The symbolism of holding a Polar Bear Walk in mid-April, with any remnant of winter’s snow completely melted and spring flowers poking up merrily through the soil, is not lost on Rose Campbell or her son Connor.
“The polar bear is symbolic, because they’re the most obvious group affected by climate change,” says Rose. “Polar bears are having to walk further and further for food, so symbolically we are walking with them.” She says polar bears are an endangered species, and now they are thin, unhealthy and having fewer cubs — and fewer cubs are surviving. She also points out there is less ice, and the remaining ice is thinner so it’s harder for them to hunt successfully.
The mother and son are passionate about the environment — and about the World Wildlife Fund, having been supporters of the latter for many years. So when Connor’s 25th birthday came up in February, they decided his celebration would be a fundraising event for the WWF, and chose a Polar Bear Walk.
“We talk a lot about climate change and global warming,” says Rose with passion. “We’re at a tipping point regarding the environment, and it’s really important that everyone focus their attention on this. That’s why we’re doing this.”
The mother of two continues, “We’re watching a documentary series and it says we need to start now, and we have a 20-year window to make dramatic changes. If we don’t start now, the future of the human race and all other species is at risk. There are small things everyone can do: avoid takeout, compost, recycle, eat less meat. It all adds up, and if everyone does it, it will make a significant difference.”
She explains the family’s passion for their charity of choice. “The World Wildlife Fund [also known as the World Wide Fund For Nature] implements clean energies into communities. They also fight climate change in other ways.”
The WWF sent along a kit with everything needed for the event, along with a prize of an animal adoption certificate. Other prizes were offered from various sources (often clients of Rose’s design and marketing business), including Creekside Estate Winery and Bamboo Natural Foods.
The Campbells chose the woodland paths behind Niagara College as their walk’s location for a number of reasons. It’s one of their favourite hiking spots. It’s also connected to a passion of Connor’s: he is a graduate of Niagara College’s environmental field and lab technician program, and worked on-site at the greenhouse.
Niagara College, in turn, has enthusiastically embraced the Campbells’ initiative, and offered their own add-ons. Fortuitously, the walk is taking place on the same day as the school’s Spring BioBlitz, an event that also celebrates the environment. So Amber Schmucker, the college’s sustainability program and outreach coordinator, decided to offer all participants of the walk the same perks as BioBlitz participants, including scientists who can help identify flora and fauna, and even a free lunch. Steve Gill, who manages the teaching winery at the college, has also offered free wine tastings.
“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” she says.
“The BioBlitz is meant to be fun and inspiring, celebrating Earth Month, leading up to Earth Day,” the Niagara College graduate continues. “If we don’t know what we have, we can’t manage the effects of climate change on it.”
The Polar Bear Walk meets at 10 a.m. this Saturday, April 13, at the road entrance to the college’s greenhouse; the walk will begin at 10:15 a.m. The fourth annual BioBlitz runs from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m., meaning participating in both is easily done.
Donations are recommended but not necessary for participation in the fundraising walk. In fact, the Campbells have already raised more than 90 per cent of their goal of $2500. Donations can also be made by non-participants. The link for donations is found via the Facebook event page.
If you’re planning to participate in one of or both events and would like to benefit from the free lunch and other offers, registration for the BioBlitz is required. It’s free, and can be done through eventbrite.ca (search NC BioBlitz). Lunch is vegetarian pasta and fruit.”We want to make sure people’s bellies are full and they’re fuelled for the day,” says Amber. ”And we realize the most conscious environmental choice is to cut meat out of your diet.”
She goes on to say, “There are lots of super-fun things to see and do during the BioBlitz, something for everyone. There should be migratory songbirds; different ducks and waterfowl in the wetlands; painted turtles; some different species of salamanders, including red-backed and yellow-spotted. A couple of muskrats come back every year. We should have some iconic Canada geese here to make an appearance.”
With both events, all are welcome, but it is requested that you please not bring your pets, as dogs will scare away the species the participants are there to observe. A reusable water bottle is also recommended.