The temperature is hovering around zero degrees. There are no leaves on the trees. The snow melts today and returns with a vengeance tomorrow. The winter seems uncertain, as though it has forgotten when its cue is supposed to come. I must be back in Québec—the land of erratic weather!
The start of the year seems like a good time to give you the first instalment of my report on the extraordinary expedition I took part in last fall: the 1000 Days for the Planet mission.
Change of program
On September 10, I boarded the Sedna IV to join the mission led by biologist and filmmaker Jean Lemire. I was replacing Evelyne Daigle, who had done a fantastic job as scientific communicator.
The boat was due to stay in the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a few weeks before setting sail for the Galapagos Islands. However, the wait was longer than planned. Bad luck? Not at all! Instead, this was a unique opportunity to explore the staggering biodiversity of Ecuador, perhaps the country with the greatest concentration of species per square kilometre in the world!
My mission: Continental Ecuador
Sometimes on my own, sometimes joined by my colleague Sophie Tessier, I visited parks and reserves in various parts of the country and shared my observations with visitors to the 1000 Days for the Planet mission base camp. I also had the pleasure of speaking live to students from schools all over Québec as well as visitors to the Salon du livre de Montréal.
The variety of ecosystems I visited was impressive: tropical dry forest, tropical very dry forest, mangrove, tropical rainforest (in Amazonia), cloud forest, páramo, beaches, dunes and various ecosystems in a marine park. But that is only part of the story. I had the great privilege of meeting passionate people who are involved in their community to educate their fellow citizens about the importance of preserving biodiversity. Inspiring people who take real action and make a real difference. For example, Xiomara Izurieta has worked in environmental education for over 20 years and takes part in sustainable development initiatives all over the country. There is also Kléver S. Albán Flores, who manages an ecotourism lodge while taking the needs of surrounding communities into account. For him, respecting the environment and social justice go hand in hand.
Observations and hopes
Other than lots of photos of breathtaking landscapes, amazing flora and fauna, and inspiring people, what did I bring back from this experience? I have greater awareness of the major damage we are doing to the environment. I can see that there is still a huge amount of work to do, in terms of raising awareness and mobilization. Education is a solution for the medium and long terms, but there is also an urgent need to act now. In 2013, I hope we become better agents of change by continuing to reuse, recycle and reduce our consumption of energy. But we can do more by joining forces with others in our community to take concrete action in favour of biodiversity. We can also become members of national and international organizations to help our message reach farther. It is my pleasure to come back and share this experience with the visitors to the 1000 Days for the Planet mission base camp at the Botanical Garden. What about you—do you have any resolutions for the planet in 2013?