First published October 2020
All around the world, trees are being cut down to feed beef cattle; climate change and pollution are making it harder for plants and animals to flourish; fisheries are emptying our oceans. Here in Bristol, we declared an ecological emergency in February 2020. The hope is that our city will come together to take positive action to combat the loss of wildlife in the area.
You will probably have heard that wildlife is in trouble - but you may not realise quite how bad things are, or what impact this loss has on our way of life.
Since 1970, there has been a 50% decline in marine populations, a 68% decline in wild vertebrates and an 83% decline in freshwater wildlife globally. Closer to home, in the Avon area, birds are on the decline. There are 80% fewer linnets in our skies than there were in 1994, and we’ve lost a horrific 96% of starlings and swifts. UK butterflies are also dying out.
If you have ever seen an XR rebellion, you might have seen banners stating that we are in the ’sixth mass extinction’. This isn’t alarmist rhetoric - unfortunately, it is reality. Species are going extinct 100 to 1,000 times faster than the background rate, meaning that 20-30% animals on earth are at the very real risk of extinction.
These numbers are horrifying for anyone who loves animals - but how will these losses impact our daily lives if they continue?
Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash
Approximately three-quarters of the crop types that we grow and consume need pollination to succeed, so without bees and insects, we are facing severe food shortages.
A loss of trees will impact on climate regulation, air quality and soil formation.
IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson says: “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash
It’s clear that if we want to keep breathing air, eating food and enjoying nature, we need to tackle the ecological emergency as well as fighting climate change.
The good news is that there are things we can all do to fight biodiversity loss.
Being a forward-thinking kinda city, Bristol has a plan for tackling the ecological emergency. The One City Environment Board has an implementation plan which includes developing more space for nature, reducing pesticide use, tackling pollution in Bristol’s waterways and addressing our global carbon footprint.
It’s great that these changes are happening at a systemic level - but what can you do to help?
If you have a garden, can you use it to create habitats for nature? You could pledge to go ‘no-mow’ - if you only mow your lawn once or twice a year, wildlife will flourish. Could you build a pond to encourage wildlife? If you don’t have a garden, you could write to the council and ask them to stop mowing the verges so often, or engage in some guerrilla gardening to get more wildflowers and plants growing in common areas.
Something we can all do to help combat biodiversity loss and climate change is to consume less and consume better. Cutting down your red meat consumption will mean fewer trees are cut down to feed cows. Buying plastic-free Christmas presents will mean less plastic ends up in the ocean. Buying local reduces pollution.
Finally, please tell your friends about the ecological emergency that we’re all facing. Share this blog. Share the Strategy. Watch the David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet documentary and shout about it. Issues like these can be hard to talk about as many people either don’t want to hear it or feel it’s too late - we’re all doomed and nothing can be done. This isn’t true, so do your bit to tell others that their actions really do make a difference.
Photo by Alexandra Mirgheș on Unsplash
Many thanks to Ian Barrett of Avon Wildlife Trust for his talk to BCR and CCA, which inspired this blog post.
On another note, readers of this blog might be interested to hear that we are starting a series of monthly eco-challenges - a new initiative to get us all making those changes to our daily lives that will really add up and help in the climate and ecological emergencies.
Each month, we'll provide you with a menu of challenges on a theme and you can pick one or more, or come up with one of your own, and we can all do them together. Our first theme is clothing and you can find the challenges here. Be sure to let us know on our social media how you get on!
Easier Than You Think will be blogging about these challenges, so watch this space for more updates.
Did you know: With over 500,000 different species of animals and plants, Costa Rica houses at least 5% of the world's biodiversity?