Earth is the cradle of life. It’s the only known planet in the universe that can create and sustain life. In over 2 billion years the creatures that populate Earth have reached a staggering 1 trillion, according to the National Academy of Sciences.
Life on Earth is remarkably diverse. The Australian Museum defines biodiversity as the variety of all living things: plants, animals, microorganisms, the genetic information they contain, and the ecosystems formed around them.
But it’s not guaranteed this variety of species will endure. It’s exhaustible and succumbs to exploitation, abuse and tyranny. Humanity has changed the world so rapidly since the Industrial revolution and the world’s species are struggling to keep up with these environmental shifts.
According to the latest United Nations report, about 75% of land-based environment and 66% marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, resulting to irreversible species loss and putting at least a million species at the brink of extinction.
Unprecedented Decline in Biodiversity
In early May 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a 1,000-page report on the condition of life on Earth, based on extensive research by scientists across the world. Results of the IPBES Global Assessment Report shook the scientific community and left governments and environmental advocates deeply concerned.
Some highlights of the report:
Estimated 1 million animal and plant species will be extinctwithin decades, faster than ever in human history
Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled in the past 30 years, with temperatures breaching records at 0.7 degrees Celsius increase
Land degradation due to human activities and natural disasters have led to a reduction of global land surface productivity by 23%
Nearly 35% of the Earth’s land surface and 75% of freshwater resources are devoted to crop or livestock production at the expense of thousands of wildlife and marine species
300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes pollute the oceans and seas each year
One in four species are threatened with extinction across terrestrial, freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups
These land use change statistics demonstrate stress human activity puts on the
environment. But human well-being also heavily relies on the diversity of these ecosystems.
Changes in climate patterns and accelerated warming of the planet are a direct result of the continued increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. According to the IPBES report, the impact of climate change to nature has transcended from detrimental changes in ecosystems to unpredictable and most likely damaging changes in the genetics of species.
On our current route, the climate crisis will reach a tipping point when temperature hits 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in 2040. By then, it will be too late. Record wildfires happening now across America and Australia could quadruple, nearly all coral reefs will be dead and soaring temperatures will be felt everywhere. Temperatures this high will cause all icebergs and polar sheets to collapse, and sea- level rise will render seaside communities and whole cities uninhabitable.
Many countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have declared a climate emergency in the aftermath of the #FridaysforFuture and #ExtinctionRebellion campaigns. But that does not mean a suite of policies to decarbonize these nations have been set up as yet (besides Finland aiming to be CO2 neutral by 2035). Instead, governments are limited to carbon offsetting without digging into the real solution.
As the species atop the food chain, we need to change our behavior and mindset to be the stewards, not the scavengers, of the planet. We are not foragers and hunters but caretakers of the world’s resources and creatures. Instead of using our intelligence and capability to destroy Earth, we must use our capacities to nurture it.
There is one clear solution: live sustainably.
We can become stewards by thinking of the impact of our individual actions on the environment. We must learn to choose more sustainable habits over convenience and selfish wants. By supporting sustainable tourism and transportation, you ensure that as an individual, you have less of a carbon footprint. Plus you support local economies and have more of a grass-roots experience.
Jetting from one city to another impulsively and over short distances is certainly more convenient than sustainable because airplanes emit staggering amounts of CO2 even for short flights. Planning ahead and choosing carriers that are CO2 neutral can help you reduce your carbon footprint while travelling.
Some ideas to protect biodiversity and slow the climate crisis:
Support environmental policies and get involved in local sustainable movements to hold governments accountable
Try not to waste food, and if you do have something to throw away compost it!
Watch what you consume, don’t opt into single-use plastic
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