Building a Shared Future
Exactly one month after Earth Day, on May 22, global communities will join in solidarity to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB). The plans were set in motion as early as 1992, when the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was launched for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 150 governments signed the document at the “Earth Summit,” and since then, 187 countries and the European Community have subscribed to it, representing nearly universal participation.
In ratifying, the 188 Parties have committed to undertaking national and international measures to achieve three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The agreement covers all ecosystems, species and genetic resources and ensures that we leave a healthy, viable and equitable planet for future generations. It recognizes—for the first time—that natural resources are not infinite and the conservation of biological diversity is “a common concern of humankind.”
The Secretariat of the CBD declared the 2022 slogan: “Building a shared future for all life,” which aligns with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework that is expected to be adopted during the second phase of the UN Biodiversity Conference (Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) later this year in Kunming, China. In accordance with the concept of “Reciprocity, Co-existence and Co-prosperity of all living things,” COP-15 recognizes that urgent policy action regionally, nationally and globally are required to transform economic, social and financial models so the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilize by 2030 and allow for the recovery of natural ecosystems, with net improvements by 2050.
Call to Action
The CBD Secretariat is currently soliciting videos and written statements from all regions of the world to emphasize hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature
Though celebrations for the International Day of Biological Diversity will be commemorated predominantly online, champions for conservation can raise awareness through calls of action developed in tandem with the new framework. Throughout the 2022 Biodiversity Day campaign, lists of actions will be released across social media platforms to inspire advocacy for nature. The public is called to:
- Be a green commuter (bike, public transportation, carpooling)
- Go paperless (use tech for good and print less)
- Ditch disposable; choose reusable (say no to single-use plastic, invest in glass, canvas and cloth instead)
- Reduce food waste (shop responsibly, meal-prep and compost)
- Shop for sustainably sourced palm oil products (monocultures contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction)
- Wash on full loads (run larger, fuller loads on cold water to save water and energy)
- Learn to refuse (pass on plastic bags from supermarkets, which end up in landfills)
- Source sustainable produce
- Travel Sustainably (research carbon-neutral alternatives, lower-impact transport options and accommodations with eco-friendly practices)
- Use less water (take shorter showers, limit full baths, turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, switch to a low-flow shower head, test your toilets for leaks)
- Reconnect with nature (build your own terrarium, nurture house plants, watch for birds)
- Reuse and upcycle (go thrifting or reimagine and refashion your clothes)
- Spread the word (Use the hashtags #Connect2Earth #BiodiversityDay and #COP15 to join the conversation and be part of the solution)
- Take action against plastic pollution (8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year. Cut down on single-use plastics by bringing reusable mugs and saying no to plastic cutlery and containers)
- Don’t litter (keep our spaces green by using bins or packing waste home with you)
- Conserve energy (turn off the lights, unplug unnecessary appliances when not in use and switch to energy-efficient appliances)
- Stay informed (there is no action without awareness. Keep up-to-date on international affairs and the world’s latest discoveries and innovations)
- Volunteer with a charity (connect with your local community by participating in a beach clean or tree planting)
- Recycle whenever possible (keep an eye out for labels like ‘recycled’ and ‘FSC’)
- Embrace minimalism (buy less and buy smarter)
- Restore nature & biodiversity (buy a houseplant, plant a herb garden in your space, support local wildlife and participate in community clean-ups)
- Celebrate Biodiversity Day (participate in celebrations that are happening in your country or organize an activity to get others involved)
Those who feel empowered can also enroll in the free, self-paced course created by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), NBSAP Forum, The CBD and Rare! “Communicating the Value of Biodiversity” offers five lessons designed for learners who are not experts in biology. The module introduces strategies for educating the public about biodiversity in an exciting and engaging way and explores how to navigate differences in power or perception when designing effective communication methods.
Biological diversity—or biodiversity—describes the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. Biodiversity also refers to the variety of ecosystems—communities of living organisms and their environments. Examples of ecosystems include desert, grassland, rain forest, wetland, alpine, tundra and ocean. Like a spider’s web, every interaction is interconnected. This “web of life,” or the entanglements between life forms and their environments, determines the health of humanity and the future of the planet.
