Valuing Our Interconnectedness

B

iodiversity is the variety of life within an area. Ecosystems are a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. A complex network of interconnected systems that are necessary for existence and survival. Biodiversity includes all living things from microbes and fungi all the way to rare or endangered species. It is relational and we need all of it not just what we can see.

Around one million animal and plant species are currently threatened with extinction, many within decades and more than ever before in human history. We have a total of 8.7 million plant and animal species on earth presently.

Biodiversity can be viewed through a lens of human health. Food and hunger are worsened by lack of biodiversity, when parts of ecosystems vanish the delicate balance we all depend on can be upset. A lot is yet undiscovered about biodiversity that could lead to breakthroughs in medicine and health.  

When we think about food, fuel, and shelter, however, if components of an ecosystem disappear, we will be even more challenged to sustain it.  

As a scuba diver, I have seen up close and personally the importance of the existence of a healthy ocean ecosystem. Without plankton there would be no food for many of the fish we see under the surface. Given the rising ocean temperatures, acidification of the oceans and over-fishing we are losing species at a rate we have never seen before.  

The same dynamic can be seen on land. If we continue to destroy natural habitats and prioritizing the growth and dominance of human populations, the earth will continue to change at rates we will not be able to recover from.

Did you know that 75% of land based environment and 66% of marine environment have been significantly altered by human activity? On top of that, the most vulnerable populations are most likely to suffer as a result of a lack of biodiversity.

The five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts are: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

Biodiversity is an essential tool in fighting climate change. Land and ocean ecosystems are currently the only way we have of trapping large amounts of carbon dioxide and together absorbs 60% of human-caused emissions.

It is important that we support current efforts at conservation and continue the proliferation of protected areas because of their strategic value. Over 238,000 protected areas (such as national parks and reserves) have been established, covering nearly 15% of the land and 7.3% of the sea.

Restoration of habitats and policies that protect the environment are good. So are changes in human behavior. Together these efforts can change the trajectory that we are on for the better. This makes me both hopeful and even more dogged to ensure that we halt the destruction of the natural balance we all need for survival.

We are interconnected with our ecosystems. Any damage to them is damage to ourselves. Future generations are looking to us and I for one do not want to be the reason that a cure for cancer or a sustainable fuel source can’t be found.

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