5 ways to protect biodiversity

Gavin Edwards, Global Coordinator, New Deal for Nature & People, WWF International

© Day’s Edge Productions

What is Biodiversity? Why does Biodiversity matter to us? What can you do for biodiversity, and what does it do for you?

You might find yourself asking similar questions, and you’d be right, it is a vast topic, but the one thing I would say is that we are indivisible from biodiversity and nature and it is time we renew that relationship. A New Deal for Nature and People is urgently needed.

Biodiversity — the abbreviated form of biological diversity, means the abundance and variety of life on the planet. A biologically diverse natural environment is essential to human health, well-being and prosperity. It provides us with everything from the air that we breathe, to the water that we drink and the food that we eat. More than 7 billion people inhabiting planet earth rely on nature and biodiversity for their livelihood and well-being, either through economic, cultural, or spiritual benefits. Nature also has intrinsic value — it has value in its own right too.

Unfortunately, we are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, according to the Living Planet Report of 2018 which shows us a 60% fall in just over 40 years — a grim reminder and perhaps the ultimate indicator of the pressure we exert on the planet and on species.

A once-in-a-decade opportunity exists early next year to review and fundamentally change humanity’s relationship with nature. With world leaders scheduled to take critical decisions on the environment, climate and development in 2021,we have a unique opportunity to course-correct for the sake of people and planet. It is essential we increase the resilience of our planet through a green and just economic recovery as we seek to rebuild and move past the current pandemic. More than ever we can clearly see that human activities are causing an unprecedented loss of nature.

To help curb future pandemics, we must greatly reduce the opportunities for viruses to jump from animals to people. The loss and degradation of natural habitats must be recognized as a key driver of emerging infectious diseases from wildlife. While this relationship is complex and context-dependent, the general trend is that habitat loss increases the likelihood that species carrying potential viruses are in close proximity to people.

Protecting and restoring nature is not just a moral issue. It is also vital for our health and well being. For example when an area of land is deforested and converted for agriculture use, or used for infrastructure development, it reduces the natural habitat available to species and can bring them into closer contact with each other as well as humans. This gives microbes a greater ability to move between species and to make the jump to people. Preventing unsustainable practices and safeguarding wildlife populations can in fact help avoid future pandemics.It is essential that nature is on the path to recovery for a nature positive and carbon-neutral world by 2030.

On 22nd May 2020, the world will be celebrating International Day for Biological Diversity to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, In these uncertain times, nature can help sustain us. We must also sustain nature. Here are 5 perspectives on addressing biodiversity loss, and food for thought on Biodiversity Day.

Biodiversity and Health- To prevent the next pandemic we must transform our relationship with nature

Health is considered as a basic human right and is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as not simply being free from illness but in a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Our fundamental reliance on biodiversity and the ecosystems and services it sustains offers significant opportunities to more consistently recognize and manage biodiversity’s services for human health and to contribute to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use at all scales. For instance, good quality of life- every one of us relies on a thriving natural world for our health, well-being, and economic development.

The long list of major benefits ranges from freshwater and air to raw materials and waste treatment, to medicinal resources and recreation. By maintaining and restoring nature, not only do we ensure our continued quality of life, but also that of our children. We can improve our understanding of the complex linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health and promote co-benefits through more integrated policies and implementation activities by transforming our relationship with nature.

© Morgan Heim/Day’s Edge Productions/WWF-US

Sustainable Use of Biodiversity- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Plastic pollution is choking every part of the world. Every year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans — that’s one dump truck every minute. Plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade, and it’s detrimental to wildlife in ways we are only just beginning to understand. We know that plastic pollution at the small and micro scales is accumulating in the food chain and eventually making its way onto our dinner plates. Plastic is everywhere in part because it has advantages for the individual user compared to more traditional materials, but collectively it is an increasing threat to nature and to human health.

Unless we repair our fundamentally broken global system of plastic production, consumption, and waste management, it’s projected that by 2050, the total amount of plastic waste in the oceans will weigh more than all fish, and 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastics.

In order to protect biodiversity, we need to avoid plastics whenever possible, and where we cannot avoid them then we must reduce, reuse and recycle. To reduce energy use you can switch off lights or any electronic appliances when not in use, avoid non-recyclables when ordering food from your favorite restaurant, opt for reusable bags when going shopping. We need to reduce the negative impacts of biodiversity and halve the footprint of production and consumption.

© Milos Bicanski / WWF-UK

People and Nature are inextricably linked- Culture and the relationship of humans and biodiversity

From the Amazon to the Arctic, people and nature have evolved together for thousands of years, creating unique and interdependent cultures and landscapes. And where we find natural diversity, we also encounter cultural diversity. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the primary custodians of much of the world’s most valuable remaining forests, grassland, savannah, wetlands, and oceans. In failing to recognize Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ land and water rights, we weaken our planet’s resilience and reduce our ability to deliver well-being and prosperity for all. This biodiversity day we must underline the importance of recognizing the relationship between nature and people under the post- 2020 global biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biodiversity.

Our Solutions are in Nature- Decent Work and Economic Growth

Biodiversity supports the provision of ecosystem services such as food, fresh water, fuelwood, fiber, biochemicals, ecotourism which are central to economic activities. The economics are clear, for governments and businesses alike: the costs of action are dwarfed by the costs of inaction. If managed well and sustainably, nature holds the key to our prosperity. Each year, around US$125 trillion worth of ecosystem services are provided to the global economy through drinkable water, water for industrial processes, food, fresh air, heat absorption, productive soil, and forests and oceans that soak up carbon.

This Biodiversity Day, as the world begins planning for a post-pandemic recovery, governments need to seize the opportunity to “build back better” by creating more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive societies.

Demand for Action and make a pledge

It’s time to raise your voice and tell the world that we need action now. World leaders plan to convene this September — the 75th anniversary of the UN. This provides an opportunity to raise your voice and accelerate action on protecting biodiversity for sustainable development.

We must now show the will to drive the change that is needed. Transformation of the world’s economic and financial systems is critical to reversing nature’s depletion and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is an immense challenge — but, together, we can do this. The solutions exist. Raise your voice for the planet!

Building a future in which people live in harmony with nature.

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