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 Jared Kaufman
This Friday, May 22, marks the International Day for Biological Diversity. Every year, the United Nations uses this day as an opportunity both to celebrate the Earth's stunning biodiversity and to recognize our task to protect it.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ajit Niranjan
Coronavirus lockdowns that keep farmers from fields and suppliers from markets are restricting another cornerstone of the agriculture industry: bees.
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By Jake Johnson
With hunger rising at an alarming rate across the U.S.—particularly among children—as the coronavirus crisis sends unemployment to levels not seen since the Great Depression, the Trump administration this week resumed its effort to strip nutrition benefits from more than a million people by appealing a court ruling that blocked the Agriculture Department from imposing more punitive work requirements.
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Not since 1974 have grocery store prices surged 2.6 percent in just one month. That just happened in April, according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday, as CNBC reported.
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By Jessica Corbett
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to expose and exacerbate enduring issues and inequities in the global food and health systems, a United Nations-backed report released Tuesday declares the double burden of malnutrition—undernourishment and obesity—the leading cause of death worldwide.
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By Paolo Mutia
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, it has exposed and exacerbated how the corporate, industrialized food system is harming people and our planet.
1. Sign Up For a CSA Membership.<p>Purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share is a great way to access fresh, healthy, often organic, foods while supporting local small farmers that the Trump administration is leaving behind. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/dining/csa-farm-food-delivery-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">Many farmers are adapting</a> to the current crisis with more direct distribution models, from classic CSAs to custom-built boxes, no-contact drive-thru pickups, deliveries, and more.</p><p>By signing up for a CSA you can <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/dining/csa-farm-food-delivery-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">avoid going to a busy supermarket</a>, and your share can be picked up or delivered. You can <a href="https://www.localharvest.org/csa/" target="_blank">find your local CSA here</a>.</p>
2. Shop at a Local Farmers' Market.<p>Farmers markets serve as a direct channel to sustainable, healthy, locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables and other food staples within your community. Many farmers markets remain open as <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/03/19/the-fight-to-keep-farmers-markets-open-during-coronavirus/" target="_blank">an essential service</a> during the crisis, <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/03/19/the-fight-to-keep-farmers-markets-open-during-coronavirus/" target="_blank">thanks to the efforts of local farmers and their allies.</a></p><p>Many farmers markets are instituting strict rules to keep customers safe. Coupled with a shorter supply chain than most supermarkets, farmers markets are a safe choice for meeting your family's food needs during this crisis. <a href="https://www.doubleupfoodbucks.org/national-network/" target="_blank">Double-Up Food Bucks</a> and other programs under GusNIP, which doubles the value of federal nutrition (SNAP) benefits, are also still being accepted for purchasing fresh produce at participating farmers markets, CSAs, and grocery stores. Here are some tips to help you <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/03/30/how-to-support-farmers-and-safely-shop-at-farmers-markets/?pico_action=checkout_f30ec05d-3c4e-4963-95bf-92288f13287e&pico_custom_price=1&pico_ui=login_link" target="_blank">plan your trip to any farmers' market</a> and safely shop!</p>
3. Tell Congress to Support Family Farmers, Food Workers and Healthy, Sustainable Food for All.<p>Amid the terrible impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, it's clearer than ever that we need to move towards a regenerative, resilient and just food system. Building strong and equitable local food economies make our food system more resilient to shocks and crises.</p><p>For those of us with the ability, we can make daily choices about where we shop. But what is truly needed is a shift in the public policies to make it easier to grow and access healthy, sustainable and local foods. For too long, our policies have led to increased corporate consolidation that has devastated farmer livelihoods and harmed food workers and rural communities. In the US, farm bankruptcies were up 12% last year, and farm debt is at an all-time high.</p><p>As farmers face the new crisis of the pandemic, we must come together to demand that <a href="https://foodtank.com/news/2020/04/covid-19-stimulus-bailout-for-corporate-agribusiness-or-a-lifeline-for-our-food-system/" target="_blank">federal stimulus funding</a> and future farm policies support small and mid-scale farmers across the country who are supporting resilient and regenerative local and regional food systems.</p>
By Aaron Mok
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants, and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly. Experts like Dana Gunders from ReFED are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years.
Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste. In honor of Stop Food Waste Day on the 29th of April, Food Tank is highlighting 23 organizations and companies trying to eliminate pandemic-fueled food waste.
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By Rina Chandran
This story was originally published on Reuters on April 7, 2020. Data and statistics reflect numbers at that time.
Coronavirus lockdowns are pushing more city dwellers to grow fruit and vegetables in their homes, providing a potentially lasting boost to urban farming, architects and food experts said on Tuesday.
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By Dongyu Qu
Even as it takes its distressing toll, the current pandemic has generated a flurry of less somber memes. Some of these involve people stuck at home, unable to tear themselves from the pantry, piling on the pounds. But for many in the developing world, the lockdowns mean the exact opposite: they cannot get anywhere near the pantry.
The United Nations released a sobering report Tuesday showing that the climate crisis is accelerating global hunger and wreaking havoc on land, sea and in the atmosphere, according to the UN's State of the Climate report.
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