Last week we talked about biodiversity largely as a topic so if you’re interested in more textbook terms as to what biodiversity is, what is biodiversity loss, and that sort of stuff, be sure to check out the first post in this series before we continue today. But, today, we are covering how we as humans are killing biodiversity by over-fishing, over-farming, and also tips on saving biodiversity by changing these harmful habits.
I mentioned this in the last video, but it is worth mentioning again: if we were to all live like Americans, we would need the resources of 5 earths...and, of course, we only have 1. That means we are living WAY above our means and over-exploiting the earth for her resources like wood, coal, oil, water, just to name a few. If no changes were to be made in the way that we consume resources, biodiversity degradation would continue until human life could no longer be sustained. I don’t mean to sound so bleak, this is just the truth. As our consumption and land use and damage to wildlife continues, biodiversity will continue to go down.
How are humans affecting biodiversity
Our direct and indirect actions can affect biodiversity. Let me give you an example. If I were to first hand walk out into a forest and dump my garbage and also chop down a bunch of trees without replanting them, that is a direct action. But, if I were to eat a steak every meal every day of the year and also eat a bunch of nutella (which contains palm oil), these would both be indirect actions that have negative effects on biodiversity as they are both causes of deforestation. Other indirect human drivers are demographic, economic, socioplotical, scientific, technological, cultural, and religious factors while direct human drivers are changes in land use, species introduction, external inputs, harvesting, air and water pollutants, and climate change.
Because of human changes to the earth like industrialization, human activity has changed 1/3 to 1/2 of the globe’s face and in the next 50 years, it is expected that humans will have a serious impact on 50-90% of the land in “developing countries.” Many believe the human population to be the root of the biodiversity problem, but I’d have to disagree. India is one of the most populated countries in the world, if not the most populated, yet they use less resources than the Earth provides (only 3/4 of an Earth!) while US citizens are using resources equivalent to 5 earths and we don’t have nearly as many people and are having less babies than ever before. I think the human population thing is a sad attempt to control people into having less kids and continue to make companies money when in reality we are consuming too many resources for the earth to handle. The earth can still support this many people, but we are consuming too much. I highly recommend reading the Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard or watching the short film here. She really breaks down our issue with overconsumption and how we can break that bad habit.
Farming is a big factor when it comes to biodiversity loss because of deforestation. 23% of the earth’s land (nearly a quarter!!) is used for agriculture (nope, not just for the food we directly eat, most of this is animal feed) and internationally, there is half a hectare of tropical forest being cut down to become farmland every single second. By cutting down these precious forests, we remove habitats and increase the risk for species extinction. A lot of these forests are cut down for soy production but also for cattle because most of the beef you eat in the US probably doesn’t come from the US.
Of course, we have to talk about the heating of the climate, can’t leave that out. If you want a full video deep-dive about climate vs weather including a full explanation of climate change and global warming, be sure to check that out here. In short, the rise in climate is due to the increased amount of carbon dioxide (among other gases) in the atmosphere from increased human actions like flying, driving cars, burning fossil fuels in factories, and cutting down forests, among many other things. Climate change affects biodiversity in a number of ways by changing the timing of species reproduction and migration, farming growing season, the frequency of pest and disease outbreaks (*cough covid *cough), and more. It is expected that 80% of biologically rich regions will end up suffering losses of plant and animal life because of climate change and the rate of habitat loss will go up 10x.
Because of the warming climate, we are seeing warming ocean levels which in turn is causing coral bleaching. The loss of algae on the coral call affects coral growth and makes them vulnerable to disease and die leading to ocean acidification and makes the entire ocean ecosystem out of whack. The warming climate also leads to more extreme events like I talked about in this video. Things like more fires and stronger fires, more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes and so forth. It can also cause droughts or floods or both or sea level rise.
Biodiversity loss and environmental racism/poverty
I touched on environmental racism in depth in this video/post here, but I want to touch on it more in this video. Logging has become quite the activity in “third world” countries as a common job for the poor. Logging destroys natural habitats, aka, the habitats and the lands of these people. And for what? For us in wealthier nations to pay them less-than-minimum wage and for us to waste probably at least half of what those trees create. The current rate of deforestation in Malawi is 2.8% and roughly 23 species in their forests are endangered.
Yes, we will all certainly feel the effects of biodiversity loss across the entire globe, but people in impoverished nations will feel the effects first and are feeling it now. They are experiencing the floods now and are getting no help. They are experiencing the fires now and are getting no help. They themselves are being exploited for their labor in order for us to exploit the earth.
Overall, education is so important. It is important for us in wealthier nations to be educated on these topics. I was unaware of these issues and this might be the first time some of you have heard of this. But, it is also important for the people of Malawi to be aware of different means of income that are more sustainable for them and their families as well as more sustainable for the earth.
What can we do to stop biodiversity loss
One way that we can stop biodiversity loss is to create more diversity. For example, start with your very own lawn. It’s probably just regular grass. Quit cutting it and let the native species return. Better yet, do that, AND start growing your own food. This was an interesting concept I had heard of in an episode of the Green Dreamer podcast by Kamea Chayne with Acadia Tucker about World War II victory gardens but now instead we grow them for climate victory. In this same episode, the ladies discussed how golf courses take up more space in the US than field corn and are technically the #1 monoculture in the US. So, quit supporting golf courses and start utilizing the land for better things.
Something else you can do if you are a farmer is practice no-till farming, a practice I heard about in Kiss the Ground. Not only this, but quit producing monocultures. Believe me, if you’re a farmer, I know this sounds outrageous. I came from a farming community, and this sounded wacky to me, too, but the more I started learning about this and not only how great it is for the planet but for your own yield, the more it makes sense!
Continued education, like I mentioned above, is huge. Watch documentaries, read books (check out this brand new source I have on my website now complete with books, docs, website, YouTubers, and more), and study up on this material for yourself. But don’t let it stop with you. In my get to know me video, I talked about that is why I started this channel. Now, you don’t have to go and start a YouTube channel or a website, but talk to your friends, neighbors, family members, and other people about this. Spread the word about important issues like this. Our small changes have a big impact, YES, but they have an even bigger impact when multiplied!
I strongly believe in individual change, I really do, but we can’t stop there. We need to vote (yes, I know that is an individual action) in elections, with our dollars, and we need to write to companies and to our lawmakers to demand change. We have one earth and we are using her resources faster than she can create them and one day she will use them all. I really like the metaphor I have seen before for a savings account. Think about the earth as having $365 and we need that to last until the end of the year. Every January 1st we get a new $365. But...we decided to spend all our money by August 22, on day 234 instead of day 365 meaning we have to go 131 days without money. What if we had to go 131 days without resources? Clearly we can’t and one day we won’t have the choice but to...you know...
I didn’t mean to end that way, but I really just wanted to put it into perspective the importance of biodiversity loss and saving biodiversity and I hope that cleared things up. Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week's continuation of this series where we will talk about how saving biodiversity really is one of the keys to solving climate change (among a few other major key factors, also I am not a climate scientist).
Thank you so much for reading along, I appreciate you coming along with me to learn more about biodiversity loss but also easy things we can do to save it. Please continue to educate yourselves and others on this topic and others. As always, remember that the small changes you make have a big impact in the long run :)