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10 Ways to Save the Natural World | Wildlife Matters

10 Ways to Save the Natural World


It should be no surprise to hear that the planet is currently undergoing the Sixth Mass Extinction. The difference with this one however, is that it is not being caused by asteroids, volcanoes or climate shifts; rather, it is being caused by a single species – us humans. It is fair to say that the general population are aware of the persecution of the natural world and accept that we are to blame. However, there seems to be little information available in the public domain regarding the potential solutions to this crisis. With only ‘Eco Warriors’ lobbying decision makers, very little will change. I believe if more people are aware of what can be done to conserve the natural world, more people will support change, thus putting pressure on decision makers to implement these changes. To that end, here is an overview of my vision for nature – 10 ways to save the natural world.

1) Shift towards 100% Renewable Energy

The era of fossil fuels needs to be put to bed in order to prevent further environmental degradation. In 2013, renewables made up 19% of total world energy consumption – this figure must increase rapidly. The first steps for governments should be to focus on cities; these concrete jungles are responsible for 70-75% of global CO2 emissions. Vancouver is the latest in a chain of cities worldwide which have committed to 100% renewable energy targets over the next few decades. Check out www.go100percent.org to find out more.

2) Rewilding the world

We have lost 52% of all vertebrate species since 1970 and the future of countless others is uncertain. One way we can safeguard the future of our remaining wildlife is to bring back plants and animals to regions from where they have previously become locally extinct. Reintroductions can also offer the mass restoration of ecosystems as with the reintroduction of Wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Instead of ‘holding the line’ with conservation by trying to maintain the environment as we found it (often depleted), we must allow conservation to progress and become more biologically diverse.

3) Create more wildlife corridors

As human reach continues to expand, true wilderness is becoming increasingly fragmented. What we are seeing is the last strongholds of species such as the Bengal Tiger becoming isolated from each other through human civilisation. Wildlife corridors offer links between these strongholds, thus allowing free movement and the continuation of viable populations by avoiding genetic bottlenecks. These corridors have been hugely successful all over the world and what we need is more of them to be implemented at the local and especially regional levels.

4) Protect ecosystems, not individual species

Yes, we can invest in breeding programmes to boost numbers of endangered species but where can they be released? Perhaps they can be released into habitats which are dwindling in size or even those with gaps in the food chain as species disappear across all trophic levels. Of course not… this would inevitably lead to their demise and having endangered species in captivity, in my eyes is the same as them being extinct altogether. We should reinvest the money spent on breeding programmes that are lost causes such as that of the Giant Panda, costing five times more to keep in captivity than elephants. This money could be better spent trying to conserve entire ecosystems that support the charismatic megafauna that we are trying so desperately to save.

5) Curb human population growth

As we continue to add 1 billion to our population roughly every 12 years, the knock on effects are devastating the natural world. Habitat destruction, fragmentation, industrial emissions, extinction are all on the rise and that’s just to name a few. Furthermore, our own success is perhaps paradoxically leading to our own self-destruction. Through overcrowding comes social issues and strain on natural resources. Curbing population growth should be of the highest priority in every nation’s government. There are simple ways to achieve this; invest further in family planning, access to contraception and women’s education.

6) Integrate natural capital value into policy decision-making

Nature provides us with everything we need and everything we want through ecosystem services. If these services were audited, the monetary value would incentivise governments to conserve the ecosystems from which these services originate. We need to end the economic invisibility of nature and start recognising natural capital so that decision makers will construct better legal frameworks regarding financing protected areas, sustainable growth and encouraging ‘green’ business practices.

7) Economic growth for third world countries

You may be perplexed as to how this will save the natural world. Well here’s the thing; less economically developed countries (LEDC’s) currently have large populations and high fertility rates but crucially, they also have a small ecological footprint. In contrast, the more economically developed countries (MEDC’s) tend to have lower fertility rates – even decreasing populations in the case of Germany. However, they use five times the ecological resources than these LEDC’s. Economic development leads to a decrease in fertility rates for numerous reasons and so if this can be achieved in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa whilst developing sustainably then I have little reason to doubt that we can overcome poverty and preserve the environment simultaneously.

8) Reduce industrial waste

Worldwide, it is estimated that industry is responsible for dumping 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other waste into waters each year. These practices are destroying entire freshwater ecosystems and even killing the terrestrial wildlife that rely upon these waters. Therefore, it is clear that we require significantly better regulation when it comes to how industries dispose of these waste products. This in turn, should bring about changes to industrial processes in a way that minimises harmful waste production.

9) Expand and effectively manage protected areas

Protecting large areas of land or sea is essential as they act as safe havens where animal populations have a chance to grow and spread outwards. One of the targets agreed at the Convention on Biological Diversity was for at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial areas and 10% of the world’s marine areas to be equitably managed and conserved by 2020. However, what we are seeing is many countries going back on their promises by allowing for example, oil exploration in so-called protected areas and a lack of effective management. This needs to change; sanctions must be put in place for those nations that disregard their signed agreements for unjustifiable reasons.

 10) Establish sustainable fishing practices worldwide

The Living Planet Report 2014 revealed that we have lost 39% of marine wildlife in the past 40 years. Global fish stocks are being depleted to such an extent that we almost lost the Atlantic Cod altogether in the 90s. One the most unsustainable fishing practices which involves towing a huge scooping mechanism along the sea bed is dredging. This is capable of destroying entire thousand-year-old reefs in minutes, taking all of its inhabitants along with it. These types of practices need to end and we need better fisheries management whereby stocks can recover fully before being harvested.

– Jessen

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