Connecting Behavior Change & Biodiversity

Time published an article about a new study on climate change and when I read it, I was dumbstruck by two points the article made:

  1. Restoring nature, biodiversity in particular, is important to address climate change-(Wait, what? Why is this news to anyone?)
  2. As an alternative to changing human behavior, we should try to conserve biodiversity (Since when are these two activities mutually exclusive?)

OK, I can’t help but be a little flabbergasted…First, please don’t tell me science has become SO compartmentalized that we are now talking about climate change and nature as separate concepts. Climate change is an aspect of nature, people. It’s not an alien phenomenon, although we humans have accelerated planetary warming unnaturally, which is why we are facing extreme events and other dangerous impacts. To be fair, the article mentions the connections between nature and climate change in terms of policy to reverse deforestation. IPCC reports concur that halting and reversing deforestation is a critically important step in fighting climate change. OK, but how? I’ll come back to that.

Second, why is restoration of biodiversity considered an approach divorced from human behavior change? Why are we experiencing a mass extinction in the first place? Is deforestation not human behavior? Human demand for more meat, dairy, seafood, cars, cell phones, and so many other products is leading to the rapid destruction of forests, grasslands, oceans, and other ecosystems.

Let me explicitly build the bridge between human behavior and loss of biodiversity: our daily actions are causing the destruction of ecosystems which contain the precious biodiversity that can offer resilience and adaptation in a rapidly warming world. As a forthcoming study based on integrated land use system modeling indicates, our behavior change to a vegan lifestyle would free up grasslands and pasturelands, which can then be restored to native forest to sequester more carbon than what humans have added to the atmosphere since the industrial era began. That, my friends, is the inextricable connection between our behavior, and the biodiversity required for resilient ecosystems that can cope with climate-induced extreme events. Veganism is the how.

Ok, enough ranting. I’ll leave you with this science-based point: biologically, we are nature, and it’s time to start acting that way. The future of the planet lies in the power of our daily actions, and if each of us changes our behavior to reverse deforestation and save biodiversity, we can transform ourselves and the rest of nature faster than we expect. For resources on how to act, go to Climate Healers, and Operation Missing Link. As the Center for Biological Diversity has said, take extinction off your plate.

 

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Scientists are beginning to converge on reforestation and conservation of biodiversity to build resilience against climate change. This solution requires human behavior change, specifically a shift away from meat and dairy toward a plant-based lifestyle; the grasslands freed up from this change can be restored to forest.

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