Friday 5th June 2020
World Environment Day was set up by the United Nations in 1972 after the first major international conference on environmental issues was held. Five decades on, we continue to celebrate this day, engaging governments, businesses, and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.
This year’s theme– biodiversity.
What is biodiversity?
All living things exist within their own communities, or ecosystems - oceans, forests, deserts, ice caps and even cities. All this put together is biodiversity: the volume of life on Earth as well as how different species interact with each other and with the physical world around them. - National History Museum
Why is biodiversity important?
Recent events demonstrate the interdependence between humans and nature. We have witnessed bushfires in Australia, US and Brazil, locust infestations in East Africa and right now, a global pandemic.
Researchers have long known that infectious diseases are linked to nature and human activity. For example, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The result of deforestation which led to a closer interaction between humans and wildlife.
It’s now estimated that 3/4 of new infectious diseases originate in animals – zoonotic diseases.
The current crisis
The emergence of COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that as humans destroy biodiversity, we also destroy the systems that support human life. COVID-19 is likely to have emerged from bats, thought to be caused by loss of bat habitat and agricultural expansion. We’ve upset the balance and created ideal conditions for the spread of viruses between animals and humans.
Our future relies on a diverse Earth, so this World Environment Day, it’s time #ForNature!
What can you do?
Biodiversity loss is a global issue, but the good news is there are lots of simple things you can do to help reduce it. As individuals we must rethink what we buy and use and become more conscious consumers.
1. Conserving resources
Reduce, reuse, recycle. By conserving resources, we can minimise what we take from our Earth.
Recycling in the correct way with minimal contamination means materials can be transformed into new products – this helps reduce the amount of resources needed from the Earth. Recycling helps to conserve natural resources such as wood, water and fossil fuels and reduces biodiversity destruction through mining and deforestation.
2. Buy organic and eat less meat
Organic farming prohibits the use of fertilisers or pesticides which can harm the environment. By choosing organic, you are helping to minimise the impacts these chemicals have on the soil and local diversity. Head to the Soil Association to see how you go buy organic on a budget.
The meat industry relies on huge amounts of land and resources to thrive. The destruction of vast environments such as the Amazon rainforest to grow feed for intensively farmed animals is destroying the world’s biodiversity. It’s now estimated that 60% of the world’s global biodiversity loss is due to meat consumption.
3. Sustainable seafood
Eat sustainably harvested seafood. 80% of the world’s biodiversity lives in our oceans. But several methods of fishing such as dredging and bottom trawling destroy seafloor habitats.
Our friends from the Marine Conservation Society have produced a really handy guide to sustainable seafood to help you make more environmentally responsible choices. Simply type in the seafood name and they will tell you how sustainable it is and why based on latest research.
4. Avoid household chemicals
Experiment with homemade soaps and detergents. Household chemicals can have toxic impacts on groundwater and soil if they enter the environment. Why not try using vinegar and lemon juice instead? Friends of the Earth have more ideas for homemade household cleaners.
5. Love your garden
Whilst we are all still stuck at home, create some wild green spaces in your garden where pollinators and insects can thrive. You could also set up your own home compost or grow your own fruit and veg.
6. Support organisations doing good
There are plenty of great organisations doing good #ForNature. So support them! Our partners at ZSL carry out pioneering research into wildlife health and their impact on the natural and human world. ZSL rely on donations to fund their essential research.