SEATTLE — During such a technologically advanced era, people commonly feel independent from the activity of the natural world surrounding us. However, the reality is that the well-being of the human race is largely dependent on our environment and the interactions that occur among all ecosystems.
“We need to understand the loss of ecological biodiversity is a loss to ourselves,” says Dr. Aaron Berstein at Harvard University. “Our health is ultimately inseparable from the health of the natural world.”
The variety of species and the amount of genetic variation in an ecosystem greatly affect the functionality of the ecosystem. This is because it is the interactions among plant and animal species within ecosystems that provide their useful services and resources.
Humans all over the world then utilize these resources and services, such as water purification, disease control or nutrient availability. Thus, biodiversity’s importance is revealed in the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe.
But consider what happens if biodiversity continues to decrease at an incredibly rapid rate. Eliminate the predator of a disease-spreading organism, and the levels of infection will increase across entire groups of people. Erase a number of soil-enriching plant and bacteria species, and soil fertility will decrease in an area where people depend on farming for nourishment. The list goes on.
The Convention about Life on Earth states, “At least 40 percent of the world’s economy and 80 percent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources.” As impoverished regions of the world are considerably more reliable on the benefits of ecosystem services and natural resources, the issue of biodiversity translates into an issue on global poverty as well.
In recent years, a number of scientists collaborated in an effort to provide mathematical evidence to back the notion that biodiversity conservation does, in fact, contribute to the alleviation of poverty. The results were astonishing.
The study entitled “Global Biodiversity Conservation and the Alleviation of Poverty” found that ecosystem services such as pollination and water provide benefits worth about $1 trillion to poor communities each year. It also found that the world’s top conservation priority areas are worth more than triple the costs of protecting them.
Protecting the natural world serves as an agenda for the economic development of the world’s poor. With many poor communities dependent on the invaluable byproducts of biodiversity and conservation, preventative measures clearly serve as a path toward sustainable development.
So what does this mean for those of us who want to preserve the livelihood of future generations?
The following are some simple ways to help preserve biodiversity:
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Compost: Take those few extra seconds to reduce waste and to maximize the energy of natural waste products.
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products to reduce the contamination of lakes and streams, the home of many marine species.
- Get involved with ecological restoration projects in your area. There are many environmental conservation groups that can always benefit from the help of volunteers to restore local habitats for native species or to eliminate invasive species.
- Buy organic. By reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, you reduce the harm done to many beneficial insect species.
- Take the bus, walk & reduce your use of energy. Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide directly prevents the worsening of global warming.
Poverty and biodiversity loss are two immense problems our world currently faces. Fortunately, they can be tackled together. As thousands of global ecosystems are currently being compromised, the call for action is now.
Even if a small part of an ecosystem is threatened, the whole system’s web of interactions can be affected. In the same way, each precautionary/conservative measure a person takes is a cumulative step closer towards the endurance of natural services and the sustainability of developing communities globally.