4 Reasons Why Restoring Nature Is The Most Important Endeavor Of Our Time

4 Reasons Why Restoring Nature Is The Most Important Endeavor Of Our Time
Gozha Net/Unsplash
, FAL

Ecosystem degradation is a global phenomenon. It is expected that by 2050, 95% of Earth’s land will be degraded. A whopping 24 billion tons of soil have already been eroded by unsustainable agricultural practices. This land degradation is the leading cause of losses of ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and climate regulation. These functions sustain life on Earth.

It is recognised that this constitutes a crisis. At a UN summit this September, more than 70 world leaders – bar those from the US, China or Brazil – signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, promising to clamp down on pollution, eliminate the dumping of plastic waste and strengthen environmental agreements worldwide. This is a good step, but as UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed noted at the event, to “rescue the planet’s fragile tapestry of life, we need vastly more ambition and action”.

 

Next year will mark the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, aimed at addressing the enormous task of restoring degraded habitats across the planet. Against a backdrop of ecological crisis, this declaration is a chance to revive our life support system – the natural world. The UN has highlighted several important actions to empower a global restoration movement, such as investment in restoration and research, celebrating leadership, shifting behaviours and building up the next generation.

There is no doubt this is an ambitious plan. But it must be translated into action. Such pledges can actually work against action by creating the illusion that something is being done. There is often a gap between rhetoric and reality. Indeed, the world’s nations have failed to fully achieve any of the 20 global biodiversity targets set by the UN a decade ago. Humanity is at a crossroads. What we decide to do now will affect many future generations to come.

New research is constantly demonstrating the urgency of the situation. One recent study focusing on the consequences of indiscriminate deforestation, for example, suggests we have a less than 10% probability of surviving the next 20-40 years without facing a catastrophic collapse if we remain on our current trajectory.

Here, I summarise four key reasons why ecological restoration is the most important endeavour of our time. If we are to reverse the ecological crisis that we are currently facing, and protect biodiversity for itself and for future generations, we must turn pledges into immediate action and restore our ecosystems on a global level.

1. Healthy soils sustain life on Earth

Our food systems depend on healthy soils. The revival of plants, crops and forests depends on the revival of degraded soils. This depends on the restoration of the complex relationships between the soil, the plants and a plethora of microbes, including fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Fungi provide essential ecosystem services, yet are also on the decline. (four reasons why restoring nature is the most important endeavor of our time)Fungi provide essential ecosystem services, yet are also on the decline. Jesse Dodds/Unsplash, FAL

Healthy soils thrive with these microscopic lifeforms: they are essential for plant growth and protection against diseases. Soil degradation not only threatens the intrinsic value of the ecosystems, but also our ability to produce healthy and sustainable foods. And protecting and reviving our soils and their microbial friends is key not only for humans, but for the diverse yet declining plant and animal species that depend on them.

2. Our relationship with nature is failing

Ecosystem degradation is contributing to our failing relationship with nature: people’s accepted view of ecological conditions are continually lowered, a phenomenon known as shifting baseline syndrome.

Restoring our emotional connection to nature (known as “nature connectedness”) is therefore important. People who feel more connected to nature are more likely to engage with actions such as wildlife conservation, recycling, and supporting environmental organisations. These are essential to reverse the ecological and climate crises we face. Importantly, nature connectedness can increase over time through frequent nature engagement.

Simple actions such as acknowledging the good things you see in nature each day, whether it be a robin’s dawn chorus, or the vibrant colours of wildflowers, can do this. Check out these pathways to achieving a closer connection with nature.

3. Indigenous cultures and knowledge is being lost

Indigenous culture is intimately connected to the land. The erosion of ecosystems can therefore result in the erosion of culture – including knowledge and language. This knowledge is often hyper-localised and has evolved over thousands of years. It is vital to the health of many ecosystems and the livelihoods of communities across the globe.

Ecological restoration can help to sustain the rich diversity of human cultures on our planet by supporting relationships between humans and the environment that are mutually advantageous. Protecting the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and supporting indigenous research leadership has an important role to play in this process. This includes dismantling the view that traditional ecological knowledge is simply a data source that can be extracted.

Ecological restoration should ideally be viewed as reciprocal: a mutually beneficial relationship. Reciprocity is the basis for relationships in many indigenous cultures, and will be fundamental to long-term, successful restoration.

4. Human health is dependent on ecosystem health

The restoration of ecosystems is intrinsically linked to the restoration of human health. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far caused over a million deaths worldwide, is a poignant reminder of how ecosystem degradation can contribute to the emergence and spread of novel pathogens. To combat these emerging global conditions and protect the lives of future generations, we need to protect and restore our habitats and biodiversity.

In addition, biodiversity loss could be making us sick. Restoring environmental microbiomes (the diverse networks of microbes in a given environment) through revegetation may have an important impact on our immune systems. My research explores the relationship between the environment, the microbiome and human health. Through landscape design and restoration, we may be able to help restore microbial relationships, and as a result, our health and wellbeing.

