Five reasons Earth Day still matters in Canada
We've learned a lot about sustainability, but we've only just begun
It's tempting to feel a bit smug here in beautiful B.C., where you can literally get lost in the wilderness, or paddle alongside whales and seals. Our electricity generation is also mainly hydroelectric and among the cleanest in the world.
But while we've learned a whole lot about sustainability since the first Earth Day in 1970, we still have a long, long way to go. So on Earth Day 2018 – Sunday, April 22 – consider what you can do personally to live more sustainably.
Not quite sure Earth Day is relevant? Here are five reasons why it still matters:
1. Canadian homes are energy hogs
We've come a long way in the efficiency of our lighting and in our awareness around Power smart behaviour, but Canadian homes are among the world's hungriest in terms of electricity and water use. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Canada has cold, dark winters and that Canadian homes are among the world's largest – they doubled in average size between 1975 and 2010 before slowly shrinking. Still, should we be using twice the electricity of the Japanese or the British?
2. We're losing animals and plants
You may not lay awake at night worrying about the disappearance of the whitebark pine, but it's among the list of plants and animals endangered in Canada. Its seeds are part of the diet of squirrels, birds and grizzlies, and the tree is endangered in B.C., thanks to a combination of the mountain pine beetle, fire suppression, climate change, and an introduced disease called pine blister rust. The BC Hydro-supported Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program funds the collection of seeds from rust-resistant whitebark pines throughout the St'at'imc traditional territory near Lillooet to help re-establish healthy trees in the area.
3. Climate change hurts
According to the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium [PDF], even if the world halves its future CO2 emissions, the average annual temperature in B.C. will increase by 2.5°C by 2050. If you think a little more beach time is a good thing, consider this: By 2050, B.C.'s glaciers are expected to shrink by a quarter, the sea level is expected to rise by 30 cm, and (according to the Fraser Basin Council) a Fraser River flood could cost the B.C. economy $32.6 billion.
4. Plastic is everywhere
It's great that a supermarket in Amsterdam opened the world's first plastic-free aisle of products last month. As much as we like to think that recycling plastic is enough, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Topping the list of cleaned up items from the 2017 Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup was "tiny plastics and foam." On one day in 2017, volunteer cleanup efforts on Canada's shorelines picked up more than 330,000 pieces of plastic and foam, more than 47,000 food wrappers, 22,000 plastic bags and more than 17,000 straws. We literally need to clean up our act.
5. Canada's top-selling vehicle is a pickup
There seems no end in sight to the Ford F-150 pickup's dominance as the top-selling vehicle in Canada (and the world). What was originally a farm vehicle is now a hugely popular choice for both the rural and the urban Canadian, and while its fuel efficiency has improved considerably since its debut in the 1970s, it's hardly efficient. F-150 owners on fuelly.com report a combined average of 14.1 litres per 100 km, which is twice the gas usage of Canada's No. 3 highest selling vehicle, the Honda Civic (7.0 litres/100 km). Transportation now contributes 37% of B.C.'s total greenhouse gas emissions, and while Ford plans to have a gas-electric hybrid version of the F-150 by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, it has no schedule for an all-electric version.