Have you ever had a rough patch in your life when things just seemed to be looking down. Maybe you were broke, couch surfing because you couldn't afford rent and scraping together meals from food that you would normally throw out without a second glance.
If you are fortunate enough to have made it through those times, you might also have the occasion to look back on your past decisions in light of what you now know. If you had just been able to live off of Kraft Dinner and Spam for a few more days, perhaps you wouldn't have had to cash in that GIC. If only you hadn't pawned that autographed copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller you kept in mint condition all those years just to pay that lousy Hydro bill...
Of course, those times might also have allowed you to reflect on the things that are truly important in your life: your health, of course, and your relationship with your family, friends, and the world around you. With the 'Global Recession' and much of the western world sorting through their collective pockets for loose change (Germany has more than a few less fortunate sleeping on its couch right now), perhaps it's more important to take stock of what we've got going for us rather than what we lack.
You may well guess, based on what I've written in the past, that I'm going to talk about our natural riches (particularly those in our oceans) and maybe even throw in a few references to the spectacular biological diversity that we enjoy here. I could even go on to talk about all of the services that these riches provide us with and how it's in our self-interest to protect them. Well it's true that had crossed my mind, I want to talk about something that's been weighing on it more heavily of late: legacy.
I'll come back to that.
First, I wanted to point out that this is not the topic I was originally going to write about for Oceans Week. I was originally going to write an ask-not-what-nature-can-do-for-you sort of piece. Then I discovered that Dr. Kai Chan had already written an excellent article along those very lines. He talked about how, although understanding how ecosystems relate to our wants and needs is important for our decision making around when it comes to the environment, a 'me first' view of the natural world is a lousy pitch for engaging people in conservation. He used the example of his newborn daughter and how it would be absurd to describe his relationship to her in terms of the 'benefits' to him.
So that got me thinking. I find myself at a point in my life where I'm seriously considering the possibility of bringing children into this world, and like any perspective parent, a large part of that consideration is focused on what kind of a world they might experience. Of course, there are the economic considerations. Can I put them through school? What are their chances for employment? Will they face prime lending rates of 4.5%?
What I would really like to see for my kids is a world where they can have a relationship with the natural world. I want them to be able to see the water and skies thick with seabirds, because we were forethoughtful enough to preserve their waters they rely upon for food. I want them to experience the joy of seeing a pod of killer whales, which are protected from the many threats they face today. I want them to be able to see the amazingly cool creatures from the deep, even if only when they occasionally wash up on the shore. Above all, I would like to be able to teach them how to catch fish and feed themselves from an ocean that is managed sustainably.
You see, even though we live in a time when our countries and other western nations around the globe are facing economic difficulties, we are actually rich beyond our wildest dreams. The challenge presented us today lays in recognizing those riches for what they are and not squandering them in our haste to sort out our monetary problems.
Take our National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas for example. This is one of the greatest institutions in our country, not only providing recreational opportunities for millions of people from across Canada and the world, but also a way to preserve the iconic plants, animals and landscapes for which we are famous. But as you may have heard, Canada's national parks recently suffered massive cutbacks to staff, particularly those in science who are charged with monitoring the health of the ecosystems these areas protect. The priority, it seems, has shifted from managing these areas as reservoirs of Canada's natural wealth for future generations to managing them as simply attractions for the benefit of the local tourist industry.
Recently there have been many more examples of these sorts of tradeoffs of long term natural wealth for short term economic growth. This is unfortunate, because as long as our environment and its biological resources are managed solely based on the bottom line; there will always be places to cut corners on protection. If we continue on that path, our children may find themselves like the Germen tourists who visit our National Parks today, marveling over the truly enduring wealth that their own ancestors sacrificed on the altar of economic development.
This week is Oceans Week! Be a SeaHugger! Show your love for the oceans simply by supporting Living Oceans Society’s work – Donate today!