David Suzuki column: Reports emphasize urgent need to reverse biodiversity decline

Diversity makes the ecosystems on which human life depends resilient.

By David Suzuki

Our health, well-being, food security, energy and economic progress depend on healthy, diverse nature. Clean water and air are essential to human life and health. Nutrient-rich soils are necessary to grow food. Diversity makes the ecosystems on which human life depends resilient.

But, as more than 550 experts from over 100 countries recently warned, “Biodiversity — the essential variety of life forms on Earth — continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being.”

On March 22 in Medellín, Colombia, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ 129 member states approved the experts’ four extensively peer-reviewed regional reports. Researchers examined more than 10,000 studies over three years to assess the state of biodiversity and to determine the causes and solutions for declines in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia.

IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said, “The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature — or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”

The reports conclude that “biodiversity and nature’s capacity to contribute to people are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures — habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species and climate change, among others.”

According to the University College London’s Tim Newbold, lead researcher for a 2016 study the reports reference, “For 58.1 per cent of the world’s land surface, which is home to 71.4 per cent of the global population, the level of biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies.”

Biodiversity of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms is important. Each species plays a unique ecosystem role. Diverse nature offers numerous ecosystem services, including ensuring we have access to a variety of foods and medicines. It also creates resilience — a variety of species ensures that some will continue to function if others fail.

In the Americas, species populations are on average 31 per cent lower than when European settlement began. With increasing climate change impacts, that’s expected to rise to at least 40 per cent by 2050. The report notes that Indigenous Peoples and local communities have slowed or reversed declines in some areas through “a diversity of polyculture and agroforestry systems,” but warns that Indigenous local knowledge and languages, and the cultures associated them, are also threatened or dying.

The economic consequences alone are staggering. Researchers estimate that land-based natural systems contribute services worth about $24.3 trillion a year to people in the Americas — equivalent to the region’s gross domestic product — and about $3.6 trillion in Canada. As one example of the costs of addressing the problems, the report shows the “annual cost of managing the impacts of invasive alien zebra mussels on infrastructure for power, water supply and transportation in the Great Lakes” is more than $500 million.

Although many solutions lie in government policy, individuals can also help. Watson told National Geographic that eating less meat, wasting less food, using water more efficiently, reducing toxic chemical use and shifting from fossil fuels are all necessary. He also said Indigenous and local knowledge are invaluable to helping us learn how to live better with nature, and that cross-border collaboration is essential because nature doesn’t recognize human boundaries.

Emma Archer, co-chair of the African assessment, said citizen engagement is also needed: “As citizens, we need to vote and lobby for political leaders and policies that support these choices.”

As a Desmog Blog article points out, “Many of the solutions for stemming the loss of species would have simultaneous benefits for the climate, such as protecting and restoring ecosystems (which can store more carbon), cleaning up energy sources (fewer greenhouse gas emissions), and practicing more sustainable and diverse agriculture (lowering emissions, storing carbon).”

As with climate change, we have ample evidence that we’re facing a biodiversity crisis, we know what’s causing it and we have numerous solutions. It’s time to act.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Just Posted

Drivesmart column: Fear of police retaliation

While I won’t say that this is impossible, I would certainly like to think that it is highly unlikely

Former Cowichan Capital helping create BCHL Alumni Association

Shayne Taker a driving force behind new initiative

Cowichan Div. 2 women out-paced in last match of 2018

Soccer team has second game of the weekend postponed by weather

Robert Barron column: Universal child care good for families, and society

I’m pleased that the province is stepping in to start providing $10-per-day childcare spaces

Lynn’s hat trick gets Caps past Salmon Arm

Cowichan wins second game of Interior road trip

VIDEO: Cobble Hill welcomes Christmas with frolicsome show

From lovely carols to humorous skits: a big crowd enjoyed it all on Sunday, Dec. 9

Coming up in Cowichan: Celebrate the second floor with the HUB

Celebrate the second floor this weekend at HUB at Cowichan Station Dec.… Continue reading

Crossword puzzle clues Dec. 14

Oops. Attention all crossword puzzle fans: the clues in the Friday, Dec.… Continue reading

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

GoFundMe helps Vancouver Island teen battle a rare cancer

Nanaimo’s Michelle Reilly, 16, battling spinal cord cancer, seeking possible treatment in U.S.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

Most Read