KAMLOOPS — There was a card game I loved playing when I was little. Each card depicted an animal and relevant information about it, including their status: a few were close to being extinct, others were listed as endangered and many were doing all right. As updated as a kids’ card game could be, the game provided an idea about some species being at risk of disappearing. It makes an impact on a child’s mind, I know that much.
That translated, among others things, in being very critical of zoos and any for-profit animal display facilities all my life. That does not include animal hospital facilities and refuges that function on donations rather than admission fees, and try their hardest to educate people about animals at risk, the environment and how humans often tilt the balance so much that it makes some species disappear from the picture altogether.
That the BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver recently introduced Endangered Species Act Bill M225 is but a measure meant to have us take a closer look at where we stand when it comes to our surrounding world. Spoiler alert: it’s not looking great. It’s not about painting it all in apocalyptic tones, but acknowledging the truth.
The sentence that greets you as you land on the BC legislation page concerning species and ecosystems at risk reads ‘There is no stand-alone legislation in BC for species and ecosystems at risk.’ In other words, there are a few provincial and governmental laws overseeing the protection process (is there one?) but when one of the acts included in the list is Oil and Gas Activities Act (updated in 2008, as opposed to the Wildlife Act, updated in 1996,) things might be getting a bit tangled up when objective assessments are to be made.
Should there be an endangered species act by now? If we care about the present and future of our province, the answer is unequivocal yes. We now know that human activity has pushed some species into extinction and many others have been listed as endangered, with various degrees of severity.
The BC Conservation Data Centre has 754 Red Listed Species (including extirpated, endangered and threatened) and 757 special concern ones, which are the Blue Listed Species. That makes 1,511 in total. A whopping 0.26 percent of them, or 4 to be precise, are listed as endangered in the Wildlife Act. Update needed anyone?
Now if you look at a detailed list of endangered species in BC (the most biodiverse province in Canada, and also the province with most at-risk number of species, according to Weaver) you will see a lot of invertebrates that you may be inclined to say do not really make a visible difference. Which is, in fact, the farthest from the truth.
The one thing that we ought to realize is that everything is connected. A species supports the other by being its prey, predator, or the friendly symbiotic presence. Life as we know it is a tapestry of that interconnectedness. A walk in the woods may reveal a nice sunny meadow surrounded by trees. You may hear bird songs and a whoosh here and there betraying a presence you may or may not be able to see. That we see so little of what that portion of the forest is, is no reason to not do our best to learn about the less visible portions and how they are connected to sustain life as we know it. The least of what our children should inherit from us is the knowledge of how nature works. The wonder and immutability of it all.
It’s been said many times: we are at a crossroad. The way we manage the very world that keeps us going as a species cannot be taken for granted. Nor can it be delayed by interests that differ so much from the single goal that should have all of us united: survival. There is not enough money in the world to compensate for what we are losing every time we allow for any kind of corporate-driven agenda to have a say in how we act on behalf of the environment, our children and, not lastly, ourselves.
The recent decision by the TK’emlúps and Skeetchestn Bands (SSN) to oppose the Ajax projects beautifully illustrates the very thing: in saying no, the two bands show where their priorities lie. In protecting the health of people in the community, the environment, and in ensuring that the generations to come actually have a future.
When you think like that the line that divides the pro and against crowds becomes blurry to downright disappearing. It is a grand duty to take a stance that does prioritizes life. Economy can progress, albeit in a different direction, and our society can still thrive, likely in a better way for everyone not just a select few, should we choose to stand up right and use the knowledge we have in determining what the future holds.
Our health and the environment, and the countless species in water and land that ensure that the intricacy of life endures, they will never be on par with any heaps of money, no matter how tall and wide. Life has no tag price; it never did and, as sure as the sky is blue, it never will.