Shown above is the Halifax skyline, with Colpitt Lake and the planned Halifax Wilderness Park in the foreground, protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

It’s almost that time of year when we open our wallets and let their contents scatter to the winds of consumerism, buying things we almost certainly don’t need in order to enjoy the short lived thrill of newness. I do it myself, occasionally weighed down with extra dollars and so lightening my load at the nearest used bookstore. It’s fun, but easily overdone.

When people have money, they spend it, especially when calendars and custom tell them too. We are remarkably predictable creatures, rarely living below our means when a little more stuff is within reach. Solutions might include discipline, savings accounts and capital investments, but the best by far is charity.

We are facing a global climate change and mass extinction crisis which guarantees a worse life for every generation to follow us if nothing is done to remedy the situation, and while governments have lagged behind, there are a number of charities taking tangible action.

I’ve walked through ancient forests, stepped into flawlessly clear rivers and paddled among pristine islands which might no longer exist were it not for the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and Nature Conservancy of Canada. The recent protection of ample wilderness by our provincial government might not have happened without the advocacy of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. I’ve come face-to-face with species of fish which might now be extinct without the intervention of the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, and EcoJustice has a long history of forcing conservation action across Canada with landmark lawsuits against government and industry alike. I won’t go so far as to endorse all actions of every charity, but we owe them a great deal of thanks for what’s been accomplished so far.

Environmental charities, therefore, are an excellent place to throw our money, redirected from the purchase of new toys to something a little more substantive and permanent. Every month, $30 is automatically withdrawn from my bank account and donated to nature trusts, organizations like the aforementioned Nova Scotia Nature Trust and Nature Conservancy of Canada, who acquire and permanently protect outstanding wilderness across Canada, preserving, through their efforts, some of the finest places I’ve ever seen, places which might otherwise have fallen to forestry or been flattened for cottage development.

This year, the wife and I have agreed our presents will be small, and that whatever we can afford will go toward some charitable undertaking, making sure either wildlife or wilderness survives another Christmas. I encourage you to do something similar, identifying the environmental issue which speaks to you and contributing to the solution, perhaps in place of a gift or two.

Zack Metcalfe is a freelance journalist, columnist and author active across the Maritimes. He can be reached at: