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By Katie Lambert and Sarah Gleim
The United Nations suggests that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but we are also at a defining moment in history. Weather patterns are changing and will threaten food production, and sea levels are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe. Countries must make drastic actions to avoid a future with irreversible damage to major ecosystems and planetary climate.
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Tierra del Fuego is at the southernmost tip of South America and is sometimes known as the "end of the world." This windswept part of Argentina is home to seven penguin colonies which breed, nest and feed in the area.
A film by Aitor Saez<iframe scrolling="no" width="640" height="477" frameborder="0" align="middle" name="Penguin colonies suffer from plastic trash | DW.COM" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" src="https://www.dw.com/embed/640/av-53424380"></iframe>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Marie Quinney
Biodiversity is critically important – to your health, to your safety and, probably, to your business or livelihood.
1. Biodiversity Ensures Health and Food Security.<p>Biodiversity underpins global nutrition and food security. Millions of species work together to provide us with a <a href="https://www.cbd.int/health/doc/Summary-SOK-Final.pdf" target="_blank">large array of fruits, vegetables and animal products essential to a healthy, balanced diet</a> – but they are increasingly under threat.</p><p>Every country has indigenous produce – such as wild greens and grains – which have adapted to local conditions, making them more resilient to pests and extreme weather. In the past, this produce provided much-needed micronutrients for local populations. Unfortunately, however, the <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1620e.pdf" target="_blank">simplification of diets, processed foods and poor access to food have led to poor-quality diets</a>. As a result, <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/research-portfolio/diet-diversity/biodiversity-for-food-and-nutrition/" target="_blank">one-third of the world suffers from micronutrient deficiencies</a>.</p><p>Three crops – wheat, corn and rice – <a href="https://enviroliteracy.org/food/crops/" target="_blank">provide almost 60% of total plant-based calories consumed by humans</a>. This leads to reduced resiliency in our supply chains and on our plates. For example, <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1620e.pdf" target="_blank">the number of rice varieties cultivated in Asia has dropped from tens of thousands to just a few dozen; in Thailand, 50% of land used for growing rice only produces two varieties</a>.</p><p>People once understood that the conservation of species was crucial for healthy societies and ecosystems. We must ensure this knowledge remains part of our modern agricultural and food systems to prevent diet-related diseases and reduce the environmental impact of feeding ourselves.</p>
2. Biodiversity Helps Fight Disease.<p>Higher rates of biodiversity have been linked to an increase in human health.</p><p>First, plants are essential for medicines. For example, <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">25% of drugs used in modern medicine are derived from rainforest plants</a> while <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">70% of cancer drugs are natural or synthetic products inspired by nature</a>. This means that every time a species goes extinct, we miss out on a potential new medicine.</p><p>Second, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.644" target="_blank">biodiversity due to protected natural areas has been linked to lower instances of disease</a> such as Lyme disease and malaria. While the exact origin of the virus causing COVID-19 is still unknown, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5711306/" target="_blank">60% of infectious diseases originate from animals</a> and <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/631980-Machalaba-Anthropogenic%20Drivers%20of%20Emerging%20Infectious%20Diseases.pdf" target="_blank">70% of emerging infectious diseases originate from wildlife</a>. As human activities encroach upon the natural world, through deforestation and urbanization, we reduce the size and number of ecosystems. As a result, animals live in closer quarters with one another and with humans, creating ideal conditions for the spread of zoonotic diseases.</p><p>Simply put: <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2010.644" target="_blank">more species means less disease</a>.</p>
Human activity is eroding biodiversity. World Economic Forum Nature Risk Rising
3. Biodiversity Benefits Business.<p>According to the World Economic Forum's recent <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Nature Risk Rising Report</a>, more than half of the world's GDP ($44 trillion) is highly or moderately dependent on nature. Many businesses are, therefore, at risk due to increasing nature loss. <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/biodiversity/protected_areas/arguments_for_protection/goods_services/medicine/" target="_blank">Global sales of pharmaceuticals based on materials of natural origin are worth an estimated $75 billion a year</a>, while natural wonders such as <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/" target="_blank">coral reefs are essential to food and tourism.</a></p><p>There is great potential for the economy to grow and become more resilient by ensuring biodiversity. <a href="http://wedocs.unep.org/xmlui/handle/20.500.11822/31813" target="_blank">Every dollar spent on nature restoration leads to at least $9 of economic benefits.</a> In addition, <a href="https://www.foodandlandusecoalition.org/global-report/" target="_blank">changing agricultural and food production methods could unlock $4.5 trillion per year in new business opportunities by 2030</a>, while also preventing trillions of dollars' worth of social and environmental harms.</p>
4. Biodiversity Provides Livelihoods.<p>Humans derive approximately <a href="https://livingplanetindex.org/home/index" target="_blank">$125 trillion of value from natural ecosystems each year</a>. Globally, <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/wwdr/2016-water-and-jobs/" target="_blank">three out of four jobs</a> are dependent on water while the agricultural sector employs over <a href="https://www.conservation.org/priorities/livelihoods" target="_blank">60% of the world's working poor</a>. In the Global South, forests are the source of livelihoods for <a href="https://www.conservation.org/priorities/livelihoods" target="_blank">over 1.6 billion people</a>. In India, forest ecosystems contribute <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19915547" target="_blank">only 7% to India's GDP yet 57% of rural Indian communities' livelihoods</a>.</p><p><span></span>Ecosystems, therefore, must be protected and restored – not only for the good of nature but also for the communities that depend on them.</p><p>Although some fear environmental regulation and the safeguarding of nature could threaten businesses, the "restoration economy" – the restoration of natural landscapes – provides more jobs in the United States than most of the extractives sector, with the potential to create even more. According to some estimates, the restoration economy is worth <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128339" target="_blank">$25 billion per year and directly employs more than the coal, mining, logging and steel industries altogether</a>. Nature-positive businesses can provide <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/10-things-you-need-know-about-restoration-economy" target="_blank">cost-effective, robot-proof, business-friendly jobs</a> that stimulate the rural economy without harming the environment.</p>
5. Biodiversity Protects Us.<p>Biodiversity makes the earth habitable. Biodiverse ecosystems provide <a href="https://www.nature-basedsolutions.com/" target="_blank">nature-based solutions</a> that buffer us from <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_protect.html" target="_blank">natural disasters such as floods and storms</a>, <a href="https://digital.iucn.org/water/nature-based-solutions-for-water/" target="_blank">filter our water</a> and <a href="https://www.naturebasedsolutionsinitiative.org/publications/the-superior-effect-of-nature-based-solutions-in-land-management-for-enhancing-ecosystem-services/" target="_blank">regenerate our soils</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/miracle-mangroves-coastal-protection-numbers" target="_blank">clearance of over 35% of the world's mangroves for human activities</a> has increasingly put people and their homes at risk from floods and sea-level rise. If today's mangroves were lost, 18 million more people would be flooded every year (an increase of 39%) and annual damages to property would increase by 16% ($82 billion).</p><p>Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is vital to fighting climate change. Nature-based solutions could provide <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/114/44/11645" target="_blank">37% of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed by 2030</a> to maintain global warming within 2°C (35.6 F).</p><p>Natural ecosystems provide the foundations for economic growth, human health and prosperity. Our fate as a species is deeply connected to the fate of our natural environment.</p><p>As ecosystems are increasingly threatened by human activity, acknowledging the benefits of biodiversity is the first step in ensuring that we look after it. We know biodiversity matters. Now, as a society, we should protect it – and in doing so, protect our own long-term interests.</p>
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By Lamfu Fabrice Yengong and Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue
Biodiversity loss is a global crisis. In May last year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned that over 1,000,000 species are threatened with extinction worldwide. On May 22, the International Day of Biodiversity, it is important to recall the silent victims of our country's obsession for industrial growth at the expense of our forests.
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By Liz Kimbrough
The side of the road isn't usually thought of as ideal habitat. But for insects, such as butterflies and their caterpillars, the long expanses of land along roads and utility corridors add up to a considerable amount of home turf.
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By John C. Cannon
Change. That's what Monica Yongol has seen in her 54 years. In that time, the loggers and then the oil palm companies have moved into the remote corner of Papua New Guinea where she raised her family, altering the contours of the society she knew.
Fresh produce at the Kokopo market. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
East New Britain province has lost nearly 9% of its tree cover since 2001, and deforestation has accelerated since then, according to satellite data from the University of Maryland. The inset shows logging roads proliferating around the town of Pomio on Jacquinot Bay. To the northeast, in East Pomio rural local-level government on Wide Bay, deforestation for timber and oil palm has seeped inland. Source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA/Planet Labs, accessed through Global Forest Watch on May 13, 2020.
The Connection Between Violence and Deforestation<p>Around the world, the "colonial" approach aimed at extracting valuable resources has destroyed "traditional and customary social relations" in local communities, Jeanette Sequeira, vice director and gender program coordinator at the Global Forest Coalition, said in a telephone interview.</p><p>"Often, this is in the land of indigenous peoples and local communities where there's already insecure land tenure," she said. "When you have corporations coming in and occupying these lands, there's just total loss of governance."</p><p>Global Forest Coalition and its more than 100 member organizations around the world have studied the interplay between gender and forest loss around the world. While the context of each local situation is unique, Sequeira said that the coalition's partners have seen the impact that forest loss can have on the most vulnerable members of society. In many cases, that means women.</p><p>"Deforestation and climate change and environmental degradation do lead to an increase in violence against women," Sequeira said. "I think that's a claim we can make more and more."</p><p>Along with the evaporation of the trees, the rights of women to determine what happens to the land they depend on have likewise vanished, Monica Yongol said, as the other women in the room nodded in agreement. The changes have jolted their communities. They've made it harder to provide for their families. And problems like teenage pregnancy, drug use and domestic violence in their communities have cropped up that the women say didn't exist before.</p><p>Several argue that the problem is rooted in the silencing of women's voices that's become more common. Yongol recounted a meeting held by a landowner company, a common organizational structure in Papua New Guinea formed by landholders to negotiate with developers, such as logging companies, on behalf of communities.</p><p>A woman at the meeting stood up and asked why the group hadn't informed all of the landowners about what would happen if the outside company interested in their land secured development rights, Yongol said. The tenets of free, prior and informed consent, <a href="http://www.fao.org/indigenous-peoples/our-pillars/fpic/en/" target="_blank">accepted global standards</a> set forth by the United Nations, hold that all community members should be aware of the plans for the land they depend on. In this case, however, the chairman dismissed her comment, telling her that she shouldn't have a say — because she was a woman.</p>
Forest clearance and plantations have crept inland from Wide Bay, an arcing inlet in Pomio District. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
The airstrip at Tokua, south of Kokopo, with still-active volcanoes in the background. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
Cascading Effects<p>Tongne said that these developments often touch off a chain of consequences for women.</p><p>"Once land is sold and taken away from them, there is a greater violence against women," she said, for several reasons. The forests in East New Britain, and indeed many parts of the country, have long served as a storehouse of ready food and supplies. They're essential in times of plenty, and they serve as vital emergency caches when times are tough.</p><p>"If there's a drought, the women know where to find food in the forest," Tongne told me.</p><p>But as logging and industrial agriculture replace forests close to home, women are forced to travel farther to gather food and other resources or to tend their gardens. That time spent on the road is time they're not looking after their homes or raising their children, Tongne said.</p><p>"The men begin to beat them up," she added. "Violence comes about because there is no food on the table."</p><p>On these extended journeys to the forest, women might face the threat of attack from people from other villages or clans, or from the workers brought in from outside communities by the companies.</p><p>Before, "We had a lot of safety and security. We can walk, visit friends, long distances to other villages," said Lucy Teine, a 50-year-old woman from the East Pomio village of Iwai. "But now, with the population that's coming in to work in those developments, that's now a threat for us."</p><p>The fraying of the social fabric exacerbated by outsiders who might harbor different values is a symptom of a larger issue. Foundational blame for these changes lies with the mentalities that colonialism introduced, according to Sequeira.</p><p>While sexism has persisted in many societies around the world, "Indigenous communities had, in many cases, more equitable gender relations before the advent of colonialism," she said. "Women and men had different, respected roles and status in communities."</p>
John Suka, an elected councilor in the East Pomio local-level government, at the Vunapope Catholic Mission. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
A Global Issue<p>The Global Forest Coalition and its partners have been investigating issues like these around the world. They've found that, while the details may change from place to place, there are broad commonalities among the communities affected by land development and extractivism, Sequeira said.</p><p>"We know that these [roles] became eroded as we had colonial administrations and just the complete dispossession and destruction of indigenous identity," she said.</p><p>In Colombia, she said, women and men are supposed to have equal rights to the land. But, "That's not really how it plays out."</p><p>"You still have women who have to ask permission [from] their husbands or partners for being able to use a bit of land to cultivate medicinal herbs and other food for household consumption," Sequeira said.</p><p>In many places — though not everywhere —laws are in place that should protect land rights, including those of women, she added. Where the system falls short is in implementing these statutes. What that means, broadly, is that forests suffer when women don't have a say in land rights.</p><p>"[W]omen play a vital role in forest conservation," Sequeira and her colleagues wrote in a November 2019 blog <a href="https://globalforestcoalition.org/forest-conservation-must-address-violence-against-women/" target="_blank">post</a>. "Women interact daily with forests and other ecosystems, relying on them for household needs and their livelihoods, but also for conservation and restoration."</p>
Several active volcanoes sit just northwest of the town of Kokopo. Tavurvur last erupted in 2014. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
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