World Wildlife Fund’s 2020 Living Planet Report found a 68 percent average decline of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish and reptiles since 1970. According to a new study led by NatureServe, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International, more than one in five reptile species are threatened with extinction. A study published in Nature in December 2021 showed that all of the coral reefs of the Western Indian Ocean are at high risk of collapse within the next five decades as a result of ocean warming and overfishing.
The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services revealed that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction—an amount unprecedented in human history. While extinctions are an expected part of the evolutionary process, the current rate of population decline is estimated between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than natural rates.
Other significant findings in the report include:
- Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66 percent of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions (On average, these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities)
- More than one-third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production
- The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300 percent since 1970
- Raw timber harvest has risen by 45 percent, and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year
- Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23 percent of the global land surface
- Up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss
- One hundred to 300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of the loss of coastal habitats and protection
Biodiversity hotspots refer to regions that are high in biological density and diversity, and are highly threatened. To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: It must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants found nowhere else on Earth (known as “endemic” species). It must have lost at least 70 percent of its primary native vegetation. Many of the biodiversity hotspots exceed the two criteria. For example, both the Sundaland Hotspot in Southeast Asia and the Tropical Andes Hotspot in South America have about 15,000 endemic plant species. The loss of vegetation in some hotspots has reached an astounding 95 percent.
Around the world, 36 areas qualify as hotspots. Their habitats represent just 2.5 percent of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s endemic plant species and nearly 43 percent of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian endemic species.
The Andes Mountains Tropical Hotspot—which comprises the Andes Mountains of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and the northern tropical portions within Argentina and Chile—is the world’s most diverse hotspot. About one-sixth of all plant species in the world live in this region, and all are at risk due to agriculture expansion and mining. The New Zealand archipelago is another hotspot. More than 90 percent of the insects and 80 percent of the vascular plants in New Zealand are endemic to the region. The Himalayan region contains the tallest mountains in the world, as well as animals like the black-necked crane—the only alpine crane in the world.
The Indonesian island Borneo harbors more than 1,400 different animal species and at least 15,000 plant species. Charismatic fauna like orangutans, pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, rhinos and proboscis monkeys are sheltered by the world’s tallest tropical trees, while fifty species of carnivorous pitcher plants and nearly 3,000 species of orchids carpet the forest floor. The intrinsic value of these precious organisms is quickly overshadowed by the economic gains that result from natural resource exploitation, however. Forests are decimated to make way for profitable palm oil plantations; rare species are hunted, harvested and sold on the black market; and hardwood trees; coal; rubber; and gold, diamonds and other metals and minerals are extracted at an industrial scale.
In 2011, the Forests of East Australia was identified as the 35th hotspot by a team of researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). In February 2016, the North American Coastal Plain was recognized as meeting the criteria and became the Earth’s 36th hotspot.
The 36 biodiversity hotspots are home to around 2 billion people. Conservation International estimates that the forests, wetlands and other ecosystems in hotspots account for 35 percent of the “ecosystem services” that vulnerable human populations depend on, like clean water, pollination and climate regulation. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund puts the power of biodiversity conservation into the hands of the people by promoting sustainable management of essential natural resources and supporting economic growth by awarding grants to civil society (community-based groups, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous peoples and academic institutions).
Citizen of the Potawatomi Nation and author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer observes:
“Moss lifeways offer a strong contrast to the ways we’ve organized our society, which prioritizes relentless growth as the metric of well-being: always getting bigger, producing more, having more. Infinite growth is ecologically impossible and exceedingly destructive, as it demands the transformation of the lives of other beings into raw materials to feed the fiction. Mosses show us another way—the abundance that emanates from self-restraint, from enoughness…A moss community possesses many of the attributes we might envision for a sustainable human community of the future: solar energy and an integrated system of recycling where nothing is wasted…A moss is energetically self-sufficient. There is no dependence on foreign oil or nuclear waste here…A system of this sort can sustain itself indefinitely…This is the environmental philosophy of mosses, that small is beautiful. They remind us of the virtue of humility, a value in short supply among the people of the Anthropocene. This view is hard for humans to accept, with our love of power and stature.”
Responsibly Visit Earth’s Hotspots with Nat Hab & WWF
Natural Habitat Adventures offers an array of sustainable itineraries to explore Earth’s most biodiverse regions. Below is a non-exhaustive list of official hotspots that travelers can visit, guided by our Expedition Leaders!
Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands
North American Coastal Plain
Australia and New Zealand