We are currently experiencing the worst wildfire season on record, and I can't help wondering how we got to this point?
By Erin Postma
Eco-anxiety is the fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the impact of climate change and the effect it could have on your future. Eco-anxiety is something that I have been experiencing these last few weeks, and I don't think I am alone. Every time I turn on the news or check social media, all I see are the various natural disasters occurring all over the world, specifically the wildfires. It breaks my heart to see our country, as well as countries around the world, burning. Eco-anxiety can feel overwhelming, and it makes it difficult to act or celebrate success stories. I find myself stuck in this feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here? How did we let it get to this point? The worry that we are feeling is legitimate. Climate change is here, and it is a real threat.
We are currently experiencing the worst wildfire season on record. As of Tuesday, over 1,000 wildfires were burning across Canada— with 650 deemed out of control. These wildfires have caused people to evacuate their homes, caused damage to many structures, and have resulted in multiple fatalities. They have destroyed entire ecosystems. The wildfires have also caused a significant decrease in air quality across the country and the United States. The effects of these wildfires have been devastating and are felt all over the country.
These wildfires are devastating but not shocking. Mother Nature has given us so many signs. She has shown us time and time again the path we are headed down if we don't make a change. But none of these signs seem enough to trigger the change needed. What needs to happen for us to take climate change seriously and make a drastic change? I don't understand how we can stand by while our beautiful planet is suffering.
We have entered a period of warming and wildfires. Climate change has led to the accumulation of dry biomass, increased heat waves and the alteration of the water cycle. All of these factors are increasing the intensity and frequency of wildfires. We need to be prepared to face more frequent and higher-intensity fires. Regions that have never experienced large-scale fires need to be ready.
The A2A region has a history of wildfires, but nothing like the fires we currently see burning in British Columbia or the Northwest Territories. However, that doesn't mean we won't experience fires of this magnitude in the future. According to a study in the Adirondacks, it is not likely that we will be heavily impacted by wildfires—but with the unpredictable weather brought about by climate change, we can't be sure (Benett, Adirondack Explorer). There are a few ecological factors that protect the A2A region from being devastated by wildfires. The region is less prone to wildfires due to its generally humid climate, biodiversity, land management, and connectivity.
Even though out-of-control, devastating wildfires don't occur often in the A2A region, it doesn't mean they won't. We are living in unpredictable and unprecedented times. No area is immune to the effects of climate change. In the event they do happen, we need to prepare and take preventative measures. There are things we can do to stop these wildfires. We need to practice proper forest management, including using prescribed burns. We need to encourage the protection and preservation of biodiversity. We need to fight climate change and curb our greenhouse gas emissions.
Wildfires are scary and cause devastation, but they are also necessary and can have positive effects when controlled. Prescribed burns can help lower the risk of unpredictable, uncontrollable wildfires. Humans have been using prescribed burns for thousands of years. Many species require fire to survive and reproduce. Wildfires move the layer of decaying material from the forest floor—this helps increase soil fertility. There are plants that require fire for germination. Wildfires can also help manage invasive species. Fire can be a wonderful life-bringing force when used responsibly. Unfortunately, because of human irresponsibility, it has become a force associated with death and destruction. I am mad and terrified about the future of the planet. I feel a little bit helpless but not hopeless. I know there are people out there who care and are working hard to make a positive impact.
Anthropogenic climate change has brought about countless out-of-control wildfires, yet another reason we need to act quickly to curb the effects of climate change before it is too late. I am scared about what the future of our planet might look like. How can we watch our world burn but continue with business as usual? We need to turn our eco-anxiety into eco-action. What happens next is up to us -good or bad, scary or scarier.
The Pilgrimage for Nature Trail is symbolic of the regions need for ecological connectivity
By: Aleisha Pannozzo
As an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, I have always appreciated how my body and mind feel after a good hike on a beautiful trail. There is something about the sound of leaves and twigs crunching below my feet, the symphony of chirping birds, and the gentle breeze between the trees. My favourite trails are those that wrap around a serene lake or trace the unhurried pace of a tranquil stream. The sound of gentle water has this uncanny ability to drown out your thoughts and immerse you in the present moment. There is no worrying about the future, yesterday's mistakes, or tomorrow's uncertainty. There is only Now.
Nature has this amazing power to inspire, rejuvenate, and provide you with solace. Trails are the bridges that connect our souls to the natural world. They also act as tangible pathways that grant us entry into the heart of the wilderness.
This connection to nature's soothing embrace brings to mind A2A’s Pilgrimage for Nature trail, which our partner Jamie Findlay is currently trekking through. This 640-km trail winds its way through different forest communities, from the northern hardwood forests in the Adirondacks to the southern deciduous forests in Algonquin Park.
