Biodiversity: Key to Human & Planetary Health

“Biodiversity starts in the distant past and it points toward the future.” — Frans Lanting

Image Courtesy: jplenio, Pixabay

Humanity stands at a crossroad with regards to the legacy it leaves to our future generations. Our relationship with nature is shaken or I should say, it is almost broken, biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intense. The pandemic has also highlighted the profound consequences of continued biodiversity loss and degraded ecosystems.

In September 2020, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) called for urgent actions to address the accelerating decline of nature, outlining eight transformative changes in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5), the final report card on progress of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to ensure human wellbeing and planetary health.

The GBO-5 has revealed that none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, under the decade-long Strategic Plan for Biodiversity started in 2010 to halt biodiversity loss and conserve ecosystems will be fully met, thereby threatening the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals and undermining efforts to address climate change.

The “Living Planet Report 2020” states that there has been two-thirds decline in the population of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish in less than half a century, and the Living Planet Index (LPI) shows an average 68% fall in monitored populations of these species between 1970 and 2016.

The loss of biodiversity is related to the same environmental destruction, which is contributing to the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19. The LPI shows that the factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics, including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife, were also among the drivers for decline in vertebrate populations. The main cause for decline in terrestrial populations is habitat loss and degradation, including deforestation driven by unsustainable farming practices.

The “Dasgupta Review” earlier this year, has pointed out humanity’s collective mismanagement of natural resources. The review called for systemic transformations to account for natural costs, and the restoration and enhancement of ecosystems.

The observance of the first ‘Rewilding Day’ this year is a step towards helping nature heal itself and conserving the remaining intact natural places. Rewilding is also about learning from the ecological and human history to shape the future, where nature again is allowed to form our ecological foundation. It is the recognition that human health is inextricably linked to ecological health.

The slogan for Biodiversity Day 2021 is “We’re part of the solution,” chosen to continue the momentum generated last year under the over-arching theme “Our solutions are in nature.” It serves as a reminder that biodiversity is the foundation upon which we can build back better with nature-based solutions to climate and health issues, food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods.

Rituraj Phukan, National Coordinator for Biodiversity, The Climate Reality Project India; COO, Walk For Water; Secretary General, Green Guard Nature Organization

About the Author

Rituraj Phukan is an environmental writer, adventurer and naturalist with personal experience of climate change impacts in the polar regions. He is also the National Coordinator for Biodiversity with The Climate Reality Project Foundation (India branch); COO of Walk For Water; Secretary General of Green Guard Nature Organization; and member, IUCN. He has worked extensively on the interconnected issues of warming, water, and wildlife, and has been sharing his learnings with audiences around the world as a guest speaker and mentor.

The Climate Reality Project India, actively engages igniting the spark and spreading the message of #climatechange amongst educators and civil society.