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Introduction

 

TECHNOLOGY IN THEIR HANDS

“Our youth are very comfortable using technology. Cutting-edge applications like the BC Tomorrow simulator will help foster systems thinking in our youth and that will be a highly valuable skill as they develop sustainable solutions for the future”

MULTI-DISCIPLINE LEARNING

"Students can watch videos about the benefits and impacts of human land use, learn about the integration of economies and ecosystems, develop their own watershed plans, design local experiments, create projects and share their findings with classrooms across BC and Canada"

INNOVATIVE TEACHING TOOLS

"Teachers will benefit from online resources including lesson plans and videos and dedicated teacher support"

For thousands of years, BC’s mountains, rolling interior grasslands and plateaus, vast coastal and interior forest regions, and abundant freshwater and marine environments have supported vibrant ecosystems,  created habitat for many wildlife species, and provided natural resources for humans including water, timber, fish, minerals and energy and have offered abundant recreational and tourism opportunities.

With the arrival of settlers and the industrial age, there have been many changes to BC’s landscapes. And the rate of change has been increasing in recent decades. How have BC’s ecosystems changed in the past 30 years? What will British Columbia be like in another 30 years? Will British Columbia’s ecosystems support the same wildlife, provide the same services and produce the same natural resources as today?

In 1901, there were 179 000 people living in BC. In the last 115 years, BC’s population has increased 26 times to over 4.65 million people . As British Columbia’s population has increased, the amount of natural resources we consume and export has also increased. This has led to increased disturbance of BC’s ecosystems.

People affect the environment through activities such as agriculture, urban development, mining, hydroelectric dams, oil and gas exploration, and forestry. These activities are called land-use. British Columbians are committed to sustainable development. It’s part of the province’s motto "Splendor without Diminishment". This means that while we meet the needs of the present, we do it without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  

Land-use has positive effects, like natural resource production. Land-use also has negative effects, like disturbing wildlife habitat or negatively impacting water in watersheds.

To achieve sustainable development in BC, we’ll need to carefully plan land-use today and in the future to find the best balance the of positive and negative effects.

We can no longer look at one individual land-use in isolation, but rather we need to look at the cumulative effects of all the different land-uses and Mother Nature together. This means we need to understand how our economy, environment and society are connected in a system. Changes we make to one part of that system will affect other parts and change what the system produces.

So our first step will be  to design a land-use strategy to achieve society’s goals. To select a suitable land-use strategy, we’ll explore how land-use will can change ecosystems in the future. To understand how ecosystems may change, we need to understand the living and non-living parts of ecosystems, how these parts are connected, and how the parts may be impacted by human land-use, and natural disturbance like wildfire and even climate change.

Because ecosystems involve so many parts and connections, scientists often use computers to build models of ecosystems. If a scientist can make a model and tell a computer how ecosystems parts are related, the computer can perform the tedious calculations to estimate how ecosystems can change.

Models are an example of how the sciences can be used to help people make good decisions. Ecologists study how the parts of  ecosystems interact to create the natural environment. Economists forecast how much value in dollars will be created by land use. Sociologists help us understand what these changes could mean for our families and quality of life. We can combine all of this understanding into a land use simulation model that helps people choose  what land-use strategy should be used.

Models aren’t perfect. Just like weather forecasts, ecosystem models can be wrong because our understanding isn’t complete. As scientists learn more about ecosystems, economies and society, the models improve. And models aren’t crystal balls. Models can’t perfectly predict the future, but they can be used to help us compare how a range of land-uses choices may change ecosystems, our economy and our society.

You can think of models like BC Tomorrow as time machines that help us learn from the past and let us try out lots of different future scenarios to help us learn beforehand about the consequences of land-use choices we will make.

BC Tomorrow is a land use model that can help you compare how a range of land-use different choices we make can change natural resource production, wildlife habitat and ecosystems services in British Columbia. Learning about changes that have taken place from different land-uses in the past, you will be better able to model the future and explore the effects on economic and environmental indicators.

Using BC Tomorrow, you will first need to find your location on the map. Once you have done that, you will be able to examine land-use changes that have occurred since pre-industrial times. You’ll be able to look back for more than a century! You will also have the opportunity to go out into the field and collect information about the current status of your ecosystem.

Once you have learned about the different land-uses that occur in your local area and have seen their effects, you will have the opportunity to design the future.

Your first step will be to set goals for the future. Where do you want each of the indicators to be in 30 years? You will be able to see whether continuing with historical land-use practices will meet your goals 30 years into the future. This can be challenging and more than likely in your first try, some of your goals will not be achieved.

It will then be your job to develop a new land-use plan by drawing a map to divide your region between urban development and natural areas. You will also specify how much of the region should be available for industrial activity like (mining, hydroelectric energy and forestry) by setting the human activity lever. You can choose between linear and exponential population growth, and click best practices on or off. Soon we will be adding climate change.

You will then simulate your land-use plan 30 years into the future. If, after pressing play, the outcome still doesn’t meet your goals, you will have to either change your goals or change your land-use plan and run the simulation again.

Here in BC, increasing human land use has allowed us to enjoy the benefits of living in a prosperous province. However, land use growth and prosperity has its affects on both the economy and the environment .

Can we continue to grow as we have in the past, or is something going to give? You’ll have to come up with a balanced plan that takes into consideration trade-offs we may have to accept!

British Columbia’s future is in your hands! See what you can do!

 For Closed Captioning, See Video Below

 

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