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If Everyone Lived Like Canadians, We'd Need 3.7 Planets

10/03/2014 09:25 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
loops7 via Getty Images

WWF's new Living Planet Report is issuing a wake-up call: our unsustainable demands on the planet are contributing to a dramatic decline -- 52 per cent -- in wildlife populations in the last 40 years. This is the cost of our way of life.

As Canadians, we are incredibly lucky to live in a country with so much natural wealth, but we're taking that for granted. We're placing huge demands on the planets' resources, ranked 11th per capita in the world. If everybody in the world lived like Canadians, we would require 3.7 planets to meet our needs -- clearly, this is not sustainable.

These results tell us that our actions are taking a big toll on our planet, and that clearly we can't continue in this direction. This is not a legacy any one of us should accept. And we don't have to -- we can make better choices.

Instead of cutting down forests in Indonesia to create space for palm oil plantations, destroying critical orangutan habitat, we can choose not to purchase foods and other products preserved with palm oil. Instead of relying on fossil fuels for energy, we can choose to invest in more renewables, like they're doing in Germany. Instead of using massive amounts of water to grow our food, we can choose to improve agricultural practices.

And we are making some of those better choices right here in Canada, taking steps to better protect the environment and species. Recently, efforts to develop an oil terminal in Cacouna, Quebec -- in an important beluga whale nursery area in the St. Lawrence River -- were temporarily halted by a court injunction, and the whole development plan is being re-evaluated using more scientific evidence. Instead of putting important species that are part of an already stressed ecosystem at risk for an oil and gas project, we can choose to protect the belugas and their habitat, and explore different energy options.

We know that we can address these issues, because we've already done so. Thirty years ago, acid rain was a huge concern, and individuals, business, governments and environmental groups rallied together to solve the problem, successfully. That's exactly the kind of collaborative approach and positive attitude that we need to tackle our wasteful lifestyle and damaging practices today.

We know what needs to be done, and many communities, cities and provinces are already making choices and policies to reduce our footprint on the planet, and conserve or improve biodiversity -- they're listening to what the Living Planet Report and other scientific studies tell them. Research shows that we have the resources to make new investments in a better way forward, and the ability to change how we run our lives, our businesses, and our governments.

We have made better choices in the past, we are making some better choices today, and we absolutely can make better choices in the future. The first step is recognizing the problem, and the Living Planet Report paints a very clear picture of both the issues that we're facing, and what it will take for people to live in harmony with nature.

We all have a role to play, so I hope you'll take a few minutes to learn more about the Living Planet Report at here, or by listening to my interview on the report with CBC's As It Happens.

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