Guest Post: By Lyda Salatian
Earth Day is on April 22nd every year and inspires awareness and appreciation for the environment. Some communities celebrate Earth Week and others celebrate for an entire month. On Feb 7, 2011 the Lower Mainland Green Team was formed to create several “Earth Days” each month, year round to address a number of issues facing our local parks such as: invasive plants displacing local flora, litter, reduced native species, reduced habitat for wildlife and reduction in park visits. Its mission is to restore, conserve and enhance our natural environment by engaging volunteers in educational hands-on activities. LMGT activities include: removing invasive plants, planting native trees and plants, picking up litter in municipal, regional and provincial parks throughout the Lower Mainland. They also prepare and harvest vegetable beds to connect volunteers with where their food comes from and audit city streets to make them more walkable and easier to cycle. All activities are hands-on, outside and make a tangible difference to the environment.
Canadians are unlikely to take action to conserve and protect the environment if they do not spend time in nature and connect with it. According to Ipsos Reid, a survey based research company, thirds
of British Columbians (66%) say protecting the environmental should be given priority over economic growth. Ipsos Reid also conducted a poll on behalf of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and found nine in ten Canadians say that when connected to nature they feel happier.
Based on these two findings you would assume that British Columbians are a) very active in protecting the environment and b) spending a great deal of time outdoors. However, this is not the case, Vital Signs Canada (2010), an annual checkup by community foundations across Canada, states “while the public clearly believes that individual citizens can make a difference in local environmental quality, most are not currently mobilized and acting on this responsibility.”
Canadians are also spending less time than ever in parks. Canada’s national parks had about 13 million visitors in 2006-2007 a drop from a decade earlier when there were 16.3 million visitors. Ipsos-Reid (2010) answers the question about what Canadians might be doing instead of being outside in nature. Canadian web surfers are online 18.1 hours a week compared to the 16.9 hours they spend watching television. Based on this, there does not appear to be much time left over for much else.
What are other barriers stopping citizens from taking more environmental action? Vital Signs Canada (2010) says some of the barriers include: lack of public transit options, lack of information/don’t know what to do and lack of leadership from local leaders. The Lower Mainland Green Team is knocking down those barriers by: making car pooling available, providing information of what to do, providing the opportunity for hands-on environmental action and being a community leader.
The LMGT team has gained great momentum by building its volunteer base to over 1600 in 2 and half
years and running 94 events. The group has also recently won two environmental awards, one from Earth Day Canada and one from Nature Vancouver. The question is whether people jump on the opportunity to take care of their parks and nature regularly? Given the evidence over the last two years, it looks promising. Visit http://www.meetup.com/the-lower-mainland-green-team to become part of the team that
makes earth day a regular activity!