Canadians Voting for Conservation with their Wallets

The idea of “voting with your wallet” means that every purchase you make can be done with intention and that collectively, we as consumers wield incredible power over what is produced and how it is produced. By skipping out on carne asada one or hamburgers one day to try a vegetarian dish instead, you have little effect on world markets. But if millions of people cut down on beef consumption, we could actually reduce the amount of forests cleared each year for grazing. That’s one way to vote with your wallet.

This summer, 2,000 acres of pristine forest in British Columbia along a fjord called “the Yosemite of the North” was put up for sale. It could easily have been purchased for lumber harvesting or development, but instead, concerned Canadians rallied to fundraise for it to be conserved by the British Columbia Parks Foundation. A fifth grade class helped lead the charge to inspire their Vancouver community by dedicating their summer fair to raise money for this natural area they had only seen in photos. In just three months from the start of the campaign, a total of 3 million Canadian dollars was raised and this beautiful natural space is now protected forever. In this very specific election over the fate of a natural area, wallets were generously opened for a landslide victory!

Here in western Jalisco there is precious little land designated for long term preservation. Many proposals have been submitted to government authorities to change this situation, chief among them locally that of the University of Guadalajara’s Dr. Jorge Téllez Lopéz to protect over 100,000 hectares of mountain forest in and around Puerto Vallarta. While this proposal has been shared, discussed, and refined countless times over the past 20 years, the land and wildlife that it proposes to protect has diminished and what remains is now more vulnerable than ever. But perhaps voting with our wallets could be a solution for this challenge and other local conservation goals. If a community in BC can raise 3 million in three months, imagine what a focused community of Mexicans, Canadians, and Americans can do in a year or two. All we need to do is appreciate the value of the natural world surrounding us presently enough to act now to secure its future. Our wallets can be one tool to accomplish our conservation ambitions in a vote for our planet and local ecology.


Neil Gerlowski