UN Report on Species’ Extinction: What can we do?
On May 6 the United Nations released their Global Assessment report assessing the health of Earth’s biodiversity. The international organization warns that 1 Million species out of an approximate 8.7 known species on Earth are at risk of extinction within decades.
The report was based on roughly 15,000 research projects produced by indigenous peoples, scientists and government sources where 145 experts from 50 countries contributed.
Is biodiversity relevant to human life? Yes. Human lives inextricably depend upon a diverse, robustly interconnected web of terrestrial and marine habitats for all species.
One example? If insect pollinators continue to perish thanks to chemicals such as neonicotinoids, which affect the central nervous system of and kill bees, crops will be fertilized less, production and food security decline.
Azoulay noted, “Protecting biodiversity is as important as fighting climate change.”
The UN website (bit.ly/2H3UyZD) explains, “The report also examines five main drivers of ‘unprecedented’ biodiversity and ecosystem change over the past 50 years, identifying them as: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change, pollution, and invasion of alien species.”
Causes: Anthropocene era
“Anthropo” = “man”; “cene” = “new”
Some scientists postulate Earth is in the grips of a new epoch, the Anthropocene era, in which human beings have inextricably altered Earth’s biodiversity. Whether it’s targeted to start in the industrial era of the late 1700s/early 1800s or in the nuclear age of the 1950s, the fact is that humankind has acutely and deleteriously affected biodiversity on Earth.
Look at today’s forests removed for palm oil or beef cattle – and in earlier times here in Canada, the elimination of the great western grasslands for agriculture. Look at mangroves being removed from shorelines – those great filters and stabilizers of coastlines, and the drainage of wetlands for cropping and grazing. Consider mining and fossil-fuel extraction and emissions. Think about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of our discarded plastics and how fish species are declining in all our oceans. (bit.ly/2qfM22v)
I don’t know about you, but I think Anthropocene is an apt epoch name. Our human impact upon our only known planet which can sustain our own human life is severe – and fully supports the credibility of this latest UN report.
Change: So what can we do?
First, governments, plus private industries, must energize to show leadership in reducing human impact on Earth to improve biodiversity.
Second: We have no right to condemn life on Earth to extinction.
Third: Let’s think of ourselves as agents of positive change.
Make better consumer choices. My March 21 column discussed single-use plastics. Avoid purchasing anything wrapped in plastic film; never buy balloons, straws, plastic cups/utensils. If you have plastic this stuff already, re-use everything, repeatedly.
In 2020, the Quebec Government will prohibit all organic compostables from landfills. Start composting. Buy a composting bucket. Investigate composting systems such as Green Cones – a “backyard solar digester that reduces 90% of food waste” (compostec.ca). Composted soil feeds lawns/garden beds and improves soil biodiversity (think well-fed soil micro-organisms, Robins and other animals). Use it.
Avoid pesticides, herbicides which can kill beneficial insects and earthworms. Remember the food chain: we don’t want to poison declining species such as Tree, Barn and Cliff Swallows on chemical-infused insects.
Learn which native plants will suit your garden’s conditions (light, soil, moisture etc.) and improve biodiversity. Plants and animals often have a one-to-one dependency (think Monarchs and milkweed/koalas and eucalyptus). Purchase plants that native animals require for their existence. Beaux Arbres in Bristol is a native plant nursery: support local and plant biodiversity (beauxarbres.ca/)
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and view her art at facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/