It’s World Wildlife Day! This year’s theme is “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration.” According the UN’s official World Wildlife Day website: “Celebrations this year will seek to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and to drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to conserve them.”
One in four living things on the planet are endangered. A significant cause of species becoming endangered is habitat destruction, which is typically at the hands of humans for development of agricultural land, infrastructure, and business or home.
In the US, the Endangered Species Act, signed in 1973, was the first law of its kind in the world, intended to prevent extinction of species. And it’s been working—99% of species protected under it have not gone extinct. For example, the bald eagle once dwindled to just over 400 pairs but can now be found in all lower 48 states and Alaska with around 9,700 pairs!
Globally, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is responsible for tracking what species are vulnerable, threatened, or endangered. And that includes types of trees, plants, fish, corals, mammals, birds—you name it. It’s a good reminder that endangered species are not just the iconic “good-looking” mammals we’re so familiar with, like polar bears and elephants. It also includes the scaly-foot snail, common skate, saiga, papyrus wisp, and rosewood.
Why it matters:
It’s actually quite simple: the web of life, with all its intricacies, is what allows us to live life as we know it today. From providing food and medicine to keeping waterways clean and maintaining ecological connectivity, all species are integral in our collective planetary survival. When we lose one species, it threatens the loss of others. We don’t just lose polar bears and keep on living life as usual. Species that depend on the polar bears’ role in nature will be lost too. This kind of impact, this downward spiral, causes ecosystem collapse, which is immensely straining on the planet and problematic for humans’ survival too. For example, we need certain creatures to pollinate our foods, to rid us of pests and diseases, to help us to manage our forests and protect coastlines from erosion, and much more.
How can you help?
- Learn about something, anything, and then share with others what you’ve learned. Raising awareness is the very first step. (You can learn by listening to my wildlife podcast! The Watering Hole)
- Consume wisely. The things you buy, from food to goods to homewares all have an impact on the environment. Even building a new home!
- Eat smart. You don’t have to become a vegetarian (though, that kinda helps!), but you can choose to eat locally to minimize the impact you’re having on the planet.
- Make space for species. The more we support native and natural environments in the places we live, the most that local species will have a chance to thrive.
- Vote for candidates that prioritize our planet.
Our own individual choices matter, but we really need strong policies and laws—from local to national—and we also need to enforce them, strengthen them when necessary, and maintain them (meaning no rollbacks, especially when there’s an inkling of progress). But laws are not enough, we also need conscientious businesses and we need C-suite sustainability professionals to guide and advise. We need advocates to keep the conversations moving to raise awareness. Consider supporting organizations that are doing on-the-ground work, not just advocacy. Some of my favorites include:
- Environmental Investigation Agency
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- National Audubon Society
- Conservation International
- Reserva Youth Land Trust
Let’s save the planet together! After all, here is no Planet B.