8 actions individuals can take to fight biodiversity loss
Extinction: The Facts aired on the BBC last week, and it was a heartbreaking, world-shifting watch.
The show followed a UN report on the state of our planet’s wildlife and painted a bleak picture. Of an estimated eight million plant and animal species, as many as one million may be at threat of extinction. Extinction is accelerating at unprecedented rates, about 100 times faster than normal. And it’s all because of us: poaching and animal trafficking, pollution, climate change and destruction of natural habitats.
Reversing this trend will be impossible if actions aren’t taken by governments and big businesses. However, that doesn’t mean that individuals can’t also do their bit. In fact, I’d say we’re obliged to. We can’t wait for others to act.
If you haven’t watched it yet, please please do. You may feel hopeless after watching it, but I urge you to not give up. Channel your anger into action, starting with…
1. Change your food
Think about where your food comes from, and what may have been taken to grow or produce it. Eat less meat, and know where it has come from. Buy food locally where possible, as you’re likely to have a better understanding of its impact on the local environment.
Think also about the hidden aspects of your food. Your chicken may be local, natural and organic, for instance, but has it been fed on soy that has destroyed a natural habitat in South America?
2. Consume less
Try to buy fewer things. Consuming less requires less to be shipped, which leads to less pollution and less disturbance of natural environments.
Where you must buy something, aim to live more locally. This is as much true for food as it is for everything else. Not only do you reduce the amount of shipping, but we support your local economy.
3. Less palm oil
Palm oil is everywhere. One study by the WWF estimates it’s in almost 50 % of all packaged products. I’ve driven past endless palm oil plantations in Malaysia, have seen the absence of natural habitat it creates, and it’s appalling.
It may seem impossible to avoid, but be aware of what is in the products you’re buying. Avoid palm oil where you can. Look for the Certified Sustainable Palm Oil mark (or other accreditation) on products you do buy.
I wrote about this last week: voting can be the most impactful “small action” you can undertake. As noted in the introduction, Extinction: The Facts placed the bulk of the actions at the feet of governments and the big businesses they promote and enable. But, we can only expect these governments to act if we elect governments focused on the environment.
If you’re not old enough to vote, don’t believe that we can’t make a difference. Greta Thunberg is not yet old enough to vote.
Between voting cycles, you can still take actions to support biodiversity, and in fact, this is where the bulk of your work will occur. You have the right and the responsibility to make your voice heard, not just for the threatened plant and animal life, but for those people around the world who can’t speak up themselves.
Sign petitions. A good one to start with is this one by the WWF, but there are many more, call for actions to protect individual species or for introductions of new legislation to protect habitats or communities.
Join local community action groups and attend protests.
Share the facts about biodiversity loss. Link to the Extinction: The Facts Support and encourage others’ efforts to address this problem.
6. Support charities
There are many charitable organisations fighting against biodiversity loss, from the local level up to international. Too many to list here, but all do good work. You can support these charities with either time, or money, or by promoting the work they do.
7. Get into nature
One of the best ways to strengthen our bond with nature is to get out into it. Spending time amongst the trees will not only help us to understand and appreciate the richness of the life that is under threat, but it’s also beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing.
Finally, allow part of your land to return to nature. Leave it to grow wild naturally or reintroduce native species. You can research which native species are most appropriate for our area. Recognise what is non-native and remove it if you can do so safely. (Some plants can be harmful to human or animal health when destroyed, or may require special measures to fully irradicate — always do the research and seek help if you’re not sure).
We tried this with the back corner of our garden this summer, and the wildlife has thrived. We’ve seen an increase in insect life, which has led to more birds, bats and hedgehogs.
And if you don’t have land? See what can be done in your local community; is there scope to rewild unused parts of your neighbourhood? Is there existing wild land that can be supported or protected? At home, you could buy window boxes or plant pots and plant them with wild-flower seeds.
All is not lost. You don’t have to do all of these actions, but you have to do something. Try one and see how you get on.