Why Giving Time for Nature is Vital to our Survival

This week is the start of National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), which celebrates millions of volunteers across Canada to recognize them for their efforts. Nearly half of Canadians over the age of 15 volunteered for a charitable or non-profit organization in 2013 (Statistics Canada), which totals 1.96 billion hours! It’s clear that we need to shift the perception of volunteering as solely about sacrificing ones time to more about give and take. Volunteering is an exchange.

I care about the environment and wildlife so I exchange my time for helping with conservation efforts and wildlife rehabilitation. Personally, I believe conserving our natural resources and wildlife should be seen as an obligation for each person. We must take ownership of the land we live on and take certain measures to protect it – that is, if we want to continue making use of it.

Perhaps the biggest danger facing humans is the loss of the global honeybee population. Many people don’t realize the grave consequences of a dying pollinator population on our food chain. Pollinator species contribute to billions of dollars in food production and approximately three-fourths of the world’s food crops depend on pollination by pollinator insects and some animals. The extinction of the honeybee poses an enormous threat to our survival as bees play a significant role in producing fruits and vegetables –something that we take for granted yet require almost daily to survive.


“Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.” Albert Einstein

We are currently living through what some biologists deem the sixth mass extinction. Mass extinctions are characterized by losing more than three quarters of the earth’s species in a geologically short period of time.  Over 65 million years ago, one of the mass extinctions wiped out the dinosaurs.

At this time, 15 percent of the earth’s surface and 3 percent of the ocean are protected, through nature and marine reserves, nationally protected parks, migratory bird sanctuaries, and many more. So, how much more of the earth and sea do we need to conserve to save more of our species? As many of us are already aware, the causes of species loss are due to anthropogenic causes, i.e. human induced climate change, human population growth, habitat loss, invasive species, and pollution and disease.

E.O. Wilson, an American biologist with a specialization in myrmecology (the study of ants), proposed that we allocate up to half of the earth’s surface for nature reserves in order save biodiversity.  Scientists projected that there are approximately 10 million species on earth. This means that we have only catalogued approximately 15 percent of species currently alive! We know so little about biological diversity on our planet.

I think many people don’t actually believe we can surrender half of the earth for nature reserves. We have certain needs that must be met and how can we meet these needs while only surviving on 50% of available land and sea? In actuality, it is our duty to surrender, to replenish, and to liberate the earth from our sometimes tainted hands if we ever want to continue flourishing as a species. We need the earth to grow. The earth does not need us to.

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge_BC

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in British Columbia, Canada

In order to take the necessary steps to preserve more land and sea, one small step that each person can take is to give time for nature. Natural spaces benefit us in so many ways by supporting biodiversity, providing key habitat for species at risk, clean our air and water, store carbon to help mitigate the effects of climate change and provide us with countless health benefits. These same places also support economic, social, and cultural activities (recreation, tourism, and education opportunities). Preserving our natural resources is an economically smart decision.

For me, spending my time removing invasive species, helping to restore degraded habitats for species at risk, monitoring species like butterflies and waterfowl to help scientists better understand population trends, and building trails so people can visit these beautiful, ecologically significant natural spaces – is undoubtedly valuable time spent. In order to continue efforts to preserve ecologically significant natural places, the community must be actively involved and understand the importance of protecting all wildlife, from bees to African elephants.

If you’re interested in volunteering, below are some organizations that you can start off with!

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Oceana Canada

Parks Canada