The Naked Truth: Why killing nature will kill us
Humankind is under threat due to our eradication of countless animal and plant species. But what does this imbalance mean, and what can we do about it?
Earlier this year, UN experts warned that the loss of biodiversity threatens the human race just as much as climate change. With up to a million species currently facing extinction, we are on the brink of the earth’s sixth mass die-off. The UN says that unless we act urgently, current and future generations will suffer a collapse of our natural life support network.
A careful balance
The fact is, nature is perfectly balanced. From something as simple as the food chain, to the complex relationships certain species have with flora and fauna for shelter, protection and nourishment. If we lose too many cards from the tower, the whole lot could come crashing down.
As we overfish our oceans, we are already in danger of disrupting the balance irreparably. To add insult to injury, many fishing techniques damage the sea floor and coral reefs. Damaged or lost 'ghost' nets often litter the oceans, trapping vast amounts of sea life.
The pollination problem
The situation we have with bees and pollination should give us cause for concern. Without bees playing their integral role pollinating, we are at risk of our agricultural system collapsing, resulting in global food shortages.
Scientists at Harvard have said that pesticides used throughout Big Agriculture are largely responsible for colony collapse disorder, a problem where entire colonies of bees vanish and die. Chemicals in pesticides have been proven to affect bee’s neurological pathways, affecting memory and cognition.
So as corporations like Monsanto continue to develop new ways to deliver higher yielding crops, we should be wary of the disruption it’s causing to the balance of Earth’s biodiversity, because if we destablise our pollinators, our diets might have to change incredibly fast.
What’s driving deforestation
Most reading this will no doubt be aware of how palm oil production has led to widespread deforestation in rainforests throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, pushing the orangutan deep into the critically endangered list. However, soya production has caused similar devastation in Brazil and many other parts of South America. The Guardian says that soya is now synonymous with deforestation.
Soya beans are not solely harvested to produce a meat alternative for vegans and vegetarians. 90% of soya goes into animal production as feed, with the remaining 10% for tofu. With such high demand on the soya bean, huge swathes of forest have been removed and replaced with colossal monocultures; hundreds of thousands of hectares dedicated to soy crops. These crops are commonly sprayed with pesticides that kill biodiversity and contribute to soil erosion, often leaving infertile land in its wake.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature, populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined by up to 60% in just over 40 years. It’s not all happening in tropical jungles either. Conservationists have said that Britain is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries. With the humble hedgehog and puffin dropping in such significant numbers over the past 30 years, these animals now rank with the rhino and elephant in their scarcity.
Burning through fossil fuels
Whether it's running our cars and generating electricity, or producing plastic for a myriad of everyday items, we have become incredibly dependent on fossil fuels. As one of the key drivers of climate change, this behavior is well reported as being a significant driver of global temperature rise. This temperature rise will create vast deserts, while effecting soils and clean water supply across huge swathes of the planet.
But all is not yet lost…
From who we buy our energy from, to what flavour toothpaste we use, we’re presented with an incredible amount of choice these days. The aim is to try and make educated and mindful decisions.
The virtues of buying organic food are extensive. As well as having healthier food, free from most harmful pesticides, you also support farmers that tread lighter on the environment than their Big Agriculture counterparts.
Renewable energy is becoming more and more accessible and by switching to green energy suppliers, you directly fund investments into sustainable energy sources.
Becoming vegetarian or vegan can significantly reduce your personal carbon footprint each year, but give thought to using more sustainable soya products. Brands like Provamel are GM free, not extracted from rainforest regions and are farmed as part of a crop rotation system.
Finally, we come to sustainable travel. From hybrids and electric cars, to simply taking the bus, walking or riding your bike, we’re all capable of making some immediate improvements.
Overall, it’s important to remember that plastic is derived from petroleum and any way you can reduce your plastic dependency is going to help reduce the demand.
The planet is in a perilous situation, but scientists assure us that we still have time. Providing we act now…