Yesterday was the 49th Earth Day and its theme was “Protect our Species.”
We are all contributing to one of the biggest mass extinction events. Climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides are all contributing factors to a huge number of extinctions in recent years. Fortunately, it’s something we can all change!
For this Earth Day, there are a number of goals that the Earth Day Network is looking to achieve through their Protect our Species campaign – and you can still do your part to help! Their goals are:
- Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon
- Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats
- Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values
- Encourage individual actions such as adopting a plant-based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use
Man’s Effect on This Planet’s Species
The exponential population growth of humans and the expansion of urban areas for us to live has devastated animal habitats to the point where scientists can strongly argue that we are bringing about the sixth mass extinction event in the history of this planet. According to reports, 25% of all mammal species and 13% of birds are classed as endangered in the present day with many of the severely or critically endangered.
Extinction rates of mammals, birds and reptiles are similar to that of previous mass extinction events. However, they have been due to cataclysmic events like meteor strikes and supervolcano eruptions. Natural climate change has also played a huge part in the previous mass extinction events. This time, however, climate change is our own fault.
With the global population set to grow to almost 10 billion in the next 30 years, there is set to be even greater pressures put on the natural environment to house and feed everyone. Without action and greater environmental awareness, that will only increase the number of extinctions, the rate of extinctions and rate of declines of many animal and insect species all over the world.
There are a huge number of endangered animals due to human activity and many of them are intrinsically linked and contribute not only to the environment but to society and local, national and global economies too. However, there is one species that is seeing its numbers decline in such a way that could truly be devastating to all human life.
Saving the Bees
They may not be everyone’s favourite insect but bees are vital for sustaining humanity and a lot of other natural life on this planet. Without them, flowers would not be pollinated and we would not be able to produce the food we need to live on. If you want to put that into an economic figure, a UK Government report estimates that bees add approximately £600 million to the UK economy alone.
Unfortunately, like many insects and animal species, bee numbers have dropped significantly over the last 50 years due to a variety of causes. Climate change, habitat loss and the use of pesticides are all contributing factors to the decline of bees and further inaction in tackling any of these factors will put economies and global food security in jeopardy in the very near future!
There is some action being taken to attempt to reverse the decline of bee populations. Just last year the EU banned a type of pesticide that had been proven to be toxic to bees in an attempt to boost bee numbers. On the large farming scale, crops do need to be protected, but using pesticides that are toxic to bees and other insects will cause much more damage in the future in comparison.
There is also plenty you can do to help bee populations in your garden or your local area. In 2017, Friends of the Earth listed ten ways you can help bees in your back garden, with steps including:
- Choosing bee-friendly plants, including fruits and vegetables
- Plant through the seasons to ensure there is always a bee habitat
- Give bees shelter by allowing grass to grow
- Avoid using pesticides
- Use peat-free compost to help save wildlife habitat
Avoiding Further Extinctions
We know the impacts we’re having on the natural environment. We know that we’re contributing heavily to climate change. We also know that we need to act.
We, as humans, created the world we live in today with huge economies and technologically-advanced societies, but it has come at a considerable cost to the natural environment and it’s time that we take a stand against it.
The Extinction Rebellion protests that have brought London to a standstill were designed to wake people up to the environmental and ecological disasters we are still only slowly taking action on. Whether they have or will have the intended impact on those around the UK who are in a position to make or help push change we will soon see, but there’s plenty that can be done and it’s vital that we all play our part.
Bees are just one species group that are seeing their numbers decline and choosing to discuss them here was to raise the awareness of how important they are and how vital it is that they’re saved. There are so many species that have recently been announced as extinct or are on the verge of extinction, and it may be too late to save them. We still have time to save and protect those that are endangered, however, and it is immensely important that we do.