The very essence of this trail encapsulates the transformative experience of being in nature. Just as the sound of water draws us into the moment, the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail beckons us to step away from our daily lives and immerse ourselves in the beauty of the outdoors.
But this trail represents more than just a physical journey. It is symbolic of something much bigger. It reminds us of the important role of connectivity in our environment and the role that humans play in providing it.
It is symbolic of the critical link that this unique ecological region provides for wildlife migration in the great Eastern Wildway, which extends from the wilderness of Ontario and Quebec, down to the Adirondacks, through the Appalachians and into the Everglades. It is one thing to have core protected areas, but how does that serve our wildlife in the grand scale of things? Wildlife needs to be able to migrate between these areas; without linkages, they are isolated, risking a decline in genetic diversity and ultimately, species extinction.
Ecological corridors, like the one represented by this trail, are essential for maintaining biodiversity and supporting the movement of wildlife. They allow animals to follow their natural migration patterns, forage for food, and find suitable habitats, all of which are crucial for their survival. These corridors serve as lifelines, enabling animals to navigate through fragmented landscapes and adapt to changing conditions brought about by climate change.
The Pilgrimage for Nature Trail serves as a living example of how human efforts to create connectivity can mirror the natural world's complex web of interactions. Just as we yearn for the solace and tranquillity that the trail provides, wildlife requires similar pathways to thrive. It becomes a microcosm of the broader conservation goals that we must prioritize for the health of our planet and its wild inhabitants.
So, as you venture along the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail or explore other trails that captivate your spirit, remember the greater message they convey. They are not just paths for us to tread; they are pathways to understanding, appreciating, and safeguarding the necessary connections that sustain life on our planet.
Creating connected landscapes not only sustains a wide variety of wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for wildlife and humans, too.
By: Erin Postma
Modern technology can be a wonderful thing. Last week, I flew from Toronto to Denver. The flight lasted just over 3 hours. If I had to walk from Toronto to Denver, it would have taken me over 500 hours or 22 days of continuous walking. I am so grateful for modern technologies such as planes and cars because they provide me with the opportunity for new experiences and to explore unique places around the world.
Unfortunately, with all of our modern technology and our new modern infrastructure, we are negatively impacting our planet. When looking out the airplane window, I could really see the imprint humans have left on the landscape. The landscape is made of both natural and humanized patches - but, over the years, the humanized patches seem to be winning. Humans are continually modifying and fragmenting the land through agriculture, urban development, climate change, deforestation and so much more.
Human activity is disrupting ecological connectivity. Ecological connectivity allows wildlife to roam freely between natural areas without barriers. Breaking up the land with roads, fences, and dams creates a harmful living environment for wildlife. A road can stop animals from reaching an important water source, expanding cities may take over land that served as important habitat, and fences may disrupt important migration pathways. We need to create and increase connectivity to address the challenges posed by the current climate crisis, which is causing an increase in severe weather events, changes in water flow, and disrupted food chains, further exacerbating the impact of human activity on ecological connectivity.
Ecological connectivity is so important for many reasons. Having connected landscapes allows for movement, which allows wildlife to find food, breed, and establish new home territories. Animals are not the only ones who benefit from connectivity; humans do as well. Humans rely on ecological connectivity— connected landscapes are needed for things like healthy soil, water flow, and pollination. Connectivity also decreases the amount of human and animal encounters, which helps decrease the number of preventable wildlife deaths. Fundamentally, the unimpeded movement of animals is important in maintaining the flow of natural processes that help sustain life on Earth. Due to the variety of problems humans are creating, connectivity will be crucial to the survival of many species.
Sometimes the environmental problems we face can seem daunting and overwhelming. Looking out of that airplane window and seeing how human activity has affected the environment, ecological connectivity seems impossible. But efforts are underway— many organizations are working towards maintaining and restoring ecological connectivity. We can combat habitat fragmentation by supporting proper agricultural management and land use management; we can be mindful of our consumption habits; we can encourage and support conservation and preservation efforts; we can plant gardens to improve urban connectivity; we can do our part in combating climate change. There are many ways for people to get involved in helping increase ecological connectivity.
Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative is a group doing work in creating and maintaining ecological connectivity. A2A is a diverse bioregion that connects Algonquin Park to Adirondack Park. It is one of the last large-scale, intact forest and wetland linkages in eastern North America. The vision of A2A is to create a connected landscape that not only sustains a wide variety of wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for wildlife and humans. A2A takes its inspiration from a moose named Alice, who travelled from her home in Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park, a trek of 570 km. Alice demonstrated the need for wildlife to roam, the importance of connected pathways, and their crucial role in migration. Alice's journey inspired us to take action, ensuring the corridors' protection for others to roam freely. Sometimes all it takes is tracking the migration pattern of a moose to realize the importance of ecological connectivity! The wilderness tells us what it needs— we just need to take some time to listen.