This week the UNO signalled International Day for Biological Diversity, proclaimed to raise awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. When we examine what is at stake, the results are as horrifying as they are shocking, and reveal the enormous mountain of work that Humankind has to begin...and fast.
It is estimated that between 150 and 200 species become extinct every 24 hours. The rate of extinction is the greatest ever since the mass extinction 65 million years ago Up to 20 per cent of all plant life could disappear by 2032. This, despite the fact that plants provide over sixty per cent of our medicines. 76% of cancer drugs are from natural or semi-natural sources. Only 1.7 million of the 100 million species on Earth have been classified, let alone studied.
Thinking in purely selfish terms (about the only thing that gets Humankind moving) jobs are being lost and poverty is being increased with every species that we lose. And by destroying the ecosystem we lose natural filters, we lose soil, we lose important fibers, we lose medicines.
Some ecosystems are incredibly rich, meaning that by destroying a tiny area, we may lose countless species. A good example of this is provided by an incident in Central America in 1980 when scientists discovered 1,200 species of beetles living in an area among nineteen trees, 80 per cent of these beetles unknown to science.
The balance is not easy, since more land will need to be freed for agriculture to feed a growing population. It is estimated that the food needed will increase by fifty per cent by 2050, and that irrigated crop production will have to increase by 80% over the next twenty years. 35% of the Earth surface is already used for agriculture, a further 26% for livestock grazing. 70% of forested land in the Amazon is now converted into pasture.
Yet the answer does not lie in genetically modified crops yielding super production rates in ever-decreasing spaces. It has been proven that such crops destroy the ecosystems even further, and it should not be forgotten that millions of people depend on biodiversity for their livelihoods. Over three billion people are dependent on marine biodiversity, for instance.
The 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity set out the guidelines for governments to follow. It is up to civil society and environmental groups to put pressure on governments to implement the measures of the documents they sign, rather than rubber stamping papers they have no intention of respecting.
How about starting to name and shame those who are destroying our environment and calling for a boycott of their products?