the most severe consequences of climate change.
Climate change is a serious threat that demands our collective attention. In Canada, we are experiencing warming at approximately twice the rate of the rest of the world. We are witnessing more frequent and more intense weather events, such as flooding in New Brunswick, rampant wildfires in Western Canada, and melting ice cover in Canada’s North. In 2018, the Insurance Bureau of Canada reported that Canadians suffered nearly $2 billion in insured losses as a result of severe weather events alone.
Our natural environment is also facing extraordinary pressure. Our world has lost 60 per cent of its wildlife since the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, and the decline is continuing. In Canada, certain caribou herds that have lived on the landscape for thousands of years now include a mere few animals. The North Atlantic Right Whale has between 300-350 animals worldwide and certain populations number only in the low teens.
Despite the enormity of the ecological challenges facing our planet, I remain optimistic that we can find solutions. In fact, I know that effective solutions are already available if we demonstrate the collective will necessary to implement them.
Canada has shown global leadership in the past to advance the interest of the environment on the global stage. We helped implement measures that would prevent acid rain and allow the hole in our ozone to repair. We have taken part in global initiatives like the International Whaling Commission to help protect vulnerable species under threat. We also played a key role in the achievement of the Paris Agreement that will help us achieve emissions reductions that will prevent the most severe consequences of climate change.
It is essential that we play a leadership role again when it comes to addressing the threat of climate change and biodiversity loss. I want to use this Earth Day as an opportunity to advocate for more ambitious action on climate change, to push for enhanced protection of critical habitat for our wildlife, and to remove plastics from our oceans.
We are the first generation to understand the impact of climate change and the last with an opportunity to do something about it. I want all of our children to be able to enjoy the outdoors the same way I did when I was a kid growing up in rural Nova Scotia.
If we work together to implement the solutions we know exist, we can make sure they have that opportunity.
Central Nova MP