Nature needs a voice before it is too late

October 29, 2019

Glossy ibis; source: WikipediaРажањ_(птица)

Biodiversity loss has reached a worrying scale over the last century, especially in recent decades. Some estimates suggest that 60% of mammal, bird, fish and reptile populations have disappeared since the 1970s. Scientists have therefore called this period the sixth mass extinction, this time caused by the human factor.

Biodiversity is essential for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the raw materials we use to work and build. The latest scientific evidence of biodiversity loss reminds us that we need to rethink the way we interact with the Planet. The loss of clean air, drinkable water, pollinating insects, and forests pose as big a threat to species survival as climate change. Nearly 1 million species are at risk of extinction from human activities.

While being preoccupied with meeting and exceeding our needs, we did not see this coming. Back in the days when we did not have the scientific data, it used to be easy to mistakenly think that nature, as abundant as it appears, will keep providing regardless of what we take from it. With every euro of GDP increase, there is a cost of biodiversity which has not been accounted for.

But this data has been around for quite some time now, showing us that we’re cutting the branch we sit on. And yet, humanity still ignores these signals and behaves as a toddler that doesn’t want to give up its rattle and rejects to grow up and accept the responsibility for its actions.

We’ve developed sophisticated social, economic, governance systems and yet failed to recognize that Planet’s life-supporting system did not get a chance to be properly represented. Without having a ‘voice’, biodiversity is losing the battle.

Serbia is a home to a great number of species important for biodiversity on the European continent. Its 44.200 species make some 30% of the fish fauna diversity, 25% of reptile and amphibian fauna, 50% of bird fauna, 67% of mammal fauna diversity in Europe. Earlier this year we had two Red Books of Fauna of Serbia published providing guidance to the conservationists implementing measures to protect endangered species. Out of 352 bird species recorded in Serbia, 142 are considered endangered.

Space available to plants and animals is shrinking. Our society’s need to stay connected and well supplied causes habitats to get more and more fragmented thus weakening the resilience of wildlife populations. Where it’s impossible to avoid such effects, it’s necessary to mitigate them using all methods available, and construct wildlife bridges, build well-balanced agro-ecological systems, assist forestation. Unsustainable practices still present in all sectors of development - energy, mining, agriculture, industry - need to be replaced using more efficient and sustainable technologies. We need to put a value on ecosystem services and invest in preserving protected areas.

Healthy ecosystems are our biggest ally in the fight against climate change. Apart from absorbing the carbon from the atmosphere they buffer climate change induced effects such as intensified flooding, erosion, urban heat islands and wildfires.                                             

In order to protect nature, we need to rethink our habits, reassess our economies and direct the financial flows into preserving nature and into development options that have no adverse effect on environment. We need to change our food-growing and consuming practices, reduce energy consumption, reduce or eliminate pesticides, save the pollinators, conserve water and maintain wetlands, assist forestation.

UNDP Serbia cooperates with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, supporting the rules on Strategic Impact Assessment and Environment Impact Assessment, development of biodiversity policy framework beyond 2020, integration of preservation principles into policies, and building capacities of the local authorities to access the funds for environmental projects, such as state funds for forestation.

We should not leave the nature behind and it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now.