MOUNTAIN LIFE - Blue Mountains | Spring 2021

43 BIOPHILIAC words & photos :: Leslie Anthony Last April, as the COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating into the juggernaut that has now pinned us down for more than a year, an article appeared in Time with a title that bluntly summarized our dilemma: “Want to stop the next pandemic? Start protecting wildlife habitats.” It was a direct reference to a well-established chain: consumer demand Æ deforestation Æ loss of wildlife habitat Æ greater human contact with animal disease reservoirs Æ zoonotic transfer Æ epidemic. We’ve seen many such scenarios in recent decades, from regional outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and MERS, to the global march of HIV, swine flu and Zika, so our current predicament should come as no surprise. Cataclysmic as it has been both in terms of lives lost and seismic economic interruption, however, the pandemic is but a single symptom of overarching human ecological dysfunction. Coupled with the widespread effects of climate change—floods, wildfires, glacial retreat, landscape collapse, ocean acidification—it should be clear to us daily that human enterprise is in a state of gross overshoot. At the rate we’re consuming nature’s goods and life-support services, ecosystems simply cannot regenerate. The average level of consumption globally already far exceeds Earth’s long-term carrying capacity, and estimates show we’d need five Earths to support the current global population— with no additional growth—at the average material standard enjoyed in Canada. Put like this, it’s easy to see our path as unsustainable. Fortunately, it has become commonplace to acknowledge this in post-pandemic recovery conversations. Given the dependence of so many sectors of human society on nature and ecosystems, recovery plans that focus on a transition to biodiversity-friendly economies are bound to create living conditions with less risk, more jobs and better livelihoods. It’s the thinking behind sloganeering like Build Back Better, The Great Reset, Green New Deal and The Leap echoing to various degrees of agreement (most people) and rejection (conservatives) through the corridors of power. Unsurprisingly, we’re already paying for biodiversity loss, and it will total a $10 trillion USD hit to the world economy by 2050 under a “business-as-usual” scenario according to a January 2020 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report. It follows that spending far less to reverse this trend would be sound investment; indeed, the study calculates a $490 billion USD annual net gain in GDP under a “global conservation” scenario. In response to Global Convention on Biodiversity targets set in 2010, federal, provincial and territorial governments collaborated on 2020BiodiversityGoals andTargets for Canada . The publication reflects PUTTING THINGS RIGHT How the pandemic reveals our dependence on nature and our obligation to protect it A pristine wetland near the shore of Georgian Bay south of Parry Sound.