Happy World Earth Day 2019

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‘Protect our Species’ … is the theme of this year’s Earth Day. It’s a very important topic, as facts and numbers demonstrate clearly that something is going wrong.

  1. Our impact on the environment and biodiversity
  2. Why should it matter to us?
  3. Taking responsbility
  4. What can we personally do to protect our species worldwide?
    A) Sustainable consumption does not work
    B) Going a step further

1. Our impact on the environment and biodiversity

With the advancement of technology these new technologies allow us to access even the most remote, wild und seemingly inhabitable places that used to be inaccessible or inconvenient to us humans. Deliberate or not – the disturbance and in worst case destuction of natural habitats is the consequence, leaving less and less habitat to thrive in for all the other creatures on this planet.

Yet that is not alll. We are also causing the climate to change faster than it ought to by releasing huge amounts of CO2, methane and other often toxic pollutants into the air. We poison the land and the dirt that grows the food that nurishs us and contaminate water ways with plastic and industrial waste.

The consequenes of each single one of these issues are bad enough already, but combined they have a very negative impact on our environment.

Not every creature is as adapable as our human species. Though many seem to adjust well enough, many others don’t. Often these are species that have specialized on a niche habitat and can’t easily adapt to a new environment.

The risk of losing species and biodiversity is great

“Western Europe’s population density and level of industrialisation have seriously impaired biodiversity. […] Across the European continent, 42% of mammals are threatened, 15% of birds, 45% of butterflies, 30% of amphibians, 45% of reptiles and 52% of freshwater fish.” [Source]

I could go on and list even more statistics and facts here, but that is not the point. I think most of us are aware that our doings have created a situation were many species’s existence has become threatend and some unfortunate species already have gone extinct. So the more important fact is the question of:

2. Why should it matter to us?

Biodiversity is really important for eco-systems to function properly. Though we still don’t quite understand and probably will never completely understand these complex, natural systems, one thing is clear:

Every piece of an eco-system is important to keep the system balanced and working. It might seem unimportant if a few butterfly species or amphibians go extinct – who will notice?

  • Though it might seem small, but likely there will be an effect. There might be flowering plants who got mainly pollonised by that cetain butterfly species that disappeared. Meaning, the plant might now struggle too to reproduce and over the time there will be less seedlings and trees regrowing.
  • The amphibians might have been predating on a kind of bug, which might now thrive as it is not being predated on anymore, and could spread so much that it becomes a nuisance for the rest of the environment.
  • Another drastic example is the increasing acidification of the oceans. This will cause a reduced plankton growth. Meaning, that the whole food web build upon plankton could collapse. But it also seriously effects coral reefs, krill and molluscs, putting entire ecosystems at risk!

Every species on Earth has a role. After all, nature has been fine tuning and adapting to changes in the system over millions of years. Without a doubt, she will continue to do. But there is no guarantee that our planet will continue to stay hospitable to us.

Not if we continue to poison our environment and disturb natural processes and habitats.

There is no guarantee that the world will remain hospitable to us.


3. Taking responsbility

Believing that there would be no backlash one day, is unreasonable and unresponsible. We cannot continue to take more than nature can provide. Or worse, leave the problems we created for our future generations to solve.

“[Besides that] humans are dependent on biodiversity. It provides us with food, medicines and raw materials, and delivers many other goods and services that we need. Forests, for example, provide us with wood, oxygenate the air, purify water, prevent erosion and flooding, moderate climate, turn waste into nutrients or raw materials such as oil and gas.“ [source]

Part of the solution can only be to protect our species by protecting their habitat

In 2004 only 10% of the world’s biodiverse areas and worse 1% of the world’s oceans were protected [press release from 2004]. Since then a lot has happened. The target goal of protecting 17% of terrestrial lands and 10% of oceans by 2020 was set in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (Target #11). Countries world wide have been encouraged to protect and conserve key areas. In November 2018 the Protected Planet® Report stated that by now 15% of terrestrial lands and 7% of the oceans worldwide are protected.

It is great to hear that we might make it and hit this target. By creating these protected spots, we can ensure that nature can thrive and re-establish healthy populations inside these often biodiverse hotspots. From there species can migrate outside or at least be contained safely within the protected zones.

Personally, I believe that in order to efficiently protect our species even more land should be protected and conserved, or at least better managed. There are still some relatively wild or highly productive places on this planet that remain unprotected or are inadequately protected. I also think that a better network that connects key habitats will make it easier for wildlife to migrate. And therefore should definietely be a future goal to enhance species populations and ensure genetic diversity.

Humans are dependent on biodiversity.

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