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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 1 - Conservation and Sustainable Use

G. Human Population and Settlement

Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the adverse impacts of human activities and resource consumption patterns on ecological, economic, social and cultural systems. Thus, human population policies must be developed to reflect societal objectives and ecological carrying capacity.

The capacity of Earth to support an ever-growing human population and satisfy increasing demands on its resources is limited. If the present human population of 5.6 billion continues to grow at current rates, it could reach 12 billion by 2050.

In addition to human population growth, high consumption rates, particularly in developed countries, are stressing global ecosystems and influencing atmospheric systems. Canada's per capita rate of water and energy consumption and waste generation is among the highest in the world.

In Canada, human settlement has already had a significant adverse impact on ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. Farming, forest development, commercial fishing, urban development, mining, oil and gas use and development, the development of transportation infrastructure and other activities have each had varying degrees of impact on our resources.

The effect of human settlement on biodiversity is most evident in the southern part of the country, where urban development has been concentrated, native grasslands have been converted to cropland and wetlands drained. Not surprisingly, most of Canada's endangered species are concentrated in the areas of southern British Columbia, the southern prairies and the Quebec City-Windsor corridor where 75% of Canada's population lives.

Ecosystem degradation has also contributed to the decline of biodiversity. Degradation has resulted from pollution, the introduction of harmful alien organisms, and habitat fragmentation caused by such activities as forest and agricultural developments, highways and urban sprawl. Lakes in eastern Canada have suffered from acid precipitation, and the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, Fraser River Basin and Atlantic and Pacific fisheries are all under ecological stress resulting directly and indirectly from human activities.

In response to concerns about human impacts on the environment, governments, communities, businesses, educational institutions and individuals are taking action. Numerous programs have been implemented to reduce energy use, conserve water, recycle material, manage hazardous waste and reduce pollution emissions. These types of actions must be continued to conserve biodiversity and support the sustainable use of biological resources.

Strategic Directions:

Use a variety of planning and approval mechanisms that provide for meaningful public and stakeholder participation to prevent or reduce negative impacts on biodiversity that may arise from human settlement activities.
Develop and implement educational and incentive programs to encourage biodiversity conservation on private lands.
Promote the acceptance of the requirements of the Convention within the urban development sector through the voluntary establishment of codes of environmental management and the provision of relevant biodiversity education material.
Determine and mitigate, where practical, incremental and cumulative impacts of human activities on ecosystems and biological resources.
Support research on ecological carrying capacities and the way that changes in biodiversity, human population density, land and resource development and resource consumption patterns and rates affect one another.
Reduce resource consumption by promoting initiatives based on the "three R's" ­ reduce, reuse and recycle ­ and by increasing awareness of the value of biodiversity and the lifestyle choices that cause its decline.
Work through appropriate national and international organizations to improve dialogue and communication and to encourage research on the linkages among population, social issues, consumption and production of resources and ecological carrying capacity in order to formulate sustainable development policies.