8 positive environmental stories from 2020 that give us hope for the future

8 positive environmental stories from 2020 that give us hope for the future

8 positive environmental stories from 2020 that give us hope for the future

By Jaime Clifton-Ross, Communication & Outreach Curator, National Environmental Treasure

We’re pretty sure that everyone can agree that 2020 was a wretched year. While it’s hard to think of anything positive coming from such a difficult period, there were actually some major wins for biodiversity, conservation and people. Here are 8 positive environmental stories that give us hope for the future.

1. People spent more time in nature

As the pandemic forced us to stay home, it simultaneously encouraged us to spend more time outdoors. In an effort to occupy ourselves, Canadians from across the country ventured into urban green spaces and provincial parks. As we’ve become far more disconnected from nature than our ancestors, this presented an opportunity to reconnect with nature. Parks of all kinds facilitate various outdoor activities and provide opportunities to explore biodiversity. A survey conducted by The Park People found that 70% of respondents developed a greater appreciation for urban parks during the pandemic. It was also discovered that visitorship across Canada increased by 55% as a direct result of lockdown measures. One silver lining coming from the pandemic is our renewed appreciation for spending time outdoors.

Person walking in snowy forest (1)
Photo by martinmarksoerensen via Canva

2. The first annual Black Birders Week was launched

Following Christian Cooper’s racist experience while birding in Central Park in New York City, BlackAFinSTEM launched #BlackBirdersWeek. According to Audubon, the goal of this initiative was to “boost recognition and representation of Black people enjoying and studying the natural world”. As a 5-day event, it celebrated black nature enthusiasts, challenged participants to share pictures of bird sightings, hosted online Q&As with birders, live-streamed a discussion about the experiences of black birders and promoted black women who bird. With thousands of participants from across the world, #BlackBirdersWeek quickly went viral. Not only did it help elevate the profile of many black scientists, environmentalists and nature enthusiasts, it even inspired other nature and science-themed initiatives including #BlackBotanistWeek and #BlackHikersWeek.

3. Canada committed to achieving more ambitious biodiversity targets

In September 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s commitment to protecting 25% of land and sea by 2025 and 30% by 2030. This was a big step in the right direction, especially since we missed target 1 of our 2020 targets and goals for biodiversity. Canada also signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, along with 82 other countries, committing to globally reversing the unprecedented loss of nature by the end of the decade. This ten-point pledge addresses deforestation, food systems, fishing practices, pollution, ocean plastic waste, investment in biodiversity and nature-based solutions along with a green and just pandemic recovery strategy.

Star fish and sea anemone
Photo by Terry Allen via Canva

4. New Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (Qat’muk) established after a 30-year battle 

In January 2020, Canada had a major win for conservation. The area around the Jumbo Valley in southeastern British Columbia will now become the Central Purcell Mountains Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA). Known as Qat’muk, this area is a critical habitat for wildlife and “holds spiritual significance for the Ktunaxa as the home of the Grizzly Bear Spirit,” according to the Nelson Star. It is also part of the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor, which connects roaming grizzly bears between Canada and the United States. This victory came after a nearly 30-year battle against a planned ski resort and is indeed a great win for protecting biodiversity in Canada.

Bear climbing hill filled with wildflowers
Photo by heckepics via Canva

5. The citizen science movement went viral

One way people passed the time during 2020 is by joining the citizen science movement. While hiking, skiing, cycling and even surfing, many explorers photographed their observations of fascinating flora and fauna. This movement encourages non-scientists to experience nature up close while learning about our incredibly biodiverse world. It also helps contribute to biodiversity science as observations uploaded by amateur scientists from across the world populate scientific data repositories, including the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. In fact, identifying and uploading observations was so popular in 2020 that the flora and fauna ID app, iNaturalist, reached a milestone of 50 million observations as of September 2020. There are even apps designed to identify birds, including eBird and Merlin Bird ID.

Person with yellow sleeve taking picture with phone down forest path
Photo by erikreis from Getty Images/Canva

6. The Canadian Federal Government finally announced plans for a national single-use plastic ban

In October 2020, the Federal government finally announced their plans for a Canada-wide ban on single-use plastics as part of their goal for achieving zero plastic waste by 2030. To determine which items to ban, they compiled a list based on which plastics are: harmful to the environment; difficult to recycle; and whether or not there are feasible alternatives. The single-use plastics that will be banned include grocery checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, plastic cutlery and food takeout containers made from hard-to-recycle plastics. Regulations for the ban are expected to be finalized by the end of 2021.

Plastic bag floating in pond with leaves and flowers
Photo by FotographiaBasica via Canva

7. Tahlequah welcomed a new calf

Do you remember Tahlequah? She’s the mother orca of the Southern Resident Killer Whale community who carried her deceased newborn calf for 17 days across the Pacific Ocean. As the matriarch of J pod, she captured the hearts of people from around the world while mourning the loss of her calf. Several scientists and journalists called this a grief tour while many artists memorialized her in paint. But in September 2020, Tahlequah gave birth to a healthy male calf near the San Juan Islands. Congratulations Tahlequah!

Mother and baby orca swimming in ocean
Photo by Mark Malleson

8. New wildlife crossing to be built east of Canmore

In November 2020, The Alberta government announced the construction of a new wildlife overpass as part of their capital plans for 2021-2022. It will be built east of Canmore in the Bow Valley, an important wildlife corridor for wolves, bears, lynx, elk, bighorn sheep, and more. This green infrastructure will help wildlife safely travel between Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country, which are both protected areas. Building wildlife crossings, in the form of underpasses and overpasses, has proven to be a successful mitigation strategy in many regions across the world. Designed to connect and protect biodiversity, they help support wildlife movement, breeding, feeding and give animals access to vital habitat. These structures look similar to overpasses and underpasses used by cars and pedestrians along highways, however, they’re designed exclusively for animals. Coupled with fencing and native vegetation, they funnel animals towards safe crossings.

Banff National Park wildlife overpass
Photo by Janice Chen via Canva

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