Wildsight Words: What does Earth Day mean to you?

We’ve been collectively aware of environmental issues for decades, but sometimes it feels like little headway has been made

Did you know that yesterday, Tuesday, April 22nd, was Earth Day? Did you participate in an event, or did it go unnoticed? Being new to the Columbia Valley from Calgary, and having had the opportunity to travel prior to the big move, I’ve had the chance to reflect on some apparent differences between places regarding environmental concern.

It was disheartening to hear that Earth Hour 2014 saw only a 0.5 per cent decrease in energy demand in Calgary, as reported by the CBC. That doesn’t mean the initiative failed, as some business owners and many residents shut off their lights and took notice. But the overall result was astonishing.

So why do we keep trying? We’ve been collectively aware of environmental issues for decades, but sometimes it feels like little headway has been made regarding environmental awareness on a global scale. Indeed, some issues are becoming even more pressing.

While traveling I was exposed to extreme overuse of natural areas and industrial tourism. Places like Thailand depend on tourism, and yet there is little structure in place to preserve their strikingly beautiful coastline or clear waters. Motorboats and mass tourism often decimate corral reefs; garbage and plastic bottles wash ashore and collect unnecessarily, and wildlife has diminished or become dependent on tourists. It makes you wonder, what are we doing to the planet?

Still, there are initiatives and people who care. The Columbia Valley thrives with groups trying to get kids outside, grow and consume local food, restore damaged ecosystems and improve water quality. Ideas abound for decreasing light pollution, educating the public about living with wildlife, and celebrating the natural diversity of our surrounding areas. There are networks linking groups together, which often act cooperatively to see bigger results.

Valley Pride Day on Saturday, April 26th is an example of this cooperation – there will be opportunities to participate in various community clean-ups.

In countries like Thailand and Laos, initiatives are not as common but they are present, as informed tourists and local groups begin to support cleanup initiatives and acknowledge proper tourism practices. Yet these places are in dire need of organizations commonly found in the Columbia Valley.  The education and structure is simply not as strong at this point.

So what about you? Do you care? Do you get confused and feel bombarded with all the initiatives, or do you find them accessible and enlightening? It is important to give feedback on this; it makes it easier for us as environmental organizations to figure out how to reach you in a more effective way.

Regarding environmental awareness, a constant presentation of negative information can cast such organizations in a pessimistic light.  So today, we want to commend you on what you’ve already done. It’s important to celebrate successes in order to have new ones. It’s all about appreciating what you have, and you, Columbia Valley,  have a lot to take pride in.

Andrea Smillie is the branch coordinator for Wildsight Invermere. She can be reached at andrea@wildsight.ca .