World Environment Day on June 5th 2020 is celebrating biodiversity. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many of us don’t have the freedom to explore and experience the world around us like we used to.  We can’t take the holidays we want and even visiting local beauty spots has been out of bounds for many people.

Our worlds have become a lot smaller. We’re living far more in our neighbourhoods and our back gardens than before but even so near to where we live the range of plant and animal life is remarkable. 

If you were to take a pen and paper and spend 10 minutes listing the different species within ten paces of your home, you’d probably be surprised at the amount of nature contributing to the area you live in. 

And everything from the worms in the soil, the bees zipping between the blooms, the birds perched on the roofs and fence posts to the pine trees at the end of your street (and everything in, on, around and under) contributes to the eco-systems that we live alongside. 

COVID-19 and World Environment Day

So much in nature is about balance. 

What we do as a species is beginning to upset that balance.

Within just a few months of COVID-19, we’ve seen a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. Air quality in major cities has improved considerably, and we’re seeing a return of plant and animal species in public areas that have emptied of people.

It’s both startling and comforting to see how quickly the planet can hit that reset button when it’s able to. 

World Environment Day uses the current pandemic as an example of what happens when human activity contributes to ‘conditions in which viruses can more easily be transmitted between animals and humans, resulting in infectious diseases like COVID-19’.

Biodiversity has allowed us to thrive on this planet but as human activity becomes more aggressive and more short-term in its thinking and its methods, we can assume that this may not be the only global emergency we’ll face in our lifetimes.  

What does biodiversity mean?

According to National Geographic, biodiversity means the variety of living things. 

It includes plant, animal, and marine life, as well as fungi.  

Writing in The Guardian, Damian Carrington explains that around 1.7 million species of plant, animal and fungi have been recorded but there could be as many as 9 million other varieties of life on our planet with the potential for up to 100 million as of yet unrecorded species.  

Biological diversity or biodiversity seems too simple a term to sum up quite how incredible and unique life on earth is.  

But biodiversity isn’t just about individual species and how many there are.  It’s not just a checklist of things to watch out for in an Attenborough documentary, because it’s also about how each living creature contributes to the bigger picture of life on earth. 

The way species interact with their eco-system helps keep the world in balance, and it also helps support human life both directly and indirectly. Damian Carrington writes about trees providing oxygen for us to breathe, bees pollinating flowers so crops can grow, and even fungi growing on a sloth’s back provides ingredients for anti-cancer drugs. 

How does biodiversity fit into World Environment Day?

World Environment Day celebrates the importance of biodiversity in sustaining human life on earth.  

The UN also sees biodiversity as being fundamental to its 17 sustainable development goals which, according to the UN, address ‘global challenges relating to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.’

The way the world interacts with itself and the way we interact with it is critical in issues that at first glance seem unconnected. 

Poverty and inequality, for example, are very much rooted in sustainable development issues.  

For example, 70% of the world’s poorest people depend on biodiversity to survive.  

These people live in areas where food, employment, shelter, protection from flooding or drought, etc, are dependent on the local eco-system.  Biodiversity loss has a devastating impact on the humans living in and alongside it. 

How Can We Celebrate Biodiversity on World Environment Day?

You can visit the World Environment Day website to see what online events are planned.  You can also register your sustainability event, too. 

COVID-19 means we can’t celebrate face-to-face or engage with issues in person but a lot is going on in the digital environment including online conferences, activities, competitions, tours, and even a virtual African safari. 

With so many children off school right now, it’s a fantastic opportunity to introduce them to environmental issues and help them understand the value of biodiversity in an educational but fun way. 

You can also join in by following #ForNature on Twitter

Biodiversity is critical to the survival of all species including our own.  World Environment Day is about celebrating the incredible range of life on Earth and also educating everyone on why it’s so important to protect it.  

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