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Across the globe, freshwater wildlife populations have declined 81 per cent over the past four decades. That's more than twice the population decline for land-based or ocean wildlife. In Canada, some of those freshwater species at risk include Atlantic salmon, white sturgeon, freshwater mussels, nooksack dace, the northern leopard frog, and seven of eight freshwater turtle species.
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Most of us couldn't imagine that it would come to this, at least not in our lifetime. The Arctic is changing from a white, ice-covered, predictable environment to one that is increasingly unstable. And because of the tight linkages between Earth's systems, changes in the Arctic will reverberate around the world.
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We are consuming more than nature can deliver. And wildlife is paying the price. A mass migration has already begun as wildlife move in reaction to changing seasons, to find water, to escape wildfires, to go where sea ice once prevented them from going.
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Researchers predict that in four years, populations of vertebrate species could have fallen by 67 per cent from 1970 levels.
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Marine mammals such as the North Atlantic right whale are threatened by shipping collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. Beluga whales are threatened by chemical and noise pollution, as well as loss of habitat. And all species in Canada will feel the effects of climate change, which is happening faster than species can adapt.
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We don't need to look any further than the collapse of Newfoundland's northern cod fishery to be reminded of how communities are impacted when resources are overexploited. For centuries, the cod stocks in this region seemed inexhaustible. But when the fishery collapsed in 1992, over 40,000 people lost their jobs.
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.
Canada has the world's 8th largest ecological footprint per capita, according to WWF's Living Planet Report 2012, which was released on Tuesday. If the entire world lived like Canadians do, it would...