What You Can Do
For centuries, humans have been exploiting the Earth and damaging crucial biodiversity, harming the environment in an unsustainable way. To prevent further loss, humans must ensure that our actions are sustainable, both on the macroscale (i.e., preserving biodiversity hotspots) and the microscale (i.e., the individual). This page outlines what can be done by individuals and small communities.
Biodiversity loss is a complex problem that can be attributed to multiple factors. Still, humans have a chance to prevent the further exacerbation of these factors. It is often hard to connect how a single individual's actions can have harmful effects on biodiversity, but these actions add up to long-term harm to the plant and its biodiversity. Each human has an “ecological footprint” (evaluate yours at http://myfootprint.org/): that is, the harm he or she causes the environment. These footprints can be lessened through small steps in the form of simple habit changes.
Steps You Can Take
11 steps to reduce harmful effects on biodiversity on the small-scale were proposed by David Hooper of the Department of Biology at Western Washington University (2004) and are outlined below.
- Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers in lawn care. These often run off of lawns and into adjacent lakes and streams, where they have adverse effects on the plants and animals living there.
- Get involved with ecological restoration in your area. Most areas have groups active in restoration. By volunteering, you can help restore habitats for native species, while learning about local plants and animals. If you own land adjacent to ecologically sensitive areas (e.g., woodlands, riparian areas, lakes), you should check with local conservation or restoration groups (e.g., Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association) regarding the prospects of enhancing or restoring habitat on your property.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle. The more you can reduce your demand for resources, the less habitat conversion will be necessary to get those resources and the smaller the amount of waste that goes into landfills becomes.
- Utilize composting. Composting both reduces the overall waste stream and thereby the need for landfill space, and it provides a natural slow-release fertilizer for your flower or vegetable garden.
- Use environmentally friendly products for cleaning. This reduces chemical contamination of habitats both during manufacturing and from chemicals going down the drain.
- Buy organic foods. This helps reduce inputs of fertilizers and pesticides into the environment, which in turn reduces negative impacts on nearby beneficial insects (for pollination and pest control) and adjacent aquatic biodiversity. Organic foods are becoming increasingly available, even in regular supermarkets.
- Buy sustainably harvested seafood. Much seafood, though delicious, is not harvested sustainably – either for the individual species themselves or for species that are unlucky enough to be ensnared as “by-catch”. Some trawlers destroy extensive seafloor habitat in the process of catching fish; many shrimp farms destroy mangrove forests that are important nurseries for wild fish species. See the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for a better understanding of how various sea creatures fare.
- Aim for energy conservation in your home. Home energy audits are often available from your local power companies. They know that it’s more economical to conserve rather than to build new power plants. More information can be found on the Home Energy Saver web site.
- Reduce single-person car use. Each gallon of gasoline burned releases about 20 pounds of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Car pooling, public transport, walking, and bicycling are alternative options. If you must drive, look into the growing number of fuel efficient vehicles, such as gas-electric hybrids and turbo diesel (tdi) models. If you use 100 percent biodiesel, you can even make your car “carbon neutral” – meaning that your car releases no more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than what was taken up through photosynthesis by the plants that made your fuel.
- If you are thinking about building a new home or remodeling, try to incorporate renewable energy and/or energy efficiency into your plans. With some careful thought about your region, site, and needs, you can drastically reduce your own energy consumption and still have a comfortable home.
- Keep abreast of legislation affecting biodiversity and support people who demonstrate their support for long-term ecological sustainability.
Importance of Education
Efforts must be made to promote awareness regarding environmental sustainability and its relation to the biodiversity crisis. The benefits gained from responsible environmental management should be properly understood on the individual, organizational, and governmental levels. Attempts to raise biodiversity awareness can be conducted in form of meetings and forums on relevant regulations and legislation. Information can also be broadcasted through newspapers, magazines, posters, radio, and television (Shah 2011).
- Works Cited
- Ehrlich, P., & Ehrlich, A. (2009). The population bomb revisited. The Electronic Journal of
Sustainable Development, I(3), 63-71. Retrieved from http://www.ejsd.org/docs/The_Population_Bomb_Revisited.pdf
- Hooper, D. (2004). 10 things you can do to help biodiversity. Informally published manuscript, Dept. of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington.
- Shah, A. (2011, April 06). Addressing biodiversity loss. Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All, Retrieved from http://www.globalissues.org/article/787/addressing-biodiversity-loss