As Robin Wall Kimmerer, professor of environmental and forest biology, eloquently articulated in her book Braiding Sweetgrass: “As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”

Let’s make the next decade the ecologically transformative movement that our planet so desperately needs.The Conversation

About the Author

Jake M. Robinson, Ecologist and PhD Researcher, Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

by Mark W. Moffett
0465055680If a chimpanzee ventures into the territory of a different group, it will almost certainly be killed. But a New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles--or Borneo--with very little fear. Psychologists have done little to explain this: for years, they have held that our biology puts a hard upper limit--about 150 people--on the size of our social groups. But human societies are in fact vastly larger. How do we manage--by and large--to get along with each other? In this paradigm-shattering book, biologist Mark W. Moffett draws on findings in psychology, sociology and anthropology to explain the social adaptations that bind societies. He explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how societies develop, function, and fail. Surpassing Guns, Germs, and Steel and Sapiens, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind created sprawling civilizations of unrivaled complexity--and what it will take to sustain them.   Available On Amazon

Environment: The Science Behind the Stories

by Jay H. Withgott, Matthew Laposata
0134204883Environment: The Science behind the Stories is a best seller for the introductory environmental science course known for its student-friendly narrative style, its integration of real stories and case studies, and its presentation of the latest science and research. The 6th Edition features new opportunities to help students see connections between integrated case studies and the science in each chapter, and provides them with opportunities to apply the scientific process to environmental concerns. Available On Amazon

Feasible Planet: A guide to more sustainable living

by Ken Kroes
0995847045Are you concerned about the state of our planet and hope that governments and corporations will find a sustainable way for us to live? If you do not think about it too hard, that may work, but will it? Left on their own, with drivers of popularity and profits, I am not too convinced that it will. The missing part of this equation is you and me. Individuals who believe that corporations and governments can do better. Individuals who believe that through action, we can buy a bit more time to develop and implement solutions to our critical issues. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
by Anthony C. Didlake Jr
As Hurricane Sally headed for the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, forecasters warned of a…
Ocean Warming Threatens Coral Reefs and Soon Could Make It Harder To Restore Them
Ocean Warming Threatens Coral Reefs and Soon Could Make It Harder To Restore Them
by Shawna Foo
Anyone who’s tending a garden right now knows what extreme heat can do to plants. Heat is also a concern for an…
Sunspots Do Affect Our Weather But Not As Much As Other Things
Sunspots Do Affect Our Weather But Not As Much As Other Things
by Robert McLachlan
Are we headed for a period with lower Solar activity, i.e. sunspots? How long will it last? What happens to our world…
Dirty Tricks Climate Scientists Faced In Three Decades Since First IPCC Report
Dirty Tricks Climate Scientists Faced In Three Decades Since First IPCC Report
by Marc Hudson
Thirty years ago, in a small Swedish city called Sundsvall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.

LATEST ARTICLES

God Intended It As A Disposable Planet: Meet The Us Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial
God Intended It As A Disposable Planet: Meet The Us Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial
by Paul Braterman
Every so often you come across a piece of writing so extraordinary that you cannot help but share it. One such piece is…
Drought And Heat Together Menace American West
Drought And Heat Together Menace American West
by Tim Radford
Climate change really is a burning issue. Simultaneous drought and heat are increasingly likely for more of the…
China Just Stunned The World With Its Step-up On Climate Action
China Just Stunned The World With Its Step-up On Climate Action
by Hao Tan
China’s President Xi Jinping surprised the global community recently by committing his country to net-zero emissions by…
How Do Climate Change, Migration And A Deadly Disease In Sheep Alter Our Understanding Of Pandemics?
How Do Climate Change, Migration And A Deadly Disease In Sheep Alter Our Understanding Of Pandemics?
by Super User
A new framework for pathogen evolution exposes a world much more vulnerable to disease outbreaks than we previously…
Climate Heat Melts Arctic Snows And Dries Forests
What Lies Ahead For The Youth Climate Movement
by David Tindall
Students around the world returned to the streets in late September for a global day of climate action for the first…
Historic Amazon Rainforest Fires Threaten Climate And Raise Risk Of New Diseases
Historic Amazon Rainforest Fires Threaten Climate And Raise Risk Of New Diseases
by Kerry William Bowman
The fires in the Amazon region in 2019 were unprecedented in their destruction. Thousands of fires had burned more than…
Climate heat melts Arctic snows and dries forests
Climate Heat Melts Arctic Snows And Dries Forests
by Tim Radford
Fires now blaze under Arctic snows, where once even the wettest rainforests burned. Climate change delivers unlikely…
Marine Heat Waves Are Becoming More Common And Intense
Marine Heat Waves Are Becoming More Common And Intense
by Jen Monnier, Enisa
Improved “weather forecasts” for oceans hold hope for reducing devastation to fisheries and ecosystems around the world