Yesterday in Ontario, Canada, we woke up to several inches of snow. A few days before, we went outside in shorts and a t-shirt. Our weather is confusing. As we traveled before the pandemic, we saw the signs of climate change all over the world. It seemed like every guide was telling us things like “This is not normal weather” “It’s not usually this hot” or “These winds have never been this strong”. Something is happening and the wildlife is paying a huge price.
It is estimated that by the year 2100, 50% of the world’s wildlife will be extinct due to climate change. Right now there are about 2 million species on Earth. Can you imagine losing half of all the species on Earth? Those are Thanos’ numbers.
It’s tragic and it breaks my heart. The animals of the world are so special to Dave and me. I think the best moments of our travels have been our encounters with wildlife. So we wanted to send a little reminder of how beautiful, beautiful and special the animals of the earth are. And there’s no better day to do that than Earth Day.
What is Earth Day?
Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970. Even 50 years ago, humans knew the world was in crisis. In the years before, smog over cities was commonplace, natural resources were harvested without regard, and lakes and rivers suffered from toxic pollution. I remember learning about acid rain in school and being told not to swim in the lake. Boy, times have changed.
The polar ice caps are melting
All the human development that introduces greenhouse gases into the air has caused temperatures to rise at a rapid rate. This is wreaking havoc from the North Pole to the South Pole. Luckily, people are taking action, and if we ignore everything Al Gore told us 20 years ago, that we only had 10 years to change things, maybe we can reverse the effects if we all work together.
It wasn’t until 1990 when Earth Day went global and 141 countries joined together to raise awareness about the environment. Over the years, it has continued, but I’m afraid it has been losing steam. The world hasn’t changed enough, climate deniers are still strong in some circles, and governments aren’t doing enough to save our planet.
But 2021 feels hopeful. President Biden is making climate change a priority again. Canada has pledged to do better and even our Conservative opposition leader has admitted that climate change is real. (which was a big surprise and goes against his party lines). Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 193 countries with a billion people participating.
How to do your part on Earth Day.
There are many things we can do to help improve the world: reduce the use of plastics, volunteer for cleanups, drive less, cut down on commuting, limit water consumption, and go vegetarian. (or at least cut down on meat).
Today’s youth are leading the way. They are the activists of our time doing their part to make their future brighter. It is the next generation that will really suffer the consequences and they are using their voice to make change happen. As they celebrate today, we want to speak up for the other living beings who have no voice to save their homes. Wildlife is threatened all over the world and it would be a terrible shame if it were to disappear in the next few years. Just look at these faces below.
Wildlife threatened by climate change
Polar bears have become almost the poster child for climate change, as Arctic waters are so affected by climate change. Because the ice melts faster in the spring and arrives later in the fall, they have less time to feed during the winter months. But there is hope. We saw an amazing documentary by David Suzuki on Nature of Things that shows how polar bears have adapted. That doesn’t mean they’re out of danger, but it does show how smart they are. Read about our encounters with polar bears in Walking with Polar Bears – The Greatest Arctic Safari.
Another poster child for conservation efforts and with good reason. The giant panda has been disappearing for some time now. People have been striving for decades to keep them thriving, but it almost seems like a losing battle. They have a low production rate and are unable to adapt to climate change. With humans encroaching on their environment, pandas have to seek higher ground where their main diet, bamboo, doesn’t thrive. See Things to do in China – Attractions and Places to Visit
If we head to the opposite pole of the planet, penguins are also seeing the effects of climate change. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming areas on Earth. Penguin nesting and hunting grounds are becoming unreliable, ruining their chances of survival. See more penguin adventures 11 of the best things to do in Antarctica
During the 2020 fires in Australia, the koala made many headlines because good Samaritans were trying to save them from the devastating fires. Unfortunately, bushfires are becoming more frequent due to climate change and their main diet in the eucalyptus tree is diminishing nutrition in the leaves. Koalas are in danger and don’t have many ways to protect themselves other than being high up in a tree. As they have to search far and wide for water if in doubt, they become prey to animals and are very vulnerable. See our visit to a koala sanctuary – Cuteness in South Australia
Not only do elephants have to deal with poaching, but climate change is affecting them with rising temperatures and diseases invading their environment. The African elephant faces an imminent threat as watering holes are disappearing due to increasing droughts and loss of habitat. Enjoy our Animal Safari in Africa: 34 photos that will make you want to visit Tanzania.
