Today, May 22, 2010, is the International Day for Biological Diversity. I began this post with the idea of celebrating the day by offering various examples of nature’s beauty. But then I realized ‘celebrate’ connotes a positive meaning that hardly seems appropriate. Why? This year the International Day of Biological Diversity comes on the heels of a very disconcerting study:
In 2002, world leaders committed through the Convention on Biological Diversity to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. We compiled 31 indicators to report on progress toward this target. Most indicators of the state of biodiversity showed declines, with no significant recent reductions in rate, whereas indicators of pressures on biodiversity showed increases. Despite some local successes and increasing responses, the rate of biodiversity loss does not appear to be slowing.
At present, nearly 100 species of plant and animal combined go extinct during every 24-hour period. That equates to more than 35,000 species every year. And despite promises to address the causes and take action to reverse trends, governments and people as a whole have actually increased pressure on nature rather than decreasing it. Scientists call this the Holocene extinction, an ongoing mass extinction event. Whether or not it should be called the Anthropocene extinction is irrelevant; that humans are the only hope for stopping it is what matters.
“Going green” seems like a badge people wear so they can be patted on the back and congratulated for their foresight and compassion. Changing a light bulb helps, but changing our governments and our attitudes will make the only real differences. Will your grandchildren think of elephants in the same way we think of the Carolina parakeet? Will their grandchildren think of rusty blackbirds the same way our children think of the Tasmanian tiger? Will future generations think of the Arctic in terms of open water or endless seas of ice? Only time will tell.
Biological diversity is a giant web. As each strand breaks, the entire web becomes more unstable. We scarcely can think ourselves immune to the effects of the slow-motion downfall of this massive interconnected system. It feeds us, it clothes us, it shelters us, and it heals us. But once the web no longer can support itself, we fall with the rest of it. I wonder if it will be too late before people understand that.
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 Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans); admittedly the darkest melanistic male I’ve ever photographed, which makes him the oldest melanistic male I’ve ever photographed
 Common meadow katydid (Orchelimum vulgare)
 Great egret (Ardea alba)
 Brick cap (Hypholoma sublateritium); the mushroom did not mature before succumbing to our lack of rain this spring
 Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis)
[I usually do not preach. In fact, over the years I’ve grown increasingly adverse to doing so. I will draw attention to someone else’s preaching if I feel the subject worthy of attention (preaching by proxy). But sometimes things hit me just right and I have to say something. This is just such a time because this subject is critically important and is something about which I am quite passionate.]