by Nicola Davies
What’s the most important thing on Earth, the thing that we simply couldn’t live without? (all those shouting ‘Great British Bake Off’ go to the bottom of the class) Is it water? Is it air? Is it food? Well, it’s true that we couldn’t live without those things, but what I have in mind is what gives us clean water, breathable air and food.
Bio – dye- what?
Rather like the term non fiction, I wish there was another word for biodiversity, but there isn’t.
It’s the word for all of our planet’s living things, and the way they are all linked together, in a complex web that holds all life – including us. All the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is made by that network of life.
You may have the impression from wildlife programmes that we know all there is to know about life on Earth. We don’t. Scientists estimate that they have described and named fewer than a third of all the kinds of living thing – species – that are on Earth. Possibly fewer than a fifth. New species are being discovered all the time and we are just at the start of working out how this great beautiful pattern fits together.
The more we find out, the more we discover that everything is connected: on a small scale within habitats, where individual species interact in unexpected ways; and on a large scale where the workings of different habitats influence climate, rainfall, soil composition, for whole continents or, the whole planet.
What this means, is that the big stuff, like rainfall, seasonal patterns, the composition of the air – in short our life support systems – depends on the little stuff, the insect that pollinates a particular plant, a seed carried by a bat, a fungal network that brings nutrients to a tree. Without the details, the big patterns that allow our survival are not reliable and sustainable.
We are familiar with governments and businesses presenting nature as a kind of luxury add-on, something that’s ‘all very well, but in the real world we need factories and roads’. This is a dangerous misconception and it has caused us to chop up, rub out, simplify and out-and-out destroy parts of the complex pattern of the natural world on which the healthy functioning of our planet’s life support systems depend. Forests are degraded and destroyed, oceans polluted, rivers sucked dry. With every species that becomes endangered or extinct we lose forever a part of the pattern that sustains us.
This is like sawing off the branch on which you are sitting, and it simply has to stop.
This is the reason I wrote Lots and it’s the reason I am a trustee of the conservation organisation the World Land Trust, which works with conservation partners around the world to protect natural ecosystems and the people who depend on them. Through my work with WLT, I’ve seen time and time again, how protecting biodiversity benefits people too. In the Sierra Gorda in Mexico for example, restoring the biodiversity of local forests brought back rain fall, refilled rivers and regenerated the rural economy. When people start to value the biodiversity of their environment, they start to change their lives in ways that benefit their health and well being, growing food locally and sustainably, generating green energy, reducing pollution. It’s known as the conservation economy and it works, from the ground up, for ordinary people. And of course thriving nature pays us back not only with life, but with incredible soul-feeding beauty.
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This guest blog was provided by Nicola Davies. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.