Collaboration the key tool for Carolinian conservation effort

March 27

By Sean Meyer


Stretching from Toronto to Windsor, the Carolinian Life Zone features many wild plants and animals, not to mention some of the most rare and endangered species too, making it perhaps the most unique area in all of Canada.

Locally, the efforts to co-ordinate a conservation strategy for this eco-region rests with the Carolinian Canada Coalition.

In collaboration with many partner groups, the coalition has a mandate to “preserve, protect and restore” the flora and fauna of the Carolinian Life Zone, conduct research relating to environmental issues affecting the zone in southwestern and educating and increasing the public's understanding of the importance of conserving the zone’s natural features.  

For executive director Michelle Kanter, the coalition’s mission is more tangible than it might seem on the surface.

“I think most people love nature, but I think most people are unaware — this region in particular in Canada — we have half the habitat we need to ensure our water, air and soil is clean and healthy,” she said. “With climate change it is going to be a perfect storm of creating more and more unhealthy communities if we don’t have enough habitat to protect what we need to survive.”

Michelle said the public needs to understand it’s not just a question of wildlife, which is simply an indicator of the environment everyone lives in, but rather how the survival of the zone matters to everyone.

Everyone drinks the same water, uses the same soils, people are familiar with recycling, the ecological footprint and reducing carbon, everybody knows what they shouldn’t do, she explains, but they don’t necessarily understand what they should do.

“There is actually a balance sheet. Everything we’ve created comes from nature. Because we are in this mass extinction globally, losing species every day, we are actually creating a deficit of natural capital,” Michelle said. “What does that mean to the average person? We think that might not matter. But if you consider everything we’ve created, medicine, food, housing, depends on nature, suddenly why do we think we can continue to grow in population and have healthy communities with less nature?”

For the past 30 years, Michelle explains, the coalition has existed somewhat within “a science bubble,” including science and conservation-focused groups. That said, Michelle argues any solution is going to be found within collaboration.

After all, coalition was created specifically by the World Wildlife Fund back in the 1980s as an affiliation of groups working for the same goal.

Today the Carolinian Canada Coalition actively works with some 300 groups on a regular basis, but still there is a need, Michelle said, to find new partners and pilot new initiatives.

To help further those goals, the coalition set up within Innovation Works.

Having been a cotenant for around six months, Michelle said the experience has been “phenomenal,” and that they’ve already made new connections, have met with marketing and media people, all with the intention of learning how the coalition can expand its reach.

“Collaboration is actually in our DNA. Collaborating for a healthy eco-region. That’s our tagline,” she said. “That’s why we came to Innovation Works because we can’t do it alone. We have to work with a lot of people who care about the earth to start putting nature back.”

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