We need to rethink our entire relationship with nature

16Jan 2021
The Guardian
We need to rethink our entire relationship with nature

Biodiversity is the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level.  Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator,  which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity.  

Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richer in the tropics.  These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 per cent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 per cent of the world's species.

Marine biodiversity is usually higher along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans.  There are latitudinal gradients in species diversity.  Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots,  and has been increasing through time,  but will be likely to slow in the future.

French  President Emmanuel Macron has organised a One Planet Summit for Biodiversity which was held recently in Paris. The summit was decided by France in consultation with the United Nations and the World Bank.

It was originally scheduled for June 2020 as part of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, but was postponed due to the global health situation.

The One Planet Summit bought together heads of state and governments and leaders of international organisations, financial organisations, the economic sector and NGOs, all made commitments to take concrete action to preserve and restore biodiversity, to make new strong announcements and to launch transformational initiatives for the benefit of nature.

The summit was an opportunity to scale up the international community’s ambition when it comes to protecting nature and responding to the new questions posed by the crisis.

It also aimed to help build momentum for political mobilisation in the international events leading up to COP15 and raise the level of ambition in the fight against the erosion of biodiversity at the dawn of a year 2021 that will see many international events on nature.

During the conference, four key themes for the preservation of life were presented including the protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, promotion of agro-ecology, mobilisation of funding for biodiversity and the link between deforestation, species and human health.

Around one million animal and plant species are in danger of extinction and will be in the coming decades, revealing the most alarming rate of biodiversity destruction in the history of humankind.

More than 40 per cent of amphibian species and more than a third of all marine mammals are endangered.

Up to 70 per cent of coral reefs have already disappeared or have been greatly damaged.

This unprecedented destruction of ecosystems and natural habitat accelerates climate change and increases the risks of transmission of zoonoses, such as coronaviruses.

The current trend of disappearing biodiversity not only threatens progress in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also the well-being and dignity of millions of human beings.

Human rights cannot be preserved if the ecosystems in which we live cannot. Reversing this trend will be a major challenge in the decades ahead: we need to rethink our entire relationship with nature.

This is a major social and economic challenge that requires a huge transformation of value chains, our trade models and our consumption habits, to end our production models which destroy biodiversity.

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