In the last few years, we've been able to spend more time outside and deepen our connection to nature. By pausing and exploring our surroundings during the pandemic, many of us gained a better appreciation for both the beauty and vulnerability of wildlife in our yards and neighbourhoods.
I experienced firsthand how individual interactions with nature build up to a strong sense of gratitude, and how, eventually, this shared mentality culminates in collective action when we work together in support of our community.
Being immersed in nature made me observant of local environmental issues, and more inclined to take action to improve them. My regular walks at Niagara Shores Park became intentional litter cleanups because every time I went back, I found more plastic washing up on the beach.
I loved being outside, but I became aware of the number of trees being lost to development, even though NOTL has the lowest tree cover in the Region — only 10 per cent. Environment Canada recommends a minimum of 30 per cent tree canopy to support wildlife and counteract urban heat islands.
Individual gratitude for the environment can spark collective action in such situations. For example, by participating in public meetings and holding development to sustainable standards, more progress can be made to preserve the community's charm and natural heritage.
Speaking of collective action, as an administrator for the town Buy Nothing group, I've been delighted to see this “circular economy” blossom over the last few years.
This group has helped more than 2,000 people in NOTL to appreciate what we have, or even see the potential in something damaged. We've kept so many items out of the landfill and reduced carbon emissions from manufacturing new products and trips to the store.
On the environmental advisory committee, I feel encouraged to see the town making environmental issues a priority. Through collaboration with town staff and Brock University, the committe has proposed updates to bylaws, low-impact development standards to improve local water quality, and measures to prepare NOTL residents for more severe weather due to climate change.
Beyond the formal, regulatory aspects, the environmental committee supports innovative new programs and community outreach. We organized the first World Cleanup Day event in NOTL, and are currently proposing two new pilot studies to reduce cigarette litter in town and prevent bird window collisions during migration.
Thanks to those that work to keep the environment top-of-mind, NOTL residents are continually inspired to get involved. When Jo-Ann Fraser and Dawn Orr organized the first Jane's Walk in Chautauqua, the local history and ecology tour drew a quite the interested crowd — this year's walk is planned for August 25.
Locals like Mary-Clare Lamon and Beth Macdonald have written impassioned letters to the editor about their own litter cleanups. Beth, discouraged at the amount of local plastic litter, urged readers to shop more consciously to avoid packaging.
There are so many local opportunities to put individual motivations to good use, whether through personal cleanups, joining the NPCA's volunteer network, Friends of One Mile Creek, or lending time to larger initiatives like “bio blitzes” or the Love Your Lake program, which is looking for volunteers to clean up NOTL beaches on May 1.
This Earth Day (and beyond), if you find yourself feeling grateful for the stability and serenity of the outdoors, take it one step further and share it with those around you. You'll soon find that many others feel the same way, and you might even be inspired to get your hands dirty and give back.
If you do your own cleanup, be sure to wear gloves! Please share your own Earth Day efforts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyra Simone is a green-at-heart NOTL resident with master's degrees in biology & science communication. In her spare time, she advocates for sustainable change, picks up litter, makes recycled jewelry, and transforms furniture bound for the landfill.