We’ve all heard for years about the decline in elephant numbers. But giraffes quietly made the critically endangered species list in 2018. Can we believe it, during our safaris in Africa, giraffes were some of the most elusive animals. We thought it was just because they blend in so well with their surroundings, but they’re actually disappearing. Read: 16 amazing things to do in Tanzania
Even the king of the African savannah is being affected. As animals change their migratory routes due to climate change, lions are confined to national parks and game reserves and are unable to move with their prey. Lions are already endangered and as droughts and habitat loss become more common, we could lose this majestic animal forever. See more African safari photos: Amazing photos of Kenya an incredible visual journey.
The Galapagos tortoise has survived over the centuries, but may soon encounter climate change. As temperatures rise, their nesting and hatching are altered. We have seen conservation efforts in the Galapagos and the people there are working hard to save the little turtles and tortoise, but it is getting harder and harder to fight Mother Nature. Read more: Unique animals of the Galapagos Islands in photos
Galapagos marine and land iguanas are also threatened. The Galapagos are located on the equator and it is hot. It’s hard to imagine it getting warmer, but it is. As the oceans rise due to warming currents, coastal erosion is occurring at a faster rate that is reducing their nesting areas. Read more: Marine iguanas feed underwater in Galapagos
I love the blue-footed booby and even the birds are being affected. These beautiful seabirds nest on islands and coastal rocks and as sea levels rise, their nesting grounds are being disturbed. They have already abandoned their usual breeding colonies after El Niño, and that trend will continue. See more Galapagos Animals:27 photos that will transport you to the Galapagos Islands
We saw many toucans in Costa Rica and in the Amazon rainforest, and sadly, these beautiful birds are being threatened by humans. Toucans live inside trees that are being cut down to make way for coal mines, and with the mines and deforestation, the water is being polluted. Read more: What to Expect on an Amazon Cruise – Life on the River
They are our closest relative in the wild and monkeys, lemurs and apes are being affected by climate change. The orangutan has been endangered for as long as we can remember. When we visited Borneo in 2003, they were already suffering due to habitat loss. Great things to do in Borneo – Malaysia’s Wild Jungle Island
As the climate becomes more unpredictable, changing rainfall is altering the ecosystem. Droughts are becoming more frequent and habitat loss is inevitable as humans tear down forests and spread out. If we can’t protect our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, how can we protect ourselves? See more monkeys in:What to expect on a Panama Canal Cruise with Uncruise
Warming waters are affecting sharks in their search for suitable habitats and hunting grounds. Have you noticed that in recent years white sharks have been spotted in places they’ve never been before? This is because sharks need to constantly move to find waters that suit their needs, which is becoming increasingly difficult as ocean temperatures change and the polar ice caps melt into the sea. Swim with Whale Sharks in Cancun – A great adventure
Seals are also having a hard time with rising temperatures. Like the polar bear, they depend on sea ice for survival. As temperatures rise, ice streams become scarce and pups are prematurely separated from their mothers. Read the following: Kayaking Greenland: the Arctic’s greatest adventure in photos.
Whales depend on ocean currents to migrate, hunt, and survive. Along with dolphins and porpoises, whales are suffering from loss of prey due to climate change and are having trouble migrating to cooler waters. In doing research, we learned that whales help keep our oceans healthy by circulating nutrients throughout the ocean just by being whales. They dive, migrate and surface creating essential movement in the waters. See more Whale Encounters: The Ultimate Alaskan Cruise Through Glacier Country
Sea turtles don’t have it easy to begin with. They face challenges from the moment they hatch. Only one out of every thousand eggs laid survives. And now, with rising temperatures and the erosion of nesting grounds, they face an even greater threat. Ocean currents are changing and, as other species seek new hunting grounds, sea turtles are at greater risk from predators. Coral reefs are disappearing and plastic is taking a toll on all marine life. Our oceans are in a sorry state.
You don’t think of the black bear with respect to climate change as much as other animals, but even they are being affected. Climate change is making it harder for black bears to hibernate. Living in Canada, we see how the winters have changed. We can have warm days in the middle of January and snow in April. With all this turmoil, bears are coming out of hibernation early, making it harder to regain their weight as food is scarce. Unfortunately, this is forcing bears to go to urban centers in search of food and be euthanized as a result.
Almost every species on Earth is affected by climate change. Including humans. Floods are getting fiercer, forest fires are burning out of control, so today, let’s all commit to making a difference. If only by simply observing events and educating ourselves to do better.
Earth Day is celebrated every year and you can check out live streams and events on the EarthDay.Org website.
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