Biodiversity is vital to the survival of all life on earth and is also the cornerstone for the goods and services of the environment that allow human societies to thrive. Each year, marine plants produce more than half of our atmosphere’s oxygen, and a mature tree cleans our air, absorbing 22 kilos of carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen in exchange. Despite all the benefits that our nature give us, we still mistreat it.
For instance, let us consider the effects of ocean plastic.
The Convention on Biological Diversity in 2012, counted 663 species affected by marine debris. Nearly 90% of the impacts were associated with plastic debris about 15% of the species affected through entanglement and ingestion were found on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, endangered/ critically endangered species. Consumption of micro-plastics has been widely reported in a range of marine organisms including seabirds, fish, mussels and zooplankton. Micro-plastics have also been identified as an emerging threat to much larger organisms, like whales, that are exposed to micro-plastics ingestion as a result of their filter-feeding activity. Plastic pollution is a threat to marine biodiversity, already at risk from overfishing, climate change and other forms of man-made disturbance. The threats to marine life are primarily mechanical due to ingestion of plastic debris and entanglement in packaging bands, synthetic ropes and lines, or drift nets. Entanglement in and ingestion of plastic debris can be fatal but it can also have a range of sub-lethal consequences such as compromising the ability to capture and digest food, sense hunger, escape from predators and reproduce, as well as decreasing body condition and compromising the ability to move for short and long distances. The harm to wildlife that can be caused by ingested plastics varies, depending on the digestive system of the animals, the amount and type of plastic ingested and the developmental stage of the animal.
For example, certain birds such as albatrosses are more vulnerable because they generally do not regurgitate plastics. One of the major effects of plastic ingestion is reduced appetite. A stomach full of plastic that cannot be digested reduces the animals’ appetite leading them to starve to death. Other harmful effects are blockage of the digestive tract and internal injuries that are particularly evident in sea turtles that tend to eat plastic bags mistaking them for jellyfish.
That is why we need to work on that. That is why we need this Observance. World Environment Day is the most renowned day for environmental action. In 2020, the theme is biodiversity – a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global disease pandemic – demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist. Today, it is estimated that globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths every year from diseases caused by coronaviruses; and about 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic.
Nature is sending us the message for its share of time.