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ONE BY ONE UNTIL THERE ARE NONE: 
GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY LOSS

NYRE Written Article Competition 2023

1st place- Article

18-24 years old

One by One Until There Are None: Global Biodiversity Loss

SELANGOR  -  September 20, 2023
By NOR ALYA KHAIRINA BINTI MUSTAFA ANUAR
(UiTM Shah Alam)

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Animals’ natural habitats are demolished to make way for civilisations. 

(Source: Staffan Widstrand | Getty Images)

Biodiversity

The world is teetering on the brink of an environmental catastrophe and regrettably, we are often passive spectators to its unfolding. The term “biodiversity loss” refers to the reduction or extinction of biological diversity, which is defined as the range of organisms that occupy the earth, their various levels of biological organisation, their individual genetic variability and the natural patterns seen in ecosystems (Rafferty, 2022). Our biodiversity kingdom is under attack for so long and ironically, the ones who depend on it the most are doing the biggest damage: humans. At the current pace, Earth’s habitability for future generations appears bleak. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s timeless words, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith,” resonate more profoundly than ever, yet we find ourselves rapidly depleting these very woods. The Living Planet Report of 2022, published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), grimly reveals that wildlife populations have plummeted by an alarming average of 69% over the past 50 years (WWF, 2022). 

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The signs of environmental distress are all around us: altered ocean currents, desiccated farmlands, inundated coastal communities and melting glaciers. These are but the surface manifestations of a much deeper crisis. While the global pandemic of 2020 did raise consciousness about environmental issues (Kachaner et al., 2020), public awareness still lags significantly behind the rapid pace of biodiversity loss worldwide. In the eyes of nature, we appear as inhuman monsters. The persistence of biodiversity decline is driven by climate change and the relentless exploitation of the natural environment. These twin threats jeopardise not only the animal kingdom but also our own species. However, they are challenges that can be overcome through biodiversity restoration and sustainable innovations. It is no longer a distant threat but an urgent crisis demanding our immediate attention.

 

Climate change, unlike past adversities such as famines, wars and terrorism, poses a unique threat. It disrupts biodiversity at multiple levels including population dynamics, community structure, species distribution and ecological functioning. As we continue to burn fossil fuels, the impending catastrophe becomes even clearer. Over 75% of the world’s coral reefs, the invaluable treasures of coastal ecosystems face imminent threat due to human-induced environmental changes (The Royal Society, 2019). Simultaneously, the overexploitation of natural resources exceeds their biocapacity, setting us on a perilous path. Currently, we consume 20% more natural resources each year than can be replenished, a number that continues to rise (WWF, 2022). The WWF warns that by 2050, it would take 2.5 Earths of resources to satisfy the demands of future generations, primarily driven by the ever-expanding human population. The rapid advancement of technology has made it easier to disrupt the delicate balance of biodiversity. Research reveals that the United States and high-income European Union nations are the primary culprits of global excess resource consumption that exceeds environmental sustainability standards (Dockrill, 2022). Jason Hickle, an economic anthropologist, insists that these nations must lead in resource reduction efforts, necessitating transformative post-growth and degrowth approaches.

The homes of the Temuan people in Karak, Pahang completely destroyed as a result of a flood.  (Photo provided by Mukhriz Hazim at malaysiakini.com)

The Risk Biodiversity Loss

Consequently, the loss of biodiversity exacerbates the proliferation of invasive species which poses a grave threat to food security. Rising temperatures create favourable conditions for pests, particularly plant diseases that devastate critical food sources (IPPC Secretariat, 2021). The recent locust infestation in East Africa serves as a stark example of crop vulnerability to pests with dire implications for global food production. The interconnectedness of nature is undeniable as proliferating pests not only threaten crops but also strain the agricultural industry’s ability to feed the global population (Hoffman, 2021). We stand on the precipice of a catastrophic global food crisis as declining biodiversity places unprecedented strain on the quality, vailability, and accessibility of natural resources. A recent NASA study (Jägermeyr, 2021) predicts a 24% decline in maize crops by 2030 if we fail to reduce our carbon footprint.

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Bleached reefs, ‘rainforests of the sea’ lose their ability to support as many species.

(Source: American Samoa [Dec 2014 / Feb 2015 / Aug 2015] | The Ocean Agency)

Our actions have far-reaching consequences, both locally and globally. It is incumbent upon us to take decisive action, focusing on biodiversity conservation, restoration and sustainable technological innovations. Governments must enact legislation and policies that strictly prioritise environmental protection, curbing overharvesting, persecution of endangered species and wildlife poaching (Lewis, 2022). Malaysia’s Environmental Quality Act 1974, National Forestry Act 1984, Civil Aviation Act 1969 and National Land Code 1965 serve as examples of legislation aimed at conserving the natural environment. In addition to legislative measures, collaboration between researchers and businesses is essential for developing innovative technologies to mitigate the biodiversity crisis (Wellers et al., 2017). Remarkable advancements such as The Interceptor Original, a 100% solar-powered river cleanup technology, exemplify how technology can be utilised to protect our environment. This innovative solution has removed over 1 million kilograms of trash from rivers worldwide, offering hope for cleaner waterways and a healthier planet (The Ocean Cleanup, 2022).

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Interceptor 002 is placed at Klang River to battle marine pollution

(Source: Najmi Arif Norkaman | Dreamstime)

Conclusion

In conclusion, the urgency of addressing biodiversity loss cannot be overstated. We must dispel the notion of indifference, thinking “Why should I care?” or “I cannot do this alone.” Every meaningful change begins with a single step. The realisation that we can change our future by altering our attitudes is a powerful one, as articulated by Oprah Winfrey, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” Let us unite in our love for nature and work collectively to change the world for the betterment of future generations.

 

(807 words)

References

  • Jägermeyr, J., Müller, C., Ruane, A.C., et al. (2021). Climate impacts on global agriculture emerge earlier in new generation of climate and crop models. Nat Food 2, 873–885. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00400-y

  • WWF. (2022). Living Planet Report 2022 – Building a nature positive society. WWF International.

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