Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity, a day to consider our relationship to the natural world and this year the theme is ‘Our solutions are in nature’. The slogan emphasizes how dependent we are on healthy ecosystems for our own health and welfare. This has probably been particularly relevant this year given our isolation from others, closure of business and leisure opportunities and the complete upheaval of plans we may have had for this year. While we have had to distance ourselves from other human contact, one sanity saver has been the opportunity to get outdoors and into nature to feel some sort of normality by visiting beaches, forests, parks and rivers. I think it has given us all a sense of just how important these natural places are to our mental health for starters, and how lucky we are in Australia to have these places.
Biological diversity refers to plants, animals and microorganisms, found in nature and the different ecosystems they live in such as lakes, forest and deserts. There are a lot of reasons to be in harmony with nature and stop biodiversity loss especially when you consider that historically our medicines started in the form of herbal concoctions. To this day many herbal remedies are still used, but science has also been responsible for the advance of medicines where active ingredients from natural sources have been made into mainstream medication, for instance aspirin is derived from willow tree bark. It stands to reason then that if we lose habitats and species, perhaps without even knowing they exist or what potential they have, we could be harming future sources of medicine too.
The indigenous people of Australia have had a respectful relationship with nature for thousands of years, relying on the natural environment to provide food, medicine and materials for their everyday living. They were aware that their actions would have a direct impact on their ability to sustain themselves and that was where habitat burning at certain times of the year and only targeting certain species for hunting were imperative for sustainable living.
Worryingly though, according to statistics provided by the United Nations, three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, and 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. How much of an eye opener has it been with the lockdowns around the world, that we are seeing pollution levels down, cleaner air and waterways and nature being restored like never before?
It was because of statistics like those above, that the UN decided to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity annually to raise awareness and encourage the importance of education on the issue. So there’s no time like the present to think globally and act locally by spreading awareness, taking an interest in your local area and ensuring we all play a part in keeping what natural environments we have near us.
Tourism can have a negative effect on nature especially when too many people impact on areas, but when it’s managed properly and the natural environment is put first, there are so many benefits. A lot of what we want to travel to see in Australia comes down to the natural environment, giant forests, coral reefs and clean oceans, marine life off our coasts, desert landscapes and incredible rock formations to name a few.
Here are a few ways we can help in protecting our biodiversity:
- Take a walk in a natural environment near you and pick up any rubbish while you’re at it
- Donate to causes that are protecting wildlife and environments
- Plant native species at home to encourage birds and insects to the garden
- Learn about the importance of Australia’s biodiversity by following this link to a very informative CSIRO publication on Australia’s Biodiversity which you can download for free.