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Five Takeaways from the Latest UN Report on Biodiversity and Why It Matters to All of Us

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A UN report released earlier this week warned that we are headed for a catastrophic loss of biodiversity, with up to a million different species of plants and animals facing extinction. The authors of the report concluded that if we don’t do something now to avert this planetary crisis, the loss will have a drastic impact on life as humans know it.

These reports can be overwhelming in nature (no pun intended) and give us the sense that we’re all doomed, so we’ve honed in on five key takeaways from the report that you need to know:

5 Humans Need Biodiversity

Not only do we need to preserve the fauna and flora, oceans and creatures, we also need to preserve our people from extinction. Image credit IG @anna.przytomska

“The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” Josef Settele, a co-chair of the study, told Reuters. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.” 

“The most important thing isn’t necessarily that we’re losing . . . 1 million species — although that’s important, don’t misunderstand me,” said Robert Watson, another co-author, over the weekend. He stressed that the loss of biodiversity is going to be devastating for more than just the tree-huggers of the world; after all, flora and fauna aren’t here simply to keep Earth interesting for humans. “The bigger issue is the way it will affect human well-being, as we’ve said many times — food, water, energy, human health.”

4 We Rely on Pollinators for Food

Insects are easily overlooked in the grand scheme of biodiversity loss. While the images of whales washing up onto beaches pulls at our heartstrings, the loss of pollinators — notably, of honeybees — will have a direct impact on our everyday lives. Nearly a third of our domestic food production depends upon the robust presence of pollinators. Florida Today cited figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimating that pollinators contribute upwards of $24 billion to the economy each year.

3 Industrial Farming is a Major Culprit

Photo Credit IG @moderndaylorax

Speaking of food production, the authors of the report identified industrial food production as one of the main threats to biodiversity. Monoculture, the practice of cultivating a plot of land to produce just one crop, requires vast inputs of energy and pesticides to be a viable way of crop production; it’s inherently terrible for biodiversity. And then of course there are the large-scale livestock farms, which produce dangerous levels of methane and nitrous oxide, in addition to carbon dioxide. Furthermore, the expansion of industrial agriculture requires deforestation and large inputs of finite freshwater.

We’ll have to scale back our consumption of all animal products, and opt for truly sustainable products when we do purchase meat and dairy. Farmers will have the tall order of shifting to regenerative practices that can utilize the waste created along the way rather than discard them as toxic pollutants.

2 We Are Overfishing the Seas

Photo Credit IG @greenpeace

Overfishing is the other glaring threat to biodiversity, one that will severely limit the sources of protein for coastal populations that rely upon sea creatures for subsistence as well as for their wages. Countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and Spain heavily subsidize their fishing industries, which incentivizes deep-ocean fishing that would otherwise be unprofitable, according to data referenced by Bloomberg News; these subsidies end up encouraging unsustainable overfishing rather than allowing fishing industries to be built around maintaining abundant coast fish stocks.

By the way, the fishing industry is one of the biggest plastic polluters. Researchers have estimated that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up mostly of fishing gear rather than consumer plastics that we use and discard in our everyday lives.

1 It’s Late… But Not Too Late

Watson told the Post that we’ve wasted a quarter of a century in wishing away the serious challenges our economies have placed on the planet. “Since 1992, we’ve been telling the world we have a problem. Now what’s different? It’s much worse today than it was in 1992.” However, he said that if by some miracle the world mobilized and implemented the necessary, feasible changes needed to protect biodiversity, we absolutely can avert catastrophe. “[It’s] not too late to make a difference.”

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