It is almost impossible not to be aware of the alarming rate at which some of our most precious plant and wildlife populations are declining – or, worse yet, completely disappearing. It is also no secret that it is human activity that has been repeatedly identified as the root cause of these challenges. Ultimately, we are responsible for the clear cutting of vital forests and jungle lands, the loss of wildlife habitats, the invention and use of pesticides, abuse of our oceans and fresh waterways, poaching and pollution. Simply put, we are the culprits.
According to this Fact Sheet on Global Species Decline from our friends at the Earth Day Network, which grew out of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, we are currently seeing an unprecedented rate of extinction across a plethora of species. In fact, according to scientists, we are currently driving some species extinct at 100 to 1,000 times the natural rate. Included in this decline are birds, mammals, coral reefs, plants, insects, fish, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, and more. As our human population continues to grow, so too does extinction.
Why does this matter? Simple. The fact is that human life also depends on biodiversity to support vibrant, healthy ecosystems. In other words, all living things are intrinsically connected and each plays a part in sustaining life on our planet – including our own. The good news is that it is not too late to help slow and possibly even reverse the declines we are seeing. Unfortunately, once a species is extinct, it is lost forever. However, it is possible to save many of our threatened species – provided we are willing to work together to turn awareness into action.
Let’s take a quick look at fish, as an example. According to the Census of Marine Life (2010) it is estimated there are more than 32,000 different species of fish worldwide. They are a vital food source that support millions of people around the world. However due to human consumption, over 30% of our fish species are being fished at biologically unsustainable levels. We need to understand limits and protect fish because they play an integral role in the nutrient cycle of our ecosystem. Fish recycle nutrients that are vital to the productivity and survival of base-level organisms in the aquatic food web. Therefore, overfishing can be extremely harmful to these ecosystems.
There are other threats to fish as well, such as habitat loss and climate change. Temperatures are rising in our oceans and lakes, which threatens to disrupt the migration and distribution of many fish species. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels are also a problem for marine life because these emissions are absorbed into water, making them more acidic. This results in species like coral and oysters having difficulty with proper shell formation, and, in some cases, they simply die off, which in turn causes problems up the food chain. Another, perhaps more well-known challenge is pollution, which comes in many forms, from many sources, such as chemicals from industry, oil spills and plastic waste. All of these can be devastating to fish and their ecosystems, and they can also contaminate the aquatic species that we take from our bodies of water to consume.
What can we do about all of this? A great way to start is by educating yourself about these threats. Having a better understanding of the root causes helps us to all be more aware of actions we can take such as making sure we reduce and properly dispose of our waste items and by recycling. We can also strive to eliminate the use of plastics and we can walk, cycle and make use of other modes of transportation with lower emissions. We can also take action by switching to reusable bags, organizing community clean-up efforts and by pushing our government leaders to regulate change.
Around the globe, people and organizations in cities and communities of all sizes have awakened to the need to mobilize and act. Thankfully, this is becoming a year-round effort with Earth Day continuing to provide an annual reminder and catalyst for change.
At Lystek we are playing our part in this movement through the development and provision of responsible, proven solutions that recover and maximize the value of nutrients, carbon and energy in biosolids and similar organic resources as part of the shift toward a more circular economy – and a cleaner, greener, healthier world.
Join us and take action to help Protect Our Species on Earth Day – and every day.