BY MIMI REFOJO
Biodiversity refers to the variety and uniqueness of our earth and all living things, and more specifically, the species, their characteristics, and habitats that make up and maintain the security and foundation of our earth and ecosystem. All the species on our earth, from animals to microorganisms, work together to support life and all that we need to survive, including “food, clean water, medicine, and shelter” (World Wildlife Foundation). As ecosystems become weakened due to the loss of biodiversity, we weaken the resilience of the foods that we eat, the water that we drink, and our ability to respond to natural disasters.
In the last fifty years, humans have caused the loss of 68% of animal populations, and due to this, we are currently undergoing our sixth mass extinction (Julie Shaw, 2018) We have negatively changed three-quarters of our land, and “more than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production (World Wildlife Foundation). As we continue to takeover and change the land of animal populations, our biodiversity begins to disappear faster and faster. Currently, “biodiversity is disappearing at 1,000 times the normal rate due to civilization” which will continue to rise as population grows should we not make large changes quickly (Cho, 2011).
It is important that we do not underestimate all that ecosystems provide us with. No matter where on our earth, our ecosystems provide us with a plethora of irreplaceable products including “fresh water, pollination, soil fertility and stability, food and medicine” and are integral to our health (Julie Shaw, 2018). A small change in our biodiversity can result in a domino affect in many different parts of our lives, as seen in Lake Turkana in Kenya which has been affected by overfishing and drought. As a result of the changing and declining biodiversity, Lake Turkana is unable to provide for the 300,000 people that once relied on the wildlife and income that Lake Turkana was able to provide in the past. Lake Turkana is only one of many instances that is occurring around the world, and that affects not only the animals that live in these habitats, but the people who are in proximity as well (Julie Shaw, 2018).
Not only does biodiversity correlate to our health in terms of the quality of food and water available, it also has been shown to correlate to the level of disease outbreaks that we see. As humans continue to overtake natural habitats for expansion purposes, we become more exposed to the diseases that animals may cary, and it has been shown that “seventy percent of emerging viral diseases have spread from animals to humans,” a staggering statistic (Julie Shaw, 2018). As we continue to take habitats away and disrupt our biodiversity, diseases will continue to spread as humans and animals come in closer contact by force.
Maintaining our biodiversity is important for our health and the health of our planet, and is equally important for our economy. As our biological resources make up “at least 40 percent of the world’s economy and 80 percent of the needs of the poor” saving our biodiversity becomes even more important. Crops themselves rely on the biodiversity of animals and insects—75% of global food crops to be exact—to help them grow and as we continue to lose pollinating population, we may “put more than US $235 billion of agricultural products at risk” if we do not address this problem (Julie Shaw, 2018). Although we may not notice the reduction of crops in our daily lives in the United States, those who are in developing countries “who often turn to high-biodiversity ecosystems as their source of food, fuel, medicines, and other products made from natural materials for their own use and as sources of income” are currently experiencing the effects of a loss of biodiversity (Julie Shaw, 2018).
Although the rates at which our biodiversity is changing is staggering, there are changes that we can make to stop the loss of species. By 2030, we must protect 30% of land and sea on earth if we wish to stop and reverse the loss of species. One simple change that individuals can make is being mindful in regards to their consumption of goods and purchases by ensuring the goods are sustainable (Cho, 2011). Although many products may claim to be “green,” looking for products stamped with USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council, Green Seal, Energy Star, or Certified Wildlife Friendly may have a more sustainable impact than other products (Cho, 2011). The Marine Stewardship Council is especially important for those ordering fish, as it ensures that the product has been sustainably caught to avoid overfishing (Be Good To Our Climate). By making simple changes and being more mindful about the products that we choose to buy and consume, we may make a large change in the biodiversity of our earth.
Shaw, Julie. "Why Is Biodiversity Important?" Conservation International. November 15, 2018. Accessed February 11, 2021. https://www.conservation.org/blog/why-is-biodiversity-important/.
"What Is Biodiversity?" WWF. Accessed February 11, 2021. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/what-is-biodiversity.
Renee Cho |April. "What You Can Do to Protect Biodiversity." State of the Planet. February 20, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2021. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/04/30/what-you-can-do-to-protect-biodiversity/.
"You Can Help save Biodiversity." WWF. Accessed February 11, 2021. https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/biodiversity/what_you_can_do/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR MIMI REFOJO