8 Billion Humans are Totally Reliant on Healthy Ecosystems

I came across this concept the other day, can’t remember where, but it immediately made an impression on me.

It goes like this.

All of us, close on 8 billion human beings on this planet, rely on healthy ecosystems to survive. We rely on healthy ecosystems for our food. We rely on healthy ecosystems for the air we breathe. We rely on healthy ecosystems to break down the organic parts of our waste. We rely on healthy ecosystems for much of our joy and happiness. Healthy natural ecosystems, in fact, underpin every part of the continued existence of human life on earth.

However, here we are in 2020, and we have to ask, just how healthy is the natural ecosystem that sustains us? The current list of natural ecosystem failures or breakdowns is at its mildest a loud alarm bell, at its worst, it is an emergency siren and run for the lifeboats.

I say this because the reality is we are damaging at an unprecedented rate the ecosystem that sustains us. Once you take your blinkers off, the signs are everywhere.

The signs are plummeting fish stocks. It is reported that due to topsoil loss that in some areas that have long grown arable crops, there are as little as forty harvests left. The present extinction rate of other species is 1,000 times the regular background rate. In some areas, there has been a dramatic crash in the number of insects. Everywhere we look, we see unprecedented change and degradation. Human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss are tsunamis that will likely dwarf the effects of COVID.

If we then take the common-sense position that we (humans beings) need to have healthy ecosystems to survive, you have to ask the question, “Why is this not at the core of much of our decision making?”

In other words, if we need healthy ecosystems so badly, why are we not doing more about it?

Why is this not the most basic question that should be asked for any new development? We should also be asking the same question about everything we presently do. Does what we do now lead to a healthy or better yet, healthier, regenerating ecosystem?

Will going ahead with any particular project lead to a healthier ecosystem, or will it not? In New Zealand, will new legislation around freshwater quality lead to more robust aquatic ecosystems? If it does not, then it needs to be changed or abandoned.

Some might say, just think of the economic cost of taking this approach. My answer is that there will be no long term economy unless we do take this approach.

What is a Healthy Ecosystem?

A healthy ecosystem thrives on and encourages diversity. A healthy ecosystem builds natural capital – healthy soils, forests, functioning grasslands and wetlands, rivers and oceans that teem with fish; everywhere you look, you would see a rich mosaic of life. A healthy ecosystem keeps on giving.

Brian Megaw

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