Matthias Mueller is the creator of Sustainability Compass*, an app that offers users an actionable guide to sustainability in everyday decisions. Through strategic planning and consideration, the compass introduces the user to a series of sound, sustainable principles. It is an app with a philosophy: Think Smarter and Act Smarter.
“Biological diversity is messy. It walks, it crawls, it swims, it swoops, it buzzes. But extinction is silent, and it has no voice other than our own.” –Paul Hawken
Jurassic World exploded onto the big screens last month, emerging as the second biggest debut in cinema history. Jaw-dropping visuals, spine-tingling action scenes, and nostalgia aside, viewers should take a more serious message from the movie. Within two generations, this could be our future. All biodiversity on earth could be found only in parks or reserves, as seen in Jurassic World.
Unfortunately, many people only consider the devastating effects humans have on nature when visiting a zoo, aquarium or nature museum. If more sustainable options are not widely embraced in the way we consume, create and construct, we may only be able to show our great-grandchildren what dolphins, elephants and rainforests were in books and movies. And who knows? Maybe “Human Park” will be a box office hit in millions of years to come. According to a large group of scientists and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert, the rapid loss of global biodiversity has currently reached a level only seen before during 5 previous global extinction events, the most recent occurring 65 million years ago when dinosaurs became extinct.
On track to a Jurassic World of our own
The ideas behind Jurassic World are representative of mankind’s interactions with the environment on a grander scale. Humans using and modifying nature with little consideration of the potentially deadly results. Our real life abuse of every part of the earth, from the overfishing of the oceans, excessive burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of land for cattle to the forests being replaced by palm oil plantations are having a devastating effect on the world around us, which scientists say is going to bite us back, in the not too distant future.
Continuing to play dumb to the effects of our actions is not going to work. A 2015 report by Science argues that climate change — which can be directly linked to non-sustainable human behaviour — could threaten one in six species on Earth with extinction if we don’t start taking measures to cut down on our greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, hundreds of species of wildlife and vegetation which humans take for granted now could disappear or be isolated to protected conservation parks as seen in Jurassic World.
Conservation projects are already underway worldwide. The UK based World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) 2014 report shows that 15.4% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 3.4% of the global ocean are now protected. However, although protected areas now cover more than 30 million square kilometres, WCMC warn that many are not being managed in ways that are effective for conserving biodiversity and ecosystems services.
Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre argues that while nature is flashing warning sirens, we should take away a positive message. We are the first generation to be notified by science that we are undermining the earth’s ability to support human development, and thus are able to act upon these warnings.
According to the Stockholm Resilience Centre we have already reached the tipping point and must take action over the next decade to rectify the devastating effects of post-war development and rapid population growth. We have already lost some species to extinction which are never coming back, but we are now in a position to make positive changes.
Rockstrom states “It’s also good news because the planetary risks which we are facing are so large, that business as usual is not an option. We are in the phase when transformative change is necessary, which opens the window for innovation, new ideas and fresh paradigms.”
The way forward
The risk lies in raising our hands in despair and fingering the blame at governments, oil companies and world leaders, but making few changes in our own day to day lives. There are roughly seven billion inhabitants of the earth, and the actions of the rich and powerful 1% — though undoubtedly important — are not enough to change the destructive path we have taken.
Unless we want to see wildlife and nature only through meshed fences in parks, sustainability and the protection of biodiversity needs to begin at a grassroots level. No one likes having information shoved down their throats, or being told that change is a moral obligation, but progressive social education is a strategy which could set humanity on the right path.
For example, the WWF is developing a project in South East Asia called the Carbon & Biodiversity Project, or CarBi for short. The fund aims to protect a 200,000 ha area of forest that extends across the mountain range linking Laos and Vietnam in the Greater Mekong area. CarBi will preserve forests and help protect the endemic biodiversity in the region, and will also support the income of the people who depend on the forest for their way of life.
The organizers have the correct idea. It’s ambitious projects like these that help to spread the word that we need to take action — and now. We have reached a point of no return, and if drastic changes are not made soon, then human beings and the wealth of natural beauty that surrounds us will be confined to the history books. Species of plants and animals that we take for granted now will be nothing more than a line in a book or a scene in a movie. As said in Jurassic World, “Life will find a way,” but it’s our job to educate each other on how everybody can make small changes in their lives to make sure humans are there to play a part in it.
*This post was sponsored by Sustainability Compass